Day 22 - Ajaccio - Corsica
Starting point: Santa Teresa Gallura (Sardinia)
Destination: Ajaccio (Corsica)
Distance: About 400 kilometers
Early in the morning when everyone in the house was still sleeping, I had to wake up, pack my things and be at the harbor as early as 8:00 am. And that meant I had to leave Pier's hostel before 7:15 am. After a short time for breakfast, I was driving against the rising sun. At 8:15, I arrived at the gate where I had to wait for a ferry to Corsica. After a document check, a policeman from a neighboring office approached me and engaged me in a kind and joyful conversation. He wanted to share his own stories from his motorcycle trips and his longing for doing them again. He was one of the few, who were actually very interested in details of my travelling. Asking not only about the destinations, the people I met, the possible risks I took, but the feelings that I was experiencing during the entire trip. The freedom of choice, the experience I had gained. He was not jealous but if he would be strong enough and do things against obstacles, he would have joined me. I guess his eyes were like mine from a year ago, or when I used to read stories of other travelers. It was interesting to confront that and see this from another perspective, this time from mine, from a traveler´s perspective. He also gave me several advice´s about Corsica. According to his beliefs, Corsica was much more dangerous, run be locals who had their own rules and, for foreigners, it isn´t to understand either Corsicans or their rules. I was also instructed about the need to secure my Harley each time when its left unattended. He also gave me a tip to find a local "friend". Apparently, if I would have at least one Corsican friend, I would have felt completely safe. Since I was planning to stay in Corsica just two days, I though it is rather impossible to find a person who would be willing to be my bodyguard.
The trip on a ferry from Santa Teresa Gallura (Sardinia) to Bonifacio (Corsica) takes about one hour and it offers a very spectacular seascape. Especially, the entry to Bonifacio takes your breath away, since this Mediterranean town is set high on sheer white cliffs which continue around the coast. I was not expecting that.The last twenty minutes of this short cruise were through the Strait of Bonifacio, Associated Protective Measure (APM) for the Strait of Bonifacio as Particulary Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) that needs special protection because of its significance for recognized ecological or socio-economic or scientific reasons. The maximum depth is 100 meters and, therefore, private boats that want to enter the harbor need to have special guidance and must be piloted.
I left the ferry and parked my Harley at a parking lot next to the harbor (free of charge for motorcyclists, and very expensive for cars) , in order to start my visit with a stroll around the harbor, admiring the yachts and fishing boats. I found restaurants very expensive and, therefore, I did a quick shopping trip to a local grocery store and while eating some snacks, checked my motorcycle.
The previous evening, I had realized that I had run out of all possible memory storage devices I had with me. I made a mistake in assuming, and unfortunately I had to reshuffle files, and organize space for at least one more day which projected to be about 5 GB free space. Looking for advice among the locals, the only solution that I found was to look for a new External hard disc in Ajaccio, the capital city of the island. Another difference I noticed was that Corsicans were not using the same type of advertisement for B&Bs as other Italians in general. I had prepared a set of web sites with a list of available guests rooms and that had worked in entire Italy, including Sicily, and Sardinia. It was not working for Corsica. Only three rooms were advertised in the whole island for the days I needed, and none of them was close to the city. I realized I would have to count on luck and see where this would bring me, just like on my first day in Sicily.
That day, similarly to the previous two days, I spent entirely in my saddle exploring eastern-south, south, and western-south parts of this relatively small island. A friend of mine had given me a tip about the island beforehand: The Eastern part is very popular, while the western more scenic. Of course, I took the scenic one. I picked all type of roads that day. Along the coastline, and when I got bored of the sea, I turned inland, sometimes mountains, and another time flat roads, and I went back to the coast to smell the fish, to watch the outstanding, relaxing Turquoise color of water. I did what pleased me with one goal, in the evening I would arrive close to Ajaccio to buy the required memory storage the following morning.
Corsica was definitely different. I felt that just upon arrival. I had read before that the island is like other Mediterranean places. I did not feel like that was a correct and complete description. The island is only about 180 kilometers long (north to south) and about 80 kilometers wide (east to west). A large part of the land is covered with mountains with many peaks over 2000 meters. Half of the population lives in two cities, and the rest are spread among the island living in small hidden mountainous, sparsely populated, villages. The landscape is impressive. Within a relatively small distance, the altitude changes from the sea level up to 2500 meters above sea level. The climate varies considerably with altitude and mountain forms. The scenery is a mix of beautiful bays, dense forests and craggy mountains. A large part of the the island falls within a national park whose hiking trails include the famous GR 20.
I read that, despite belonging to France, it retains an Italian flavor. And that was something I did not see as true. I was missing the warm Italian hospitality. Maybe, the specific atmosphere was the outcome of the terrorist attack in Nice, after which, Corsican's issued a public statement in which Corsican militants warned ISIS that they will strike back if there was any possible terrorist attacks on Corsican soil. The land has seen an increase in nationalist sentiment, and by this I mean, Corsican, not French. This was clearly pronounced at every corner. Many signs on the coastline roads, and all of them on inland roads that used to have city names written in two languages, on that days had black colored paint covering the names in French. Few attempts to talk to the locals ended with mixed feelings. No one was impolite, de facto, many were well-behaved, but somewhat not really engaged, giving a natural smile. Not the one that one gets ordering an expensive meal, but the smile that comes naturally to get positively involved in a minute-lasting conversation. I was missing that.
In the evening I headed towards Ajaccio, and due to tiredness, and lack of other options I decided to stay in a hotel. As the island is known for being a touristic destination, many hotels had a pool in front, and I stayed in one that had a pool too. A nice change with a luxurious touch. Especially that it had a good restaurant as well. The drawback of staying in such a place is of being away from the locals. Many things are "continental", "standardized", "uniformed", to suit all types of customers that do not like to be surprised too much by local habits. That day, I ended with good food, served in the restaurant, refreshing myself under a nicely designed shower, and in a big comfy bed. As one could expect from a higher standard hotel.