Getting out of Porto is very straight-forward; one road goes right and climbs towards Piana and all roads going left go to the high mountains. It is this option that the Grande Traversée itinerary takes, and this time, in two stages, we will find ourselves in the very centre of the island.
Today, as it’s a little overcast, it will be cooler and we’ll also miss out a little when it comes to beautiful colours. Some photos were taken during a trip in July (blue sky).
And now for a change of scenery and effort levels...with the next short stage being only 34km but with 1,486 metres of climb. We start at sea level and climb Corsica’s highest point (highest road pass, 1,477m), from where we can observe the different levels of vegetation which provide this stage with all of its beauty.
But paradoxically it does not climb that much with an average percentage of 4.2%.
Immediately the scenery changes and we leave in a green and rocky immensity with these shredded red granite hills invaded by the maquis.
Opposite is Ota, a charming and typically Corsican village, of which Portu is the marina.
Not far from here are the famous Spelunca Gorges which offer staggering panoramas.
The road continues along the steep cliff side, and at each bend we see the next wide bends to come in the distance.
After a 10-kilometre climb followed by seven kilometres of respite on flat terrain, where we were able to catch our breath a little and admire the countryside, we reach Evisa, a pretty village and the point of departure for a great many hikes.
Coming out of the village, look to your left and you will see a beautiful house with a garden filled with....unusual animals. A nice gentleman whom we stop to talk to for five minutes provides this spectacle for passers-by, just for enjoyment.
If you’ve decided to spend the night locally, note that Evisa has a number of hotels and campsites.
No surprises for us in August but be wary in spring, as this year the pass was covered in snow by 5 May!
We observe another change in vegetation during the supra-Mediterranean stage at 1,000 metres altitude, when the shrubs give way to Corsican pines (supposedly the island’s finest), oaks, birches, chestnut trees, beeches and various other species which together form a thick forest. We are entering the magical Forest of Aïtone which covers 4,000 hectares. Take care on the road, as you will inevitably come across cows, pigs and even goats roaming freely.
Getting too hot? Why not go down to the forest’s natural pools (provided you’ve brought your walking shoes with you)?
Still a few kilometers in the forest and the Col de Verghju appears with its imposing monument of the Virgin. Meeting point of the GR20 and the Mare a Mare Nord which take the old transhumance trails, the pass is surrounded by a rocky cirque and forest and offers a magnificent view of the Niolu valley and the Cintu range with Monte Cinto (Highest summit of Corsica culminating at 2706m) and Paglia Orba (2525m) that can be seen from Galeria.
We pass a fair number of mountain bikers on these roads
You’ll find a refreshment stand where you can take a short break, then 1.5 kilometres further down you’ll arrive at the Castel de Verghiu, the hotel/restaurant, that marks the end of this demanding stage.
There’s a ski resort opposite the hotel (although it’s been closed since 2007), which is the island’s oldest (it was built in 1960 at the same time as the hotel), dating from before those at Asco, Val d’Ese and Ghisoni.