Saturday 2/5/15 – Met some French bike riders on the ferry from Sardenga to Corsica, got chatting of course, and received a very kind invitation to visit from one couple, when we go to France. Will not happen this time around, but possibly next year……. People are indeed very generous and friendly.
There was a seagull that followed the boat all the way across. It was fascinating to watch as it glided all the way in the draft of the boat, hardly did it flap its wings.. We named him Jonathan….. Get it???? give you a tip, it is not because Span’s real name is John!!
Our first views of Corsica were stunning. Huge white cliffs, with buildings perched on the edge. Some buildings looking quite precarious, with the cliffs being slowly eroded away from under them. Would really hate to be in a building when the cliff gives way, but I suspect they will monitor that fairly closely. One could be forgiven for thinking that this beach front location would NOT add to the property value!!!! Once we had disembarked, we parted from Dave, Maggie and Ray, who turned right and up the east coast to spend a few days at Solenzara, while we headed left up the more windy (of course) roads towards Propriano. We will pick them up again in a few days, when we catch the ferry to France.
From the outset, Corsica looks like it has character, and is VERY tourist orientated. It is so rocky and hilly, in fact one single mountain chain makes up two thirds of the island, so yep… that’s hilly all right! The old town at the port, sits high atop the hill, as if it is overseeing all that goes on, almost as if it is in command.
One of the first things we noticed were the cloud formations. having no memory of the type of cloud it was, resorted to ‘Mr Google’, who offered the following…. ‘Altocumulus lenticularis, is a lens-shaped middle cloud which can resemble flying saucers and may occasionally be mistaken for “unidentified flying objects“. This is formed by uplift usually associated with mountains’ (thanks ‘Mr Google’). Well given that Corsica is two thirds mountains, that kinda fits. Any way, they were very beautiful, if not eerie at times.
As we rode up into the hills, the next thing that caught our attention were the burial sites. No graveyards as such, but rather tombs or crypts for each family. Some are in groups, while others are scattered along the steep hillside……. a tomb with a view ‘so to speak’. Seems they must purchase that wee plot and erect a tomb on it with the family name. Some of them were on such steep slopes… Sure would hate to be a funeral director here. Some are small and simple, while others are huge and very ornate? We get the sense that they are all above ground because the terrain is so very rocky.
The craggy, rock mountain ranges and coast were amazing. We were soon to learn the variety of colours of the rock ranged from white, to browny/red, to sea green slate, to grey; all the while with deep green forest vegetation scattered throughout…… So beautiful.
We saw many what seemed to be wild pigs, however we later learned that there was a mixture of wild boar and free range pigs… God knows how they tell the difference, but they do! There were pens scattered along the side of the road, that looked so frail, but guess they worked.
The pine trees liberally dropped their tiny Pine cones along the road side, which made for tricky manoeuvring by Span at times. They were a little smaller than a ping pong ball, and there were lots of them. Couldn’t help but imagine them dusted with white, and hanging on a Christmas tree. Waaaaayyyyyy too much think time on the back of the bike!
It was late (8pm) when we finally started looking for some digs for the night, so engrossed were we with the day’s riding and sights. We had come to learn that Corsica can be expensive. May is the shoulder of the peak period, and the price is now €20 per night dearer than in April, and that for a very average hotel indeed. Bugger missed by 2 days!
Found some digs, dropped our kit and headed to the waterfront for a tea of pepperoni pizza, beer n wine. It is a unique set up there. The restaurants are in two parts, that are divided by the narrow, one way street. There is the waterfront side and the sidewalk side, we opted to sit in the latter. For those sitting on the waterfront side, the waiter has to dodge traffic to deliver their orders, which made for very amusing watching indeed.
Sunday 3/5/15 – This morning we decided to pre book accomodation in the national park on the north west coast, 25km south of Calvi. The ride there was sensati
onal (of course), with so much to see along the way as always. It is no wonder we are always getting in late at night.
We travelled about 350km today, which took us all day because the roads were so windy, and because we kept stopping to take pics, such was the outstanding ‘eye candy’ along the way.. We had stopped for a coffee at Bicchisano (towards the middle of Corsica) and met a Dutch guy on a bike, who told us that the next bit of road we had planned was the best in Europe by his reckoning. He liked it that much that he has done it one way and had now turned to ride it the opposite way. mmmmmmm .. must be good!
Well, what can we say other than he was right! It was a diverse road in a very old part of Corsica, with mountains and ravines running right up the middle of the island. There was so much more eye candy for us, with spectacular views, free ranging goats, pigs, cows, and small farms that looked so scraggy. The road started out like a goat track, very rough and narrow. It was so bad, that we stopped to do a double check that it was the right road.. It was! Whilst the road did not get much wider, the surface did improve and was just great, right up until we came to the patchwork road.
As we turned the last corner into the square of Belgude, we heard what sounded like an orchestra, and indeed it was.There were you people playing in the square. We arrived just as they were finishing, however the concert was not yet over. From the square they moved to the church, after a strange ceremony where a lady banged vigorously on the door shouting a request for entry.
The sign tells us it was the Contami festival, where the village host the Symphonic orchestra of ‘the little hands’. They are children from the local area, and their ages range between 6 and 17 years old. They play a range for music from classical to Jazz, Baroque etc. They all had big smiley faces and looked to be enjoying themselves. Again, what an unexpected and memorable find.
We have nicknamed the last bit of road to our digs ‘the patchwork road, because it had simply so many patched repairs to it, and was so very bumpy. The Vstrom is certainly the perfect bike for this, and as always, it did not disappoint. We came around the rough and bumpy last corner to the Hotel Auberge Ferayola. It was just just lovely, nestled into the densely shrubbed national forest coast line, in what felt like the middle of no where. Our host Fabrice was an absolute character and spoke good English, with a great accent and cheeky sense of humour to go with it.
We had a fabulous 3 course meal (blew the budget), that night sitting on the verandah overlooking the very lovely and calm sunset vista. Fabrice was disappointed that we did not have a colourful sunset, however we are happy. Span had wild boar (so they said) and loved it. The atmosphere was divine. Met an terrific English couple, and had a lovely chat with them, before heading off to bed.
Monday 4/5/15 – Had breaky this morning at the nearby town of Calgia. My French is getting better when asking for ‘petite dejeuner pour duex S’il vous plaite’ .. Always prefaced by a ‘Je suis de Austrailan.. Pardon mon Francais’ .. Usually gets a big smile and a nod. The locals seem happy that we try at least.
Decided to do a loop along the coast of Porto, further south along the coast to Cargese, then travelled further along the coast before doing a loop up in the mountains…. more spectacular roads! A lazy day for us really as we left at 9ish and were back by 4.30pm, however we did pack a whole lot into the day, we saw and experienced so very much! The red cliffs in contrast with the blue sea along the way were simply spectacular, and the pics certainly do not do them justice.
Again.. the views are to die for, and one most certainly would if one went off the side in a moment of distraction, however given I have THE best rider around up front…. there is NO FEAR!!!
As we came around one corner, low and behold, there was a car with a guy sitting on top, surrounded by pigs. Well of course we had to stop, and remembered we had an apple in the top box.
What a hoot.. one little apple to cut into tiny pieces for these wild pigs. Just picture afeeding frenzy of seagulls with chips.. and well, it was kinda like that, BUT the pigs are BIGGER and more pushy. One mother sow in particular had a pretty mean temper!
It was getting rather hot (32degrees) so we stopped on a little stone bridge in the middle of nowhere and had our sumptuous lunch of a lovely crisp apple, an orange and water (gotta make up for those other way too inviting calories some how, and get back to basics).
Stopped for a ‘well deserved’ ice-cream, (whoops there goes the good lunch – you can tell we are made of strong values) before heading back for another lovely tea on verandah of our hotel and some diary catch up. Thank goodness for the diary, or this blog would NEVER happen.
We had just passed through the town of Minervit, when we came upon some push bike riders winding their way up the hills. Noticed and Aussie logo on one, so when we came up to the next one, shouted out ‘Aussie.. Aussie.. Aussie”. next thing we hear back ‘Oi.. Oi.. Oi’. What a hoot. We stopped a little further up the hill where one had stopped for a rest. They were indeed from Melbourne, Australia and were doing a riding trip of Corsica with Topbike tours……. a little like us, but a whole lot more effort!!!
Decided we would stay a third night with Fabrice, because it was such a great location, the food and wine was good, the vista at dinner just superb, the room was quaint, the company was good, our host Fabrice was a hoot … Annd it had a swimming pool and tennis courts.. Well we didn’t use them, but they were there for us if we wanted!
Tuesday 5/5/15 – Left Fabrice at the hotel to head to Bastia, where we would catch the ferry to France. Received an email from him later that day to say the we had left Span’s iPad behind .. Bugger.. What to do??? Sent him an email asking that he give it to Mike and Eileen, the lovely English couple we met at the hotel, and who we had been invited to visit in Shropshire….. mmmmmmm…. Must be fate ensuring we do visit.
Stopped for a petite dejeuner (€5.80ea) at L’Lle Rousse as we headed towards what they call the finger of Corsica. Look at the map at the bottom of this blog, and you will understand. We had chocolate croissant x 2 (took one with us), and a baguette with butter and jam. We also got the Vegemite out, which we promptly left behind; fortunately it was not a new tube.
Stopped at a little beach for our lunch of chocolate croissant, an orange and water. It was very hot, about 32 degrees on this side of the island. There were people swimming, which looked very inviting indeed to us resplendent in our bike gear.
Had a chat with 2 older couples on the beach, before lying down in the grass by the beach, under a shady tree for a snooze, which was luxury indeed and very cooling. Up and off after a nice rest, we stopped briefly to fill the water bottle from another ever giving mountain spring.
On our way again, and we came across some very rugged country. We headed out toward a lighthouse for a looksee, a very rough bit of road indeed, that lead Span to say with a grimace… ‘I hope we don’t get a puncture’. Well we did not, nor did we reach the light house, because our way was barred by some signage and hikers who promptly told us the bike could go no further, but we could walk! Bugger that in 32 degrees and full bike gear.
We smiled politely and turned back from whence we had come, but not before we wished them well and they had lots of oohs and aahed for us having come ‘all the way from Australie’. As always, there was someone who had visited, or who had relatives in OZ….. all relayed to us with the brightest of eyes and the biggest smiles. Couldn’t help but stop to take some pics of more beautiful wild flowers on the way back.
Magnificent ride up to the finger of Corsica, as Fabrice promised it would be. The rugged coast went from white to brown go green. We followed miles and miles of green slate coast, so beautiful rugged and crazy. Arrived at Bastia and found the hotel Cyrnea. Choice of €50 room with out sea view, or €60 with a sea view. Opted for the €50 room; heck it was late and we were only going to sleep there! . Great location and it had secure garage parking and wifi. We were shown up to our room and low and behold, we had an upgrade to a room with a sea view again! The wifi was excellent and it also had three English channels.- bonus! Caught up on the BBC news re the refugees flooding into Sicily, such a terrible plight for them. They have had 18,000 in the last month, compared to the same number last year.
Tuesday 6/5/15 – No rush this morning, as the ferry from Bastia does not leave until 6.30pm, arriving at Marseille at 7am tomorrow morning – another overnighter. Had breaky at our hotel (€6 ea); our host and his wife were a delight. They gave us orange marmalade made by them from their own oranges, they were so proud of this. It was very yummy indeed. We took a chocolate croissant (becoming a bit of a habit) for a snack along the way, before going up to our room to pack. We are getting forgetful. First we left the pc case and camera in the dining room, then we left the little notebook on the counter! Good grief.. And we are only six weeks into our adventure… Not boding well for us arriving home with much luggage!
Decided to redo yesterday’s ride down the slate green coast for some more pics as we did not get many yesterday, however whilst the ride was great, the weather was not with us for good picture colour as it was very overcast. It was however still awesome riding none the less. Found one small beach where we almost got a beach pic.. Well it is the closest we have got yet, and it was very rough on the way down.
Along the way, we also went down to Port Centuri, a very old, tiny and picturesque port that Fabrice recommended was well worth a look, because the streets are narrow and the Port so very very pretty.
Well he was so very right! As we wound our way down to the port all was revealed. A sleepy little port with many eateries that surrounded the harbour….. mmmm the pics tell it all!
As we were leaving the tiny Port of Centuri, we came across a most beautiful piece of art. Mother nature had provided the wood for this beautiful piece….. the rest was the imagination of a very clever, perhaps inspired person. Will leave you to judge, and consider for yourself!
Just around the corner we were treated by a stunning view of more beautiful coastal wildflowers, and more of the rough and rugged coastline.
On our way to the port, we met some bikers from Marseille who kindly invited us to stay, however, we will not make it this time around, exchanged cards and promised we would try to make it next year. Their daughter is keen to come to Oz, so perhaps we will see her then when we come home.. Who knows???
One of the things that fascinates us is the number of dwellings that are just left. Why…. we do not know, but there are beautiful old buildings that are simply left to fall down, and so many gates and stairs to nowhere. It is left to our imagination as to what went on in these places and why they were left.
Made it safely on board the overnight ferry to Marseille at 6.30pm. Safely being the operative word here, cause we have just read an article that tells us that Corsica has the highest murder rate per capita in Europe.. Crikey!!!!! From this sign we saw, glad we are not French……. either that or the Corsicans have a cute sense of humour.