Saturday, 21 January 2012

Le Trail Blanc de La Restonica

A hike in Corsica’s mountainous interior was the perfect anecdote to long winter evenings.
Set in the breathtaking backdrop of the Restonica Valley, this year marked the third “Trail Blanc de La Restonica” organised by the cancer charity “Le Marie Do”

Since I am new to the trail running scene and on a more serious note, I didn’t fancy the shame of a rescue party carrying me in an exhausted heap from a mountain, I opted out of the gruelling 14km run in favour of a more leisurely 8km hike.

We left Porto Vecchio before sunrise, my 30 litre backpack in tow with a fail-safe supply of tuna pasta, although not in the least bit appetizing at 6.30am. Poised between the breathtaking slopes, the early morning sunlight illuminated the grandiose buildings and narrow streets as we passed Corte, the snow donned mountains in the horizon.

We waited for the buses to take us up to the starting point, my British orderly queue-forming instincts left us ousted from the crowd piling onto buses. In a similarly unprepared vein, The “Be bold, go cold” mantra, which in normal situations avoids peeling off layers in a cold sweat 20 minutes later, soon left me shivering with no feeling in my feet. But with everyone in good spirits, an hour and half later we finally climbed onto the bus and made the ascent to the start.

The narrow and twisting road snaked upwards with mercilessly sheer drops to the river flowing hundreds of feet below. I felt my stomach turn as, with true Corsican motoring audacity, we sped across an unforgiving one way bridge. Suffice to say I bounded off the bus at first the available opportunity.

You couldn’t have asked for a more congenial start: nestled in the verdant pine forest, a hospitable fire and the smell of spuntinu. As the runners scaled the uncompromising steep road, the walk behind began and the feeling quickly returned to my feet.

The route took us along a meandering road etched through the forest and leading toward the shoulders of snow-fed mountains. A soul-warming Vin Chaud greeted us at the refuge an hour in; the perfect pit stop before another couple of hours of walking, passing a, glacial gorges carved into the granite cliffs.

No convivial occasion in Corsica would be complete without a good spread, a delicious array of Corsican sausages and cakes at the finish to recuperate.

Despite losing all feeling in my extremities for a good deal of the day, the kaleidoscope of sights and wonderful atmosphere left me with heart warming experience. And I might even run it next time.