Saturday, 23 October 2010

Day 1 - Calenzana to Refuge d'Orto di u Piobbu

Up at 6:00, left by 7:30 - our morning routine needed practice, as was to be expected. We left the village via the backstreets and started climbing. It wasn't long before we saw our first other hikers, The Green People (sadly I can't remember their names but they were a nice young French couple from the Alps with a lot of green kit), and then a few minutes later, a group of four French people with two dogs. We learnt early on the important lesson of `if you haven't seen a red and white flash for over a minute, you've gone wrong'. Just a short diversion and then embarassed laughter as we overtook everybody again. After 1000m of up, up, up we arrived at Bocca a Saltu (Boccas are like saddles or gaps, and feature heavily on the trail) and were greeted by our first spectacular views and a large scattered crowd of hikers taking lunch. So we did the same, and of course many photos had to be taken. For the next section, which included our first proper scrambling and one stretch requiring a chain, we adopted a short, easy-going French guy. We were much faster than him on the up as he didn't seem to like raising his breathing rate (fair enough) but he was a lot more nimble than us on the rocks. Every time we passed him he would say to us enthusiastically `Go, go, to the mountains'! Later in the day we met a group of English speaking Belgians who were on their last day of six (in the opposite direction) and had lost 3/4 of their party. I'm not surprised - the first few days for us contained some very challenging and long uphill stretches which must be a complete nightmare to descend.

Looking back over Calenzana
Our arrival at the second bocca signalled an end to the scrambling and much to our delight we were now higher than the UK. We encountered a goat herd, which we followed to the refuge. This was pretty much as expected, with plenty of little camping spots worked into the hillside as if it were a landscape garden. Just a couple of unpleasant findings - the shower was freezing cold and the toilet was in the style of what Jack referred to as a `French campsite toilet' - no seat, just a ceramic hole in the ground. The gardien(ne?) was nice and appreciated our pidgin French, we bought oranges and cake from her. Jack and I raided the small collection of left books and magazines in the refuge and I spent the evening sitting on the terrace and reading a French novel in order to remind myself of all the vocabulary I'd forgotten. I was very much wishing I knew enough to join in the lively conversation between the rest of the walkers, most of whom were French/Corsican and all of whom spoke French, or so it seemed. The clouds rolled in quite early in the afternoon and the temperature dropped. Jack and I were unpleasantly surprised at how cold it can get on a seemingly mild day at altitude, and Jack was starting to think he should perhaps have bought a little more clothing, a pair of trousers in particular!

Our little tent pitch, with a view

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