After stopping off at Galeria, we continue on to Porto. In order to rejoin the D81, however, we have to redo the last 5 kilometres in the other direction.
We start off on the flat to warm us up or get us back into the swing of things, then cycle along a long straight road, with Paglia Orba in our line of vision, before attacking the col de Palmarella: 11.3 km, 379 metres of incline, an average percentage of 3.35% and a maximum of 8%.
It isn’t especially difficult and the road is relatively even. But it is magnificent, with the landscape still quite green and the rocks beginning to redden...Scandola here we are!
Our arrival at the pass is breathtaking, with panoramic views over the Scandola reserve.
Photo taken during the BikingMan Corsica (April 29-May 2, 2019).
This pass is the entrance or exit (in our case) of the Balagne, and are now in West Corsica.
Located in the commune of Osani,the Scandola Nature Reserve
is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the first ‘dual’ reserve in France with 10km² of sea and 9 km² of land.
We then find ourselves on a road carved into a cliff face which brings us effortlessly down (but along some sections of false flat) to the next pass, the Bocca Croce (or Col de la Croix in French), where you can get a drink should you want one. This is the starting point for the sentier du facteur, or “Postman’s Path”, which leads to Girolata - a fantastic fishing village with Historic Monument status, only accessible via a small number of hiking trails or by sea.
Amidst the smell of the eucalyptus growing by the side of the road, the lively mixture of red, green and blue, the sound of birds and our taste for pushing ourselves, we are all experiencing a vivid sensory rush.
All is calm until we get to Bocca Paglighia, which passes through the villages of Curzu and Partinellu, until we come to a superb narrow pass with a series of bends on the edge of a steep cliff and rock falling back on the road from the other side, all sumptuous.
With one last push, we climb Bocca Lanzana, another narrow but majestic pass in the hills above Portu that can be admired below.
Here the term ‘mountain in the sea’ takes on its full meaning…the images speak for themselves.
Photos taken in April (you will notice that the flowers and colours are prettier than they are in August!)
We then arrive in the impressive Porto where we will be staying for the night at the Hotel Bella Vista. We receive a very warm welcome from Frédéric Colonna, who has a garage full of bikes (and motorbikes) and can offer us a beautiful view...as we fully expected and the most comfortable of rooms!
Porto is not lacking in tourist accommodation or restaurants, and you will easily find somewhere you love to charge your batteries before things get serious; the next task is attacking the mountain!
The promenade in Porto is lovely, with its little citadel bustling with cafes, restaurants and a square tower (which has historic monument status) from which you can admire the whole of the Gulf. And its little fishing harbour and marina play host to numerous boats with some intended for hire while others are used to lay on excursions to the Calanques de Piana and Capo Rosso in the South and to Scandola and Girolata in the Northern Gulf.
A footbridge allows you to cross by foot to get to the big pebble beach.
Excellente petite adresse pour manger : Chez Gina (sur les conseils de Frédéric à l'hôtel Bella Vista).
Points of interest for tourists in this stage:
The wild and unspoilt Western Coast.
The Gulf of Porto, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If you’re fit and curious, you can climb up to the Calanques de Piana, just after Porto. This isn’t on the GT20 itinerary but should you wish to make a detour by this legendary route you can complete a circuit via Sagone, Vico and Cristinace then rejoin the Col de Vergio near Evisa and consequently also the GT20 route.