So the first thing we saw as we walked up to the Alcantara riverbank was someone losing one of their shoes, and totally failing in her half-hearted attempt to save it.
Approximately five seconds later, the first of my own flipflops was sailing away. As I tried to grab it, the second ripped off and followed. I had been in the river for less than 10 seconds by this point and yes, I totally deserved that. Karma is a bitch.
And so, my first and most important piece of advice if you go (which you should!): Buy some freaking water shoes.*
Anyway, backing up a bit. I’d only recently learned that the Alcantara Gorge (Gole Alcantara) existed, and also that it existed about 45 minutes from my house. I immediately made plans for Chris and I to go on one of his Fridays off — sans kids, as I was worried the kids might get swept away.
I didn’t really know what to expect once I got there, but I’d heard there were some short trails near the gorge and a beach where you can hang out by the river. Once we got there, I was pretty impressed as it had a lot more amenities than I was expecting, including maps in English and decent signage. More on that below.
If you are planning to go, we just entered Alcantara Gorges Botanical and Geological Park into our GPS (Via Nazionale, 5, Motta Camestra, ME 98030) and got there easily. You can park on site for “a donation,” which is what we did, or there are a couple other parking lots right nearby. I’d suggest going early in the day, as we had no problem parking around 10:30 in the morning but as we were leaving I noticed there were a lot more cars. It cost 8 euro each for just lift tickets down to the beach, or 13 euro to see everything. We opted for the see-everything ticket, but shouldn’t have bothered this time.
our my original plan was to hike for a little bit to see the gorge from above by walking around on the trails. Once we got there, it was already so oppressively hot that even though none of the trails were (allegedly) more than one mile, I hastily changed the plan to hiking just to a couple of highlights nearby. Before we had hiked very far though, the plan changed again: to hell with this, we’re going to the beach!
View from above, during our brief visit there.
I actually would really like to go back and do a bunch of walking there because it looked really neat, but again … it was really freaking hot. Sig friends, let me know if you want to plan a trip there with me! In say, October.
Anyway, as I mentioned there was an elevator to get down to the riverbank (and up, fortunately, because the stairs would not have been fun). From there, there was a strip of rocky beach where most people dumped their bags and towels. Without shoes, walking on the beach and in the water (also rocky) was pretty ouchy so again — water shoes, people.
This is one of those posts where I’m super frustrated because the photos I have just don’t really do justice to how neat it really looked. But as I was concerned about losing my stuff by leaving it on the riverbank or damaging it by dropping it in a river, I opted to stick with my iPhone camera.
Upstream from us were these basalt columns — the show-stopper of the Gole Alcantara. According to the explanation on my map, they were formed about 8,000 years ago when lava flow met the cold river water, causing it to basically crystalize into various shapes and crack in some places. The stone was quite smooth to the touch.
The water was cold, cold, cold — my feet definitely went numb pretty quickly. Given that we were mid-Heat Wave Lucifer, however, it felt amazing. To me. Chris wasn’t enthused enough to drive in all the way, but I realllllllly wanted to try drifting along in the current and that is hard to do while standing so ….
In I went.
I think Chris would like to note for the record here that part of his objection was that they actally offer body-rafting excursions in the river, with what he terms “appropriate equiptment.” Helmets and wetsuits. It was honestly fine though, the water doesn’t take you that fast in the area I was in and at any rate it was mostly too shallow past a certain point to body raft comfortably.
Downstream from the gorge, were some boulders that created both some some rapids and some smaller pools of water that a lot of locals (as far as I could tell) were gathered around. Very cool looking.
As I mentioned, this place had a lot more to do than we actually did. Options included the trails with a bunch of different views and balconies, bike excursions, body rafting, river trekking, a farm, a kids’ splash pad, “glamping” areas, etc. I’ll definitely go back one of these days to look around, and maybe bring the kids if we aren’t going to the river — the current was strong.
As for my shoes, no big loss there. If I had to lose some, I’m glad it was a pair of $1 Old Navy flipflops that I’ve been wearing for at least three years. And I still had the tennis shoes I’d brought for hiking.
*After the fact, we realized we could have bought some at the on-site shop where we later had lunch.