Spirit of the trip

The most famous path in Corsica is GR20. It crosses Corsica from North to South. It's a beautiful trip. It is well marked out with white and red paint, so there is no way to get lost, and there are shelters at regular intervals.

However, GR20 is a victim of its own success - it's crowded, at least in summer. If you follow it, you're likely to meet other hikers every ten minutes and to spend nights in the middle of what looks like an Indian camp. I have nothing against people, but there is something magic to being entirely alone. Besides, GR20 avoids Corsican villages as much as possible, so you don't even meet locals - and it also means you must carry a lot of food.

So, we decided to do something special. To follow little-known paths, or even no path at all. To experience the thrill of not knowing which way to go and where to find water. To avoid fellow hikers, but to visit villages and talk to their inhabitants. To sleep in the open, or in deserted shepherd's huts, rather than in a crowded camp...

The first half of the trip (up to the Tavignano valley) was designed to be easy, as far as orienteering is concerned. The second half was more difficult, because it borrowed old paths which seemed to have been forgotten for decades. It was also more interesting, because we were never certain that we would find the way, or even that there was a way. It was a success: the trip was great, and we met basically no hikers.

These documents contain enough information to recreate our trip. It is not meant for you to follow exactly the same route, but to get a picture of what treasures and pitfalls await you, to steal an idea here and there, and to be able to devise your own wild trip.

You should be aware that such a hike is tiring. We walked 6 to 12 hours per day. It can also be dangerous. Corsica is renowned for the ease with which one gets lost in its maquis. Water can be scarce. Forests often catch fire. And, like in any mountainous area, accidents can happen while the nearest help is hours or days away. I'm not trying to make it sound like hell, but I want to make sure you know about these caveats. If you have never hiked before, try for something more civilized, like the GR20.

Corsican hospitality

Corsican people are said to be proud. That's true. They are also said not to like strangers. Well, they might not like it when dozens of tourists pile up in a 10 storey hotel and behave like they were on the Riviera. But every time the three of us arrived to a small village in the middle of the mountains, we were treated like friends.

Every time we asked someone if they knew of a place where we could spend the night, they offered their own piece of land. Literally every time. The first time, we were surprised. The second time, we were pleased. Then it became a habit and we were actually ashamed of asking because we knew the answer ahead of time. This really helped us feel at home anywhere. As far as we were concerned, Corsican hospitality was infallible.

People also often helped us find our way, or offered water. We talked with villagers and shepherds. It's nice to see that people have time to talk with strangers - a habit which has mostly been lost in Paris. Of course, speaking French helps here; locals usually speak Corsican and French.

There has been a lot of bombing in Corsica, especially since summer 1996, when secret talks with the French government were abruptly ended. However, most of the time, terrorists blow up government buildings at night, or touristic facilities in the winter. There has almost never been any victims. One should point out that terrorists speak for a small fraction of the population. The vast majority, as far as we could see, was opposed to their actions. Of course this is not an ideal situation, but I think we can consider that hiking in the interior is safe. Let's wish for peace to return as soon as possible.