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Friday, 5 October 2018

Hiking across Corsica, coast to coast.

A last view of Corsica's west coast before we headed into the mountains 

The northerly coast-to-coast route across this rugged Mediterranean island runs from Cargese, north of Ajaccio, to Mariani, an hour's bus ride south of Bastia. It's about 90 miles long. The days varied between 6 and 12 miles, but always seemed to take up most of the hours of daylight. We have become expert in the art of dawdling, especially where there are mountain streams to bathe in, and wild fruit to pick: blackberries, walnuts, figs, chestnuts.

Chestnuts - remnants of the groves planted by the Italians some 3-400 years ago - are everywhere...

As is the arbutus - or 'strawberry' - tree: a rather gritty fruit, but it would keep you going in an emergency.

They say the best time to visit Corsica is in the spring, for the wild flowers. We were too late for that, but were delighted to find wild cyclamen (and autumn crocus) dotted around the woodlands.

While we had glorious day-time weather - bright sun and temperatures around 18-23 C (64-73 F) - the mornings were deliciously cool - enough for the occasional touch of frost. On this day (below) we'd set off from the old capital, Corte, before sun-up in order to fit in a 12-mile trek with a thousand metres of climbing, and a similar descent. Ten minutes after taking this picture we were in dazzling sunlight and breaking sweat.

Ripe sloes crusted with early morning frost
While the interior of the island appears empty, tiny villages dot the mountainsides, often tucked away in unlikely settings.

We were in some doubt, before we started, about our fitness for this hike. Corsica is known for its spectacular (i.e., challenging) terrain.

Our route lay thataway, through the pass

So we had one or two escape routes planned - there was a train out of Corte, on day 6, for example. But we seemed to grow into it. We ate like navvies in the gites d'etape where we put up most nights (bed, breakfast, dinner and a packed lunch for about 40 euros) and felt fitter by the day. Here I am, a picture of health, at the journey's end - albeit after a bucket of mussels, a carafe of red wine, a grilled fish for main course, and a wonderful Corsican tart for dessert.

Lunch beside the sea after eleven tough days.


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