Somewhere in Corsica

Colors of Porto

Kitesurfing and cycling. An unplanned trip to the GR20 wearing SPD shoes and sneakers. Wild pigs, while imposing havoc on the roads, their meat has gained notable recognition throughout the island and far beyond it. Nearly twenty kilometers uphill bicycle ride takes us from the sea level up to a thousand meters above it. Downhill rides at night, sometimes in the dark with just one headlight to share among the tree of us. Sometimes in the depths of darkness you can spot hundreds of glowing eyes. A giant herd mountain goats is staring at us! This is Corsica.

Solely considering the access to this Mediterranean island, it comes out not to be a plain sailing. For a good beginning, talking while driving we carelessly overlooked one turn, so instead of going south of Europe, we almost arrived to Hamburg. Approximately 250 km of premium round, however, has not prevented us from passing through the Alps and finally making it to Verona the same day – at nighttime. There we met Lia, a friend, who has shown us a bit of the city at night. We saw a balcony, apparently the legendary meeting place of Romeo and Juliet, some historic streets and urban landscapes in the middle of night, with no tourists these places make much more of an impression.

We get up early in the morning, it was not easy but necessary, as we are in a hurry to catch our ferry from Nice. This was not a short two or three hours drive, we used more than five hours driving! We made so much in time that arriving nearly half an hour before the ferry’s departure (for which we already had tickets) there was not time for the planned sightseeing of Nice. On the ferry we meet all together, the total six of old friends. Our goal is to spend the next two weeks on Corsica, according to some opinions the last wild place in Southern Europe.

We arrive to Bastia after dark. There is only 90km drive remaining to Calvi. “Barely one more hour drive” – I thought. It was not that easy, with all the mountainous roads, stray cows on the roads, coping with sharp turns while being already half-asleep we got to the campground and the only thing I could dream about was a cold beer and go to sleep.

We are going to spend the first week in the north of the island. Calvi is quite an interesting town. The main attraction are impressive historic buildings and the citadel rising proudly above the vast bay.

We spend windy days searching for kitesurfing spots. Sandy beach in Calvi is too windswept, thus it’s unlikely to get the favorable wind direction, going a bit north there is plenty of sea urchins. We find nearly perfect spot just about 20 kilometers south of Calvi (driving along the coast), just before Morsetta. It is a rocky, vast and quite secluded beach. We visit that place a few times during our stay. We have planned cycling and making various loops on bikes as an alternative for the days with no wind.

One day, by mistake, we come to a gravel road, which is becoming increasingly more rocky, gradually with bigger holes and narrow passageways, until it all becomes so impassible that it turns into in one of the most challenging hiking trails in Europe, GR20. This part we hardly manage to pass with our SPD shoes and sneakers, in the dark, with three bikes and one lamp to share! After a few hours we reach Calenzana , where a pleasant and rewarding downhill ride takes us to Calvi.

I estimate that on the average you can make about 100 km cycling across Corsican mountains, however we try to increase our range by using a car, as in order to not ride the same routes twice. We reach Galéria, which will then become our next starting point to go on another escapade. In my opinion, by far the most interesting route was the 110 km loop from Porto via Piana, Cargese and Vicio. It’s not just the scenic views, cliffs and wild game, but also a challenging uphill ride (rising above 1000m above sea level) with a rewarding downhill ride to compensate for every effort made (as usual, taken after dark).

After a week we move to the south of the island. We stay just by the bay of Santa Guila, nearby Porto-Vecchio. This is a great starting point to discover Bonifaccio, perhaps the most sumptuous and touristy city of Corsica, which makes a big impression thanks to the citadel located just over the cliff. I recommend it both for the scenery and landscapes. Cycling routes in the south are also worth-a-while, however our kitespot search, honestly, is not always effective. We are able to find some interesting places, both in the east and west coast of the island, but it is either problem with infrastructure (eg. algae, difficult access or wired fences) or sometimes it’s just lack of wind. I start to believe that Corsica is a great place to spend active holidays, but expecting more opportunities for kitesurfing, you should think of places meant more for that. Consider Morocco, Sardinia, Egypt, Denmark or Zalew Szczeciński (Poland).

October 2012

Corse