Day 7 – The magnificent Restonica valley.
Having been born and raised in Canada, a country with so much outdoor activity on offer, yet I had never really done any sort of hiking. It’s embarrassing, I know.
So for my last full day in Corsica, we would return to the Restonica to tackle the trek to Lac Melu. I say return because we had actually been to the site the day before. I thought seeing the Restonica valley meant riding through it, stopping for a Pietra, then riding back. That’s not what happened. After making the 15 km drive through the scenic valley along the narrowest of roads, we arrive to a check point where we have to pay for parking – 2 euro for motorcycles, 3.50 for cars.
(The video below however, is of our ride back through the valley toward Corte.)
From there, we rode along the Restonica river where we could see the enticing natural pools and little waterfalls like so many times earlier in the trip. We finally arrive at the first chalet, at the base of Monte Rotondo. I’m thinking ok great, beer. Then Giorgio turns to me and says, “trekking?” Again, full motorcycle gear, no water. A complete yeti. I look ahead into the valley though and it’s just gorgeous. There’s a sign which reads, Lac Melu (1700m) 1 hour. So we gave it a go.
It took us nearly an hour just to reach the half way point at Chez Felix. Our pace was terrible. At some 5 to 6 hundred meters of altitude, the seemingly austere Chez Felix chalet sat built into the mountain side. With its slate roof and grey rock wall construction it didn’t look like the most inviting place. However, walk inside and you’ll see wheels of fresh goat cheese laid out on an old wooden table and cured meats hanging from the ceiling. To the right was the fireplace and just past that, was this water basin filled with sodas and beer kept cold by the flow of water from the fountain above. The water was safe to drink right from the source and tasted… like mineral water. We had our refreshments, deliberated a bit , then decided it was best to turn back.
We were back however the next day, this time properly prepared to make the climb. I had left all my gear behind and was wearing my super technical climbing attire which consisted of shorts, a T-shirt and my Converse high tops. We stopped at Chez Felix again but only to pick up a sandwich which we would eat once we arrived at the lake. Just after the chalet the valley evens out as you cross the Restonica river by stepping stones. Then almost immediately, the grade of the trail changes drastically as it becomes more vertical. I don’t know the technical name for this type thing, I’m not a hiker. But it was like climbing a really steep staircase, except with jagged rocks instead of steps and no handrail.
Finally, after nearly two hours, we had made it over the crest and saw the lake. It sat peacefully in this beautiful natural bowl surrounded by a curved rock wall. The water was still and it had this blue-green colour. It seemed strange that of all the people I had seen making the trek here, hardly anyone was in the water. I counted maybe 5 total. As we got closer and found a place to sit and eat I discovered why. The water was ice cold. Just getting your feet wet was enough for most people. I was sweating like a bestia and was going in regardless, Claudia would join me. Giorgio however, did not and I made fun of him for it later. So there I was, standing a rock ready to take the plunge. Naturally there was some hesitation and then splash. I emerged screaming curse words with a high pitched voice. It was really that cold. Odd too, considering the lake is in full view of the sun. The reason for the chilly water came from a few hundred meters above us. See the trail we came up from didn’t end at the lake. Hiking for another 45 minutes (1,5 hours in our case) you’d find Lake Capitellu at an altitude of ~2200 meters. It was the water from that lake the fed Lake Melu via an underground source.
That time spent at the lake was unforgettable as was the hike back. We decided to take a different, more direct route this time. We would be hiking down a type of via ferrata, literally translating to the iron road. These are routes with fixed ladders or chains to assist climbers without the need of their own gear. This way was much faster and we had a much easier time descending without too much trouble.
Below is some footage of the hike I made going up and come back taking using the via ferrata. I’ve now understood the importance of camera angles.
Val Restonica was one of the places that will remain impressed on me forever: the road getting there, Chez Felix and its local delicacies, the hike, the potable mountain water and of course, the lake. Truly, a spectacular place. And, I didn’t see the second lake, Capitellu, which people have said is even better. I’ll just have to go back.