Day 9 - Crossing Corsica
Corsica was the natural alternative to the Italian Alpes as we make our way east, yet I don't know, I was expecting something…flatter? An overnight ferry away from the French Rivera, the small Mediterranean island is anything but flat. We racked up over 3000m climbing crossing the middle of the island from Bastia to D’Olmo Valley. And, although according to Quentin I’m “la fille qui veut faire un tour du monde en descente” (the girl who wants to do a world tour riding downhill), I have to admit the climbs were worth it…
Arriving in Bastia before sunrise we were able to get an early start, and rode nearly 75km to a Santa-Lucia-di-Mercurio where we were hosted by a yoga teacher / bat enthusiast in her sunny home. In the span of a day the countryside changed from beaches, to foothills, to a mountainous landscape that must have inspired the American West – dry, rocky, and full of dramatic views where you feel you can see forever.
Across the valley loomed the mountains we would have to climb; the day was windy and the climbs were long and sharp, and the next day we only rode for a half day due to braking troubles on my bike.
The third morning we stopped in a roadside restaurant to warm up. An imposing large iron stove did the job and the locals were full of encouraging words; we left with our bodies and hearts warmed, determined to attack the day. Sorba Pass presented itself shortly after we left our refuge, only 7km from the truck stop. The climb consisted solely of sharp switchbacks, yet we arrived at the top for an early lunch. The village at the bottom of the two passes was deserted – we met a lone cow at the public fountain.
At one in the afternoon Verde Pass was still 17km away, but the ride was gentle. We snaked along the edge of the mountain and really only became aware that we were going up when we started to see snow alongside the road. Rays of sunlight slipped through the towering pine trees while we giggled about having our own cycling path; I can count on one hand how many cars we crossed.
Two hours later, after celebrating our arrival at the top, reality came crashing back – it was getting dark, we didn’t have much food, nor a camping spot, and we were now on the colder side of the mountain.
As dusk began to settle, we arrived at one stoplight town, Les Bains de Guitera. Some hunters praised us for our gumption to ride across Corsica in winter, and upon asking where we might plant our tent for the night, they showed us a little spot behind the filling station. “You can even have a hot bath!” And they weren’t kidding!
A hot spring was just below the little hill they had indicated to us, between the river and the banks. This was the first time in our lives we’ve camped behind a gas station but I don’t think it gets any better than this!