The land of the “Testa Maura”, Corsica

Loop around Corsica, France
September 2, 2015 to September 10, 2015

Our last road trip

It was bound to happen, we knew it from the start, this fantastic adventure of ours would come to an end, we would find a comfy little house and head back to work.
Just before though, we would go for a last ride through the mountains, we would let ourselves be rocked by the gentle rhythm of an old thumper carving its way from banked turn to switchback. It would be wonderful!

We just needed an old thumper, a few switchbacks and a place to crash. Pascal, provided the thumper, a kickstarter 1987 Yamaha 600 XT complete with a pair of 17′ wheels borrowed from a Suzuki 500 GS. Gilles suggested that we be bold, cross the Mediterranean towards the land of the “Testa Maura”, Corsica. Finally, Anne offered us the hospitality of her family house in Ucciani. It was a done deal!

On a brisk morning of September, the Zebra and I found ourselves once again squeezed between heavy backpacks and a metal tank. The vibrations of the 4 stroke, 4 valve XT gently nudging my balls into a space clearly too tight for them. We were on the road again! As usual we took the back roads towards the Col de Murs and through the Parc Regional du Luberon. The lake at Esparon-de-verdon enticed us to refresh our sweaty selves in its waters but we resisted and kept heading South toward our stop for the night, the Pointe Sainte Marguerite, a stone’s throw from Toulon and our ferry.

The rather impressive ferry that would take us from Toulon to Ajaccio in a little over 7hrs

The next morning, eyelids still sticky with sleep, we met the Mega-smeralada, a ferry larger than any of the ones we had embarked on before. Our proud XT rubbed handlebars with shiny 1200 GSs and other pachyderms and we could feel him giggle at the thought of smoking them later in the tight mountain twisties. Seven hours later and the hull of the Mega-smeralda opened onto Ajacio. We were in Corsica!

It took us less than 30 minutes to reach Ucciani and the place that would be our shelter for the next week, Anne’s family home. Perched on the house’s panoramic deck, armed with a bottle of Pastis we gawked at the evening sun painting ever changing colors on the mountains of the Monte Renoso chain, life was good!

After a few days of “Farniente” we eventually conjured the energy to explore the South of the Island and check whether Corsica really deserved that reputation of a motorcyclist heaven. To trace our route I proceeded as usual

  1. Favor the longest route
  2. Aim for the mountain passes
  3. If you can’t tell from the map if it’s a road of trail, go check it out

Peru 2 / Corsica 3

And just like that we found ourselves going through more switchbacks than in Northern Peru. A rocky trail teased us as we crested Scalella pass, we indulged, veered off-road and took this photo. To be honest we took about 50 photos and yes, it really was that gorgeous.

A view somewhere above the Scalella pass.

A view somewhere above the Scalella pass.

We carved our way down to Propiano for a coffee by the sea before exploring the creeks around Tizano. As the sun went down the famous Lion rock of Roccapina appeared unfazed by the thumping of our XT so we pursued our journey to Bonifacio. The old town sits at the feet of a massive fortress that seems to tout Sardinia only a narrow strait away.
We made our way up the hill to the main gate and dove into the maze drawn by the village’s streets. Breathtaking views of the Mediterranean sea caressed by a sinking sun challenged
us to take our eyes away. For better or for worse hunger came to our rescue and we spent the next hours letting our forks guide food to our mouths while our eyes feasted on the architecture.

The fortress of Bonifacio standing guard.

The fortress of Bonifacio standing guard.

The cliffs of Bonifacio hide a neat surprise, the cave where “The Guns of Navaronne” was shot, the famous 1961 war film starring Anthony Quinn and Gregory Peck. The cave is accessed through a long tunnel dug deep into the rock at the Southern end of town. It was home to a mighty searchlight used to keep watch on the passage between Corsica and Sardinia during the second World War.
Next stop was the beach of Rondinara on the way to Porto Vecchio. A rather touristy spot, the beach’s unique features are hard to ignore. A natural lagoon connected to the sea by only a sliver, Rondinara’s waters are exceptionally warm and clear. Our XT joined the anonymous ranks of hundred of cars, scooters and motorcycles pressed against one another in an overpriced parking lot, while we laid on the white sand soaking up this relaxing break.

200kms of Bliss

From Rondinara, we skipped Porto-Vecchio for no good reason, and headed back up the Corsican mountains via the “Route de l’Ospedale”. The road enjoys a bit of a legendary status among Euro riders and our spoiled selves did not anticipate it could really measure to our Peruvian standards. Well….our standards got reset.

Not quite the Trampoline de la Muerte of Southern Colombia but not far

Not only is the pavement of near race track perfection, but the views, the smells, the light, everything contributed to make this road sublime. On a high, we followed our itinerary past l’Ospedale toward Zonza, Olivese and Ciamannacce, all adorable little villages connected by the most wonderfully tortuous roads Lucifer could imagine. Muffled by the sound of our foot pegs scrapping the pavement, I did not hear the Zebra cursing for not being being the bars of her Zebra mobile.
We reached Ucciani at dusk and chilled there for a few more days, so much so that we missed our return ferry. The Zebra and I are still debating how unintentional that was. Despite much pleading with the Mega-Esmeralda’s operator, we had to buy our way back to the “Continent”. The massive vessel spat us into Toulon while the city was still deep asleep in the crisp morning. Our XT zoomed through its streets towards other legendary places: La Route du Beaucet and the Circuit du Castellet, home of world famous Bol d’Or. But that is for another story.

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