Refuge de Tighjettu to Hotel Castel di Vergio
(9.5 miles/15 kilometers)
There I had the nicest breakfast of the whole trip, with my hot chocolate served in a bowl, Pyrenean-style, and accompanied by a large jug of warm milk from which I could top it up.
Sitting with Annie and Jacques was Veronique, whom I hadn't met before. She was French but spoke very good English, and we chatted a bit as I finished up my piece of dried toast with jam and butter.
I was anxious not to be late for the others, and so just after 0700 I made my way outside, picked up my pack and wandered off to a rock to smoke a cigarette as the others finalised their preparations. I realised I'd forgotten to take a picture of my tent the night before, and so I took a picture of where it had been instead.
After that I took a picture of people packing up and leaving from the Refuge.
We adoped a steady pace, and soon reached the Bergeries de Ballone (known also as the Auberge U Vallone). I wondered whether they sold their own cheese, as the cheese I'd bought in Calenzana, being a soft sheep's cheese, had become runny in my pack and had had to be thrown away. It turned out that they did, and Jacques helped me to buy some from the proprietor. It was 8 Euros for a nice-looking piece.
After that we set off down again. We'd come across a couple of young girls walking together for the day, and one of them--Anne-Marie--spoke good English, and so as we made our way through the mountains she translated Freddy's explanations about the area that we were passing through for my benefit. It was that morning that I learned that the interesting structures I'd seen hanging from the Laricio pines had been the nests of the pine processionary caterpillars (or les chenille processionnaire).
Pretty soon the path entered a woodland area, where it skirted the left hand side of mountainside. It was beautiful; soft and relatively flat underfoot, and I don't remember it as having been particularly steep at that stage.
Eventually the path turned right and became steep as we made our way uphill towards a distant col.
We were walking close to a water source, and on the way up we encountered some water-loving carnivorous plants in the form of Butterwort.
See the little insects trapped by the sticky, digestive juices on the leaves?
Freddy told us that we were approaching a source of clean water, and when we arrived there we all stopped for a little break, took a drink and sported about for a while, looking at whatever interested us.
After that we had a couple of group photos.
We pressed on uphill again after that, and climbed steadily towards our col. There came a point at which Freddy indicated, via Ann-Marie, that they proposed to miss out a small part of the usual path in order to take a bit of a short-cut and join it again lower down. Freddy pointed uphill towards the part we were going to avoid, and it included the ascent to the Bocca di Foggiale and the descent past the Refuge du Ciottulu di I Mori. I took a picture when we dropped a little further down the hill.
The others pointed back up the hill to what appeared as a large, dark mark on the side of the mountain, and explained that it is, in fact, a huge hole, 35m wide and 10m high. I think the rockface itself is called the Tafunatu, and the story, as explained by Freddy, goes that the devil threw a huge piece of iron in anger at the mountain and that's what made the hole. Eep... :) Zooming in on the picture, it's possible to see not only the shadow that indicates the location of the hole but also the Refuge du Ciottulu di I Mori below it.
We continued down the hillside at the same steady sort of pace. It was once again a beautiful, hot day, and the others had indicated a plan to have lunch at a lovely spot along the river. We passed a number of alluring crystal pools as we walked...
...and it began to feel as though we were never going to stop! Anne-Marie began to stumble on small rocks and my tummy began to rumble, and we both decided that we needed to eat pretty soon.
It turned out that Freddy and the others had a particular place in mind, though. We stopped once at a small stream surrounded by bushes, and I wondered whether that's where they'd been aiming for. It may have been, but there were many small flies around. Not the nasty biting sort, but (what looked like) ordinary domestic houseflies. Annie told me that they're called les mouches. In any event we pressed on. The river widened, and the path continued down the side along an easy descent...
...and at just about 1230 we arrived at a beautiful crossing place by the river, where other people were already sunbathing on the larged, rounded sun-baked rocks.
Annie, Freddy and Jacques got into their swimming costumes and waded into the large pool for a swim--very brave, I thought! Meanwhile, I dug out my bread and saucisson, and started my lunch. I've found that saucisson always tastes best to me when eaten with rough hunks of bread in bright sunshine. I suppose there's an element of everything tasting great when I'm very hungry to that, but I also think it's because the sun warms the sausage and brings out all the flavours. As I ate I watched a number of little ants making off with the crumbs that fell from my loaf as I cut pieces off with my cunning Opinel knife.
After their swim Annie and the others produced more pastis and peanuts--yum again!--and then we all settled down to finish our lunch. After we'd eaten lunch Ann-Marie and her friend needed to leave for the Hotel Castel di Vergio, as they were meeting their parents there, and so we said goodbye and then the rest of us settled back against the rocks for a bit of a snooze in the sun.
The walk down to the hotel wasn't as steep as the one I'd endured the day before. Freddy went on ahead, and the rest of us arrived at the Bergeries de Radule on a rocky little outcrop on the side of the hill. It was built from stone and wood, and so well camouflaged that it was quite difficult to see when I looked back towards it from only a short distance away.
As we walked down the hill we passed a little cave in which the shepherd (or berger) stored his cheeses until they reached maturity. I wondered whether walkers might occasionally be tempted to help themselves, but Jacques suggested that if the shepherd saw them doing that he'd make pretty short work of them :)
The path entered a little wood, and eventually it emerged onto a hot and dusty road only a few minutes' walk from the Hotel Castel di Vergio.
It was still quite early--about 4.30pm--and we made our way along the road...
...and then up to the veranda bar, where we found Freddy drinking a beer. Annie and Jacques went off to book into the Gite, and possibly also to have a shower, but--having spotted the camping place just across from the hotel, and noted that the other GR20 walkers were putting up their tents on the rather scrubby ground closest to the hotel, rather than the larger, grassier field that was rapidly filling up with weekend campers--I put down my pack and ordered a beer from the bar. Almost as soon as the beer arrived I managed to knock it over--doh: Freddy got a bit of a soaking--and so I went back to the bar and ordered a couple more. I noticed that they had postcards there, and so I bought a few, with stamps, and wrote them out as quickly as possible at the table in the sun. I also checked that it was okay to camp. It was, and the price was 6 Euros.
The others returned, and a short time after that I decided I'd better go and reserve my emplacement by dumping my rucksack on the best of the remaining pitches. I did that and then returned to finish my drink, and we all arranged to meet later for dinner in the Hotel restaurant.
Although the ground was a bit thistley it was easier to get the tent pegs in than it had been on the earlier nights, and it didn't take long to get things sorted out. The other GR20'ers were arriving, and the ground was quickly filling up with little tents.
After that I went off to check out the showers, and they were fantastic: hot! Hot! HOT!! I stood in the stream of water for about 10 minutes, and was quite reluctant to actually get out :) It had to be done eventually, though, and so I dressed in my spare set of clothing and began to think about dinner. I'd arranged to meet the others at 7pm, and I was quite shocked to discover, on checking my watch, that it was that time already! So I quickly grabbed my little red Exped stuff-sack containing the various things I always carried with me and sprinted across to the hotel.
The others were waiting, and we made our way into the restaurant. I was looking forward to eating something chosen by Corsican people, and it turned out to be Corsican soup, some sort of roast piglet (sob...) with delicious slices of potato sauted in thyme with lettuce and then a pastry with apple and chantilly cream. There was red wine too, and it was very good indeed.
Prices for the night were reasonable, I thought, bearing in mind how good it all was.
I'd realised a day or so earlier, on closer inspection of the guidebook, that I seemed to have miscalculated the number of days I would need to complete the walk. The norm is 15 days, but I'd only left myself 14. I mentioned that to Annie and Jacques, and when we got back down to the hotel they consulted Freddy, who suggested a revision of the route in order to finish a day early at Bavella instead of Conca. I wasn't keen on missing any days out, though, and so I decided that I'd take a closer look at the guidebook over the next couple of days and decide what to to. Doubling up 2 stages seemed likely to be the best option, and I settled into my sleeping bag a little worried about how I was going to sort it all out.
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