GR20 - Corsica Sud - Day 4
We had two choices - to take another high level alpine route for 7.5 hours (or potentially double that time for us) or do the low level route over the next two days.
Being caught in the storm yesterday had made us wary. I asked the Gardien for the weather forecast. He was a resolute man who obviously believed in efficiency of communication over flowery speech, or human interaction. I asked if a storm (orage) was predicted and he nodded grimly. "Attentione" he said. We had been warned.
The decision had been made - the lower level route was the way forward. Having said that, the first part of the walk was a steep climb of about 2.5 hours' duration. Heaving our pack laden bodies up massive boulders, at times clinging with our fingertips onto overhanging boulder edges above us to allow us the leverage. It was hard going.
We stopped to chat with a young Irish Canadian bloke who was hiking the whole GR20 from North to South. He told us that the GR20 North was a whole other level. He described it as 'savagely beautiful'. He recommended we stay at the Bergerie d'I Croci at the end of the day's walk, as it was a really friendly and gorgeous place.
We rounded the peak and the cold rain came to greet us once more. We stopped to put our waterproof gear and pack covers on.
Downhill for quite some time in the sporadic rain/sunshine and we could see the Bergerie in the distance. Our Irish friend was right - it was a gorgeous little farm. Cows grazed - their cowbells chiming melodically. Four dogs ran in their pack.
We walked inside and I asked if we could stay (in my poor French). The Gardien (known as 'the Boss') motioned for us to get inside quickly and take our packs off. Not a moment too soon as the heavens really opened in the most spectacular fashion so far - literally a deluge. The dogs huddled in the window sill on the outside of the stone building. Inside were two long wooden trestle tables and many trekkers, like us, seeking refuge from the elements.
We asked for the demi pension - which was a bed in a separate stone building with many conjoined double decker bunks in a row, the rapas du soir (evening meal) and petit déj. The shower was a small cubicle outside, which was a bracing experience.
We returned to the dining room and met a few new friends. Most of the trekkers were French. A word about French hikers - they are incredibly fit and fast and they literally eat up the wild, steep peaks that I find so gruelling. It's like they're blessed with some sort of bionic hiking abilities. One minute they are there with you on the path - the next minute they are gone in a flash. I came to the conclusion that extreme hiking must be the French national pastime.
They were also well versed in Bergerie/refuge process. When you approach the meal table, you must bring your fabulous knife with multiple attachments. One man even had a teaspoon attachment for his. A sharp blade is essential for removing the rind from the saucisson and for carving the rustic heavy cob loaf - placed directly on the timber table for carving and sharing. We felt a tad inadequate with our camping cutlery and tried not to crucify the beautiful bread too much.
The first course was served by the Boss - his own charcuterie. Rounds of saucisson and thin slices of dried peppered beef with butter and bread. It was delicious. He looked at me to gauge my reaction. I placed my fingers to my lips and conveyed to him without words that the saucisson was incredible. He smiled and nodded - secure in the knowledge that his produce was supreme.
Nearing the end of the first course, there were a couple of slices left. The Boss slapped us heartily on our backs and force fed us the remaining saucisson. He then served the main course, a slab each of fresh lasagne with beef, lentils and wild thyme. It was very tasty but a massive portion for me. I didn't want to offend the Boss and so our new found French friend on the other side of Mark ate the other half of my meal. I have no idea where he put all that food - he was of a very slight, whippet-like build. To finish the meal, we enjoyed beautiful Corsican cheese accompanied by clementine preserve.
We also met Helen - a young woman from London, travelling with her Irish boyfriend Ian. They were travelling in a group led by a French guide. Their luggage was transported for them. They were loosely following the GR20 but exploring other day walk options. It was nice to have a conversation without thinking.
We went outside to brush our teeth in the now bright and clear conditions. The Moon, Mercury and Venus were bright and clearly visible. The mountains that lay ahead of us were sharp in focus and dramatic.
Time for bed - alongside 20 other people. I had given up worrying about whether our snoring would keep other people awake, as there was a cacophony of differing snores. We all succumbed to the sleep of the exhausted trekker - in preparation for the following day.