Corsica-Sardinia, Day 2

Saturday, April 28th

I hear something that resembles a fog horn. It is Markus in the tiny steamed-up bathroom. Another horn sounds. This one is the ferry’s and the reason is fog as dense as pea soup. We’re supposed to disembark in half an hour and plan to have breakfast on shore instead of on the ferry. We gather all our stuff and wait at the the still-closed staircase to the parking deck. We wait and wait, and after an hour a voice announces through the speakers that we are “retardé”, which we find quite retarded indeed.

After confirming with the GPS that we’re indeed bobbing about just outside Bastia, we wait for another long hour. The ferry is then guided to the port by the coast guard. We’re allowed onto the parking deck and get ready to ride off. What seemed like a pole position yesterday is now a place in third row. The only riders missing are those in the first two rows. They’re probably still having a fine breakfast. Two bikes are moved out of the way by the ferry personnel and we can finally get out of here.

We fill up and ride the wonderful coastal road of Cap Corse. The only thing holding us back on this winding road is a few cars. The drivers, in turn, are held up by a group of Harley riders who are probably suffering from the drag caused by their leather fringes in the gentle breeze. Some people dress to ride, others ride to dress. It is the same breeze that slowly dissolves the fog when we stop at the marina of Macinaggio for breakfast at the local boulangerie-pâtisserie — probably the same bakery Napoleon Bonaparte visited when he returned from exile on Elba in 1814.

We continue on good asphalt to the mountain pass in the middle of the northern cape. The view up here is marvelous. The beautiful snow-capped mountains in the distance don’t match the Mediterranean atmosphere. Later we’re deviated from the main route onto a collection of gravel-strewn potholes that pass as a road out here. I’m glad I’m not 40 years older as my false teeth would have been clattering about in my helmet. We’re very happy to rejoin the well-paved D80 southwards. It curves around the shapes of the sunny coast and is a great pleasure to ride. I silently celebrate the première of switching into fourth gear on Corsica. Markus’ feet often touch the ground in curves. I hope his boots last longer than his tires.

After Saint Florent follows the Désert des Agriates — not quite a desert, but dry and hot nevertheless. We’re having a lot fun heating our tires and brakes with more twists of good asphalt. I spend most of my time not holding the left grip because of all the other riders that need to be be greeted.

What follows is the wide and straight N197, which is part of the main route across the island for people in a hurry. There is plenty opportunity to enjoy the great scenery due to the lack of curves. One right turn later, we are riding uphill in the direction of Cima di l’Alturaja in a valley with light green foliage and almost turqoise moss and cows (in ordinary colors). We take it easy because they stand on the road in unsuspected places and are are unfazed by the sound of approaching L-twins.

At the highest point we are plagued by a gusty wind. I say close to my bike for fear of it being blown off the side stand as Markus attempts to take some photos. We reroute to L’Île Rousse for fuel because Markus has been riding on reserve for a quite while now. I can’t deny we’ve been doing some sporty riding but I can’t get rid of the suspicion that there’s something perculiar with the fuel here. Both bikes are using noticeably more fuel than usual and my bike is idling somewhat high when it’s really hot. Those cheeky Corsicans must have been watering it down, or is that ethanol’ing it down?

We decide to stay in Porto on the west coast tonight and enjoy that attractively squirming line on the map. We encounter some more gravel, cows, goats and cats. All I’ve read about riding on Corsican roads has been confirmed so far. It takes quite long to cover the last 70km (45mi) to Porto. The scenery, however, is as beautiful as anything we’ve seen today and the road is lined with red rocks. The pavement is also red, which we find slightly exaggerated. We should have a word with the architect.

For a change, Markus rides up front, which is just fine, except for the smell that comes from his pipes. Indeed, exhaust emission controls were non-existent for motorcycles in 1994. As the intensity of the smell is inversely proportional to the distance, I hold back a little. Markus, in turn, holds back because I seem to be a bit slower. After playing this game for 20 minutes I need to stop because I’m starting to feel sick. The nausea clears up immediately as I retrieve the first position. I’m having a pizza Siciliana in Porto for its reputed abilities to filter carbon-monoxide out of my bloodstream.

Hotel Subrini is a fine place to stay, with a good view of the bay and the town square and free WiFi access to boot. Oh, today’s wildlife summary: a few dozen cows, 3 dogs, 2 lizards, 4 cats, a dozen goats and five-hundred-and-thirteen BMW GSs. It’s a plague, I tell you.

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