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Clare
Clare

Day 8: Capo Caccia

Our plan for our final day was to visit the Grotta di Nettuno at Capo Caccia. There are two ways to get to the cave, which is the most popular excursion from Alghero; either via a boat trip along the coast, which costs around €15 each (not including entry to the cave) or via a local bus which runs a couple of times a day from the centre of Alghero to the top of the cliff above the cave. From the cliff top a series of 654 steps knwn as the Escala del Cabirol (the goat's steps) lead down to the entrance of the cave itself. 654 steps sounded like a lot, but the local bus only cost €4.50 each for a return trip so we decided to give it a try!

The first bus to the cave was at 9.15, so we made a reasonably early start to the day and were standing at the bus stop by 9am. The journey, which lasted around 90 minutes, took us through some of the small villages on the outskirts of Alghero before the bus turned back towards the coast and treated us to some spectacular views out across the sea and back towards Alghero. This was the view which greeted us when we got off the bus slightly after 10am.

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The view was so impressive that we let the other people who had got off the bus be the first to investigate the steps and walked a little way back down the road to enjoy the view a little bit more. The view inland was just as nice as the view out to sea.

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There are hourly guided tours of the cave and it isn't possible to explore it independently, so we decided we had better not walk too far and head back to find the steps instead. I was a little apprehensive about how steep the steps were going to be and hoping that they weren't going to be quite as daunting as the staircases we had to climb down when we were in Vilnius last year, but I needn't have worried, because this was about as steep as it got.

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As we slowly descended the staircases, we had some amazing views of the cliffs and the sea. The sea was a beautiful shade of blue.

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Within 15 minutes or so we had arrived at the entrance to the cave. I was starting to feel a little bit nervous, as caves aren't normally my favourite thing.

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Just inside the entrance there was a small area where people were waiting for the next guided tour to commence. We joined the queue to purchase tickets and without realising it ended up standing in a position which guaranteed that we would be very near the front of the tour when it got going.

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We were just commenting to each other on how there were going to be a lot of people on the tour, when suddenly the boat which had come from Alghero pulled into the mouth of the cave and disgorged at least another 50 passengers. Wow. We really were lucky to be near the front!

The tour started promptly at 11, with the guide leading us into the main chamber of the cave whilst giving us a running commentary in Italian and English. She was armed with a microphone to amplify what she was saying, but I think the people at the back of the tour must still have been buying their entrance tickets when we were halfway across the cave, so they certainly wouldn't have been able to see what she was talking about as she ordered us to look left and right at different formations in the rocks. Another benefit of being near the front was that in places the path through the cave was quite narrow and slippery, but whenever the guide stopped to talk she chose a bit which was reasonably flat and wide to stop on. We were therefore able to listen to the tour quite comfortably, whereas some other people must have been stuck hanging on to rocks or bent double so as not to bang their heads on stalactites!

The first part of the cave was called the Organ Chamber because of the way the hanging stalactites resembled the pipes on an organ. They were absolutely huge!

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The guide pointed out some interesting features, such as the dark mark visible across the wall of the cave on this photo, which shows where the sea level would have been several million years ago.

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She also explained that it would take an entire century of dripping water to create a centimetre of a stalactite, and perhaps two or three times that amount of time to create a centimetre of a stalagmite, which illustrates just how old some of the features in the cave must be. This enormous stalagmite is known as the Christmas Tree :)

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This slideshow describes better than words what it was like inside the cave.

 

When we reached the halfway point on the tour we all had to turn around and go back the way we had come. It was a bit difficult passing people in places, but it meant we had a little more time on the way out to stop and take photos.

After an hour or so underground, we were glad to emerge from the cave and get some fresh air. Our relief was short-lived, however, as what awaited us were the 654 steps back up the bus stop! It was hard work on the way back up and we had to stop several times to catch our breath and look at the view.

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When we eventually made it back up to the cliff top, we realised that one of the infrequent buses back to Alghero was sitting in the parking lot about to depart. We just had time to purchase some much-needed bottles of water before jumping aboard for the journey back to town. We had timed it just right; if we had been further back in the queue when walking around the cave or had paused for longer when climbing the stairs on the way back up, we would have had another four hours to wait for a bus home.

All in all it was an exciting day out and the cave wasn't anywhere near as scary as I had feared, but at €13 each to get in it maybe isn't an experience we'd repeat if we came back to Alghero again.




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