June 9, 2014
As no busses were running on this Monday holiday, Hotel Le Goeland had arranged for an early morning taxi to our start at the GR20 trailhead in Conca, about a 20 minute drive from Porto Vecchio.
We were leaving before the 7 AM breakfast buffet service so the hotel staff had kindly arranged for coffee and some of the buffet items to be available for us. I don’t know if it was the early hour – still suffering from jetlag – or the excitement of starting the trail, but I had no appetite.
The taxi was fine but expensive at 65€. He dropped us at a gîte/campground at the entrance to Conca. We later discovered that we should have had him drive us up the steep one kilometer paved hill between the GR20 Bar and the start of the dirt track, but stopping at the gîte allowed us to buy some bread. Arriving in Conca at 7AM we start up the dirt track at 7:30AM.
The day’s walk to the Refuge di I Paliri was difficult but not punishing, with a mixture of steep climbs, steeper descents and more level sections.
Trail conditions varied from forest floor to rocky trails to bare granite boulders but involving no real rock scrambling.
However, it was the stunning scenery and gorgeous weather that held our attention. A magical day.
The kind of view trail I just can’t get enough of lined with splashes of wildflowers including lavender and rock rose.
The vistas of craggy spires started just after the first climb up, 2K into the trail. At Bocca d’Usciolu you pass through a narrow break in the rock and there it is, the first mountain vista.
The views disappear and reappear throughout the day as you plunge back into forest and re-emerge along the open ridges and passes.
It was a warm day with temps in the low 80s but the dry weather and breeze kept us from overheating. Plenty of water sources along the way. We passed numerous groups of trekkers (or rather they passed us), mostly French, heading in both directions. Your certainly aren’t alone on the trail, but it did not feel overly crowded either.
Refuge di I Paliri
We arrived at the Refuge di I Paliri at about 2PM after 6 hours of hiking and with a ½ hour lunch break and numerous short stops to take in the views and snap photos.
The camping area, a grassy meadow strewn with boulders and pockets of pines for shade, was not full at all when we arrived but steadily filled as the day turned into evening. Stragglers were still arriving as we finished dinner. By 8PM there were 30-40 tents. Tent spaces are 7€/person.
The refuge itself is basic with several picnic tables in front of the office/store and a few more in front of the bunk rooms. Facilities include squat toilets and a washing station with a shower and outdoor sink about 100m down the valley from the refuge.
Dinner, 16€, is served family style at the picnic tables in front of the office/store. The first course is dry sausage, a wedge of local cheese and bread. The plat principal is a big bowl of spaghetti with a meat sauce – canned beef and a couple of olives. In retrospect this turned out to be one of the better refuge dinners.
After dinner we were given a white plastic bag with a hunk of bread, 2 pats of butter and 2 packets of jam – breakfast, 6€. Coffee is available in the refuge kitchen but you need to reheat it yourself.
*Note: The GR20 consists of 15 or 16 stages over 118 miles, generally done north to south starting in Calenzana and ending in Conca. For this blog I’ve retained the commonly used stage numbers from the Cicerone Guide Book even though we did the stages out of order, starting in the south stages 15-10 and then restarting in the north 1-9.