The Calanche

Corsica: North-west , France

William Mackesy’s account of this walk

From the far side of the Porto beach, we join a pleasing balcony walk above the sea, with clouds of wild flowers in season and views across the bay. 

Then it is a long and not especially interesting climb up a track then a thickly forested path to the main road, which you have to walk up a way, although it is not as busy out of season as one might think. Another steep path cuts a loop out, then it is another road trudge up to the bend where the rocky ridge trail to the Chateau Fort begins.

The main point of the day is to explore the weird world of the Calanache, an area of sheer spires and peculiar excresences at the seaward end of the ridge to the 1,300m Capu d’Orta peak which dominates the Porto basin. There are plenty such around the world, but what is special, in Walkopedia's experience, is that these are made of granite, which we have never seen so sculpted. We suspect that the vertical strata of the rock here may have something to do with it.

The rough trail to the ridge end is itself interesting, with flowering maquis and gorgeous view-glimpses, but it is the vast views from the far end of the walkable ridge, back to the best of the Calanches, and out across the Porto bay, which are really thrilling.

A bit on up the road, we make an unscheduled hour+ circuit steeply up and over a high and broken Calanche ridge above the Roches Bleues restaurant. It is so steep, and a bit dark in ascent, that, despite the wonders of the ridgetop, it doesn't quite stack up on the pain-to-pleasure calculator.

Back on the road, we lunch at a restaurant (Roches Bleues) on a superb vantage point surrounded by cliffs, but with huge views across the Porto bay. A really delightful interlude wallowing in wellbeing. 

Then it is back up another steep wood-and-maquis path among the Calanches spires and cliffs, this one that bit gentler, so we trudge to the top of the ridge reasonably easily, considering the demands – or is that the benefits of a glass of wine?

The high plateau above is a different world, dappled light in a stately pine forest; it is littered with orange Calanche lumps among the dark contre jour parade-ground-straight trees, with blue sky showing behind, a Cezanne-esque colour structure if ever there was.

The day finishes with a long but interesting descent in gorgeous flowering maquis, then a traverse on a nice path above the road to the attractive old town of Piana on a (relatively) flat spot amongst the crazy slopes. A VERY delicious supper is had.

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