Thoughts following completion...

genoucasse

Posted: Mon, Sep 28, 2009, 15:39

Just completed northern sector between Calenzana and Vizzavona: done late Sept, in 4.5 days.
Some thoughts re: the walk to add for posterity. Obviously each experience is different but...

First - this is one of the finest challenges we have ever undertaken. The daily distance, ascent and descent are punishing, but the experience is highly rewarding. The views from the northern section down to the sea over ridge after ridge after ridge, with the evening sun turning the distant ripples a warm orange will be with me for absolutely forever. As will the experience of doing cirque de solitude in the drizzle.

Accom:

- Generally sensible to make sure you're at the huts before 6pm to ensure your carefully planned reservations are not cancelled in favour of others!
- Ortu Piobbhu guardian was lovely: made food for us late and generally mothered us. Awesome cakey pud with dinner used as breakfast the next day...
- The Gite D'etape hotel at Haut Asco (Stagnu?) was good and had hot showers, if the accom is a little spartan. Hotel may be better for the pecunious.
- Castel Verghiu hotel was great - decent food, lots of snacks to purchase and fresh bread on sale. room was nice too, with hot shower and (!) bowl style toilet thank heavens.
- Petra Piana hut, hot and smelly, and the guardians were a little off with us because we arrived at 6.30 just before dinner. dinner cost €16 each and was distinctly less good than other places (as noted elsewhere here). Several people outside the hut during the night being ill as a result. Would bivvy next time (perhaps go to Bergerie down the hill from PP). Also, some slight suspicion of insects inside the hut also, but no bites in the morning.
- We didn't stay anywhere else on the route, but lots of bergeries on the way looked like they had tents set up for those looking to stay overnight. Carrying a tent therefore seems superfluous.

Transport:

- taxi from Poretta Airport - Cassamozza = €30 ish on a Sunday when Easyjet flight arrives from London, although cheaper in the week. It is however better to splash €90 on a taxi to Ponte Lecche and get the train on from there to Calvi, given the amount of time you have between landing and train departure. It's only 25 mins in a taxi to PL and the train waiting time at PL gives you an extra 10 mins to get there. Between three of us the total cost of arrival at Calenzana from Bastia was c. €160, and we were starting at 1.30pm on Sunday, not Monday morning like most.
- Taxis seem to operate on a sundays / evening rate most of the time. If you have a local contact see if they can book taxis for you on the non-local rate. Always get the price first, and keep eyes tightly shut for duration of the journey unless you have nerves of steel!
- trains are a bit sporadic if fun: on the way there, CassaMozza - Ponte Lecche was rail replacement, and on the way back, Vizzavona to Bastia was rail replacement also. Check corsicabus.org for decent info. Graffiti ruined our view out over the northern coast also.
- You can get off the route before Londa by going down the Mare i Mare to the road north of Vizzavona. The replacement bus stops at the service station near the request station as a first stop after VV.

En Route:
- Beware the dog mess on the way out of Calenzana. lots of locals seem to use this area by the start of the path as a dog toilet.
- Water sources en route were fairly plentiful, and we were comfortable with 3 litres each per day, refilling mainly at huts / bergeries. Isotonic powder seemed to work well, although nice to have one pure water only..
- don't share water bottles around if someone gets sick on the route. Obvious, but...
- Take loo roll with you!!!!!! You will not find much wedged behind a stand pipe above a ceramic hole in the ground when its 2am and raining outside and you're already halfway through a "maneuvre"!
- Take cash for the huts and keep it in a dry bag. Some of the hotels accept cards, but you don't want to find it doesn't work and you're short on cash...
- It is well worth getting up early if the weather is nice for most sections, as the views at the high points are unbelievable. A decent camera is worth the weight too...
- Take trekking poles and learn to use them: the ascents and descents can be brutal as the the track can be very steep and the ground uneven. Our knees were suffering hard on the last stage...
Footbeds for your boots may also be very sensible.
- Go light I implore you! So many people carrying tents and billy cans around, which seems so unnecessary, given the ability to book places now. Carrying 7kgs is 1000% easier than carrying 15kgs and will reduce the impact on your knees / feet.
- Take gaffer tape and vaseline in quantity. You can use these things to solve any problem whatsoever.

After:
- The centre of Bastia and the harbourside is great for evenings post-GR20. Plus lots of people seem impressed locally when you tell them you've been on it.
- Bastia hotels get booked up quick, but Hotel Forum on Av. Paoli was €60 for a 3 bed room and let us leave our bags hanging around after we checked out. Stone steps up to reception were a killer for our knees though!
- If you have time hit the north shore over the hill from Bastia, e.g. St. Florent or Ile Rousse.
SF was a bit quiet when we were there, but plenty of opportunities for beachy fun. Helps to have a fashion model join the trip at this point also we found...

Cheers all, looking forward to doing the southern bit next year!

GC