Our routeIf you move the cursor over the photos you will find a second one in some cases From Cologne/Bonn we take a flight with Germanwings to Bastia in the north of the island. For the first time we pack our tandem in a custom made bag from truck canvas cover. The question of how to pack a bike when flying fills many pages in various internet forums. See also our article under “equipment”. We ride counterclockwise to Cap Corse, then along the west coast down to the very south to Bonifacio. Behind Porto Vecchio in the South east we leave the coast to pedal through the centre mountains of the island northbound back to Bastia. The east coast is not very attractive for cycling, as it is full of seaside resorts which are connected by one major road only. So lots of traffic through a minor interesting landscape. This is the first time we take our recently bought Santana Fusion, a mountain bike tandem with 26-inch wheels and wide tires. And we are also proud owners of a fully suspended trailer now, the Bob-Ibex. A dream! This trailer follows the bike so smoothly over every bump you hardly feel it. If you disregard its weight of course. 15 day-stages with average 67 k, we cycle about 1,000 kilometers on this trip. The island is quite hilly, over all we have to manage 14,350 meters in altitude, which means, nearly 960 metres per stage. The slopes are between 3% to 16%. See picture 2 for the elevation profile.
La Corse – Île de la Beauté – island of beauty. Whether this is true we want to discover during the first two weeks in May 2015. Bastia airport is small and easy. Without a hurry we can assemble our things. And we may even leave our packing material on the campground San Damiano, south of Bastia, for the duration of our trip. We are in preseason, so we will find many campsites still closed. Wild camping is strictly forbidden and even if it was allowed, it would be nearly impossible to find a place to set up the tent. The dense macchia seems to cover every inch of the island. For the second night a bar- owner offers us a place on a deserted grave yard beside a little chapel. Not a luxury but the view is spectacular (see pic.2). And we even find a hose with fresh water for a cold shower. What else do you need?
Golfe de Porto
We can spot the snow peaks of the central mountains from the coast road where the temperature is quite comfortable. Every now and then we discover spectacular views over the sea. The towns and villages in contrast are not so picturesque. Nonza, in the north, is an exception, but the price is that it is packed with tourists. The picture shows the view from Col de Palmarella down to the bay near Porto. To reach the town we need to climb some more meters. But we get a rapid decent alongside the rocks into Porto in return.
South of Porto we pass the Calanches. Red granite rocks border the coast. Unfortunately we pass the rocks in the middle of the day. If you come along during the evening sun, you would probably see them shining deeply red. The night before we cycled a little tour into the heartland to Evisa. The road meandered along the rocks through the narrow canyon. Little villages like Ota seem to be glued to the rocks. All road users need to pay special attention to the pigs, running free on the road (pic.2). They do not seem to care about the traffic. Reportedly these cute little things have caused the one or the other cycle crash.
In Ajaccio, which is by the way a town you do not need to visit, we take the ferry over to Porticcio. A little distraction from cycling, which does us good. As soon as we reach the other side of the bay, we need to climb up the mountains again. This part of the coast shows a lot of scattered houses. Everywhere we see people on their way into a sunny weekend. So we too enjoy a break on the beach of Verghio. Later, we take a little Expresso in Xavier’s bar in Aqua Doria. The bartender looks a bit like a forgotten Harley rocker. But he is a good business man. Alongside the road we passed at least 10 posters on which his pub is promoted. Still, we are the only guests. Next day we reach Sartène, one of the neat towns on the island, which seems to be popular amongst racebikers. Many of them enjoy their lunch break on the market place. The further way down to Bonifacio is less exciting. Only the “sleeping lion” on the Roccapina pass is worth seeing. Following a legend, a lord stiffened to rock due to lovesickness. The more south we come the more flat the landscape is. Only the river valleys we have to cross make us climb here and then.
Bonifacio is the most southern town on Corsica. From here it is only a stone’s throw over to Sardinia. We enjoy the mild evening walking through the little harbour, which is sourrounded by high rocks. The campground is situated almost in the town centre, so we can leave the bike for once. Next morning we start our way back to the north. Having passed Porto Vecchio we leave the coast. From now on we ride into the mountains through the centre of the island. We are aware that this will be more tiring, but we prefer a nice landscape to riding on the national road from one seaside resort to the next. We cycle up to Ospedale, a village in the mountain, with a constant climb. And we have to manage further slopes until we reach the hostel in the middle of the woods. We share a tiny room with four french hikers who do not seem to be keen on fresh air. The window keeps tightly closed during the night. Having had a delicous dinner, we are willing to excuse this. But in the early morning we escape the sticky air for a walk through the wood. We can spot Sardinia. What a magnificent view in the morning mood!
Every now and then we cross roaring mountain streams with big rocks lying in the middle. The route through the mountains passing Zonza and Aullène is fabulous. During a picnic we cool down our feet in the fresh water before we cycle on through shady beech forests. Numerous black pines border the raod. During a short break we pick up some pine bark and learn that they smell intensivly like dark chocolate. From now on I call them chocolate-trees. The next campsite is still closed but the friendly man at the filling station in Cozzano lets us camp on a plot behind the village. Not the most exquisite place. It looks more than a private scrap yard with a car wreck and some scruffy timber lying around. Yet we have access to fresh water and we can sleep in fresh air again. There is not much more we need.
While having a coffee in Ghisoni we chat with a nice Alsatian lady. Suddenly she jumps up and flees into the inside of the café. A grumpy looking bull comes round the corner with an angry roar. We do not feel particularly safe in our red jerseys, but we try to keep clam. The bar tender’s dog chases the bull away – back to peace on the terrace. The local shop is closed and the campsite is deep down under the village. Luckily the camping host runs the shop also. So he gives me a lift with the car to the shop where I can get everything for dinner. He tells me that he is also head of the local fire brigade. I dare not ask whether he is the mayor as well.
Slowly we ride up to Col de Sobra. Despite the effort we can still enjoy the smell of the eucalyptus trees and admire the birds of prey how they circle in the thermal. The oncoming racebikers are well off. They can relax the downhill ride. But wait until we are on the other side. Again the decent is fantastic. But we cannot let go, as we need to stop frequently to let the rims cool down. After all, we do not want to end up like this old truck, who’s brakes possibly got too hot. In Corte we find a campground right in the city, on the river Restonica. Our neighbours are a dutch family. Of course we promote tandem cycling again. Fritz lets them ride a round with him. Jan is cardiologist and he gives us one of his fantastic operation pliers, which they usually throw away after use. This little tool will serve us well during our trips. So, if there are doctors amongst the readers of this text: Please do not through away tools, others can use. Our dutch friend always has some of the pliers in his car. He gives them away to fishermen and others like us. Good idea! Before we continue our tour back to Bastia we make a day trip into the Golo valley up to Lac de Caluccia. The lake is a bit dissapointing, but the road through the narrwo canyon is a highlight.
In Ponte Leccia we cross the river Golo over an old Genoese bridge and ride eastbound to the coast. Once again we have to climb up the winding roads. Morosaglia is a quite spooky village. The name was given in times when Corsica was populated by the Berbers. We look down on many apparently deserted old stonehouses. Some of them show marks like bullet holes. Pasquale Paoli, “father of the Corsican nation” came from here. The picture is awesome. We imagine a scene with Paoli fighting with his men for Corsica’s independence. But we need to cycle on. Up to 1,000 m we need to climb before we can let go down to Piedicroce. We are in the middle of the Castanicia, the valley of the chesnuts. In former times chestnuts were milled to flour for bread. Many very old mighty cestnut trees stand alongside the roads. And we also find impressive knotty old cork oaks. Stazzona seems to be a village where time has come to a standstill long ago. What a location for a film set. Later, down on the beach we search for a campsite in vain. A German couple suggests that we camp near their pick-up camper and invite us to use their shower. We also prepare our dinner in the little camper, as our cooker rejects to work for us. The last night on Corsica is turbulent with thunder storm and rain. By the way – the only rain we had on this journey!
La Corse – Île de la Beauté. We can confirm this without restriction. On countless occasions we again stop behind the next road turn for another photo although we have taken so many pictures already. As a result we did not make as many kilometers a we could have. But we need to capture the beautiful scenery with our cameras. Corsica offers something for everyone who likes to be outdoors. We met climbers, hikers or tourists with camper vans. They all find their individual benefit. We believe that we have chosen a good time to come here when we decided to travel during the first half of May. Although the highest peaks are still covered with snow with accordingly chilly temeratures up there, the island is not overloaded with tourists in these days. The high season must be terrible when camper van and coaches agonize themselves through the narrow roads leaving no space for cyclists. Whoever can live with the fact that some campsites are still closed (there are hostels and hotels on the island for sure) and that one may have to ask for a place to camp on private ground, should choose the preseason. And the Corse people? They are extraordinarly friendly and helpful. Allways ready to get involved in a little chat. We definitivly love to come back one day.