In places, Via Batisti had washed away completely, leaving just a dirt track clinging to the hillside. A smashed-up car lay in the ravine below, boulders on the remains of the road, vast pinnacles overhead. Cows and goats grazed on weeds sprouting from the ancient tarmac. The disused, forgotten route from Villagrande Strisaili to Talana was one of the most magnificent I can remember.
Parco Nazionale del Golfo di Orosei is half-way up the east coast of Sardinia, a mad collection of jagged peaks, sweeping ridges, plunging canyons and dense forests. For a cyclist it’s a challenge and delight: 20km climbs give way to airy plateaux; divert from the main (but very quiet) roads and you’ll not see a car for a dozen miles; ride through woods of fragrant herbs and you’ll emerge up into the cobbled streets of towns like Orgosolo or Urzulei, their walls bedecked with murals of struggle and nobility.
To either side is the sparking Med, visible past the roadside cacti and bamboo, the spreading plains with their tiny hamlets and dry riverbeds. A constant breeze keeps you cool, except during the toughest climbs, when you’ll need as much water as you can carry.
On a 178km ride around this ferocious stony explosion, I climbed almost 3000m and saw no more than six or seven other cyclists. Definitely worth a look.