Dwight Peck's personal website

Corsica in the Extremely Off Season, 2009

Corsica, the grudgingly-French island off the coast of Italy. We're catching the seriously off-season rates, Christmas and New Years 2009.

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

Christmas Day in the Balagne

We're off for a leisurely drive down the west coast scenic road from Calvi towards Galéria, but first we pass by the Pointe de la Revallata again, now partially dried out since yesterday.

The Balagne region in the backcountry of the northwest coast was the Garden of Corsica from earliest times, first Neolithic and then settled by Roman farmers growing olives. The wind farms are modern.

Lots of ruins about, though, as times have changed, olive prices have dropped, fires have raged throughout the region and the maquis has reclaimed much of the terrain.

Guidebooks tell us, however, that high quality olive oil is coming back in demand and some enterprises are building new presses in hopes of re-carving the old niche. In the meantime, mass tourism doesn't bring in quite the same income as it does elsewhere on the island -- this coast road is virtually a winding one-laner, and some charming villages like Girolata can only be reached by boat.

A beautiful bay, the Baie de Crovani, near Argentella . . .

. . . with a lovely étang behind the shoreline, probably a great favorite with migrating waterbirds.

The view southward from Argentella. Our sketchy holiday plan for tomorrow night is to have a flat tire after dark on a 1.5-lane road up there on the highest ridge on the skyline.

The maquis has reclaimed much of agriculture here, but there are said to be 800-year-old olive trees still in good numbers. We've passed from Galéria back northward up over the inland pass of Bocca di Marsolinu and now we're going to turn back uphill and investigate the "Chaos de Bocca Rezza".

"Chaos" may be too strong a word, but driving up into the Forêt de Bonifato reserve invites vigilance.

Kings of the Road at the moment, but they're pushing their luck out here without fluorescent outerwear.

We're in the Forêt de Bonifato, and perhaps this is the "chaos".

At the end of the road, near a closed-up rustic "maison forestière" for the seasonal hikers, we're setting out for a walk a few kilometres up the gentle path along the ravine, for the stimulating views. Two more serious trails from here lead up onto different stages along the famous GR20 "grand randonnée" trail that begins in Calenzana, not far from here, and carries on along the mountainous spine to the southern end of the island.

These are the headwaters of the Figarella, which eventually comes out in the Golfe de Calvi, between the Casino supermarket and the French Foreign Legion camp.

Everyone who spent summers near Norwich, Conn., would be thinking: "Uncas' Leap"!

Late spring melt-off (on Christmas Day). We've had rainy weather here, but much of it 10 or 15 degrees C.

The Figarella getting a good running start on the Med.


Picturesque waterfalls everywhere

All the little holes and hollows in the rocks are evidently from magma bubbles in the early days.

We're walking back down the creekside now.

Kristin and a magma bubble.

Kristin staring into Chaos.

Mob rule on the highways

Evidently they're waiting for us to tell them where to go. But we don't know.

A look of ancient wisdom. Ancient cynicism.

Sun's out as we descend via Calenzana to our dinner, such as it may be

Dusk on Christmas Day

And on a rainy Boxing Day, it's time for a morning coffee here in Speloncato in the Balagne foothills

Speloncato (think "spelunkers") as we start up into the Giussani (or Ghjunsani!) valley

A church near Olmi-Cappella at the head of the Giussani; in fact, that's probably the very cappella.

Sharing the road with the locals down the Tartigine valley towards Ponte Leccia, the inland carrefour of the Calvi, Corte, Bastia, and Aléria main roads.

Now we've turned back up the "Scala di Santa Regina" gorge, just about the time that water vapor got into the otherwise dependable Fujifilm J10 and rendered it useless. The long gorge carves its way out of the Niolo valley of the river Golo, which carries on eastward down to Bastia airport.

A last view, before nano-water droplets swamped the CCD. After passing Calacuccia, a human-made lake (in 1968) at about 815m asl, we were determined to visit again the wild pigs that roam the chestnut groves on the way up to the Col de Vergio (at 1477m, with what's apparently Corsica's only ski station, a pathetic affair). Dieter the aging Volkswagen performed admirably, plowing his way up the snow to the deepening drifts near the Col at dusk, but of course all the wild pigs were either hibernating or down in barns in Corte.

The Col de Vergio is the one with the goofy statue of Christ or Somebody on top of it -- I'll end with a photo of that from our last visit here, but with no snow on it then.

Once over the Col, down the western side, we ran out of snow directly down the famous Forêt d'Aitone through Evisa village and the horrible gorges of Spelunca [that's right, think "spelunkers" again], luckily by then way too dark for me to see anything out the window. Following which, we bolted up the interminable tiny road over the Col de la Croix from Porto to . . . to where one of my one-week-old, extremely expensive winter tires blew out with a shrewd side blow from the rockfall in the road. But in the event, we succeeded in limping through the dark mountains on my tiny VW "emergency" spare tire in time for some excellent, pre-packaged Roquefort pasta at the Hotel Regina in Calvi.

Base map: http://z.about.com/d/goeurope/1/0/g/Y/corsica-transportation.gif

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 11 January 2010, revised 17 June 2012.

Corsica, 2007

Corsica, 2009