Thursday, 31 January 2013

le bivouac

The road we take to Bonifacio is down the western coast.  From Eccica it's a lovely downhill back to the sea and we follow the shoreline for a while before climbing steep roads over a couple of headlands, each with an old Genoese tower at the point.  The roads are quiet and so are the villages we pass.  We take a road down to a sandy bay and meet our first wild boar en route - a tiny little piglet rooting the verge which shoots off into the maquis as soon as it hears us.  There's a 'no camping' sign at the beach - which means 'good camping' to us.  It's wintertime and there's no-one around and as Chantal and Jacques have explained, a one night camp is a bivouac. We're not planning on staying for a fortnight.  As the light fades we hear nothing but the waves crashing on the shore. 

In Propiano the next day we stock up at the supermarket - it's Sunday tomorrow and hardly any shops open.  Our route climbs away from the coast and takes the main road here so we decide to camp at the beach before continuing.  The wind is blowing but we find a spot not visible from the road and put the tent up.  Sunday's looking grey and wet and we can't see far into the hills behind us in the morning so we have a 'tent day'.  Time to read and relax.  Looking back this is our first such day.  The beach is virtually deserted - just a couple of dog walkers.  The following day is much better and we're glad because we seem to spend a lot of time cycling upwards.  Eventually the road flattens out and we cruise along with views out to sea before descending into a cloudburst as we cross a wonderful green valley.  So much of the land is thick maquis - dense brush and stubby trees - ideal for hunting but lousy for wild camping.  At the end of the day we're happy to find a track inaccessible to vehicles and we camp along it, protected from the wind by the maquis.

Bonifacio sits on high cliffs at the most southerly tip of the island and we see it well before we reach it.  The wind speed is around 80 km/h as we take shelter in the tourist information office.  But the sun is out and we find a little plaza in the old town built right on the cliff edge.  Great walls give the whole town a citadel feel - it's a fantastic location.  We asked about campsites in the tourist office because we were worried about the strong winds but they're all closed at this time of year.  The young woman suggested we just camp on the beach or in a field.  The trouble is so much of the open land is fenced off or littered with rocks.  We haven't seen a great deal of farmland - mostly rocky fields with sheep, but out of town we come across a strip of no man's land between two stone walls so we settle there.  In the morning we return to the port to catch the boat to Sardinia.  The wind is still up and as the boat leaves its moorings in the natural harbour sheltered from the open sea we rock from side to side.  A collective 'oooh' goes up in the lounge where everyone is sitting.  If it's this bad in the harbour, what's the hour-long crossing going to be like?

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