Corsica: The South
17.06.2009
Tomek was the only one ready for an early morning swim. We just wanted to pack our stuff and quickly disappear from the beach. As the light was nice, we took some photos. Before we mounted the panniers, Tomek asked if he could test Igor's bicycle. He concluded that this was exactly the bike he needed. That day Igor came up with a new name for the recumbent bicycle: "siesta bike". Well, ... there is something to it.
We made a coffee break close to some beach. This was our last chat with Tomek, as he wanted to reach Bonifacio before the evening. However, we could travel no farther than the nearest campsite – my muscles were completely sore after the climbs on the previous day, so I needed to divorce the bike for at least one day.
The bar at the campsite was closed, and so was the shop and the restaurant. The staff did not care at all about potential guests. We tolerated such behaviour only because we were so exhausted. The camping area itself was nice – flat and shaded, though someone should have cleared away twigs, huge pinecones, and dry leaves. Bathroom entrances were no better – total neglect. Bearing all that in mind, we can say that "L’esplanade" campsite was the worst one we stayed at (EUR 5.75/person; EUR 2.8/tent).

18.06.2009
The gentleman at the reception desk is far from efficient. He is talking to a delivery guy, at the same time taking phone calls, writing out receipts for accommodation, and trying to chat with camping guests. I am pissed off!
Finally we leave for Priopriano. I am angry, because before leaving the town we notice a nice campsite nearby. We need not have spent our money in a place where nobody wanted us...
We reach Sartene, the most Corsican town in Corsica. Feudal-like order still prevailed here even in the 19th century. The city used to be divided into two competing parts: Ste-Anne and Borgo. Noble families from both these districts were involved in a bloody vendetta that continued over several centuries. It wasn't until 1834 that the French succeeded in forcing the citizens to sign a peace treaty between the two districts.
We fasten the bikes to a street lamp near the Liberation Square, and go to lunch, right in front of a town hall that once served as a palace of Genoese governors. Passing through the town hall gate, we enter the area of gloomy granite buildings that still create a medieval ambience. The maze of dark cobbled streets connected by stairs is brightened by colourful creepers and flowerpots. We walk into the church of Ste-Marie. On the left-hand side there is a 32 kg cross and a 14 kg chain. Each year during a solemn procession the Grand Penitent carries the heavy cross, while being chained at the ankles. The Penitent, re-enacting Christ's walk to Golgotha, wears a red hooded robe. He is a volunteer who must place his name on a secret list many years in advance in order to do this anonymous penance. He is accompanied by the White Penitent who reminds us of Simon of Cyrene and symbolises solidarity. The procession proceeds in an aura of mystery, excitement and religious zeal. We make a commitment with Igor that if we ever come back to Corsica, we will do our utmost to visit the island in the Easter season, when the event takes place.
We come back to the bustling square and hop on the bikes. Starting from Serragia, we have a clear view of Roccapina. This cape is easily recognisable thanks to the natural granite sculpture resembling a resting lion. The region is magnificent. Before Monacia-d’Auliene the road goes downhill. Since the surface is very good, I start the ride down, not waiting for Igor who keeps pulling over to take pictures. A few kilometres of a fantastic downhill stretch! Such routes are unforgettable if you have a recumbent bicycle! You feel like forgetting about the brakes, but unfortunately on the Corsican serpentines sometimes you have to slow down.
The roadside is overgrown with Corsican pine trees. When the road gets flat, I decide to pull over and take one pinecone as a memento. In the meantime Igor overtakes me. After a while I set off, but I can see him stop. What is going on? After all we still face a 20 km section to Bonifacio – relatively flat and easy. Soon everything is clear: Igor is standing on the roadside, talking to a man and a woman. He beckons me, and we are invited to coffee by a Corsican guy – Gilbert – and a Polish lady. He says that he owns a plot of land nearby. He calls it a campsite, but there is no electricity or running water. What we have at our disposal is water from a mountain spring, and a shower connected to a container in which water heats up during the day. While drinking coffee, we talk about Gilbert's family and their life in Corsica. They ask us where we are going and what we do. We even get an invitation to stay, because they are about to roast a wild pig. Well, we would be happy to taste a nice piece of pork, but we still need to reach Bonifacio, and we are afraid that finding a good place to sleep after 8 pm will be difficult.
Near Coldarello we admire unusually shaped boulders on the roadside. We are constantly accompanied by an orchestra of crickets. Their music gets surprisingly loud when echoed from the surrounding rocks. An eerie feeling...
Approaching Bonifacio, we delight in a scenic view of this town, with golden cliffs shining in the hazy rays of the setting sun. We have an impression that we are looking at some enchanted land at the end of the world! The view is unbelievable.
A moment later we come to the conclusion that our plans don't make any sense. Why go to the town centre if we can easily enjoy dinner and spend the night at a campsite that we have just passed? After all it will not be a problem to cover the remaining 5 km section to Bonifacio, where we want to catch the ferry to Sardinia. In effect, we turn around and check in at "La Trinite" campsite. The local restaurant is still open, so we give vent to our gastronomic desires. The campsite makes a very good impression: neat and tidy bathrooms, clean swimming pool, restaurant, bar, and a minimarket open 24/7. The personnel is young and surprisingly energetic! There is plenty space for tents. A lot of trees, and between them well-groomed lawns free from twigs, pinecones or stones. A perfect example for other Corsican campsites to follow (EUR 6/person; EUR 2.7/tent).
When taking notes and collecting data from the cyclocomputer, I notice a curious thing: I was faster than Igor at both climbs and downhill rides, but Igor's cyclocomputer still shows a higher daily average speed. I guess he has readjusted the device on purpose – can I trust guys at all?!

19.06.2009
It takes us just 10 minutes to reach Bonifacio. We head for the harbour to buy ferry tickets to Sardinia. Our bikes and luggage fastened to a railing next to a parking site, we start exploring the town. I dare say this place must not be missed when you are in Corsica. Situated on 60-meters-high, nearly vertical limestone cliffs, it is divided into two parts: the Marine residential area below, and the Citadel with the Old Town above. Marine is a harbourside district, with numerous hotels, restaurants and cafes. In the summer this place is full of people who just stroll or party until late night. Climbing up a steep path, we pass the Citadel. Suddenly we find ourselves in the world of mediaeval streets. Charming nooks with tightly built, narrow houses, some of them with modest fortress-like facades, and others – sophisticated, with exquisite marble headers. Looking up, you will notice arches joining the townhouses above those narrow streets. These are used for carrying rainwater to private tanks or to a municipal collector. On many streets you can easily find souvenir shops, small boutiques, restaurants and cafes. From du Marche Square you can see tall houses situated on the edge of the cliffs undercut by the seawater. It almost looks like every storm might destroy the cliff with all the buildings. I hope it does not happen, because this view is incomparable! With just an hour left before the departure to Sardinia, we speeded up the pace and headed for the top of the peninsula, still intending to visit a marine cemetery. It is difficult to avoid the impression that all the tiny shrines (each one being different from the others) comprise a small town rather than a cemetery. It is probably the most enchanting burial site we have ever seen. We walk back along the fortifications stretching on top of the cliffs, along the Bonifacio Gulf. At one point we have a view of an impressive white canyon with several marinas, smaller bays and beaches with turquoise water. What a magnificent landscape!
At 1 pm we set off for Sardinia. As the ferry leaves the narrow harbour, we go past the Madonetta lighthouse. Bonifacio viewed from the sea is breathtaking! We have no more doubts – it is the most beautiful town in the world!