The socks we hung outside to dry last night are even wetter this morning than they were yesterday. Embedded by two rivers and well tucked under thick foliage and between high ferns, we have put our tent in probably the most humid place of all of Corsica. Even inside the tent the condensation couldn’t escape during the night, which made our sleeping bags feel clammy. It’s not nice waking up like this, which can be seen from our mood. Physically, the first kilometers go pretty smoothly, but mentally we both feel like punching against a wall. We walk past the abandoned village of Tassu, where the hunter was talking about yesterday. The village used to be located along an important trade route, but with the construction of the D24 road connection in the beginning of the twentieth century, the town lost its economic value and came to an end. Even before the Second World War the last inhabitant grabbed his bags. Later we see to our surprise on the Internet that the abandoned village is a beautiful pearl in the middle of nature. The picturesque historic church with its bell tower appeals to the imagination. Unfortunately, we only saw a dilapidated house along our path, and we did not bother to continue looking for the rest of the village. A regretful choice, it turns out to be…
For a long time we walk on an easy path through the forest. The tall trees prevent any beautiful view, which doesn’t help us to climb out of that mental valley of ours either. Earlier than planned, we take a break on a boulder. We eat an energy bar, in the hope that it will help us get on top of it again. When the trail chases us back up and we are allowed to stroll for miles on a beautiful mountain slope, our energy level rises as well. This is what we were waiting for… Corsica, how beautiful you are!
The narrow path leads us through a magical landscape. In the distance we already get a view of the sea. It’s the end point of the trip, where we will arrive tomorrow.
But if you thought it was only downhill to sea level now, you’re wrong. Because between here and the sea there is still a big mountain waiting for us. With his rough rocks he grins at us. As if he finds the greatest pleasure in the fact that he will force us into puffing and sweating later on.
Before we allow our salty body fluids to flow over this mastodon, we first have to dive back into a valley again. And this is where it goes wrong. We miss a turn and end up on a steep mountain slope that is strewn with boulders and stone. At that moment we haven’t realized yet that we have deviated from the path and we are pulling of neck-breaking acrobatics to climb over the rubble. Past the debris we mistake animal tracks for a path. We soon notice that it’s only getting more and more dangerous. I ring the alarm bell and tell Wim that I think we are going the wrong way. We therefore retrace our steps. But turning around seems to be a lot harder than expected. With shivers running down my spine I climb over the rubble again. Hidden behind thick branches we finally find the path that we have just missed.
We cross a river and start with the promised climb. The first part we can walk in the cooling shadow of some trees. But the last part we’re being roasted on the rocks by a devilish Corsican sun. We find only one thin tree next to the path, under which we drink some water. Even our drinking water seems to have been cooked in the meantime, and can’t offer us much cooling. The arrival at the top, however, immediately makes us forget all the suffering. The view is phe-no-me-nal! In the distance, the Mediterranean Sea beckons. We can almost smell her salty breeze.
We continue our route over large rocks to the hiker hut of E Case. It’s the only shelter that hikers can find on this route to spend the night. We hope to be able to run some errands (read: buy a bottle of wine), to celebrate our last evening in style.
Under the waving flag of the cabin we already see a handful of hikers. The door of the hut is closed. They all wait until the owner of the hut comes to open the door. Nobody talks to each other and there’s a strange atmosphere in the air. It’s nothing like what I am used to from hikers. But we copy their behavior and sit silently on a bench in front of the hut. Wim can’t cope with the tense atmosphere anymore and decides to start looking for a camping spot. Not much later the owner of the cabin arrives on a quad. It’s a small, but solidly built guy with a long, somewhat unkempt beard. His army clothing in camouflage colors only adds strength to his gruff looks.
He looks with wicked eyes at the hikers who lie in heaps in his front yard. Ostentatively he shakes his head. “Incroyable” (unbelievable), he mumbles several times.
He opens the gate to his property with loud violence. He’s angry with the hikers, because apparently nobody has booked in advance. And now he doesn’t have enough food to provide everyone with dinner. He’s picking on a specific hiker and lectures him in front of all others. He’s giving him a hard time because the hiker did call to make a reservation, but then left a call from the landlord unanswered. And that was totally unacceptable, according to him. The hiker throws a glance at his mobile phone, which according to him hasn’t ringed once. But his innocent answer only adds fuel to the fire. “Are you saying that I’m lying?”, the landlord responds with an irritated voice. “Argh, it’s always the same out here”, the grumpy man continues, after which we all need to listen in superlatives to how rude he thinks the “hiker race” really is. When he has finished his rage some fifteen minutes later, he steps into the hut. Bewildered, all hikers stay behind. I open my backpack and give two hikers a freeze-dried meal. I explain that our trip has almost come to an and we have some food left. A cautious smile appears on their faces.
Then I step inside the hut and I tell the manager that we don’t intend to stay overnight. “Good”, he says, “that’s the best idea I’ve heard all day”. I tell him that I gave two of the hikers some food and I ask him to provide them with boiling water to prepare the meal. He looks up in surprise. And suddenly I see a tiny sparkle appearing in his black eyes. “Thank you”, he replies, “I will certainly take care of it”. When I conclude with the question whether I can buy a bottle of wine, I can actually see a smile appear on his face. “Wine …? Haha, wine!”, He roars amused. “Of course I have wine,” he yells out, proudly opening a cupboard that bulges with bottles of some kind of home-brewed substance. He puts two bottles under my arms and says goodbye with a firm handshake. While I am storing my purchase in my backpack, the other hikers are looking stunned.
“Allez, ambiance”, I yell in the hope to finally break the atmosphere. But my ability to put things into perspective is apparently a bit stronger than theirs. No, the man’s reaction is not pleasant. It might be even totally unheard of. But instead of getting mad about his bitter attitude, you can also look for the sparkle in his eyes …
Wim has returned to tell me he has found a beautiful bivouac place, so we put on our backpacks again. When after a few hundred meters he proudly shows me the spot he has chosen, I barely manage to keep it dry. How moving the beauty of nature can be. From a protruding rock we have a magnificent view of some foothills of the Corsican mountains. They gently roll out towards the sea. Under a golden evening glow, more and more clouds are floating together. When the sun finally reaches the horizon, a thick pack of clouds covers the sea like a lovely warm duvet.
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