Stories, information and comments from Col de Vergio climbers
Story by Julie Gildred from Del Mar, United States, submitted on 01/03/2007
Ive ridden the Vergio several different times. This short blog was from my first time up on my 1996 Specialized Rockhopper with panniers. I spent the previous night halfway up the climb in a small gite in Evisa. Heres the blog about the up and the down:
Porto to Evisa (30 kays and 400 meters of climbing)
I take advantage of my overly spacious room this morning practicing a few asanas. My yoga is a bit rusty but I recall the the first few lines of the opening prayer and appropriately start with the sun salutation -- Ashtanga style. I havent stretched in weeks and my range of motion is laughable. A shot of caffeine and my usual baguette smothered with smashed bannana, Im on the road with the early morning hikers. The day begins with a 12.5 km slog east from sea level to the mountains, through the charming village of Ota followed by a spectacular descent to a Genoese bridge where 5 rivers collide. The ride ends with another 10 kay climb into the equally quaint hill town of Evisa (pop. 400). Despite my conscious efforts to take it easy, I have only one gear -- its between 170 - 180 beats per minute. Aside from the semi-wild animals, I pass only a few elderly locals out for their morning walks, each one cheering me on in Corsican. Whoever said "dont look back" didnt know what they were missing. The views back to Porto merit several stops for photos.
Although somewhat fractionalized, a movement for Corsican independence from France still exists. At the D124- D84 junction, I see their first mark; street signs appearing in both French and Corsican (Corsu is a blend of French and Italian, more akin to Italian) are spray-painted with slashes through the French spelling. A little further along, the national emblem, a Moors head wearing a bandana appears painted on the side of a rock. The road engineers were in a foul mood the day the D84 was designed, tackling the mountains surrounding the Gorges de Spelunca head on. But I know now that with the mountains comes the incredible scenery -- as I wind through thick pine forests and chestnut trees before flattening out for a perfectly delightful section in the shade. Very few cars dare to negotiate the narrow hairpin turns, and I enjoy the road and fresh pine smell in virtual solitude.
The church bells greet me as I reach Evisa at precisely 10:00. Im able to drop my bike and bags at yet another wonderful Gite and head straight out to explore the hiking opportunities. Evisa is a popular as a junction town for the hikers on the Mar de Mar Nord and Mar de Monti Nord hiking trails and is even prouder of its claim as the chestnut capital of Corsica. In keeping with Evisas heritage, I choose the chemin de fir chestunt trail, taking me through 47 different varieties of chestnut trees well sign-posted with explanations about chestnut production and extraction. The path leads me to a large limestone boulder slanted dangerously over the Gorges de Spelunca. Drawn by the shade and breathtaking views, it is here I find a safe spot for a siesta before finalizing the days route notes and a few Corsican beers.
Evisa to Corte (69 kms and over the highest Col in Corsica, Col de Vergio)
Admittedly I was anxious about todays ride. Climbing to 1450 meters (thats over 4,700 feet for you non-metric types) the ride would take me over the infamous Col de Verghio, the highest pass on the island and the natural boundary between northern and southern Corsica. Trees do not grow here and the wind is fierce.
Departing Evisa in my granny gear, it took me just over an hour to reach the summit. I caught myself slogging more than once, bottoming out my pedal stroke nearly drunk off the heady pine smell. If it werent so early in the morning, the climb was really decpetively easy. I celebrated the ascent with a few stretches and photos at the windy summit and then tugged on my helmet strap for the never-ending descent. It was the type of gradual descent you could enjoy without braking -- a few effortless turns of the pedal, then coast, optional pedal turns, more coasting. For over 35 kms I enjoyed the Foret d Antone dominated by its laricio pine, beech, fir and waterfalls to be followed by the Foret de Valdu Nielu, the road kissing the rambling river the entire way down.
As the former capital of the 18th century Corsican nation, Corte remains one of the most Corsican of Corsicas towns. With a population of just over 6,000 and home of the islands only university, it is an odd mix of young students and older inhabitants desperately clinging to their national identity. I immediately notice the energy as I descend upon the bustling main street. Fit people everywhere are preparing for hikes, tuning their bikes or heading off with kayaks and rappelling equipment in tow. These are not the gym fit types who gauge their fitness by bar bells and bench presses, but rather rugged outdoors men/women who share a common passion for natural beauty and sport. Its Thursday when I arrive and quickly conclude that this is a good stopping point for a long week-end.