This time it’s no no fire alarm, but lightning and thunder that get me out of my sleep at 6 o’clock this morning. Through the open window I hear the rain gushing down. And although we were mentally fully prepared for a whole day of rain, the sky suddenly opens up, as if by miracle. We say our goodbyes to our hostess, who even at this early hour can’t stop chattering.

It’s a short but streneous climb back to the village. The path is rarely walked and is overgrown with thorn bushes. That it’s not the first time this trip that we encounter these kind of bushes is proven by the dozens of scratches on my legs. By the time we arrive back at the cafe, where we were being helped yesterday, the sun has broken through the clouds completely and the sweat pearls are shining brightly on my forehead again.

We climb further uphil until we get a nice view of the village where we spent the night.

Then we dive into a whole different landscape. We end up on a small plateau that is dotted with big green ferns. There is no path to be seen. With our walking sticks we push the leaves aside and we make our way through the bushes.

We arrive at a river, which we can easily cross. We exchange the ferns for forest, where we remain nicely trapped for the next few kilometers.

Somewhere beyond a village we see a goat in distress. His leg is entwined in an iron wire, preventing him from moving forward or backward. Wim shows his good heart and releases the fearful animal. The goat jumps away, then stands still for a moment, bleats by way of thank you and then joins his friends again.

You can watch our little rescue operation here :

 

A Labrador Retriever in the next village must also have noticed that we have a big heart for animals. Apparently he knows the “Mare a Mare” trail by heart, because he shows us the way. At least five kilometers, he walks as a fully trained guide in front of us. We can’t follow his pace, but that’s no problem. Behind every turn or rock he stops for a moment and looks back to see if we are still following. Even when we have lunch, he doesn’t leave us and he lays down with us to take a rest. At the next village we decide to leave the dog with a lady. The big phone number on his bright red collar suggests that we are not the first hikers he escorts in this way.

Finally we arrive in the higher mountains of Corsica. I smile. I feel at home here. On the ridge opposite to us we see a chapel. According to the map we need to go there. I predict it will take us about an hour, but it turns out we need double of that to get there. I let myself fall to the ground when we finally reach the chapel. We bolt down a muesli bar. It’s still quite a distance to Corte and we are afraid we won’t make it before sunset.

Wim leads the last stretch and sets a strong pace. We have two more climbs to do, which bring our energy level down to far below zero. In the distance we see the last crest we have to cross. Although I feel very tired, the mountain top seems to suck myself towards it. Via the flank we gradually climb up along a narrow path. To the left of us we see a beautiful valley, which despite the time pressure, I photograph a few times.

An hour before sunset we set foot on the last summit. We are rewarded by a beautiful view of Corte, which looks remarkably peaceful in the golden evening glow.

We gasp for air for a moment at the mountain top and then take off for the long descent. The sky first turns yellow, then orange and finally pink.

When the sun disappears completely behind the horizon, the first city noises sound in our ears. A sigh of relief: we made it!

After we realize we can’t get any foot in the door of the hotels in Corte because they are all fully booked, we are forced – after 33 kilometers – to walk even further to the campsite. Fifteen minutes before they as well close their doors we arrive completely exhausted. We put our tent up in the dark. The day after we will notice that we have done that in the middle of a footpath. I’ll leave open the question whether this was due to a lack of light or a lack of energy. But we do find just enough energy to walk back to the village again for a freshly baked pizza. Topped off with a good glass of wine, of course. Our “drug of choice”, to forget our painful feet …

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