ERIK ŠTURM & MANJA PEČKAJ – Bovec, Slovenia
Because of moody weather we skipped a few days of biking and explored the last kilometres of the western coast by car. We reached Calvi quite quickly, as we biked through this part thoroughly already. We stopped by various small ports north of Calvi and admired their lighthouses. To shorten our days there, we walked through the ruins of a few villages or spent some time walking by the coast when the weather was good. We then reached St. Florian, a town on the south-western part of the northern Corsican peninsula – Capo Corse. Leaving our car there, we made the most of sunny weather and headed around the peninsula by bike.
After spending a few days of sitting in the car, the first slope, which brought us from the coast to 500 m a.s.l., was truly a wakeup call for all the muscles in the body. After the morning warm up, we descended to Bastilia.
After a long, alas unsuccessful hunt for a gas can for our cooker, we continued on our way. It appeared that we would have to reconsider our manner of preparing food, as the correct gas can is hard enough to find in Europe, let alone here on Corsica. Like finding a needle in a hay stack!
But we quickly forgot our futile search for the can in town, when privy to amazing views of small beaches, patches of sand that found their place between vertical cliff walls and the sea. Frequent, short and steep slopes that took you away from the coast in a just few metres and descents that brought you rapidly back to the sea made the trip interesting. Small hamlets, usually only a few houses standing around a small pier, were popping by the coast. These houses were mostly closed shut, waiting for the summer season to arrive.
We were slowly approaching toward the northernmost point of the island. Just before the finish we ascended along a steep slope. Biking around Corsica, naturally, features such slopes. Grinning, we descended to a small village by the sea – Tollare and spent the night there.
While we waited on the beach for dusk to fall, so we can inconspicuously squeeze our tent between some bushes, an elderly woman approached us. She struggled mightily to transmit something to us in French, a language we do not know very well. She quickly saw that we don’t understand her much. She tried once more, with no success, to tell us something and left.
Soon, another woman came to us, the only other tourist in the village, and explained the situation. The elderly woman thought we would spend the night on the beach and was worried because of the strong wind that was forecast. She offered us shelter by her house, a place that is sheltered from the wind. Even though the forecast didn’t seem too bad to us, we accepted her offer gratefully and got a good night’s sleep.
The next day we headed back to our car toward the western side of the peninsula. The short and steep slopes of the previous day turned into longer and gentler ones. We rose up to a few hundred metres a.s.l. countless times, which took quite a while, then descended in an instant back to the sea and repeated the feat over and over again.
As it was our last day biking on Corsica, we took it easy to tackle these slopes. The road connected many small hamlets. A few were standing along the coast, while others were placed on higher terrain so one could see the fantastic image of sea-blue waves beneath them. The villages were a bit different from those that we saw in the middle parts of the island. Gently sloping terrain with not much rock allowed more space between houses, space that was overgrown with useful green.
Due to bad weather, we spent the last two days mostly driving and wandering the small towns, waiting for some sun and the ferry that would take us home. Many images of Corsica were imprinted in our memory, images that we will remember fondly on cold winter days.
We met many bikers every day on Corsica. It appears we’re not the only ones that are attracted to mild temperatures, gorgeous views of the sea, tightly packed villages and high mountain-passes. It is certainly the best time for biking on Corsica; neither “baking hot” temperatures nor tourist crowds on the roads. We noticed a glaring difference, however. Our awkward mountain bikes, packed and ready for many-day biking, stood out among other light, road bikes whose owners needed only a bottle of water and a miniature bag for essential bike patching tools for their feat. We met few travellers with heavy bags on bike, so few that one could count them one the fingers of one hand.
Apart from gorgeous landscape described in previous posts, we’ve also observed and met local residents in the past three weeks. The elderly residents of Corsican villages approached and talked to us already in the first days of our trip. We probably would have learned much more from them if we understood French, but we managed to understand some things with our basic knowledge of Italian. They enquired about our biking routes, Slovenia and were extremely kind.
We had a special experience on the last day, however. To try out some genuine Corsican cuisine we, apart from tasting their wines, cheeses that each had their specific smell and taste and meat products, went to a small, local Corsican restaurant. A regular there spoke to us already at the entrance. It soon became clear that we didn’t understand his French, so a colourful group of locals sitting at the tables took much interest in us. All of them tried their best to explain the daily menu to us in some basic Italian and English. The whole place livened up and everyone made an effort so we would feel right at home. Apart from the comfortable and homey ambient, I have to say that the food was delicious. Thus we, with exquisite taste in our mouths and a high regard regarding the Corsican residents, concluded our short visit of the island.