Bookmark and Share
Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
Public transport in Corsica

As you might have gathered, we've been a bit exasperated by the difficulty of independent travel in Corsica for people without a car. Given the number of people moving about, hiking and so on, it's very hard work.
It has been made much worse by the partial closure of the railway system. This futuristic machine, lolling in a siding in Ajaccio, is the reason. According to our chatty informant, in the queue for this morning's ride, the Chemin de Fer de Corse (CFC) bought this machine last year. It doesn't really fit the rails. Worse still, in using it they seriously damaged the track. We didn't really get how, but it seemed to have to do with the clearance of the carriage underneath.
So they are doing all this work on the track, with the consequent service upheavals, in order to make it possible to run the old rolling stock. The new one apparently will require two years work, and cost a mint, so nobody knows if it will happen!
The interim timetable expires next week, on 3 July, but we haven't seen the new one. Here's hoping it's a significant improvement on the current arrangements. Then the transport planners of Corsica could focus on integrating buses and trains and providing information (any info would be an improvement) on the bus network around the island!
In the meantime, the services are patchy and complicated, and correspondingly underused. And this lovely train sits there. We're slightly surprised that the relevant officials' heads aren't spiked on the front as trophies for the travelling public to admire.

Places and people
Turtles galore

On Tuesday we had a quiet day looking around Ajaccio, buying nice charcuterie in the daily market and enjoying the sunshine. We didn't do any of the historical sites in the town: after Rome, plus all the museum visiting of last summer, we're enjoying the hikes and natural sights of the islands this year!
We did, though, want to see the turtle sanctuary some 17km inland from Ajaccio, known as A Cupulatta. We enquired at all the relevant places to be told that you can't get there by public transport. But the Rough Guide says take the train and walk, we said. Well, yes, people said, but it's quite a walk. 20 minutes, says the Rough Guide. We can do that. So we got the train (actually the replacement bus) to Carbuccia. The bus actually drops you on the main N193, so it's only about 5 minutes further to the sanctuary; from the station, it would be another 15 minutes. Let's be clear though: you can get to the sanctuary pretty easily by public transport. Getting back is quite another matter. The timetable may improve once the train is running again, but there are no stopping buses along this busy road (except on Tuesdays), so we had to wait four hours for the bus coming back from Corte to pick us up.
But we enjoyed the visit nonetheless. A Cupulatta has definite elements of the zoo, but is heavily committed to protecting and breeding endangered species. It is the biggest enterprise of its kind in Europe, and has a huge number of animals. We have made a photo albumof some of our many pictures, including one of the super-cute kittens, which are part of the campaign to keep mice under control.
Part of the time, we just wandered around going hey dude. If you don't know the reason, enjoy Finding Nemoall over again. But of course that's not the only story here.
There is something very sad about the giant turtles, their heads, some 1.5m above the ground, watching patiently from their small enclosures. It is not only the pathos of big animals denied their natural roaming space. These are an order of reptiles a quarter of a billion years old, pre-dating the dinosaurs, of enormous complexity and variety. Did you ever hear of the (extremely ugly) alligator tortoise, which uses a special pink tool in its mouth to lure fish to their death?
But the humanoid upstarts, just a few thousand years old, and most dangerous in the last 500, has brought whole species to extinction. With the smaller tortoises and terrapins (many of which are in fact endangered), there are many to be seen, and they take little notice of the spectators, even the spectacular leopard tortoises or the starry-shelled turtles with their startling displays. The giants from Aldebra (in the Seychelles) and the Galapagos look back into your eyes, know that they are watched, and exude an imposing, elephantine air of wisdom.

Places and people
Staying put

On Monday we upped our anchor. Or tried to. Attached was this ghastly tangle of wire wrapped through and around the chain. In the end with bolt cutters, two pieces of rope, a boathook (now interestingly kinky) and a lot of swearing, we got it off. It took 30 minutes.
After a long wait we then filled up with fuel (EU1.28 a litre), and went to the laughingly named welcome pontoon in the port of Charles Onanosp. It's a joke, because it's actually very difficult to use. In any swell, which there was, there's a rocking surge onto the dock, which sits high enough that Aquila's sugar scoop could slide beneath it! To hold yourself off there are buoys, to which you hitch a line as you pass (or fail to in our case, necessitating several goes). We were very glad Mike and Linda were still there, also filling up with water, so that Mike could take our lines to help us in.
But we filled up with water, for free, and that can't be bad.
Both Roaring Girl and Aquila then headed south-west across the Golfe d'Ajaccio towards Porto Pollo. After an hour or so, once out of the lee of the Iles Sanguinaire, we found a 2m swell and bitingly cold southwesterly, making for an unpleasant trip. Aquila has a schedule, but after half an hour or so we decided that Porto Pollo would probably be uncomfortable, and we do not have any deadlines - so we returned to the comfort of the Ajaccio anchorage.
Over the next couple of days we talked to several boats coming north from Porto Pollo, Bonifacio and elsewhere. All had tales of howling winds (115km per hourreported in Bonifacio) and rough nights. We were grateful for the shelter of Ajaccio, despite the fouled anchor chain.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Stormy fingers

The forecast for Saturday and Sunday in the western Med has been absolutely appalling. Rough, force 8 and higher, swells of 3m. So we've stayed firmly put.
Actually our very first arrival wasn't so firm. It was raining so we had the cockpit cover up with the Velcro sides on. A black cloud swelled over the headland and then bam! A strong down draft, over 35kt, took us on the beam. For the frist time, the rocna shifted. It very quickly caught again and reset, as it's designed to, but we were then a bit too close to the harbour wall for comfort. So we moved out a bit, and became glad of it. Over Friday evening and Saturday morning this wee anchorage filled right up, but we kept enough clear water around us to be comfortable.
Late in the afternoon, the black clouds reached over the western hills, and we settled back on our chain. The forecast had been so emphatic you could sense the apprehension on all the boats. But then we were let off lightly and the wind didn't go over 20 kts all night, and we slept well.
This has given us a chance to catch up on this blog. We know people prefer a daily load, but it is a challenge what with power demands and a string of poor internet connections! If you don't already, then use the RSS feed on the blog, which will alert you when we make new posts, without you having to come back and check!
Tonight is still predicting strong southerlies (to which we are more exposed here) so we will stay another day, fill up with fuel and water in the morning and then see if the predicted nice northerly will take us to our next destination.

Life on Roaring Girl

The headland of Parata is marked by another tower; this one says it is one of 90 on the island. We feel like we've seen more than that already and we've only cruised about one-third of the coastline! It is easy to take the No. 5 bus from Place de Gaulle and get off at the end of the line to climb up to the tower and clamber around the headland. Poor Lucy drank half a bottle of water when she got to the top, and we were all glad of a drink in the café afterwards.
In settled weather, there's a glorious anchorage underneath this point, with clear water down to sand. It is, however, very open to the south.
The album for this post has a few more pictures of the archipelago. Note that the pass is right under the tower, inside the Ile de Porri, no between the first two islands out. Amazing alliums grow here and there are some wonderful rock striations too, caused by the interfolding of the two different, non-mixing magmas. The darker grey is diorite, while the white is a form of granite.

Places and people
Un cadeau pour Ajaccio

We came into Ajaccio anchorage primarily for shelter, and the forecast kept us here longer than we expected. Ajaccio itself is just another town (and the largest we've seen since leaving Ostia), though it has a sweet old centre. From a cruiser perspective it has several strong points: good holding and shelter, a huge Carrefour five minutes from where you tie up the dinghy plus several excellent hardware shops and chandleries. All much more interesting to us, we have to admit, than the cult of Napoleon.
The main anchorage on the chart is actually pretty small. It is bounded to the west by yellow buoys which appear to mark the commercial jetty, and almost certainly now show very foul ground. To the west of this is now full of mooring bouys. On the other side of this anchorage, there are four large white buoys, joined by ropes and ominously marked 'GAZ'. You can however anchor east of these four buoys, which is further from town, but perfectly ok. Alternatively, anchor north of the ferry quays but south of the mooring field: the water here is deeper and you will feel more wash from the ships.
The main dinghy dock is a hard stone quay beside a campervan park at the northern end of the bay. It has a couple of metal rings in the wall. (You can ignore the pile of fishing net - it's obviously been dumped and now has plants growing on it!) We put down a grapnel anchor to hold us off, but then completely failed to get it up again. Even Mike, two other blokes and a 15hp engine failed to shift it. So we have buoyed it and left it as a hold-off marker for dinghies: our present to cruisers visiting Ajaccio.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Iles Sanguinaire

These 'bloodthirsty islands' are like dinosaur's teeth chewing at the water off Pte de Parata. There is a pass, just beneath the point which is well marked on the charts and easy to see in calm weather. Note it is right under the tower on the headland, not between the next two islands. See the photo album about the headlands defencest for some further pictures. We wouldn't go anywhere near this headland in a strong wind!

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)

We got into Cargese as it was getting dark, and anchored close to Aquila. Too close as it turned out, when the boats swung to a southerly breeze. We hauled up the hook and reanchored - enjoying a spectacular thunderstorm which got going whilst we were fossicking about finding the right spot. There's quite a lot rocks thereabouts and even our trusty rocna took a while to be well dug-in.
We then had a rocky, swelly night and were both stiff and bad-tempered in the morning. We decided not to go ashore but head for Ajaccio ahead of a nasty forecast.
In a way that's a shame. Cargese, as you can see from the photo, has two huge churches, one Roman Catholic and the other Greek Orthodox. There is a long history of an orthodox presence and Greek community here. At times there has been tension between them and the Corsicans, but this is all now resolved (at least according to guide books), and Cargese is home to a devout congregation and an important annual festival for St Spiridion.

Life on Roaring Girl
Capu Rossu

From Girolata, we headed South again. First of all we had to round Capu Rossu, the western-most point of Corsica, and to do that we started off by beating back to Pte de Scandola in order to lay one straight tack sou-sou-west. That all went very nicely till the wind died completely. We even put the cruising chute up, for the first time this year, but were still only making 1kt. At that point, we gave up and turned the engine on.
The picture is the cape wearing a fetching cloud ring.

Life on Roaring Girl
While we're on the subject

Actually the subject is waste. (This is unusual for cruisers, any three of whom can spend hours discussing the heads, but that's for another time.)
Girolata is a tiny village, but in the high season, we were told, some 2000 people a day walk along or visit its beach. That's an enormous impact from hikers and sailors, which the village is working hard to manage. Part of their approach is to strongly encourage recycling and management of waste, including supplying all visiting boats with a compostable bag for their food waste! Presumably they also make money from the rubbish, and all power to them.
At the eastern end of the beach is a small rubbish area (pictured here) which has containers for oil (food only), compost (all other food remains), plastic, tins, paper and then whatever is left over. The site is superbly clean, and barely whiffy, even on a hot day. We've certainly smelt plenty worse. There is a big can crusher, and the bales of tins are already being squared away for removal and sale.
We were impressed by this waste site, one of the best we've seen. And with so much travelling, and Sarah's professional responsibilities for waste management, we've seen a few! Other rural areas with a big visitor footfall could learn from the approach here, for example in some of the NZ sites we camped in two years ago. It does need some labour to keep it so well, but a good arrangement for treatment and sale would help with the financial impact, if not actually make money.
If they can manage this in a village unreachable save by boat or foot and such a huge transient population, then there's not much excuse for the rest of us.

Places and people
How to s**t in the woods

Yes, this is a book - we even have it on board. Judging from the disgusting proliferation of used toilet paper beside the track out of Girolata (and in the Desert, and even in Elba) a few people could do with the lesson.
It's not even high season yet. If it's like this now, by mid-August these tracks will be white with used bog-paper. So, listen up, hikers!
Take with you a bit of loo paper and couple of bags. The sort you use to clear up after your dog, or to put your loo paper in on board. The ones your veggies came in will do! If you have one, a small fibreglass trowel or even a spoon (not for reuse.) Put these small things into their own 'facilities bag,' which might be a dry bag.
When nature calls, step off the path. Well off the path! It's not that hard. Make a small hole. If you can't, find a couple of good stones or branches (very easy in the maquis.) Do your business. Wipe your bottom and put the used loo paper in the small bag. Tie the bag up tightly. Pop it into your facilities bag.
Cover the mess you've made - either by shovelling earth over it, or using the stones. All of this applies even if all you are doing is having a pee, but still using the toilet paper. Take it with you!
Return to the path and continue your walk, fortified by the knowledge that you have not littered the environment nor left traces of your bodily needs for other people to enjoy.
When you find a litter bin, put the small bags of paper into the bin.
There - that wasn't difficult. Just do it.

The postman's lot

The shortest route out of Girolata on foot is to the south, where an old track joins the road at the pass known as Brocca A Croix. The lower road is known as the Sentier de Guy le Facteur, the path of Guy, the postman. He was an ex-legionary who for many years delivered the post to the village, travelling this route on foot or by mule in all weathers. He became quite a celebrity in France, with a couple of documentaries made about him.
The path is a lovely trail, winding through mature maquis of holm oak and other trees which meet around you, occasionally opening up to show the sparkling water below. Or at least it was sparkling when we started. After about two hours it clouded over, started raining, and went on raining for the rest of the day. This at least kept us cool, not least as we had foolishly believed a 'sans precipitation' forecast, and had no waterproofs with us.
The route goes via the Anse de Tuara, which would be a possible anchorage in calm weather. The beach is pebbly sand, cut by a stream bed of sharp rocks awaiting the last of the snow melt. It meanders back into the hills amongst sheets of euphorbia and marsh grass (in the picture above). There is also an unpleasant amount of litter brought in by the prevailing winds, making this not the most inviting spot for a swim. We passed on.
There were pigs grazing as we went across the beach, who eyed us balefully and made sure Mum was always between us and the youngsters. Not that they were true wild boar of course; we'd not have crossed their path. We took the piglets' pictures anyway. It is common on Corsica to turn the pigs out to graze on the maquis. Because there are tax breaks for ownership but not for good husbandry this has the perverse effect of encouraging fire setting, to release grazing, which is a major contributor to the forest fires which plague Corsica every year.
This time we didn't encounter cattle grazing free, but the little spring, with its accompanying water trough, in the woods that lead up to the pass was an obvious favourite spot, judging by the droppings. We did see some of the traditional long horned beasts in the field near the beach.
The pass itself was a disappointment, being shrouded in clouds. It has one little café run by a very grumpy man who refuses to serve café au lait! We had some café and then ate our packed lunch as we walked back down to the Anse de Tuara.
On the way back we took the alternative route from the beach going over the top of the hill. This led us past some amazing red rocks and black cliffs, which left us relieved about the unlikelihood of earthquakes as we walked underneath. It also led us by the tiny cemetery of Ghjirolatu (the Corsican name). There were only three or four names on the gravestones, testimony to the tiny community It's well kept, with a lovely view. We took lots of pictures on this hike, and a few are in the relevant photo album.
We enjoyed the walk but found it to take 3.75 hours out and 3.15 hours back - a lot of walking. Our book suggested over three hours, but the man in the Capitainerie had assured me that it wasn't too far, just about an hour and a half. Yeah, right! Of course it stopped raining when we returned, and we had a lovely swim off the back of the boat.

Places and people

Newer ]  |  [ Older ]


Who we are
Who: Pip Harris and Sarah Tanburn
Port: Ipswich
View Complete Profile »
SailBlogs Friends
Reg Wild Alliance 

Powered by SailBlogs