Cycling Corsica... solo bicycle touring
Cycling Corsica, my first solo bicycle tour, was my graduation gift. I cannot deny that the planning was approximate since on Friday afternoon I started figuring out the destination of my one-week trip (it had to be one week long, close to home, cheap and in a place with mild temperature in February too), and on Sunday I left. At the beginning my idea was to cycle on the Danube cycleway: closer to "my" Trentino bit certainly far from my idea of warm climate I wanted... rejected! Next idea: Camargue and the southern coast of France until Barcelona (where I wanted to visit an aunt of mine): too far... impossible to make it!
Solo Cycling Corsica
Leg 1 : Bastia - St. Florent - 133 km
The first kilometers are the strangest ones, as always! That weight on the rear tire isn't something I'm used to, so it takes some time to get the feeling. Then everything gets more natural: the ascent slower, the gear higher, the descent less stable... and I'm already out of Bastia, beyond Erbalunga: the traffic gets less hectic and some cyclists passing by, with a look of mixed shock and envy, greet me, and I wave back. There's no time to stop, the coast forced the construction of a windy road adapted to it, and it's all in and out, a demanding up and down for my untrained legs. In the meantime, I get closer to Cap Corse, the road starts climbing up, to cross east to west this part of the land. Left Rogliano to my left, I feel a little sound on the rear, I stop and realize that one of the two bolts of my carrier broke and I'm forced to proceed with caution to the next village uphill, in Ersa, where I meet a gentle farmer who helps me fix my problem, so I can continue towards Centuri. There I climb down to the port and I have lunch with a delicious baguette and Corsica cold cuts, next to some sunburned mariners. After a while I start again, despite I rode 70 km, I'm only halfway through towards St. Florent. Speaking of distances, don't trust the signs on the road: the distances are wrong, many times it's more than the distance marked on them! The windy road is very narrow, and basically all mine: I met 10 cars during the whole afternoon. The landscape is wonderful and I almost run over some sheep passing by on the road. After this brief forced stop, I keep cycling, leaving back Pino and Nonza, reaching St. Florent for the night, very tired.
Leg 2 : St. Florent - 15 km from Galeria - 99 km
Following the road, after this unusual distraction, I pass by the group of houses part of Santo Pietro and I start descending towards Ile Rousse. The road is empty (I meet more or less 5 cars) until the very end of the descent, 15 km from Ile Rousse. From now on, until Calvi, the road gets pretty busy, even if with a large emergency section to be used. Once in Ile Rousse, I stop to have some fresh fruit which I previously bought in a shop and I realize that some clouds are forming at the horizon.
Leg 3 : 15 km from Galeria - Porto - 73 km
After a little detour to visit a village outside of the main road, I'm on the right way towards Partinello and then Porto. After a few kilometers, I find out I'll have to face an 11 km ascent (actually it's 12!) until the mouth of Palmicella. The gradients aren't too much, but with 30 kg of luggage, you can feel it all. Nevertheless, a classic of every bicycle trip, a flat tire! Uphill... at least I can rest a bit. Once at the top, I'm forced to keep my handlebar still because of the wind, but I find out I'm only at 400 m above sea level. Once more, some construction works on the road obligate me to ride 10 km of gravel downhill. The gulf of Girolata and its thousands of little beaches alternating to rock formations are a pretty good show, from the top of the road. Once reached the village of Partinello, down and up again for 3-4 km, before reaching the destination of Porto. Today I end my track pretty early, so I can enjoy the sea during winter. While I walk on the deserted streets of the village, I think about the hundreds of people crowding it, and I realize I'm pretty lucky having this possibility, listening only to the water crashing into the rocks.
Leg 4 : Porto - Propriano - 160 km
Leg 5 : Propriano - Solenzara - 113 km
Let's get back to this morning: leaving Propriano very early to arrive in Ghisoni early is mandatory, climbing up to Aullene, Zicavo, and the Col de Verde. I leave towards Sartene and after 3-4 km uphill, a majestic village appears behind a curve, at the top of the hill, with narrow roads and a super lit square, similar to Umbria or Tuscany. From Sartene I'm back in the valley (I figure out that I could have avoided the uphill part, but I would have missed the village!), towards Aullene, in the backcountry. The road gets tougher, and after 30 km uphill I'm finally in Aullene, 850 m high above sea level. Here I have to decide: towards the coast to reach Bastia tomorrow and having Sunday off, or follow the backcountry road to run to Zicavo and Ghisoni completing the initial idea passing by Corte? I ask a very kind guy, who tells me some very interesting stories, and then I follow my legs and continue towards the coast and Zonza. Every km I ride I'm more and more convinced I made the right choice: without staying in the places I pass by, and speak to the locals, and always thinking about arriving... it's not the spirit of a trip based on "slow" and "discovery".
After this short (or maybe too long) digression about my interior conflict, let's get back on track. From Aullene to Zonza the road is like on the coast, down and then up. In a village I can enjoy a lunch break, knowing that today I won't have to turn my bicycle rear lights on before reaching my destination. I still have 10 km uphill (500 m of elevation gain) to reach Col de Bavella (1243 m). Once on top, the clouds surround me, and one picture after and wearing the windbreaker, down we ride for the last 10 km, until Solenzara, completing the crossing West to East in one day.
Leg 6 : Solenzara - Bastia - 115 km
It's time to draw a conclusion to this "beautiful madness" (as I called it before leaving). This trip ends and the melancholy (like every "last day") travels with me. What to say about this bicycle trip in Corsica? Far less exotic than the USA on the road and less adventurous than my Patagonia by bicycle, but it's for sure a special one for me: firstly because it's my graduation gift, so it draws a line between the "before" and "after" the graduation, and partially because it's a solo bicycle journey.
Many said "it's so lonely and sad to travel alone!", but I tend to disagree because it's not being alone in the middle of the people, but in the middle of Nature, with isolated and silent landscapes.
About Corsica, I am a bit sad not to have seen the internal part of the island: Ghisoni, the Col de Verde, Zicavo, Corte; but for sure the western coast and Cap Corse are worth the trip. And maybe they have a little more value being February, in the lower season. I really enjoyed Aullene and Zonza in the backcountry, as like as Sartene. A little less interesting the eastern coast, but I knew it all along, mainly for cyclists having to face a pretty busy road, and less "panoramic". The city of Bastia, for what I could see in the morning, is very pretty: concentrated around the old port, with the Cathedral on the top and the citadel inside the walls...
Au revoir, Corsica!
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ITA - Ho 33 anni e sono piemontese, anche se da qualche anno vivo e lavoro in Lombardia. Dopo un inizio da totale inesperto in questo campo, mi sono avvicinato al mondo dei cicloviaggi e della bicicletta sempre più. Oggi posso definirmi "cicloviaggiatore", e assieme all'altra mia passione - il videomaking - non mi fermerei mai! Cyclo ergo sum, pedalo quindi sono, per cercare di capire perché andare in bici sia così bello, terapeutico, ricco... E ogni volta che provo a capirlo, non ce la faccio, e sono costretto a ripartire sui pedali!
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