The Natural Park of Corsica (Parcù di Corsica in Corsican) covers about 40% of the whole island and the aim is to protect the flora and fauna of the island. The program comprises eleven micro-regions of outstanding natural beauty, of which the Alta Rocca is/was one.
I say ‘was’, because this is the area most badly affected by the fires that swept through the island in July 2009. I’ve since passed through the other areas north of Ajaccio and close to Sartène, but nothing could prepare me for the devastation of the Alta Rocca, and honestly it gave me ‘Mal au Coeur’ as the French say.
What was once a lush and verdant valley is now a blackened, barren landscape, dotted with trees that take their autumnal colours not from the season, but from the intense heat generated by a fire that destroyed close to 6000 hectares of spectacular forests over several days.
The fire surrounded the village of Aullène, but miraculously stopped just short of the village. No one can really explain how or why, but legend says that the ascension egg (l'oeuf d'ascension - one collected before day break on Ascension Day) can stop the spread of a fire.
Apparently, the egg dries without the usual ‘bad egg’ smell, and it is believed that it protects against lightning and fire. The idea is that you throw the egg at the fire and it will change direction. I’m not convinced but apparently it worked in Bilia years ago, and maybe someone in Aullène tried it…