I’ve had some time now to reflect on my trip and decided to write this piece as a memory jog for all those little things that happened.
For instance, it was the morning of departure in Milan, and I still hadn’t received my riding pants. I got on the phone with the shop who said they could possibly ship them out to Corsica. That wouldn’t work though as I’d be changing campsite every other night. After a good 15 minutes of trying to figure out a solution with the customer service representative I came to the conclusion that I would just have to pick up the pants myself – from their storehouse in Prato, Tuscany.
Once that mission was accomplished it was onto Viareggio where I would find my campground for the night. I purchased my first ever tent, Quechua T2, which was a breeze to put together and take apart as well as a 15°C sleeping bag complete with a thin air mattress. The campsite, whose name escapes me, was incredibly busy and noisy, full of tourists from all over and gangs of small children roaming around. The noise continued well into the night with children screaming and cursing obscenities until at least 1 am, then dogs howling like wolves until 2, followed by at least three roosters having some important discussion in the field just in front of me. I slept for about two hours that night and was up at 5 to begin dismantling my tent.
- Giorgio -
Later that morning, I would meet Giorgio for the first time on the starboard deck of the ferry. Funny thing about Giogrio, he shares my same talent of forgetting someone’s name right after the person tells you. It wasn’t until the next day that the name slip became an issue. It was Giorgio to strike first though, calling me Jordan, even pronouncing it in English. Hahahaaaa. I had a good laugh at that one. Growing up in Canada with an old school, ethnic name like mine, I was used to all sorts of variations and mispronunciations but Jordan was just a complete non sequitor. Then I called him Gregorio, which I honestly thought was his name. He quickly pointed out that I was also incorrect. He just didn’t look like a Giorgio to me. Anyhow, for the remainder of the trip we would only call each other by our new pseudonyms or some variation thereof, like Gregorio became Gregory or Gregoire in French, while I got Giordano or Jordan, also pronounced in French. The thing about nicknames and I is that I tend to the give them to those that are closest to me or those for whom I have some sort of affinity. I’ve been nicknaming family and friends since I was little. I guess it’s a sign of affection.
The name mishap also shed some light on Giorgio’s sense of humour and personality, which are up there in the list of qualities you want to have when doing a trip like this. It was from that point on that I knew he and I would get along famously despite the fact that Giorgio is a teetotal non-drinker. Without prying too much, I did ask him once or twice what his thing with alcohol was and apparently he has been abstaining since his early teens. Whatever the case, his personality and general, laisse-faire attitude towards me drinking made things go smoothly. He spoke with a thick northern accent typical of the Veneto region of Italy and phrased his sentences like Yoda from Star Wars. I often made fun him for it.
He is however, a very, very good motorcycle rider. As he was holding the map, I let him make way for most of the trip. As any biker will tell you, the lead rider in any motorcycle tour sets the pace and subsequently gives the line to take around corners. There’s a real responsibility in that. For the most part, the roads were extremely narrow with neither soft shoulders for sanctuary nor guardrails for protection. Yet, of all the kilometers we’d done, I can’t remember Giorgio putting a wheel wrong once. I mean, if you got it wrong on the coastal road it was lights out. His pace then wasn’t fast but it was slow either. Taking cues from his cornering entry and speed, I could tell that Giorgio’s riding style was about being fluid and correct, a testament to his 30+ years on two wheels. And that’s something I appreciated very much. Having mismatched riding styles could have led to us going our separate ways very quickly. Fortunately, we didn’t. We didn’t encounter much traffic either except for the most renowned tourist spots like Les Calanches. That was fine though because we, too, would slow or stop for picture taking.
That brings me to another point about our new found alliance: we were both genuinely interested in the sights and insights that Corsica had to offer. Having done more than a few road trips in my day, I can say that it requires the mutual interest of all parties involved in order to deviate from the main route just to take a picture or perhaps sample some typical cuisine at a local restaurant instead of the fast food at the highway rest stop. However, Giorgio and I were on the same page on that stuff too, enjoying the same palette for food, making those impromptu hikes in full gear, the numerous pauses for photography and filming (on my end) or going that extra mile to find proper campsites. For instance, when we rode into Calvi that late afternoon, we had passed a number of campsites along road. Our objective was to find a place to stay for the night and hopefully get to a beach. The sites we passed all seemed crowded as hell with 2-3 different campsites all in the same vicinity as each other. It had been a long, hot day of riding, we were tired but we continued on for another hour or so until we found La Morsetta, my favourite campsite along the west coast of Corsica. If it had been almost anyone else I know, we would’ve probably stopped at one of those earlier camping grounds and spent a pleasant night with a thousand other people and nowhere near a beach.
- Mina -
Ok so it’s been a while since I’ve been calling my bike Mina – another moniker of affection I guess. In fact, friends ask about her by first name now which is nice. The name Mina came from an idea I had of riding down to Naples where I would officially christen her using the postal identification of Milan, MI and that of Naples, NA. That ride is still on the to-do list however the name stuck. If Giorgio and I got along well during this trip, Mina and I bonded: exploring new roads together while sharing the same incommodious condition of riding with baggage and its extra weight. I have put about six or seven thousand kilometers on the bike since I bought her back in late 2009, with more than a third of those coming off this trip alone.
Despite the lack of panniers and subsequent cramped riding position, at times she felt like the perfect bike for this trip. At other times though, she was the worst. Not that I would say out loud of course, I wouldn’t want to hurt her feelings. However, there were the times when I systematically lost feeling to my fingers, one by one. Periods during which I would ride with my legs straightened out to let the pain in my knees dissipate. Or, when I just had to pull over to cool my “groinus” region. By that made up word I mean the area from my groin to my anus which had to suffer 50-55°C heat coming off of the engine and a 2 hour seat (i.e. a seat that’s good for about two hours before you start to question your ability to have children ever again). I saw numerous yuppies on brand new BMW GS 1200′s and would often fantasize about that level of refinement and comfort. Not out loud, not out loud. With Giorgio’s bike in the same category as mine, whenever we’d spot a GS we’d acknowledge it by giving each other a look, the same look we’d use whenever we saw a beautiful woman walk by: nice.
Apart from the comfort factor, or lack thereof, both our bikes also held us back from the remote parts of Corsica accessible only by going off-road. It wasn’t so much the tyres as it was the proper suspension that was needed to tackle the rugged trails that supposedly lead to some amazing beach front. All the more reason to go back.
Then again, those big BMW GS’s couldn’t hold a candle to Mina when it came to descending from steep mountain passes with all that extra weight and reduced maneuverability. Those riding enduro bikes with knobby tires would be laughing on their way to those isolated beaches but they’d have an equally slow go in the twisties, a specialty my Monster thoroughly enjoys. Is there a perfect bike for Corsica? Maybe a smaller BMW G 650 GS?
An island full of surprises, really. Having only done the upper half, Cap-Corse, the west coast and then cutting into the centre, Corte, there’s still so much left to see and do. I’m still amazed at the dovetail of panorama found there. The dichotomy of sea and mountains makes the place just epic – for lack of a better word. Then the excursions, the hiking, the charcuterie, the rivers and lakes – I don’t think I could’ve spent my time there any better. I rode, swam and hiked (sometimes a combination of all three) almost everyday. Thanks to the long summer days we had ample time to ride, make camp, then get to the beach by 4 or 5 in the afternoon and relax until sunset. We were up by 8:30 each morning and asleep by midnight almost every night. It was an experience which I documented here to share, but it will remain permanently impressed on my being as my first, great motorcycle trip.