ERIK ŠTURM & MANJA PEČKAJ – Bovec, Slovenia
From the coast, we went to the town of Corte, in the centre of Corsica. It is a small town, with buildings packed on steep terrain, surrounded with high mountains – a perfect starting point for our second adventure.
We left our bikes in camp in Corte and drove to the starting point of the four-day trek. We plan to hike four out of fifteen stages of the famous Corsican mountain crossing – GR 20.
We started hiking at the Asco hut and continued toward the highest peak on Corsica, Monte Cinto (2706m a.s.l.). Around 100 m (in altitude) beneath the peak, we turned toward the hut Tighjettu and prepared a hefty lunch (it was nothing special – a can of cassoulet but delicious for two hungry hikers).
Our stomachs full, we headed toward Bergerie de Ballone hut where we pitched our tent.
Luckily, there was a small pond near us so we could “take a quick – five second – bath” 🙂
When we read that this is one of the most difficult trekking routes in Europe, we didn’t immediately get why that is, but learned in the first hour of hiking. The terrain is mostly full of big rocks and scree, so even going downhill requires much attention and time.
But you take that for granted when suddenly, looking around yourself, you see huge brown-violet rock masses surrounding you. The view reaches all the way to the sea, so one quickly gets the sense of Corsica’s narrow and hilly landscape.
On the next day, we hiked up to the Mori hut, where we met quite a few kind Corsicans who have been in Slovenia and, mind you, even Bovec! Only an hour’s walk from the hut, we spent the night before a small bivouac – Bivac de Radule.
We crossed many mountain pastures, mostly for sheep and goat grazing, on our way here. One also sees many small houses on these pastures, where farmers live in summer and produce the famous stinky Corsican cheese.
The difficult hike along and over high rocks turned into a pleasant walk uphill along narrow paths, but much more accessible. The view of grey-green purple mountains that are much brighter and more pleasant to the eye than the ones yesterday, appeared before us.
When we “retired” to our tents for the day to escape the cold and darkness, we still heard the voices of hikers that kept on going further. The French are unbelievable! We began our hiking early every day and always hurried to our daily destination. The French, however, seem to take their time and keep on stopping, disregarding the fact that darkness might catch them mid-hike.
They must be damn brave and full of stamina!
The longest, eight hour long stage to the Manganu hut, awaited us on the third day. The trail wasn’t too difficult, as a large part went across straights in the forest and meadows, nothing special.
But we did have a strange encounter on the way. All of a sudden, we walked into “a pig party”, some 20 of them, all colours and sizes! They scattered along the path and each squealed in their separate direction.
Quickly, however, they smelled something tasty in our backpacks and proceeded to follow us but we managed to elude them in no time.
We slowly reached the second valley and the Maganu hut. There was plenty of French company here, so we mingled with the other hikers a bit.
The huts are closed because the season has ended. But strange as it may be, all the large huts where people spend the night are unlocked to be used, and without any managerial presence. There is no running water in the hut, but there is the luxury of a stove, bed and fireplace, all of which we happily used.
On the last day we set off toward the steep slope very early, as we were in for a long day. We did a 600 metre difference in altitude across large rocks toward the way of Peter Piano hut.
Instead of continuing our trek along the ridge to the hut, we descended along a very steep trail to the valley of Lac de Capitello (a lake), where we “braved” toward the road that leads from the valley back to Corte.
We didn’t do a lot of mileage in the mountains this day, but the path was quite difficult and slow due to vertical terrain that steeply descended into the valley.
We killed some time viewing the two glacial lakes that reflected the vertical walls of light colours and rare trees of lively autumn shades.
After “breaking free” of the mountains, the last stage of our trek awaited us – a 16 kilometre hike along the road back to Corte and the campsite.
I have to say that I much rather traverse the mountains slowly than swiftly “rolling” down the street. Luckily, a car (a nice French couple) stopped by us near the second part of the way so we reached our bikes at the campsite quite early.
But the feat wasn’t over. The next day we “mounted” our bikes and headed to fetch our car. On 55 kilometres of road we climbed more than 1400 metres in altitude. A good test for our behinds, but they got through it unscathed!
We cycled the slope climbing through the valley amidst high mountains, with unbelievable holes in the mountainside that reminded one of Corsican town signs – all of them riddled with holes (in protest of bilingual names of towns in Corsican and French language).
The climb marked the end of our adventure, after which we returned to the campsite by car where we rested. We certainly earned it!