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I took on Europe’s hardest trek – Corsica’s spectacular GR20 – and got here again modified for the higher | Corsica holidays



How finest to rejuvenate? Many go for doing much less: loafing, lounging, luxuriating. The issue with that is that trendy life is lived principally within the thoughts. Even should you don’t have a job that requires management of an inbox, the exhausting PR challenge of contemporary social interplay is inescapable. If you happen to merely cease working, the identical processes nonetheless whir on, even when within the background. In contrast, actively doing one thing totally totally different, one thing requiring vitality and devotion, attracts voltage away from drained wires, lets them cool. That’s why I selected to do the GR20, the trail that travels the size of Corsica. Individuals name it the toughest trek in Europe, and that’s what I needed: to descend from mind into physique and restore myself by bodily effort.

On the map, the problem didn’t appear too daunting. I merely wanted to take a bag containing a tent and little else to Calenzana within the north of the island, stroll 15km or so day by day, and find yourself in Conca within the south roughly 12 days later.


However I shortly realised the GR20’s popularity was well-deserved. The centre of Corsica has little in the way in which of civilisation: the tough, excessive rock forbids it. Between the beginning and end I got here by one village with one restaurant (closed on Sundays), noticed two card readers, and no ATMs. For meals and shelter, I relied totally on the refuges, all primary in each sense, and starting from charming to overtly hostile. (One even proudly hung an IRA flag as a part of an anti-colonialist show. I believe it was mere coincidence that I obtained meals poisoning there.) The September climate was equally feral, with bitter mornings and nights bookending scorching days, excessive winds and the odd hailstorm.

Then there have been the climbs: the GR20 has 12,000 metres of ascent. The mountains within the north are savage igneous explosions that thrust into the sky. Greenery is scant, simply spiky maquis, and the odd solemn tree. Every day I regarded on the vary in entrance of me, doubting whether or not it was satisfactory. There appeared no means up the face, throughout the boulders, alongside the ravine. However the little painted flashes, the pink and white balisages, confirmed the way in which. Somebody had been right here earlier than and, with religion and fortitude, I might observe them.

The GR20, here near Lac de Nino, demands maximum focus from its hikers.
The GR20, pictured close to Lac de Nino, calls for most focus from its hikers. {Photograph}: Jon Ingall/Alamy

In such terrain, on paths discovered somewhat than laid, each transfer calls for focus. Zigzag scrambles up jagged pink and gray cliffs have been a day by day problem of primary bodily physics, of stability, grip and leverage. Even the flatter bits, coated in free rock that will get slippery in rain, wanted care. Nearing the tip of sooner or later, when my thoughts travelled to dinner, I slipped and bloodied my knee. Many finish with worse than the scar I took residence.

The crucial of presence sharpens the senses, and enriches rewards. I stood on the high of passes and noticed – actually noticed – every little thing: the orange beaks of Corsican choughs chattering within the clouds; skies daubed in amber and pink; secret valleys that after hid communists and bandits from the Genovese, the Papists, the French. If you find yourself in that state, time acts unusually. As each second is really felt, the times stretch out. When lastly I staggered into Conca and ordered a chilly beer, it appeared I had been up in these mountains, away from regular life, for months. And once I returned taut, tanned and smiling, individuals checked out me as if I actually had.

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