Riding down from Cap Corse, we arrived at the small town of Saint-Florent where we stopped for lunch. It was piping hot that day and luckily we found a cafe within a few minutes of pulling into town. The cafe had those usually annoying mist sprayers, however on this day they were desperately needed. I don’t think I’ve ever sweat so much with clothes on. As we were waiting for our drinks to arrive, Giorgio was excitedly describing the next bit of road ahead and terrain we were about to cross. He was explaining that the road from Saint-Florent to L’Ile-Rousse acts as a border delineating an area to the north known as “the desert.” It’s an inhabitable piece of land with jagged rocks jutting out from the hillside and no paved roads. At the far tip of the desert is supposedly one of Corsica’s most beautiful beaches, Saleccia. Unfortunately with our road bikes and street tyres, Saleccia would be unaccessible to us. So we continued on past L’Ile-Rousse and through Calvi. A bit further down the coast we arrived at another picturesque view, looking out onto the turquoise waters of La Revellata. Again, getting there meant taking dirt roads however they did look smoother than the ones we came across in the desert. It would’ve been slow going though and we still needed to find a place to camp for the night so we continued on.
The next ten to fifteen kilometers of road was probably my favorite of all the riding I’ve done in Corsica. The road was so…selfish: it demanded your full and undivided attention as the gorgeous coastline beckoned – no, teased you – to look at it kilometer after kilometer. At some points, you would turn a bend and ride around a sculpted promontory overlooking a beautiful bay beneath. Really stunning stuff. All this wonderful scenery and you couldn’t put a foot wrong on this road. There was hardly a barrier more than a foot high and in some places, none at all. All in all, it made for a real breathtaking experience.
Finally, about 15km away from Galeria, near the town of Astro we found a great campsite called La Morsetta. This place I liked a lot. The receptionist spoke four languages, the services were well maintained but most importantly, the campground was a mere 50m from the sea. After a quick check-in, Giorgio and I took little time setting up our tents as we joined the other campers and locals on a great little pebbled beach until sunset.
That night, I befriended another Italian, Pierluca, the cook of the excellent restaurant found on the site. We were joined by his girlfriend and the dessert chef, Laura, for a round of margaritas where we discussed Corsica, Italy and of course, Canada. They were keen on listening to my experiences so far on the island and then Pierluca offered up some suggestions for excursions around La Morsetta. One such suggestion was do to Le Fango. Located near Galeria, Le Fango is a valley with a 22km river running through it with such a low water level that it creates natural pools within the riverbed. The river originates from up in the mountains, some 2000 meters above sea level, however its waters are tepid. He also stressed that we should continue along the road and not to stop at the first pools we see. Most tourists tend to stop early and bathe in the inviting waters, however the nicer pools are further along.
So the next morning, Giorgio and I rode to Galeria for petit déjeuner – which at this point we realized was standard everywhere: a baguette with butter and jam, a choice of juice and a choice of coffee or tea - before entering Le Fango. Oh, and it was really nice to wake up and not have to break down our tents and then ride without all our gear.
Le Fango – What we saw there was a real marvel. First of all, the rocks along the river banks looked fake, like those you’d find at some amusement park. Second, was the height of water which created these organically shaped pools. Some of these pools are about the size of a bathtub, while others were about as wide as tennis court and two to four meters deep. Then there’s the water itself: completely transparent.
Giorgio and I took some time riding up and down the river looking for a good spot to settle with some shade. After parking our bikes, we hiked down to the river and then literally hopped on rocks until we found this fantastic place.
What I can’t show you is the part further down the river only accessible by water. It opened up to this fantastic, deep little pool that children were jumping into from the rocks some 10 meters above. It was similar to the one pictured below, just smaller.
After spending a few hours lounging, taking photos and taking advantage of the natural waterfall massage, we packed up and headed back up the hillside for some lunch. Apart from the standard breakfast the other staples of Corsican cuisine are the cheeses, charcuterie, and beer. The local beer, Pietra, was especially good and made from chestnuts. It comes in blonde or amber and for whatever reason, the bottles are only 250ml. Strange. The cured meats and cheeses in general were excellent. Find any boulangerie and with less than 8 euro you’ll get a fantastic cold cut sandwich and a beer – something we found time and again throughout our journey.
It was a good forty minute ride back to camp where we managed to get another hour of beach time before sunset. I was looking forward to a special pasta dish Pierluca was preparing that night which consisted of linguine with sardines, mussels, cherry tomatoes, garlic, and spices then baked in tin foil. It was fantastic. The sardine flavor mellowed out and complimented the mussels and sauce quite nicely. The best pasta I had on the trip.
Next, Le Calanche…