June 23, 2014
We got a late start on the trail waiting for the 7AM breakfast service. We could have ordered breakfast the night before, but after the long day yesterday we thought the rest would do us some good. I still can’t shake this cough. Such a luxury to sleep in until 6:15.
The weather forecast predicted good weather so we weren’t too concerned about thundershowers. The sky looked more hazy than normal with thin patches of cloud beginning to accumulate to the west.
The guide book bills today’s stage as a relatively easy walk and describes it as “charming” which means not the most dramatic scenery. However, one guy told me later that he thought it was one of the prettiest stages. In any case, it was one of the easiest stages we’ve done if not the easiest. It took us the estimated 5 hours and 45 minutes with breaks.
The day starts with an easy and unbelievably level walk through the woods. It’s a pleasure just to be able to walk effortlessly.
The ascent for the day is over several kilometers starting with a short distance on a stony path to the Bocca San Petru and then continuing up over the exposed hill and along a mountain ridge to the high point of the day.
It was steep in sections but frequent switchbacks level the grade. The exposed trail would have great views of the surrounding peaks but the haze lessens the impact.
As we descend from the highpoint to Lake Ninu the clouds continue to mass, not the usual thunderheads, but a seemingly thin layer with dark patches threatening rain intermixed with lighter patches giving the sky a curdled cream effect.
We see rain in the mountains behind us and rain in mountains in front of us, but for the moment we are dry. Just as we hit the lake a squall comes our way pelting us with large drops of rain and hail. It’s almost over by the time we get our rain gear on.
The shallow lake is charming – surround by green grass and a meandering stream that creates a swirl pattern through the lush meadow.
Dark clouds continue to threaten and drop bursts of rain from time to time but not the torrential down pours we saw earlier in the trip. Past the lake the trail becomes rockier but remains relatively level.
We run parallel to a stream for a while with great outcroppings worn smooth by the rushing water. We eventually reach Bergeries de Vaccaghja in a lush green valley.
The Refuge de Manganu is a bit further along across an expansive meadow with grazing cows. This is new terrain for us on the GR20 and is a stark contrast to the usual scrubby brush and stony hillsides.
As we approach the last push uphill to the refuge we see the military regiment that has been following us for the last couple of days fast on our heels. We keep moving as not to let them pass us and take all the good camping spaces. We arrive in camp at 1:15PM.
Refuge de Manganu
The refuge has a pretty setting along a river with a footbridge across it and a small cascade just below. Campsites are set in a grassy area behind the refuge with additional, more protected spots in the brush along the river.
Just as we set up the tent the sky grows dark and we prepare ourselves for more rain. It rains on and off for the next hour and half or so, heavy at times. We fall asleep listening to the sound of the rain on the tent. By the time we wake up the system has moved through revealing a beautiful sunny afternoon, albeit windy.
There are beautiful spots along the river both for sun bathing or writing in the shade – where I am sitting at this moment.
By 5:30PM the camp is overflowing with hikers – both civilian and military. Tents fill the grassy meadow but few venture into the shrubs along the river.
Dinner, 13€, is served at 6:30PM. Reserved in advance, you line up at the window and they give you a tray with a plate of pasta in a veggy sauce – actual squash in a tomato based sauce although still over seasoned with too much oregano, a stale half of a baguette and a canned fruit cup – nice change. In general, there is enough seating on the outside picnic tables and nearby rocks around the refuge to accommodate everyone.
Breakfast is a stale half of a baguette, the usual butter and jam and a choice of hot beverage. Trays are put out the night before and you can prepare the hot water for the coffee in the refuge kitchen whenever you like.
*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.