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The GR20 in Corsica - July 2008

Day 10 - Friday 11th July
Vizzavona to Bocca di Verdi
(18.75 miles/24 kilometers)

I slept so well that I didn't wake up until 6am! That was a little disconcerting, as I'd decided that this was the day upon which I was going to combine 2 stages in order to make up for only having allowed myself 14 days to complete the walk. Still, under no circumstances would I have been willing to forego the opportunity to have a second lovely hot shower, and so I jumped off the bed, grabbed my wash things and made my way to the bathroom.

The second shower was almost as good as the first, and by 7.30am I was packed and ready to go. A little earlier I'd taken my Platy down to see if I could have it filled in the kitchen, because I wasn't sure whether the water in the bedroom was drinkable or not. While I was there I'd seen the lovely dining room, freshly set for breakfast, and I'd regretted once again the mistake the night before which had deprived me of the opportunity to eat breakfast in such elegant surroundings. I therefore decided that I could make time for a cofee down at one of the restaurants in the village, assuming that one was open, and so I headed off in that direction.

First I had to take advantage of the mirror in the bedroom for a mirror photo, though.

Mirror photo experiment in bedroom at Hotel Larrici, Vizzavona

I also took a few more pictures on the way out, partly because the hotel was charming but also in celebration of my new camera batteries.

The corridor outside my room

The corridor in the other direction

The lovely stone-floored staircase

Finally I made it to the road outside the hotel...

Hotel Larrici

...and set off down to the restaurants.

I found some of the other walkers having a last and leisurely breakfast, but I decided in the end to just stick with a quick cup of coffee. As I was finishing it I saw Ursula at a table outside the Gite, and so after I'd hoisted my pack, and performed the usual morning wriggle to ensure that my hipbelt had settled comfortably into the right places, and said goodbye to the GR20'ers at the next table, I went over to say hello, and then goodbye a second time. After that I headed back up the little road I'd walked down the night before. By then it was after 8am, which constituted a pretty late start.

On the way I looked down to the campsite where most of the others were staying, and saw some familiar faces there, packing up.

Camp site at Vizzavona

I'd noticed a wonderful old building as I'd arrived the previous afternoon, sadly and unaccountably deserted, and so I stopped to take a picture. I'd love to know what the building used to be, and why it's been allowed to fall into decay.

The start of the day's walk was along a broad and easy gently rising path through woods. Soon I passed a sign identifying various potential routes, and it was a bit of thrill to see "GR20 Sud" (or GR20 South) attached to the one I was taking :) Shortly afterwards I passed a small church, and stopped briefly for a closer look.

Small church just outside Vizzavona, on GR20 South route

I knew from Paddy Dillon's guidebook that the walk to the first of my two destinations--Bergeries d'E Capanelle--would probably take 5.5 hours or so, plus any stopping time along the way, and also that I was then likely to have to spend another 4.5 hours (plus stopping time) to get to Bocca di Verdi. I realised, therefore, that I needed to press on, but somehow I just couldn't prevent myself from stopping on a regular basis to play with the camera. I soon passed another charming little sign, which just had to be recorded...

...and then I spent at least 10 minutes trying unsuccessfully to take a clear picture of some pretty little bramble-like flowers at the side of the path. I think it was then that I decided that I'd have to dump my digital point-and-shoot in favour of something that would allow me to take a properly focussed picture of small flowers and insects. (Stop Press: I finally ran out of patience whilst writing up this day's walk, and my new camera (Canon EOS 400D) arrived yesterday. Heh...)

I eventually managed to drag myself forwards, though, and the tracks continued up the hill, reminding me of similar tracks I've walked on in the Pyrenees.

Forest track just outside Vizzavona, going south

The path eventually left the track and headed steeply up through the woods themselves. There were further unsuccessful attempts to record pretty little flowers...


...and time was spent admiring some of the wonderful, large pine cones that littered the forest floor.

I stopped at one stage for a little rest...

...and as I was there I spotted some amazing fungi and lichens growing along the trunk of an adjacent tree.

Eventually I emerged from the forest, and the path began to make its way across an area of dry scrub-land across what was initially level ground.

It soon began to rise, though, and I was presented with hazy-looking views of the coast across a series of little mountains.

The sun was baking hot, and there were little lizards everywhere, soaking it all up.

Tiny dinosaur, surveying her territory

Eventually I spotted a couple of attractive small buildings next to the path, and realised they were the Bergeries d'Alzeta. I didn't stop, though...

Bergeries d'Alzeta

...and as I grew closer to my destination there were further lovely views of the distant coast.

I love walking along the easy, woodland paths. Much as I enjoy climbing through the high mountains, part of me would love to be able to find a long walk that consists more of this sort of thing than of steep, irritating descents.

There were flowers and insects too.

Alpine Hawkweed (?) with wee creature

Mountain bouquet

Haller's Marguerite (I think)

I didn't actually see huge quantities of butterflies on the walk, and when I did see them they were normally travelling too quickly for me to attempt to photograph them, but I came across one feeding at the side of the path.

Unidentified butterfly

The walk continued along easy paths. There must have been some steeper parts because it was climbing, but the flat bits were so lovely that those are the parts I stopped to record.

Lovely, hot, flat, pretty path

From time to time I spotted interesting spiders' webs in the bushes, but although I bent over to see whether I could find the spider in this one there was nothing but a faint warning gleam at the bottom of the entrance to be seen.

Some sort of funnel-webbed accommodation for a spider

My immediate surroundings and the views grew lovelier all the time...

Perfect walking country

...and I passed a fallen tree, with fantastically gnarly roots, lying beside the path.

Presumably this tree had at some stage been strucky by lightning!

Lightning-blasted tree?

And the path went on, and on, and on...

At one point I came suddenly upon a couple of people standing next to the path. I'd been absorbed in the book I was listening to (The Making of a Chef, by Michael Ruhlman) and so I was taken a little by surprise. I smiled and then began to walk past, but as I did so I noticed a most unusual carbuncle of some sort growing from a crevice in the middle of a tree trunk. Unfortunately this picture provides no perspective, but I think it must have been about a foot across. To me it looks like a huge conker!

Strange conker-like carbuncle growing in the middle of a tree trunk

I passed the Bergeries de Scarpacceghje (wow! That's a name and a half...)

At or near the Bergeries de Scarpacceghje

...and not an awfully long time afterwards I emerged onto a road at a hairpin bend. I was so excited to be nearing the end of the first stage that I took a picture to record my moment of triumphant relief.

The path emerges onto a road, on approach to Bergeries d'E Capanelle

From there I needed only to walk a short distance along the road to the right before dipping down the mountainside to the left.

On the way down I passed the Refuge d'E Capanelle, which I thought might not be in use (although another look now at the guidebook suggests that it is)...

Refuge d'E Capanelle


...and then I dropped down to what I think, from the book, must have been the Gite d'Etape U Fugone, although to me it just looked like a bar/restaurant with a sunny veranda.

It may well be that there's more to the Gite than I noticed in the relatively short time I spent there. The area was not particularly attractive, because the ski-lift rather dominated the view.

Looking back to bar at Gite d'Etape U Fugone

Also, I didn't find it particularly friendly in the bar, although things might have been different had I been staying. One way or the other, the bloke behind the bar had difficulty understanding my request for a drink, which seemed a little odd in view of the fact that I'd been in Corsica for a week and a half, and had managed to make myself understood everywhere else. I simply decided I was glad I wasn't staying, though, and returned to my table with my Coke (2 Euros) to relax a bit, study the guidebook and write up a few notes.

It was about 2pm when I arrived, and I was keen to set off on the next stretch. Since I was in a hurry I'd decided to take the official low-level route to Bocca di Verdi, although if I'd had all 15 days available I'd certainly have taken the higher option described by Paddy Dillon. I now read in the guidebook that the low route was relatively easy, and that although the first stage was fairly rugged it was quickly completed. That sounded good and so I applied some more suntan lotion, put my note and guidebooks away and left by 2.25pm.

The first part did indeed turn out to be rugged, and on this occasion I felt that Paddy's description, and the diagramatic height profile, had created a bit of a false impression in my mind of just how easy (i.e. relatively level) the route was. It wasn't difficult, but there was a lot of up and down and it took me an hour of sustained effort to complete the first bit that I'd read was quickly over.

I'd found on most occasions that I was actually a little quicker than the estimates provided in the guidebook, and so when I'd read that it was likely to take 4.5 hours to get to the Bocca di Verdi I'd entertained hopes that I might manage it in less. I didn't, though. It was 7.40pm by the time I got there, and I was totally whacked. It turned out to be the case that most of the remaining stages took me a little longer than the estimate, which may be because in relative terms I'm faster on the sort of steep ascents that are encountered in the northern part of the GR20. I'm not quite sure. Anyway! Back to the photographs...

The route wound in and out, and up and down, through woods on rocky little paths.

Some of the paths were fringed by interesting grasses...

Interesting grasses...

...and there was the usual profusion of pretty little plants and flowers growing on the sides of the mountain.

Most of them were familiar, but this was one I hadn't seen before. Any ideas, anyone?

Does anyone know what this is?

At some stage I passed a little building--a bergerie, presumably...

...and soon after that I noticed another wee lizard minus a tail. It smiled up at me as it shot off into the bushes, though, so I reckon it was happy enough :)


Little lizard, minus tail

I spotted a pretty crane fly on the ground, just in time to avoid stepping on it. Experience suggests to me that crane flies are always missing at least one leg. I hope the loss of them isn't as painful as it would be for you or me.

Crane Fly

I also crossed a river/stream or two, and at one stage stopped to take a photo so that I could play with it in PSP when I got home...

Waterfall: played with in PSP

There were also some flowers that I either hadn't seen or hadn't noticed earlier in the walk, including this very beautiful little bell-shaped blue one, which unfortunately didn't come out terribly well.

Anonymous little blue bell-shaped flowers

At some stage impressive views of distant, cloud-topped mountains appeared...

...and I emerged from between trees onto a little plateau.

Little plateau

I spotted a pig having a snack, and he kindly allowed me to take a picture.

Pig, snacking

Eventually, thank goodness, I arrived at a sign announcing that I had arrived... somewhere... and telling me that I could either go back or continue. Hmmm... It wasn't very easy to read.

Cryptic sign

I reckon it must have been the sign announcing the Plateau de Gialgone--hurrah for the guidebook! Soon after that I spotted more of the funnel-webbed spider thingies, and this time I actually saw a spider lurking in the entrance to a funnel.

Some kind of funnel-shaped web

Complete with spider!

I'd been waiting and waiting (and praying and praying!) for the path to descend to the little carpark that Paddy's guide had promised was there, and finally--days, it felt, since I'd left Vizzavona--I got there. Very quickly it descended to a broad mountain track, and it took only 5 minutes or so for me to walk up that to the Relais San Petru di Verdi, a restaurant/bar with chalets and camping facilities, situated on the Bocca di Verdi. It was 7.40pm when I arrived, and so it had taken me 5 hours rather than Paddy's projected 4.5 to get there from the Gite where I'd had a Coke earlier in the day. I suppose that wasn't bad, considering I'd done two stages, but it felt like a very long day indeed. I was a little surprised by that until I noticed in my guidebook, over a celebratory pastis, that I'd walked 18.75 miles, which is quite a long way in that sort of heat (on average, it had been about 84C).

I was delighted to be there, though. I made my way towards a veranda outside the bar, where a group of 3 young blokes were chatting. They jumped up at my approach and addressed me in English. Maybe they were telepathic, or possibly I still had something of the pallid look of the perpetually sun-deprived about my arms and legs. Anyway, they were extremely friendly and welcoming, and in hardly any time at all I was settled at a table with a drink, considering my food options.

They offered to make me a sandwich, but I'd spotted a Menu du Jour on the wall and was keen to try it, since all I'd eaten all day was some bread and a little saucisson way back in the morning. They agreed to provide it, and I settled down to write up my notes.
  • Bivvy (with hot shower): 5.50 Euros
  • Menu du Jour: 18 Euros
  • Pastis: 1.50 Euros
Dinner arrived. I have to say it wasn't the best food I ate in Corsica, but the owner and his son were very friendly, and that makes up for a lot when one's tired and hungry, and travelling alone. I had salad composée (which is ubiquitous in France, and seems to consist of whatever salady things are available, chopped up small), pork with a lump of some sort of cheesy pasta bake (or it could have been cauliflower cheese! I really couldn't tell...) and then chocolate mousse (I could have had a piece of flan instead, had I wanted it) and some cheese. I also had bread and half a bottle of red wine, though I only drank about half of it.

The owner came over to chat with me, and explained that he'd married an English woman from Yorkshire, and that's why his son's English was so good. He congratulated me on doing the walk on my own, and we chatted away about this and that for 5 minutes or so. He clearly disapproved of my knackered slumped posture at the table, because at one stage he reached over and straightened my back for me!

As I ate there was a radio playing English music in the background, and one of my all-time favourite tunes came on: What a Fool Believes by the Doobie Brothers. Music! It's the greatest blast in existence :)

I didn't hang around long at the restaurant after finishing dinner. I was tired, and it was cool once the sun had gone down, and so I gathered my things together and went in to pay. After that I made my way down (only 30 seconds or so) to the place where most people seemed to be camping i.e. down in the wood in front of the bar.

It was actually quite difficult to find a place to put the tent, because all the other walkers had arrived before me. I eventually put down my pack and wandered up and down the hill a bit, but I settled on a nice, flattish sort of place near to a table and just down a slope from the loos. Despite having paid for a hot shower I was simply too tired to take it, and so I made my way over to the spring to put some water in my Platy and went to bed. I got out my book again, but within minutes I was asleep.

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