4×500 Gola Goroppu (Goroppu Gorge)

Our second day’s hiking took us into the belly of the 500 m deep Gola Goroppu. Only four metres wide at its narrowest point, local people hype it up as the biggest gorge in Europe.  And why not? After all, how do you measure the biggest gorge? By depth? By length? By volume? And at what point does a gorge become a canyon?

Regardless of whether it is biggest, or second biggest, or whatever-est, it is an amazing experience to be standing between two rock walls, 500 m high, almost able to touch both walls at the same time… this is nature’s work at its most impressive! An incision made into the mountain plateau by the Flumineddu river, and carved deeper and deeper with each successive rainstorm over thousands of years to form the Gola Goroppu. It was little surprise when the Nature Conservation Officer on duty explained that the gorge consists of limestone (karst). Its relatively soft porous composition, more likely to yield to the erosive action of water. What did surprise me was the fact that where we were standing at the edge of the gorge, the rock changed to hard granite. Which also explained why the gorge area was dry, but immediately below its mouth, there were pools big enough to swim in! The water being underground in the porous limestone area, but forced above ground by the hard unyielding granite.

Barbara and I set off, following the green markers indicating the easy section through the Gola Goroppu. Boulder-hopping. Scrambling up and over the bigger ones. Slithering down the other side. Crawling through a narrow arch, where only one person can fit through at a time. Until we find ourselves in a large open section. Ahead we can see more big boulders and the narrowing passage. The walls seem to be reaching ever higher as you venture deeper. Illusion caused by the narrowing passage?  

Hikers dwarfed by the giant walls of Gola Goroppu
Hikers dwarfed by the giant walls of Gola Goroppu

When we reach the narrowest part, which coincides with us spotting the yellow marker indicating the start of a more difficult section, where you have to resort to climbing and scrambling techniques to continue onwards, we stop for a moment. Above us a thin sliver of sky shows… ahead more and bigger boulders, randomly arranged, decorate the floor of the Gola Goroppu.

Barbara scrambles across the first big boulder, then decides she’ll wait for me while I take a look what’s behind the next big rock.

Ten or so minutes later I reach the final section, indicated with a red dot, from where you require ropes to continue. A guide is also recommended. I have neither rope nor guide, so reluctantly, after taking a look around the nearly 180 degree bend in the gorge, I turn back. With nearly no-one else around, this would not be a good place to injure yourself. On my way back I help a youngster across a difficult patch, then slide down two very smooth diagonal sections instead of down-climbing its more difficult vertical flank, before a precarious sideways shuffle drops me back to where Barbara is waiting.

We make our way to the mouth of the gorge and find ourselves a flat spot above the river where we can boil water for a cup of coffee and make our sandwich… a large green avocado and banana on some local bread and hard cheese (similar to Grana Padano) with a few passers-by looking longingly at our cups, and a nearby family in broad Swiss-German commenting on the fact that we had a cooking pot with us.

We clear away the rubbish – avocado shell and banana peels going into the rubbish bag with food wrappers, and scatter a few left-over pieces of food and crumbs for tiny scavengers to clean up. We have a very strict policy of carrying out everything. And not just to the nearest bin, but all the way home! Including toilet paper if we have to use this along the way!

Before we set off we take one last look up this amazing piece of natural beauty – the Gola Goroppu – which also happens to be home to one of the world’s most sought after rock climbs: the very testing ‘Hotel Supramonte‘ – an 8b sport climb first completed in 1999 by Rolando Larcher and Roberto Vigiani. Free climbed in 2000 by another Italian climber, Pietro Dal Pra, it had to wait until 2008 for Czech superstar Adam Ondra to do the first on sight ascent of the route.

Then we set off back to the car where it’s parked at s’Abba Arva bridge about an hour and a half walk away. The path winding along a path following the river bank. Mostly covered by a tree canopy formed by a mixture of junipers, yews, holm oaks, oleanders and vines, which kept us dry on the way in and cool on the way back.

On our left we have the impressive Supramonte, and somewhere up there is the hidden Nuragic village of Tiscali, occupied between the 15th and 8th centuries BC – i.e., from about the same time as Moses was wandering in the desert; and then repopulated between the 2nd and 1st centuries BC; from when it was inhabited up to possibly the High Middle-Ages (500 AD to 1500 AD).

The little kiosk at the car park offered ice-cold Radlers and coffees, which tasted like liquid Manna! Even if I did not get to finish all of it thanks to a sudden gust of wind which blew over the bottle and spilt enough liquid to turn at least a few ants into yobs…

How to get to Gola Goroppu and trail map

Gola Goroppu can be reached via a trail starting on the SS125 between Dorgali and Baunei, or you can take the windy farm road leading to the s’Abba Arva bridge and follow the trail to Gola Goroppu (or Goroppu) from here as we did. It took us about an hour-and-a-half to walk the somewhat boring trail. But the gorge will make up for that! And the ice-cold drinks at the end is a real bonus, too!

Download file: t190242905_s'abba arva bridge to.gpx

2 Comments on “4×500 Gola Goroppu (Goroppu Gorge)”

  1. Beautiful! I love walking in deep shade. Gorges, forests. Zion NP in Utah had a gorge I walked up a short way in 1973; and then Sesriem ‘canyon’ in Namibia is a mini-gorge near the more famous Sossusvlei in the Namib desert. Cool can turn cold, too, and its hard to remember a jacket when you’re hot outside the gorge!

Leave us a comment...