Food poisoning in Asinau Refuge

Mike R

Posted: Mon, Sep 23, 2013, 19:25

Sad to report that I and others contracted a severe dose of 'stomach flu' after ingesting green lentil and cured meat stew in the Refuge d'Asinau on Monday 9th September. It took 12 hours to take effect but it wrecked my GR20 South to North trek, forcing me to quit on the way to the Usciolu Refuge. I was unsafe and unsteady so made my way back down to the refuge and waited for a guide to help me back down (thanks Henri!).

The Gardien seemed pretty unconcerned about my welfare as I crawled on to a dorm mattress to lie and wait for Henri to arrive from Zonza. I thought I had a fever or something - aching like hell and heart racing.

The veggies in our group escaped the 'bug' but had to lubricate the tasteless and stodgy lentils down their gullets with lashings of pure olive oil. I thought the French were good at cooking.

My trip went down the pan (literally) and I lost 4.5kg in weight. Thanks, Monsieur le Gardien d'Asinau Refuge.



Joanna

Posted: Tue, Sep 24, 2013, 5:28

Before you start accusing people of poisoning you, you should maybe make sure it really was the stew. There are tousands of other places to contract a stomach flu, places like door handles in the toilet, salads, tables a contagous person touched, etc. It is less usuall to contract it from cooked food, like the stew! And did any other people eating the meat stew get it? Anyway, if you google incubation period for stomach flu, you'd find that in most cases it is 1 to 2 days, and not 12 hours. So the probability is high that you got infected up to two days before you ate the stew anyway!

As for the gardien being unconcerned about you - what did you expect him to do, call a flying doctor? Probably he just chose to keep his distance and not interfere, as most people would do, unless you specifically asked them for help! French people are often reserved, and do not "throw" themselves over others unless asked. I don't know what you'd used to from your own country, but many european coutries are like that. I was myself seriously ill with a stomach flu in a hotel in Sweden once, but did not get, and neither did I expect, any special treatment or concern because of this.



Michele
moderator

Posted: Tue, Sep 24, 2013, 6:33

Also let's not forget that such diseases may be waterborne. And the incubation - like Joanna says - may take up to 24-48 hours. Mike, just to rule out any possibilities, did you by any chance drink any surface water on your way from Conca to Asinau?

--Michele



Turnertactics
moderator

Posted: Tue, Sep 24, 2013, 9:36

Mike

I had the lentils at d'Asinau on the 2nd September and was fine afterwards. I also thought they were quite tasty. No one else seemed effected the next day either.

--

Alan



Gnome

Posted: Sat, Sep 28, 2013, 14:09

Hi,
Like Alan I too ate the lentil stew at Asinau refuge, along with at least 15 others on the 17th of Sep 2013. Not one reported feeling sick after the meal, which was one of the better ones I had during the 15 stages of the trek.

--

-Noam



John Stafford

Posted: Sun, Sep 29, 2013, 21:02

In reply to Mike.
We met someone who became ill after staying at Asinau on the 11th Sept. However, he hadn't eaten the stew; he'd cooked his own meal.
As other posters have already said, becoming ill due to eating cooked food is unprobable in most cases.

--

John



Mike R

Posted: Mon, Sep 30, 2013, 11:02

OK - I get it!

But you and 10 friends go to the restaurant and half get sick. You blame the restaurant, yeah?

Clearly there is no endemic problem at Asinau, and I am pleased about that. We were just unlucky. I have trekked in many remote and out of the way places around the world. Russia, Siberia, Nepal, China, etc. I am meticulous about personal hygiene and wary of water supplies.

I agree the lentil and meat stew was tasty. I had double helpings.

Thanks for your comments.



murph70

Posted: Mon, Oct 21, 2013, 0:12

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Mike R

Posted: Mon, Oct 7, 2013, 10:27

David - Many thanks for your post. I'm sorry you suffered so badly.

I spared the readers of this forum my gory details, but your description conveys to me what I would have had to go through if I had not listened to what my body was telling me as we ascended above Refuge d'Asinau.

Please email me on mike.rooke1@btinternet.com

Very best regards - Mike



Turnertactics
moderator

Posted: Mon, Oct 7, 2013, 10:53

David/Mike

What an appalling situation to find yourselves in. I hope you recover soon.

What on earth happened with the guardian at Usiolu?

There are some serious implications with the food poisoning, not least being notifying the National Park and the Cosrica public health authority. Both need to investigate whether there is a hygiene issue at Asinau. Have either of you done that?

It could have been a rogue batch of sausages in the stew or it could be a general poor hygiene issue. I guess that it will be difficult to identify that now as the refuges are all closing for the season.

As I said previously, our group of three had a decent meal with no consequences so I don’t think it’s an endemic issue.

Our meal at Usciolu was OK, nutritious and plentiful but very bland being just pasta, a bit of soupy sauce and some carrots. You can’t expect exciting food when everything is brought in on the back of a mule but some refuges like l’Onda for example, did so much better.

The biggest issue seems to be the sheer number of people on guided hiking holidays overwhelming these tiny refuges when they all descend on the same day. Asinau was rammed when we were there, putting serious strain on the staff and facilities. If you experience the same situation at every refuge, I can image your disgruntlement.

--

Alan



Michele
moderator

Posted: Mon, Oct 7, 2013, 16:09

Mike/David,

I'm very sorry for your very bad experience. I agree with Alan on reporting this issue to the Corsica authorities immediately. Also because they are already aware there is a lack of serious hygienic conditions on many huts (mostly concerning the toilet blocks but also related to bed bugs).
It's high time everybody realizes Corsica is not a third world country and the lack of hygiene is not a "feature" of an adventurous travel or part of the challenge.

--Michele



murph70

Posted: Mon, Oct 21, 2013, 0:12

!



Gaffr

Posted: Mon, Oct 7, 2013, 20:26

This has turned out to be more serious that was first though. Instead of being an isolated occurrence it seems that several folks were affected and had their experience ruined.
My own comings together with guided groups has been limited and in fact I had not been aware of the groups, staying at the refuges, on any of the three times that I have been on the route. Of course being a camper I could easily have missed out on the folks inside the refuge. Where I have been aware of groups was at the bergeries.....at Asinao below the refuge, at Croci, at Vaccaghja, at l'Onda and at the Vallone. Excepting Asinao and Croci all were staying in the pre-pitched tents. Looking at the on line guided group itineraries it would appear that most appear to 'pop in and out' of what most of us would call the GR20....maybe the 'popping in and out' is to avoid too many overcrowded refuges and perhaps to give folks a wider experience and maybe to fit into the one or two weeks of holidays?
The folks, travelling as a group, I met this year at a few places en-route were with a very knowedgeable and interesting Corsican lady. A person, who you could see, enjoyed working with a group of people. She had things so organised that a mountain guide was on hand with kit to supervise the folks over the snowed up terrain between Petra Piana and Manganu.
The KE company appear to have several well known guiding folks working on the trips to all parts of the globe.
What maybe is surprising is that no one, posting here, has said anything regarding the follow up after this ruined trip that a responsible operating company must surely have made after the happenings?

--

Gaffr



murph70

Posted: Mon, Oct 21, 2013, 0:13

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Michele
moderator

Posted: Tue, Oct 8, 2013, 6:38

Mike/David,
It's good you're asking some recompense from KE, but I reiterate this food poisoning situation should be reported **immediately** to the authorities as well. It's high time such nasty events should come to an end.
The problem with gastroenteritis and other diseases is that hikers tend to keep the problem to themselves and try to forget about the bad experience instead of exposing the issue.
Back in 2010 when I suffered from (what I believe was) water poisoning I started a thread on this very forum (later lost because of a database corruption or something) and only then, other people found the courage too to discuss an obviously uncomfortable subject.
Like I said the local authorities are aware that this situation is getting worse year after year. The problem is they tend to be a little ... slack in attitude. So it's up to us to put some pressure on them.

--Michele



Gaffr

Posted: Tue, Oct 8, 2013, 8:12

I think that I have found on-line the Itinerary for your journey. As I thought most of the Companies offering holidays on the Corsican trail do try to use alternative 'overnight locations'. On your tour I see that five of the refuges? are used on your trip for overnights....tents or inside the refuge? With the exception of Asinau, alternative might be the bergeries of the same name?, the others Usciolu, Petra Piana, Carozzu and Ortu di u Piobbu would be difficult not to visit unless you left the trail and then this would be difficult to fit into the two weeks or so of the tour? The tour company have been clever to get the start going at Zonza/Bavella again to fit into the timescale....transport etc.
You can always go back and do the very fine stage of Bavella to Conca on your own it is easy but very worthwhile.
Thinking back to June this year my only evening meal, at a refuge, was taken at Usciolu. I took meals at Vizzavona, at Renosa ski station and at Col de Vergio. My other evening meals were cooked by myself with food purchased at the refuges and bergeries.
I hope that you can get back to do this very fine trail through the Corsican mountains.
What better that the Company to offer you all a return visit to the trail and I would be absolutely sure that everything would work out fine.

--

Gaffr



Joanna

Posted: Tue, Oct 8, 2013, 11:47

Yes, it certainly sounds bad. But aren't you guys a bit too overdramatic? People soiling themselves in a toilet queue? If you really, really, really need to go so badly, you don't wait in the queue until you soil yourself, there are enough bushes and rocks for such an emergency (not that I reccomend to do it, on the contrary, but s**t happens...).
Also, you demand the company to offer the GR20 trek with better accomodation and higene/food. Unfortunately it's not possible! If you want to do the REAL GR20, and not some tourist trip, you have to sleep at the refuges, there is no other accomodation option. Maybe you should have made a better research before you went? There are lots of blogs on the net depicting the accomodation and sanitary situation on the trail, so it should not come as a surprise...I agree that food poisoning is not something one would expect, but dirty toilets and horrible dortoirs yes - that is why so many people choose to camp.

On the other hand, I think the park autorieties should not allow organized groups bigger then +/- 6 ppl at any one time at the same refuge, this would help the congestion problems.



cpt_pickard

Posted: Tue, Oct 8, 2013, 14:35

Food poisoning is absolutely unacceptable. Might have been an unfortunate accident, might have been a gross negligence. Hard to judge.

On the other hand, I see absolutely no reason to go on the GR 20 with a bloody agency. Why on the earth would you want to do that?

If I were PNRC I would just ban commercial groups altogether. It makes no sense. You do not need them for safety, food, lodging, guidance, nothing.

See Mt. Everest for a good example of what commercial groups can do to a famous destination.

Just my two cents.

Dan

edits: typos



Michele
moderator

Posted: Tue, Oct 8, 2013, 16:38

Like I said in an earlier post, gastroenteritis comes from lack of hygiene or infected water (both of which are abundant on the trail). And it's incredibly contagious. However I have no reason to disbelieve Mike and David: only I'm trying to say is: let's not dismiss other possible factors right away.

If the food poisoning theory could be verified, those guardians could be taken to court. This is a very serious matter. That's why an investigation should be in order.

@Dan
Some people like to be guided because don't want to go the trouble of organizing everything from scratch, some don't want to go alone and some feel more safe behind a guide.

--Michele



Turnertactics
moderator

Posted: Tue, Oct 8, 2013, 17:06

I can see the attraction of joining a group but only to a point.

The camaraderie with your fellow trekker’s right from the start, not having to find suitable hiking companions or bother with travel arrangements and having a leader to fall back would be good but that’s as far as it goes.

I’m fortunate to have a bunch of friends that I can go on these trips with and am a member of an active mountaineering club and I enjoy planning the trips as much as I like going on them.

Being tied to a fixed itinerary must be difficult and what happens if you don’t like your fellow trekkers very much?

And the cost seems astronomical.

I budgeted on 550 euros for 14 days and didn’t stint by any means but £1,595 (KE's 2014 prices) for an organised 14 day trek which missed out the first stage! Ouch!

--

Alan



Joanna

Posted: Wed, Oct 9, 2013, 7:20

I used to work as a trip guide during my university summers, and I must say it was the worse job I ever had, due to the "I'll complain on everything so I can get a refund from the company" - people. Every single group I've guided had such a couple!

And I agree with Dan that there is absolutely no need to do a guided trek on GR20. In fact that way you end up missing out parts of the trek.

The reason I think people do it is because the organized trips transfer their luggage! The KE does, and I've seen such groups on the GR myself, with small day packs and luggage transported by mules and, where possible, by four-wheel-drives . But if you do the GR without packs, and miss out some of the stages, can you really say you did the GR20? I don't think you can!



Turnertactics
moderator

Posted: Wed, Oct 9, 2013, 7:51

The serial complainers must be hard to bear unless they have a genuine problem like Mike and David in this case.

I guess some people have unrealistic expectations or are just not very nice people with no morals.

--

Alan



Gaffr

Posted: Wed, Oct 9, 2013, 9:22

Hello Joanna,
I did look up the itinerary for the trip, on the KE site, that the gentleman signed up for and apart from missing out on Conca through to Bavella the route to be followed was as for the GR20 route that we have all followed. Not sure about the luggage thing. It wouldn't be possible to do at all overnight stays?
Where have I been aware of luggage drop offs.....at Croci this summer and at Col di Verde....but of course plenty of other opportunities at the places where the road intersects with the route....which could go completely unseen by the rucksack/camping folks.:-)

--

Gaffr



Joanna

Posted: Wed, Oct 9, 2013, 10:38

Frankly, I was wondering how they do it myself. Maybe they use mules a lot?

Here is what the webpage says:
"Vehicle support with access to bags wherever possible" and "Vehicle suppost and baggage transfer".
Does it mean that some days you don't have access to the luggage at all? Sounds bad...



grcotedazur20

Posted: Wed, Oct 9, 2013, 10:43

I think that you need to toughen up a little. It's too bad that you paid money and didn't get what you wanted. Take the lessons from this and go again without a tour company. When my partner and I did it, we did all the organizing. We had just met each other a week prior, talked it out one day and left four days later. We prepared cooked all of our food: We brought five days worth of spaghetti with tomato paste in the beginning, couscous, lentils. Then on the trail we bought delicious cheese, delicious baguettes, delicious canned tuna in tomato sauce to go with the baguettes and pasta. The only prepared meal that we bought was the cake when we were toward the end.

We both got the runs for one day, which was probably due to bad water. Keep it simple. You can buy a small pot to boil your pasta. Just research a little. Carry three liters of water. Bring something warm like a light down jacket. Bring a sleeping pad. We camped in our own tent. No worrying about bedbugs. When I go back, I might do it at the end of the season when the refuges are closed. I have a mountaineering background and I speak French, which prepared me a bit for this. If you can't do it alone, don't complain about your guides. It's easy enough to do alone if you prepare. Sorry.



Michele
moderator

Posted: Wed, Oct 9, 2013, 15:39

It seems this thread is veering off topic or, maybe it's splitting in two: food poisoning and guided tours.
I say we should stick to the topic of the OP.

If we want to discuss guided tours I suggest we should start another thread.

--Michele



Turnertactics
moderator

Posted: Wed, Oct 9, 2013, 16:16

I'm going to have a go at mapping guided trips in order to advise independent trekkers when to plan their trips.

I'll open a new thread when I've made some progress with that.

--

Alan



Michele
moderator

Posted: Wed, Oct 9, 2013, 17:06

Great Alan, thanks. It'll surely be helpful for many people.

--Michele



cpt_pickard

Posted: Wed, Oct 9, 2013, 19:26

Alan, that is the best idea ever. When I am going back, 90% of my prep will be the research on how to avoid guided groups :)

Cheers

Dan



Michele
moderator

Posted: Thu, Oct 10, 2013, 6:15

Dan, it'll be tough. Those groups are becoming more and more invasive.

--Michele



Turnertactics
moderator

Posted: Thu, Oct 10, 2013, 19:20

Dan/Michele

I've had a quick trawl and there are loads of them. Some do use accommodation off the main route but they do seem to be taking over.

--

Alan



Michele
moderator

Posted: Thu, Oct 10, 2013, 21:55

I really don't know what'll happen when we reach a point of saturation (which is only a matter of time).

--Michele



Joanna

Posted: Fri, Oct 11, 2013, 5:49

Good thing we've already done the trek then! In fact, it was the same thing on the TMB (Tour de Mont Blanc) this year, even if we went there after the main season had ended!



Gnome

Posted: Fri, Oct 11, 2013, 8:45

Perhaps the solution is to limit the number of hikers like the Peruvian government did in the Inca trail. Not a perfect solution since it leads to a black market for tickets, but there are far less hikers there annually.
Room for thought...

--

-Noam



Michele
moderator

Posted: Fri, Oct 11, 2013, 10:13

Many countries already implement a controlled access to their trails, with reservations to be done many months in advance. But introducing a limitation to the number of hikers requires an active patrol of the trail, because, there will surely be many who will try to walk it nonetheless. I'm not sure if the park can afford such controls along the 180 km of the trail.
Also a reduced number of hikers will mean less revenue to the locals. Not sure if they'd accept that either. Remember why the Altore Refuge was burned to ashes? To forcefully revitalize the economy of Haut Asco.
The GR20 is the proverbial chicken who lays golden eggs ...

--Michele



Turnertactics
moderator

Posted: Sat, Oct 12, 2013, 9:15

There does seem to be a pattern emerging from the operators I've checked out so far. They're not using the National Park refuges very much and seem to be booking the independents off the main route such as the Bonifatu Gite, The gite in the Haut Ascu hotel, The Bergeries du Bassetta and the gite in Cozzano. Where they are filling some key stops such as the Bergeries de Capannelle and the gite at the Col de Verdi, there are alternatives such as the Refuge U'Renoso and the Refuge de Paliri.

Spreading the benefits of the GR20 to a wider group of businesses is certainly a positive for Corsica.

I still can't work out why Asinau was so busy with groups while we were there so there must be some more group organisers out there to look at.

I'll circulate the spreadsheet when I'm done.

--

Alan



Gaffr

Posted: Sat, Oct 12, 2013, 16:55

This too is my impression when reading up the offerings from the guided group companies.

The group at the centre of this Topic, from what I can see from the itinerary , were scheduled to use perhaps? five of the refuges on their traverse along with some Bergeries and other types of accommodation.
This summer, a Corsican organised group, when I came across them were staying at Bergeries de Vaccaghja and at Vallone. I also was aware of Jurt type accommodation a short distance from where I had breakfast at Vaccaghja.
The two times that I have been at Asinau the Bergeries below the refuge seemed to be busy with organised? groups.

--

Gaffr