Thursday, 11 June 2009

The Restonica Valley and the Gorges de la Restonica

It has been ages since I’ve been up to the Restonica Valley and bizarrely, it was not at all how I remembered it! The lower section from Corte to Tuani is quite easy and popular with sunbathers as the river here is relatively shallow (at this time of year) and the large flat rocks make perfect sunbeds. The colours were simply amazing and I was tempted to stop, but I wanted to head up to the gorge.

Only certain types of vehicles are permitted to continue past Tuani (i.e. not caravans). This section is one of the most hair-raising roads I have driven on in Corsica, and I think they should have a sign to say that it should only be attempted if you are adept at manoeuvring your car on the head of a pin, and have nerves of steel. If you can stand the nervous tension, the rewards are many and varied from interesting rocks formations such as this one which seems to be a face looking at a tiny tree, to waterfalls and beautiful woodland walks.

The problem is that for the most part, the road is not actually wide enough for two cars to pass, and there is a sheer drop with no barrier – eek. Fortunately, most people are sensible and with a bit of patience and to-ing and fro-ing, you can continue to enjoy the drive. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the goats or the Parisians, neither of whom seem to have even heard of the highway code. The goats do at least have an excuse.

It is a triumph of the French number plate system that you always know who you are dealing with, and the Parisians never ever give way, even when it is obvious that they should. There is a VERY narrow section just before the Pont de Tragone and I found myself face to face with a Parisian couple, unable to move forward or backwards. They had a passing area just about 2 metres behind them and everyone else had stayed well back seeing that the only option was for them to reverse and allow me and the cars behind to pass. Sadly they had other ideas and simply sat there indicating that they only had an inch of space to their right. I think I have probably been here too long as sitting patiently until they figured it out in true British fashion was clearly not an option, but after 5 minutes of frustrated shouting and Mediterranean style gesturing, they simply closed their windows so they couldn’t hear me any longer!

Eventually, a very fit looking local bloke got out of his car at the back of their queue, and came to make my point rather more forcefully than I had done. His impressive array of insults in French and Corsican together with a quick round of twenty questions (Are you blind? Do you have a driving licence? Can you see there are now 12 cars stuck? Do you expect her to take a hammer and smash the rock out of the way?) still failed to have the desired effect, so he wrenched open the door and ordered the woman out of the driving seat. 5 seconds later and he had neatly reversed round the bend at about 50kph and was waiting opposite the passing area for us to go through. I gave him a wave and a ‘merci’ which netted me a gleaming smile and ‘Je vous en prie’ (you’re welcome). My hand gesture to the Parisian couple was not quite so cheery.

Two minutes later and I was at the Pont de Tragone. I’d decided not to continue right to the end as I didn’t have time to do one of the longer walks such as the Lac de Melo or Lac de Capitello. This is a good spot to start/finish one of the shorter forestry walks as there is a nice little snack/restaurant ‘Chez Cesar’ with a terrace overlooking the river. Food is only served from midday until 4pm so be warned!!

Just next to the bridge you can scramble down to the rocks at the edge of the river and sit next to the waterfall. At this time of year there is still snow on the mountains so the water was very fast flowing so this is not one for kids. I found myself a good spot on one of the big flat rocks and spent an hour reading my book in the sunshine.

Of course what I’d forgotten was the wind. It wasn’t particularly strong but the breeze was blowing the spray all over me. It wasn’t until I was ready to go that I realised that I was completely soaked!

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