Sea & Mountains: Adventures in Corsica on the Tra Mare e Monti Trail  21-30 October 2005
map caption Today we catch a ride up to Bocca di Palmarella, then walk to Curzu via the beach.
photo caption Vegas, friendly mascot of the hotel L'Auberge.
photo caption Girolata, population 13. The only access to this quiet fishing village is by boat or on foot.
photo caption Ed and Irina pose for a photo on the path above Girolata, as Will tries to figure out how to work the camcorder.
photo caption Preparing for a swim at Tuara. Monte Senino dominates the background.
photo caption Jonica and Ed after lunch at Plage de Tuara.
photo caption More fun on the beach. Irina attempts her best impression of a seagull. Or is it an osprey?
photo caption 4pm, heading for Curzu. All the island's street signs are in French and Corsu, Corsica's native tongue. Les Calanches are visible behind.
photo caption A sunset scene. Here we're passing above the tiny settlement of Osani. Two cows doze in the shade of the village church.
Lunch on the beach. Dinner at Dominic's.
Tuesday, October 25th  If I'm going to make good on my promise of an easy day for everyone, I need to make some amendments to our schedule. So while we breakfast on the veranda at L'Auberge, I ask our proprietors Fred and Celina if they can fix us up with transport south to the mountain pass at Bocca di Palmarella.

Within minutes, two vehicles appear in front of our hotel. Brushing the last crumbs of our croissants from our laps, we pack up quickly — F&C have arranged a free ride for us. Jonica, Will, Irina and I catch a lift with the village doctor's husband in his Jeep Cherokee. Ed takes the lead in another car, a battered old Russian 4x4, as our drivers negotiate about 96 hairpin bends at high speed.

At Bocca di Palmarella, we thank our drivers and strike off into the fragrant maquis. Thankfully, the morning's walk is downhill. And ends at a beach. Following yesterday's marathon, this is a plan that suits everyone.

Once again, it's a marvelously clear, sunny day. On the way down the mountain, we snap photos of the postcard-perfect fishing village of Girolata in view beneath us.

At 1pm we sit down to a wonderful picnic lunch of ham, pâté, camembert, tomatoes and baguettes on the pebbly beach at Plage de Tuara. It's practically deserted. We spend a blissful couple of hours swimming and napping on the beach under a blazing sun.

Then it's time to hit the trail again. A short climb up a shaded path brings us back to the road, and from here a level three-mile stroll takes us into Curzu just before sunset. In the distance, Les Calanches, a series of 3000-foot-high pinnacles and sea cliffs, form a dramatic backdrop.

No hotels in the one-horse town of Curzu, just a lone gîte, or walkers' hostel, which seems to double as the village bar. From the welcome we receive, it's clear we're the first overnight guests our host Dominic has seen in some time. He sits us down in front of a delicious, piping hot meal and starts pouring out red wine.

Two hours and several shots of homemade myrtle moonshine later, everyone is quite merry. Dominic digs out his karaoke machine and starts serenading us with Corsican songs. Any remaining vestiges of decorum quickly disappear and soon Irina is up on the table doing Russian dancing while Ed catches the action with his camcorder.

I don't know about the others, but I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow. All that booze was probably not the best preparation for tomorrow's long hike.

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