Getting to the start of the GR20 in Corsica

Day -1 (that’s negative 1!)

We left for Corsica on a cheap Easy Jet flight from Paris to Ajaccio (October presents cheap options!) and upon arrival at the airport we found a small store within the airport that sold us a road map of Corsica. This is helpful because otherwise we hadn’t managed to find a way to get a SIM card that allowed any reasonable data usage on our cell phones while we were in Paris.

Because we are eternally cheap, I had read that to save a few euros we could take a 15 min walk out of the airport to catch the line 12 bus for 1 euro per person rather than the airport bus, line 8, which was 4.5 euros per person. So we walked out of the airport to find the cheaper bus.

Along the way we saw a road sign for Calvi. Knowing that we had already missed one if not both of two trains for the day that run from Ajaccio to Calvi, we decided to start hitchhiking.

The first ride didn’t take us far, but the second turned out to be an angelic young woman named Maude who was the most helpful person we could have possibly found. She stopped at the train station for us, so that we could see if we could find a train that would take us part of the way to Calvi, but we really did miss the last train, and at this point time was starting to run out before sunset. She graciously offered to take us to her house to spend the night. Maude is a cook who works on a catamaran (a sail boat). Part of the year she is in Corsica and part of the year in Guadeloupe. She had just gotten back from a month on the boat, so we were surprised that she was willing to host us. By accepting, however, we knew that we were going to have to hitchhike the rest of the way to Calvi the next day because she didn’t live on the route that the train takes, but rather along the coastal route. But, it was great to have a place to stay because otherwise we were just winging it- originally hoping to make it all the way to Calvi that night, but that was a much more ambitious goal than I had imagined. She lived in a quaint village in the mountains, situated somewhat on the side of a cliff. Her car often gave out attempting some of the steep roads through the village. We made some dinner and slept in her son’s room, as her son was still in Guadeloupe. What a wonderful experience to stay with a local!

Day 0:

The next morning she drove us to the coast, and we were happy to touch the Mediterranean Sea, which was much warmer than I expected. It was great to see something different from what we were going to see on the GR20.

She let us off and we started hitchhiking. We had a cardboard sign which read “Calvi”, and we managed to get two rides which advanced our progress, but each ride was taking over an hour to get. One French couple were excited to practice their English with us, and I explained how we had missed the train the previous day.

“So, you prefer hijacking!?” The man asked. I knew what he meant but I heard John snort slightly from the back seat.

By noon we were in Porto, and it was hot. Now nobody was willing to pick us up, and we were slowly melting in the sun. Car after car after car passed us by and we started really doubting our choice to hitchhike the whole way rather than waiting for a train. But now we had no way out of this town if someone wasn’t going to pick us up. After two hours passed, we took a break, found a toilet, and asked at a grocery store about our options for public transit. Apparently there was a bus the next day at 10am, although this was not posted at the bus stop. I wasn’t hopeful and we also had no place to spend the night.

Another hour passed, and when we were thoroughly convinced that we would turn into skeletons on the side of the road, a couple of ladies in a small car with an open sunroof stoped to pick us up. We graciously crammed ourselves into the backseat. John was too tall and had to turn his head sideways and his legs were completely wedged into corners such that his feet couldn’t even touch the floor. But, we were out of Porto, and that’s all we cared about!! That was, until about 15 minutes later… The roads in Corsica are curvy as all hell and the locals drive as if each curve comes a complete surprise– by slamming on the breaks and barely making the turn before driving off the side of a cliff. John was getting sick fast. Another 15 minutes passed and John was white as a ghost and giving me The Look. I politely asked the driver if she could pull over, and she did – right on a blind curve, of course. John didn’t care, and took a few steps out of the car before vomiting. Back in the car, John wasn’t going to feel better until we stopped, but Calvi seemed so far away. The ladies explained that they couldn’t slow down because they had an appointment to make. I took my bandana and poured water on it so John could put it on his neck. We were not about to abandon this ride.

Time passed infinitely slowly as I tried to make polite conversation in French from under a pile of backpacks as I tried to give John as much air as possible so he couldn’t vomit on me. Meanwhile he was, of course, way too big for the size of the car.

At some point a wasp flew into the car through the sunroof and landed on me and I let out a shriek. Luckily the ladies immediately pulled over so I could get the thing off of me. Meanwhile, John took the opportunity to vomit again. Poor John.

Finally we arrived at the intersection of Calvi and Calenzana (the GR20 leaves Calenzana, but this is a small town inland from the larger Calvi). This was a distance we could actually walk if we wanted to.

We started walking and were completely surprised when a car with a young couple stopped to pick us up. We had given up all hope on hitchhiking in Corsica.

They dropped us off in town, luckily it was only a 5min drive, and we quickly found the place that lets you pitch a tent. We paid 15.20 euros for the two of us plus one tent. We had access to showers which we used and a kitchen, which we did not. Instead we decided to go for an inexpensive meal at a local restaurant called the GR20. The food was amazing, and at this point John was hungry, having given up most of his food for the day during our hitchhiking adventures.

Finally we’re ready to start the GR20. There are so many unknowns, but we’re prepared. We’re probably carrying too much food and not enough sunscreen. That’s my best guess.

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