Hotel Castel di Vergio to Refuge de Manganu
(10.5 miles/17 kilometers)
The others were eating breakfast, and it was lovely. I was able to choose my drink from a vending machine, and refill it when I'd finished, and I had a nice piece of baguette with butter and jam and then the only croissant I ate on Corsica. It was fantastically light and delicious, and reminded me of why I normally choose to have one for breakfast in French towns if there's a good boulangerie at hand.
The night before I'd take a picture of the campsite through the restaurant window, and it had been pretty crowded over there.
This morning I'd taken one just after packing up, and by 7am almost everybody had moved off.
After breakfast I went downstairs to wait for the others, and we left at about 0715. As we walked past the larger of the two camping fields Freddy pointed out that a group of young campers (scouts, maybe?) was flying the Sardinian flag.
I thought it was a good time for another experiment with the self-timer on my camera, and so we all lined up in the road and hoped that it would work.
The day's walk started in a forest on an easy path.
A number of amazing tress had fallen in storms...
...and from time to time it was necessary to crawl under them. We made our way steadily along easy forest paths for perhaps an hour so so...
...and it was a joy to enjoy such easy walking in such beautiful surroundings, for a change. Eventually we came, though, to the point at which the route made a sharp right-hand turn up the side of the mountain towards the Col de S'Pierre. Before we started the climb we stopped for a few minutes, and then we set off up the steeply zig-zagging path to the top.
Eventually we reached the top and stopped again to look around. There were great views back towards the ground we'd passed the day before.
There was a little shrine on the col, and we posed there for a photograph.
Although it wasn't a particularly windy day, it was clear that on a regular basis gale-force winds assaulted the collection of trees on the top of the hill.
Freddy took some pictures for me of me standing in beautiful places.
We were about to leave the long line of mountains behind and I was keen to get some pictures, but the annoying 'battery low' light began to flash up on my camera and I realised I was running low on battery power. It was only then that I realised I hadn't taken the high-power batteries I normally use, and also that I had no further spares. Since it wasn't likely that I'd be able to get more before Vizavona I realised I'd have to conserve my batteries over the course of the next few days. It was pretty frustrating to have made such an idiotic mistake, because in the past just one set of lithium batteries had lasted me more than a fortnight's walking.
The path continued along the side of the mountain.
Despite my dwindling camera battery I couldn't resist the odd flower photograph, but I didn't manage to get a clear picture of this pretty little thing, which was a common sight in the mountains. I've not managed to find a name for it yet, so if you know then please drop me a line.
The ground we were travelling over now changed fairly dramatically. Gone was the rugged rockiness of the preceding 5 days, and it was replaced instead by broad, flattish ground covered with vivid yellow and low-growing spiny broom.
We were descending towards Lac du Ninu, and even though I'd grown used to beautiful sights I was amazed by the beauty of the lake, when we finally arrived there. Part of my wonder arose out of the contrast, I think, between this area and the others I'd seen before.
There were horses and cattle grazing around the lake, and sometimes there are also wild pigs (although sadly for me I didn't see any). We sat for a while near a spring, and the others refilled their water bottles. Freddy took another photograph...
...and then we got our things together and moved off.
We walked across a broad, grassy, watery plain, interspersed with small pools. There were trout in the pools, but the first thing I noticed were the beautiful blue damselflies.
There were plants growing in the little pools that looked exactly the same as the ones I regularly see in the Lake District.
We spent some time watching trout in the pools, and then we carried on. On the way to the next Refuge we crossed further lovely pools surrounded by broad, hot rocks, and sat down there to have lunch. I remembered the pistachios I'd been carrying in one of the belt pockets on my rucksack, and we had them with pastis provided by Jacques. I had the usual bread and saucisson, and it was just as nice as usual. We also tried out the cheese I'd bought the previous morning at the bergerie, and that was good too. Annie offered me a bit of pate: it was delicious...
...and we saw a group of goats making their way back, unsupervised, to the Bergeries de Vaccaghja for the night.
Some of them had stopped under a tree for a little break :)
Finally the Refuge de Manganu became visible in the distance, and not an awfully long time later we arrived there. It was about 3pm, and so there was plenty of time to relax before dinner.
I'm no longer sure whether I simply forgot to take any pictures at the Refuge that night or whether I was worried about my batteries--the former, I suspect--but it was a nice place to camp.
As soon as we got there I went round the back to set up my tent. Although there was plenty of time, I'd come to realise that the best camping spots went quickly as the stream of GR20 walkers arrived. I was able to find a fairly flat spot, and after that I returned to the veranda and had a beer with Freddy, Annie and Jacques.
I hadn't been sure that I was going to eat in the Refuge, but I saw that it was less expensive at Manganu and so I decided I would.
I got my wash kit and some of my dirty clothes together, and made my way over to the showers. After my shower--freezing, as always, but effective nonetheless--I sat for 30 minutes in the sun waiting for my turn to wash my clothes. After that I arranged them on rocks to dry and went in for dinner.
Dinner was penne with tomato sauce and olives, and pretty good. I got up once I'd finished to buy a bottle of wine to supplement the one the others had already bought, and when I got back to the table Jacques and Freddy suggested that I should go and ask for seconds of pasta, as they had done. I did, and got a second bowl full! Perhaps I should have tried that at the first couple of Refuges... Annie and I then went to get our cheeses, and we enjoyed the cheese with the wine. Veronique, whom I'd met over breakfast at Refuge de Tighjettu, arrived during dinner, and sat down for a chat. We all ate outside, and there was a relaxed and friendly atmposphere out on the veranda with happy groups of people scattered across the various tables, talking and laughing in a variety of languages.
During the course of the evening I gave my little note to my Corsican pals and promptly became embarrassingly tearful. Aagh... My mother had died very suddenly only a couple of months before the walk and so I was feeling a little more fragile than usual, and the kind and generous way in which Annie, Freddy and Jacques had absorbed me into their little group had really gone straight to my heart. I didn't have the ability to explain that in French, though, and so I had to be satisfied with attempting to explain that I was happy rather than sad, with the assistance, once again, of drawings in my little notebook.
Eventually the various groups dispersed. When people are waking at 5am and walking by no later than 7am, 9pm begins to feel like a late night. I returned to my book, read for a while and then fell asleep. I woke again in the middle of the night, though, annoyed with myself for having behaved (or at least appeared) like a sentimental idiot earlier on. I sat up, switched on the torch, got out my book again and smoked a cigarette. Eventually I lay down and went back to sleep.
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