Thursday, 23 April 2009

Bonifacio & the Gouvernail

This week is the start of the Easter school holidays here in Corsica (yes, I know Easter was nearly 2 weeks ago now, but we like to be different!), so our usual Wednesday excursion was put off until Thursday this week. We decided to do a walk that I’d never done before near to Bonifacio. We couldn’t have been luckier with the weather as it was the best day so far this week, and almost no breeze.

We decided to stop just short of the lighthouse for a photo opportunity, because from this point looking back, you get one of the very best views of Bonifacio and the Grain de Sel. Those who know me well know that I’m terrified of heights, but I’m willing to suffer for my art and this photo was taken at the very edge of the cliff (no barriers)

Having made the mistake of telling Guillaume that you could find fossils here, we then had a very slow walk back to the car with eyes trained on the ground! We did in fact find some crystalised rocks and some interesting stones with fossilized shells and insects, so all was not in vain. After another short stop for a quick picnic in the maquis and fending off a hungry seagull, Guillaume decided to share his camembert and jambon sandwich and started throwing bits at the seagull. We were wondering what we would do if it got hit on the head and died, but concluded that we’d probably pop it in the oven for an hour or so until done – perhaps we should have made a few more sandwiches as we were obviously hungry!

The walk itself is well marked and for the most part (from the new lighthouse to the old) is a well made ‘road’ with no cars. We turned off before reaching the old lighthouse and headed down to the gouvernail, so called because it resembles a boat rudder and is located at the very southern-most tip of the island. From here, the path becomes more of a cliff track with loose stones and you are actually walking on the limestone and sandstone terraces created by erosion, so not one for those with walking difficulties. I wasn’t sure it would be worth the walk down to the bottom, but boy was I wrong.

This is one of the most impressive places I have seen in Corsica and actually reminded me of two separate places. Off to the right is an arid, sandstone landscape reminiscent of the Middle Eastern countries such as Jordan and Petra. The wind erosion has created strange shapes in the rock and terraced plateaux and the whole place has quite an eerie feel to it. I haven't seen anything like it since we visited the Cascade de Sautedet in the Ardeche. There is a huge hole in the rocks leading down to the sea and again no barriers so take care. The colours were simply amazing and no matter how well the photos came out, they just don’t show the vivid greens and blues of the sea and the richness of the orange and yellow hued rocks.

Once our nerves could take no more with Guillaume rushing around all over the place and too close to the edge, we headed to the other side of the gouvernail where I could see a little beach. It didn’t really look that impressive at first, but as we rounded the corner, the views were absolutely stunning and the thick golden sand was a real surprise after the rocky terrain just a few metres away.

It is amazing to think that it is only 23 April and not only was it warm enough to be in the sea, but that the white and yellow rocks reflected the heat to such an extent that we could only stay a little while (we’d helpfully left the sun cream in the car and I for one was not walking all the way back to get it!).

We were so lucky to have had such a fabulous day out. At this time of year all the wild flowers are in bloom and although we saw a few other people about, we had the beach virtually all to ourselves. Anyone attempting this visit between May & September should remember to take hats, suncream and plenty of water, but it’s more than worth the effort!

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