July 2, 2008
We left Mahon, Menorca just before noon on Saturday, June 28 with 13-16 kt. winds just aft of the beam. A residual north swell of 1.5 to 2 meters lingered from the mistral which kept us in harbor longer than anticipated. As the sun rose the following morning the wind died and did not pick up again. With just a tiny sliver of the moon we were blanketed by stars. Both nights of the crossing were absolutely wonderful, so beautiful and peaceful. Gliding quietly with light winds in the ominous darkness on the first night and with no sails to obstruct the starry view on the next. We planned 3 hour watches but both took 5 hours enjoying the solitude. Jim slept perfectly each time he crawled into the bunk but I didn't sleep soundly until the swell died halfway through our crossing. Too quickly we arrived at Bonifacio on the island of Corsica.
The citadel above the harbor of Bonifacio
Arriving in Bonifacio at the southern tip of Corsica about 11:30 on June 30 we were struck by the awesome view. Vertical walls of white limestone rose directly up from the sea. Erosion has caused the tops to overhang. To starboard a citadel precariously perched 70 meters above the turquoise water enclosed clusters of old buildings.
Overhanging limestone cliffs topped with a town
Motoring up the narrow mile long fjord we admired the pastel colored multi-story buildings lining the marina at the foot of the cliffs. Their color in stark contrast to the monotone buildings above.
Pastel colored buildings line the marina of Bonifacio
Buildings of the Old City
The Old City high above the marina
Soon we were exploring the town beginning with the marina area then walking up to the steep streets of the old city high above called Ville Haute.
Traditional fishing boats
Buildings along the way to the Ville Haute
Looking down at the marina from the citadel
After a fairly active pre-history Corsica was occupied by the Greeks, Carthaginians, Etruscans, Romans, Vandals, Goths, Lombards and Arabs. In the 8th century it passed into the hands of the Pope who in 1077 entrusted it to the Bishop of Pisa. Under the Pisans the arts and economy flourished. Battles ensued continuously between the city states for control of various parts of Italy. Finally during the mid 15th century Genoa established firm control over Corsica and maintained it for 300 years.
In 1755 Corsican Pasquale Paoli led an uprising against the Genoese and declared Corsica an independent state. Over the next 9 years he encouraged industries, built a fleet, instituted a system of national education complete with a university in Corte and kept up a defensive war with Genoa.
Genoa could never regain control over the island so it was sold to France in 1768. In 1769 the French gained control of Corsica and holds it today. Paoli fled to England. On August 15 of that same year a boy was born in Ajaccio a port city on the western coast. His name in Italian, then Corsica's national language, was Napoleone Buonaparte.
The old city seen from Bonifacio Straits between Corsica and Sardinia
Yesterday we rented a car to see the interior of the island. Driving north along the west coast we wound though green hills that soon became mountains full of granite outcroppings.
Looking west out over the Mediterranean Sea
We passed through the quaint town of Sartene
Stone building along the way
After four hours and 120 kilometers we reached the capital city of Ajaccio. A dense but not unattractive city it sits on a large bay with a sizable port. Ferries, cruise ships, tankers, cargo ships and yachts all make their way along the water. Driving through the congested streets we decided not to stop at the marina here as we sail north along the majestic coast. Just a bit more civilization than we desire.
Street in Ajaccio, the capital of Corsica
From Ajaccio we turned inland to cross the mountains. Steep, jagged granite peaks dense with lush green foliage seemed endless. Tiny towns with buildings made of native stone clung to verdant cliffs. A hawk floated on the air alongside our car high above the canyon below. Wildflowers of yellow, red, lavender, and white dotted the landscape.
Lush foliage in the mountains
Steep granite mountains
At the high point of the road traversing the mountains we stopped to hike back to a waterfall. How good we both felt being back in the mountains again. Shaded by tall pines with views of the steep peaks and granite domes backed by the deep blue sky we hiked along the river. As the trail steepened the river flowed over large slabs of polished granite. Water cascaded down between pools of the smooth rock. What a beautiful sight!
Les Cascades des Anglais
Katie wading in a pool
Off came the trail runners and into the water I waded. Several people were strung along the river and all were wearing swimsuits. I had not thought to bring mine along although one was in the car. I wished aloud that I could just shed my clothes and dive in but Jim didn't think that was a good idea so I waded in holding up my skirt a little. Stepping from stone to stone in and out of the water I was having a great time.
A natural slide into a large pool
Sliding on some moss I lost my balance and fell in. On purpose, perhaps? Now I could swim! How clean and refreshing it felt compared to saltwater. I could not get enough of swimming underwater. Diving and swimming behind the waterfalls was great fun. Jim was in his own perfect world soaking up the fresh mountain air and walking barefoot on the warm, smooth granite. He doesn't seem to have that urge to dive into any body of nice water that I do.
Swimming in my versatile Patagonia outfit. After wringing it out I was good to go, not unlike a rainy day in Antwerp!
Jim here. Sailing, seas, ports and Tenaya are the highlights of my life currently but I still have a deep love of the mountains. Putting on hiking shoes and scrambling over rocks, jumping boulder to boulder and just feeling so free seems so natural. I'm still learning a lot about sailing and I need to think through every action to make sure I do things correctly but I feel very comfortable in the mountains. Finding the right hand holds and foot holds, keeping my weight out over my feet when going up or down a steep slab of rock, or bouncing rock to rock takes no conscious thought. It comes naturally after many years of climbing and backpacking. The best feeling was when we stopped and took off our shoes. Bare feet on warm granite feels great.
Jim enjoying time in the mountains
Katie is dwarfed by the huge granite slabs and pine trees
Eventually the sun dipped below the mountains and we headed back to the car to continue our drive down the other side of the mountains and along the southeastern coast back to Bonifacio.
A stone building along the road
After crossing this pretty bridge we stopped to photograph it. Right behind us two Dutch cars stopped to do the same.
A bridge over the river Tavignanu in the hills below the mountains