Corsica-Sardinia, Day 3

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Sunday, April 29th

A first look from the balcony confirms that it is raining a bit. We’re off to consume our petit déjeuner which is really a grand déjeuner. After breakfast, we dress for the weather and head out. Our bikes have been parked in a tiny shed somewhere up the street over night. There is only space for four or five bikes until it would become too small to maneuver. Our plan is to visit the Calanches further along the west coast, and then turn around to ride to Corte, inland and eastward.

Before leaving this town, we encounter an unexpected queue of cars. There seems to be some kind of sports event blocking our route to the Calanches. It is unclear how long the road will remain blocked, so we decide to save the Calanches for our next visit.

This route, the D84 to Col de Vergio, is described by some as the most beautiful route to ride on Corsica in one of the magazine articles I found when preparing for this trip. Although the scenery is nice (and probably more appealing when it’s dry), the road is really quite bumpy again so we adjust our pace to the circumstances. To add to the mix of difficulties, there are cyclists claiming the middle of the road for themselves. I suspect that there is an unwritten law among French cyclists that they own the road because they’re using only manpower. I would like to remind them that these roads were primarily not constructed with them in mind, and that riding off-road is even tougher, so why don’t they try that for a change? At some point we encounter a herd of goats blocking most of the road. We try to negotiate our way through in a stop-an-go pace to prevent hitting one, or worse, damage our bikes. We’re being yelled at by another fine cyclist who thinks we should ride through faster. I feel like doing that next time when he and his friends are blocking the road again. Yes, I’m done ranting now.

The damp pass road through the woods is sprinkled with pine cones. A few calves stand near a steep cliff at the side of the road and one of them is completely startled by me driving past. In a very cartoonesque way, it tries to run, yet finds no grip with its hooves on the damp surface and falls to the ground. It’s even funny without the sound effects. As so often on pass roads, the weather changes shortly after the summit. As do the animals. This is clearly pig country now. There are enclosures for these animals, but the owners seem to feel pitiful for the animals and consistently leave the gate open. The road is drying and there are hints of sunshine! We play a virtual game of leap-frog with a slow Slovenian couple on a BMW R1100RT, who overtake us every time we take pictures.

Soon we reach Corte, the old capital of the former independent Corsican Republic, whose houses are partly clinging to steep rocks. After a good lunch in restaurant L’Authentic on the main street, we aim our bikes toward the Restonica Valley, supposedly one of the most beautiful valleys of the island. And it is! We’re not setting any speed records on this narrow single track road through the pine forest, but it sure is pretty. Twice, that is, because this road is a cul de sac. Upon our return to Corte, dark clouds are forming in the north. We’re heading south anyway and manage to stay dry.

We are in doubt about riding the loop over the Defilé d’Inzecca because it is quite a detour and we’d like to stay on the west coast again tonight, so we can cross the island’s central mountain range once more tomorrow. Our decision is enforced by a blocked road under construction at the beginning of the D69 to Ghisoni. We’ll ride that road next time, and I bet it’ll be a lot smoother too!

Instead, we give the N193 a go, which is road network’s aorta. This is a lot of fun too as we finally manage to keep a decent 100km/h pace for 20 minutes or so. Then we turn left to the Col de Scalella. The change in scenery is quite abrupt. The road is narrow and very curvy again. Fog limits the view to 20 meters and goat droppings warn us not to take any chances. After passing the herd, which neatly gathers on a wall next to a steep drop, we reach the pass, where the fog is blown away to reveal the wonderful view south toward Bastelica.

After Bastelica we take the road north of Lac de Tolla and the Gorges du Prunelli. The lake and the lush green surroundings are beautiful, but it’s hard to enjoy because of the bumps and jolts this narrow road is treating us to. Nobody is expected to come from this direction, which is why the street sign pointing to the viewpoint over the lake and its dam is facing the other way and we manage to miss it completely.

We skirt the suburbs of Ajaccio and reach Porticcio which is an old Corsican word meaning “beware of the ridiculously high concrete speed bump in the supermarket’s parking lot because you may dent the exhaust header of your ST3’s horizontal cylinder which pokes out neatly from under the plastic fairing, which you may also damage.” I don’t know whether I am cursing loudly at the person who designed this thing or at myself, but it’s an effective way to release anger nevertheless.

They’re doing a good job hiding the Villa Ghiatone so we decide to look for another place to stay. We find a very comfortable looking hotel Le Maquis at the seaside, park the bikes on their thickly gritted parking lot and go inside to enquire. We suspect they don’t want us or motorcyclists here because it doesn’t look like a place that justifies EUR 400 per night. It would have been worth it to accept the receptionist’s offer anyway, just to see her face.

It’s getting dark now. After a small battle to get out of the deep gravel backward, we ride south and try our luck again at Hotel Agosta-Plage in Molini. We first wonder whether the place is closed, because we don’t see anyone around and it looks a bit eerie. We do find the front door open, and a pair of slippers next to a wet mop on the floor. We call inside and look around a bit, but there’s nobody to be found. We decide it’s best to let whoever runs this hotel alone with his victim and get out of here. I’m confident that CSI Corsica will solve this case.

A few megabytes of well-spent data roaming later, we find Hotel Kalliste on the hillside of this village. It has really nice apartments with two rooms, a living room, a kitchen and a patio and for a decent price too! They have no restaurant so we hop on the bikes once to ride to the local bakery to eat pizza and buy cookies for lunchtime tomorrow.

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