A Gad on Garda – ‘The Functional Walk’ along the Sarca River

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The Sarca River never disappoints!

We leave Campsite Maroadi via the lake entrance and turn left; over the bridge that straddles the slipway and past the watersports centre. We cross a larger bridge over the River Sarca, where it flows into the northern end of Lake Garda. We turn immediately left to join the path along the far side of the river

We usually stop to throw the ball into the water here. A crowd often gathers on the bridge to watch Kai and Rosie swim tirelessly, while Ruby paddles, or bounces up and down on her front legs like a toy dog; barking furious, excited encouragement from the shore.

A quick stop to throw the ball in the river usually entertains passers by!

Lani roots around in the undergrowth until, now and again, we feint a throw to the others and send the ball up the path for her to chase, which she does with puppy-like bounds, before pouncing like a tiger going for the kill. Lani enjoys playing ball, but on her own terms. Strictly no swimming and NO competition!

Walking on, we see the swans gliding elegantly on the ever-changing waters of the river. Today the water is low, clear and a slightly mossy shade of emerald green. Some days it is vibrant turquoise like a swimming pool. On others, a turbid shade of Wedgewood blue, as though it had stolen the colour from its source in the Alpine glaciers.

Swans. The most elegant of birds. And none more so than Italian swans.

The levels change according to the function of the hydroelectric plant upstream. Sometimes the water rushes by; a torrent, with white wavelets leaping up in its haste. Today the river is quiet and low. It passes by with languid ease and we can see large, beautiful trout hanging lazily in the slow current.

We see flocks of Coot, some like lookouts, standing motionless on the stones that protrude from the river. The ubiquitous Mallard; plain brown females and smart males with their irridescent green balaclavas and neat, banded collars. Occasionally, they break the silence and make me giggle, with a cacophony of quacking that sounds like laughter at some private, anatine joke.

Occasionally we see exotic ducks such as Goldeneye, or maybe a Great Crested Grebe. Pied- and Grey Wagtails flit up and down the length of the river or stand on the banks, beating time with their tails like little, avian metronomes. The occasional flash of brilliant blue belies the fleeting presence of a kingfisher.

Goldeneye – & maybe a Merganser!

We move on to where the path passes under the road bridge, which is festooned with baskets of red geraniums. We look across and see Mecki, the shop which perhaps gives a hint as to why the Italians always look so stylish!

With shops like this, no wonder Italians always look so stylish!

The route splits into a stone path along the river bank or a grassy ride higher up, which is shady in parts – and is an excellent place for throwing the ball. We get excited ‘Yips’ as we go for the grassy path. Rosie and Kai jump excitedly in anticipation of another game of fetch while Ruby speed barks and bounces again. As we look up, we can see beautiful villas and the 13th Century ruins of Penede Castle clinging to the olive-clad crags above Torbole.

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Penede Castle

Butterflies flit among the flowers – Peacocks, Cabbage Whites and tiny blue and yellow ones whose names I don’t know. It is autumn, but various blooms still add splashes of blue, purple and white to the colourscape of yellowing leaves and reddening berries.

The sound of birdsong accompanies our steps and occasionally, we stop to chat. To Marco and his two rescue dogs; local girl Dali’ and the gentle, Spanish Galbo (greyhound) Aragòn. To the good-natured Italian victim of my girlie throw…

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INCOMING! A careering crowd of cavapoos…

First, I pelted him with the ball, then nearly bowled him over with my follow up – a careering crowd of cavapoos…

To the myriad of people who ask us “Quanti Cani?!” – “HOW many dogs?!”

Although it is mid-October, the northerly Pelèr wind is still soft and warm.

Today, although it is midday, the wind is still from the north. The ‘Pelèr’, as it is known, is usually done by 11am at the very latest. In the afternoons, the wind on Garda usually switches direction to the south. Although it is northerly, the wind is soft and warm; it is mid-October but I am still comfortable in my T-Shirt, shorts and sandals.

At the end of the grassy ride, we clamber down the bank to walk back along the stone path by the river. We step carefully through the brambles spreading across the path as we admire the return view of the huge, limestone peaks which tower above the lake.

We take in the sights and smells once again as the views alter subtly with our change of direction. Maybe we will stop for another game of ball in the river, before it’s back on the lead and to the caravan for a coffee.

Back to the caravan for a coffee. Bottoms up!

It is only a short walk – it takes about an hour. There is no need to think about where to go or get in the car and drive anywhere. It’s our ‘functional’ walk, straight from the campsite; but we love it!

Back past the Watersports Centre.

Join us next time for another of our favourite Gallivants on Garda – along a 4000-year old road!

The whole 80km length of the Sarca River is an area of natural interest and is protected as part of the Sarca Fluvial Park. The Sarca Way follows the length of the river but is a busy footpath and cycle way, so is not all suitable for off lead walking. The walking / cycle trail to Arco on the opposite bank of the river from this walk forms part of the Sarca Way, so is not recommended as an off-lead walk.

An Image from Days Gone By

The Sarca River has changed over time but has clearly also been enjoyed by many successive generations. After I wrote this blog, I was delighted to find this excerpt from German traveller, Heinrick Noé, who wrote about the River Sarca in his Travel Diary – published in 1871!

“The old river bed is full of water that flows lazily by; the movement imperceptible to the eye, among reed beds and the walls of vegetable gardens towards the white sands of the lake. Above the garden walls there are fig trees and grapevines which are mirrored in the peaceful waters. A marvellous thicket of weeds and other water plants rise up from the muddy bed, their tiny leaves gleaming in the still crystalline water […] there is always a little fleet of fishermen that use it as a safe harbour from the stormy waters.”

(It is surprising, but ferocious and dangerous storms of the like you might find at sea do happen on Lake Garda!)

Published by Jacqueline Lambert @WorldWideWalkies

AD (After Dogs) - We retired early to tour Europe in a caravan with four dogs. "To boldly go where no van has gone before". Since 2021, we've been at large in a 24.5-tonne self-converted ex-army truck called The Beast. BC (Before Canines) - we had adventures on every continent other than Antarctica!

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