Moto en Corse … Episode 1: when do you go across?

Thursday 18 August 2011
by  Barry, Hervé
popularity : 8%

Many of you have asked us for more information about our itineraries in Corsica.
It is true that as far as motorcycling is concerned, the “Beautiful Island? is without par, apart perhaps from its close Mediterranean neighbour, Sardinia. In this series of articles we will try to answer many of your questions and share our – extensive – experience.

First things first: when should I go?

The easy answer would be: whenever you can, or whenever you have some holiday time. Then again…

Believe an old hand: if you’re going on a bike, don’t even think about it from mid-June to mid-September. Not only will prices be sky-high for everything, but you’ll also have to put up with temperatures that can become oppressive on the road, and with the fact that most of Europe’s camper vans and tour buses can be found clogging up and playing havoc on the sealed goat tracks that make up a large part of the island’s road network. Coming across one of these motorised bungalows stopped dead on the exit of a corner just because “she who must be obeyed? wanted to take a Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of the run down from Evisa to Porto is a moment to be remembered! And I still have vivid memories of being stuck in the Calanche de Piana in 40º Cheat because two Italian mastodons weren’t able to pass abreast on the road…

Right then, so summer’s not on the cards, so… when do I go?

The second half of spring isn’t bad; let’s say between early May and mid-June. There are soft aromas on the air, the days are long, the herds are still in enclosures, the temperatures are mild and nature is often in full bloom. Sounds ideal, eh?

Well not quite: you’ll have to deal with unstable weather, radical temperature changes (I remember that one May I got caught in a snowstorm in Vizzavona, but that two hours later I was having a dip in the sea at Ruppione before going up to Coti!) and seawater temperatures that won’t go above 17º C.
Spring in Corsica is, however, an explosion of colours and aromas, and you’ll be able to discover all those secret places that are not yet hidden from view by the luxurious vegetation. You’ll have to pass on having a dip in mountain lakes and streams unless you want to be deep-frozen, but you will be able to take walks and admire the snow-capped peaks.
On the really narrow roads, you will have to keep an eye open for small landslides caused by semi-feral animals and water seepage; the local road maintenance crews, who are yet to emerge from hibernation, can take quite some time to clear these away.
On the accommodation front, many establishments are still closed or undergoing renovation, but you will be welcomed with open arms, like the first client of the morning in a Moroccan souk.

OK, I get the message; I’ve got to go in spring, then!

Hey, don’t jump the gun, mate: I haven’t finished yet!

I’m not a hothead, and I’ve only been to Corsica three times in winter. It’s lovely but it’s cold, and you’ll have to forget about the mountains unless you have a four-wheeled vehicle – with drive to all four wheels – and you want to find out what the Elefantentreffen would be like if it was held in the middle of the Med! One great aspect is that the trees are leafless, which will enable you to admire every little valley, the most out-of-the way shepherds’ huts, the slightest rock… In short, if you have a four-wheel-drive car and you want to take arty photographs, then Corsica’s for you.
A word of warning for when you’re out and about: apart from grocery shops in some villages and a few itinerant grocers, everything is closed! As far as accommodation goes, you’ll have to depend on luck: a room in a private house, or a mobile home… If it’s hotels you’re after, apart from the larger towns, there are none to be found.

Righty-ho, then: summer’s out, winter’s not a good idea, it’s OK in spring under conditions… so that leaves autumn, then!

Now you’re talking! Sure, the days are a bit shorter and if you want to do a long excursion without returning after nightfall you’ll have to get on the road pretty early. In the morning, you’ll have to take a sweater, because it can be a bit nippy. And the weather can change unexpectedly, which means that you’ll have to adapt your route. But you will be able to make the most of a mild autumn in an island whose landscape still radiates the torrid heat it soaked up during the summer, whilst the sea acts as a regulator. And for those of you who enjoy swimming in the sea, the average water temperature at the end of October is about 20º C.
Even if you don’t go inland, you’ll have mild temperatures and sunlit days along the coast.
A Corsican autumn is also a palette of colours that changes throughout the day, depending on the sunlight, going from blood-red to ochre by way of carmine, khaki and sienna for the vegetation, and emerald green, cyan and turquoise for the water.

And although some shops and services won’t be open, you won’t have any difficulty to find accommodation and meals. Rates will even be lower, and the atmosphere will be much more relaxed that in the height of summer.

There won’t be many people on the roads, but you will have to watch out for the locals who’ve had their Subaru WRC or Lancer Evo carefully laid up throughout the summer and who wants to give it some welly, or the group of hunters calmly chatting about the last boar they shot whilst standing in the middle of the road, nonchalantly oblivious to the fact that something might come round the corner… and of course there’s the local errant wildlife: calves, cows, pigs, etc.

The final incentive: Food! Autumn is when you’ll be able to have the best of Corsican cuisine in your plate, and if your base camp is like the one we have in Coti, you can be sure that you won’t have any difficulties or objections to putting on a pound or two!

So anyway… when do you go across?

I’m split between autumn and spring, although there’s nothing more glorious than the colours of the trees as you go up the Col de Verde on a fine October morning.
Forests are magical, each corner hides a treasure, and it’s wonderful to go inland and visit all the typical villages.
The summer rush has gone, but the temperatures are still very pleasant, with mild sunny days, which means that you can swim in the sea until the end of October, or even mid-November in some cases.
It’s really worth your while to make the most of a more intimate Corsica, and to get close to nature and the island’s culture. You can let the island’s influence wash over you, and take the time to discover a more secretive Corsica; and above all you can stop anywhere you like and listen to the silence!




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