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The sea as reference point...
Photo by Marcello Cominetti
Like a ship made of rock...
Photo by Marcello Cominetti
Cengia Giradili, Sardinia
Photo by Marcello Cominetti
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Selvaggio Blu, 20 year anniversary of the most famous trek in Sardinia

21.10.2009 by Marcello Cominetti

Marcello Cominetti recounts the twenty year history of Sevaggio Blu, the path which goes right through the wild and poetic heart of Sardinia.

Hailed as the most difficult walk in Italy, the Selvaggio Blu is certainly one of the most beautiful hikes in the world. "Wild Blue" is a manifesto, an hymn to Mother Nature. A monument to that Sardinia made up of sea and cliffs, of ancient tasts and mediterranenan forests which we all dream about. In 1989 Mario Verin, Peppino Cicalò and Pasquale Zucca, the mayor of Baunei had the bright idea of recovering and combining a series of ancient paths that crossed the Supramonte to create this unique coastal traverse from the Gulf of Arbatx to that of Orosei. 20 years have passed since then and Selvaggio Blue has become a reference point for those who love and respect nature in her wildest form. But how has the Selvaggio Blu trek changed, if at all, over the last two decades?
We asked this question to Marcello Cominetti, mountaineer, sailor and Mountain Guide who walked this trek right from the outset. A "non-existent" path which has as its only reference markers the cobalt blue sea of the island of Sardinia.

SELVAGGIO BLU, 20 WILD BLUE YEARS by Marcello Cominetti

I can easily remember the age of this path because it's the same as my elder son. He, my son, has changed obviously and the path has too, and during the long era of my life spent in that arid part of Sardinia, that path represented only one part.

As a young boy I went to discover the Supramonte di Baunei along with my father, friend of a local shepherd who died of old age taking with him that world comprised of donkeys used for transport and stone and juniper pens where nowadays not even a sheep would set foot. Yet 40 years ago men lived in these. Paths were practically unheard of, apart from a few, all the rest were goat tracks. There were hardly any pigs and when you chanced upon them they gave you a fright because, being black, you immediately thought they were wild boar.

One of the Supramonte shepherds was a night guard in the ship yard where my father worked at Arbatax, attracted by a regular wage and a job which was nothing compared to being a shepherd. One night my gather wanted to test his effectiveness and so we went to the yard at two o'clock in the morning. The guardian wasn't there. We walked about making a din but no one appeared. The next day the shephard waited for my father to tell him what we had done while he observed us from his hiding place. I saw that you didn't steal anything he said, I let you go about your business for a bit and then I went to sleep. But I always keep a watchful eye since someone from Dorgali might always be up to something. Ziu Jubanne, when my mother asked him how he managed to recognise all his two hundred goats he milked daily in spring, he replied: surely you can tell your children one from the other? My mother has two children.

20 years ago Pasquale Zucca, the farsighted mayor of Baunei, that extensive mountain community which protrudes unwittingly onto the most beautiful stretch of sea in the Mediterranean, decided to do something for that land made of sharp stones and blue sea. Helped by Mario Verin and Peppino Cicalò he invented that route, without having to do anything new since those paths existed alreay, some for hundreds of centuries even, others for decades. They had been traced by shepherds, by goats and Tuscan coal miners, but those which had fallen into disuse had been swallowed by by a ferocious and sweet smelling vegetation.

The supreme work was to clean them some that people could pass, leaving some rocks wedged between the branches, which is how shepherds used to mark the paths, and just a few drops of blue paint. But don't think about the paths created nowadays with funds of the European Union, which seem like roads for quads with the calculated option of transforming them into roads after a few years in the hope of some Berlusconi-style pardon. One only just managed to get by, tangling up in the branches of the mastic trees which attacked ankles like shellfish and the juniper bushes which did just the same, with the end result that all were covered in scratches.

Doing the Selvaggio Blu was like going through a vegetable drawbench, it left its profound mark within all wayfarers. The superficial skin injuries got better, but the path's lessons for life, no. They remained. I remember in the beginning many locals exclaimed: "Selvaggi Blu doesn't exist." I understood them, and how, even though I guided people there I had to pretend that the path didn't exist, that it had a name and that it was even becoming popular. That it was considered the hardest trek in Italy and that there were plenty of difficult pre-requisites. I described the trek in 1993 in the Italian Mountaineering Club magazine and even today I still don't know whether I did the right thing or not.

In the wake of its notoriety many mountain guide colleagues became interested in it for work reasons. In truth they weren't all too many, but enough to ensure that roughly 100 people walked along the entire route. What did you think, that there was a queue?
Then even the local inhabitants began to believe that their territory was unique and that to make it known to those curious, what one should do was nothing. Better still, the less one did, the more authentic and beautiful it would remain.

As a result of this local organisations sprung to life which accompany hikes, many of these I can proudly count as being friends of mine, because having a friend from Sardinia is for life, and from them I always learn something, because that is their land. I know it well, but I'm always an intruder, perhaps slightly less than a stranger because I lived there for years and because I spoke their language, but to get there I need to catch a ferry and leave the continent behind me. The blue sea that separates us is always there.

Over time that path has mutated, but it hasn't changed its character. Nowadays there are fewer branches and it's more equipped, but you still need to orientate carefully - it's easy to get lost even for me who's walked it over 30 times - and you still need to climb and abseil with ropes like in 1989. A bit of mountaineering experience helps and above all you need a bit of "wild boarness" to sleep on the pointed rocks for a week. Some additional markers were painted by madmen and immediately cancelled by some wise local walkers. But in the end what remains is the deep furrow that this piece of rural life manages to plough into those who walk along it.

Selvaggio Blu is a beautiful walk within oneself, close to home and, if one wants to monetize everything as has become fashionable nowadays, not even too expensive. Stepping onto those sharp stones for a million times is as tiring as ever. And that sea which acts as a continual backdrop makes you feel as if you're on a sea of rock, overcome by strong smells between the green waves of the olive groves, the carob trees, cistus, strawberry-trees, juniper, asphodel, turpentine-tree something which doesn't exist anywhere else.<

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