Mare a Mare Nord, Day 2: Ipenti – Pianello

At seven o’clock in the morning we are woken up by a deafening fire alarm. For a moment we think that we have to clear the whole building, but fortunately it appears to be false alarm. With ringing ears we have a simple breakfast and hit the road again. At a water source we fill up the our drinking bottles.

In the golden-yellow dawn we walk on a paved road for a while, which takes us to the border of the village. When the sun has risen to the top of the sky, the paved road turns into a path. Small tufts of mist are hanging in the valley. They are balancing like soft cotton wads on the tops of the trees.

We walk through a mossy green forest. Age-old chestnut trees pop up everywhere along the path. They are astoundingly large. With their wide, hollow trunks they seem to have escaped from a fairytale world.

 

 


We keep climbing until we reach the top of the Forci. Blackened branches are still a silent witness to a huge forest fire that must have swept away all life here years ago. Around the mountain top large clouds prevent us from seeing the valley. Thick plumes of fog float just over the ridge from one valley to the other.

A narrow path against the mountain slope carries us kilometers from one mountain to another. The clouds make way for some more blue sky and we can enjoy some views.

 

We climb further up to a village where we hope to be able to fill our drinking bottles. But we get more than we hoped for and can enjoy a delicious fresh Orangina on a sunny terrace of a gite. It’s quite crowded at the bar. They are mainly truck drivers that are passing by and drop in for a drink at the bar of the frivolous landlady.

We continue our way underneath a bright blue sky. No less than two times we are warned not to take a certain path, as it is overgrown that much you can only get through armed with a machete. We wisely neglect the trail and opt for several hundreds of meters of asphalt instead.

We fully enjoy the warmth of the sun rays on our skin. But unfortunately the fun is short-lived. The white clouds evoke the reinforcement of their gray companions, who quickly arrive with clenched fists. Reinforced with lightning and thunder, they fire their artillery in the form of thick raindrops. We surrender and defeated put on our rain clothing.

We are soaked when we see the first houses of Pianello. We set course for the gite of the village, because we don’t want to camp in this dreadful weather. According to the map, the gite is located opposite to the church. I do spot a building that could perfectly be the gite we are looking for and ask the woman behind the counter if she still has room for two persons. “Le gîte est fermé” (the gite is closed), she says with a frustrated voice, pointing to the building behind her. The cafe where we are now is coincidentally next to it, but the two have nothing to do with each other. There are still a few people in the bar and it is clear that none of them is set up with the course of business in the gite. Apparently the owner closes his gite whenever he feels like it, which often causes hikers to need to spend the night without a roof over their heads. Fortunately we have our tent in our backpack, but before we can ask the question if there is a suitable place to put it up, the people in the bar have already booked a room for us at a local “chambre d’hôtes”. It is located at the very bottom of the village, but we do not have to walk to it. One of the men in the cafe proposes to bring us with his jeep.

When we arrive at the “chambre d’hôtes” the hostess is waiting for us outside in the rain. She gives us a much stronger handshake than you would normally expect from a lady of her age and urges us to come inside. Our soaked shoes stay in the portal and our clothes are hung to dry on a rack in front of the heating.

After a refreshing shower we take place in the royal-looking armchairs with dark carvings and red velvet cushions in the living room of our hostess. There are some small snacks and a few bottles of liquor on the coffee table. We may pour our own aperitif and I choose a local strong wine, while Wim goes for the whiskey. We meet four other English and French stranded hikers. They were all counting on a bed in the gite, but something tells me that we are much better off here.

We sit at a long beautifully-laid table. I take a seat in the middle, which is a good strategic choice because I am promptly promoted to translator. We get a tomato salad from the garden as an appetizer. The main course consists of a home-made quiche lorraine, with a slice of meatloaf on the side. It is followed by a nice piece of corsican cheese, to finish off with a bowl of pickled plums of trees from the village. Just before we want to dive into our bed, our hostess surprises us with a bottle of homemade Limoncello. We raise our glasses to good weather for tomorrow. Although nobody at the table really seems to believe that this toast will help clear the skies…

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