January 5, 2018

GR20 reprise

As promised I wanted to share one more post-trip summary of the GR20 hike. Clearly this particular journey has been a significant experience for me as there are already four blog entries and now this summary text will be the fifth and final cheese-smelling entry. Next time in this blog there will be something completely different! I promise.
Looking back at the hike across Corsica


(link to blog)
(link to map)
kmhelevation gain
elevation loss
VizzavonaPetra Piena20,017:551376437
Petra PienaManganu10,746:38660905
ManganuCastellu di Vergio16,615:21560747
Castellu di VergioVallone16,698:06829826
ValloneHaut Asco11,466:5611681207
Haut AscoBonifatu14,467:108441733

Generic take-aways

Some internet sources introduced GR20 as exceptionally stoic hike. Perhaps it has been like that in the past, but now (in 2017) it needs to be clarified that at every camp there is a possibility for a (cold) shower, the tents and huts are generally in very good condition and that there is access to beer. The choice limits to either Pietra Blonde or Pietra Ambrée. No hipster grade craft beers. So perhaps it is still barbarically stoic after all.

Internet rumours on paths not existing were often true. The route zig zagged through rugged terrain with hikers jumping from one loose boulder to another. In any case the way marks were very clear and frequent -- to the extent that it is difficult to get lost.

Our timing towards end of June worked well. The weather was not overly hot and the trail not overly crowded. Interestingly during each morning hours we met few people running (!) the opposite direction. These folks were typically doing 2 legs or even 3 legs on a same day.

Finally a shared observation in our little group was that by the end of day number 3 our bodies were properly accustomed to walking long distances, ascending and descending and carrying our backpacks. Even though we did only half of the official GR20, I have little doubt whether we could have continued for another 6 days if we had wanted to.

Top six issues faced 

By popular vote in our group of three people these were the top issues that surfaced during the hike in random order:
  • Knees hurting especially when descending over uneven loose rock
  • Nasty bedbugs biting in one the camp sites 
  • "Muscular" shoulders and collarbones aching under heavy backpack
  •  Sun burning neck and wrists
  • Not sleeping well in hot tents 
  • Waking up way too early during vacation 

Few lessons learned for future trips

There were few shared mental notes for our upcoming hikes. Again in no particular order:
  • Take along some kind of pillow. I had an inflatable model which served the purpose better than using clothes as a pillow
  • Ensure there is a possibility to make the belt tighter. All three of us suffered from a mild wardrobe malfunction as we were missing extra holes in our belts. 
  • Invest into improved ear plugs. The semi-finals in international snoring competition does not make it easier to fall asleep in a hot tent.
  • Pack a good pair of gloves to provide cover from the elements and to make scrambling slightly easier on hands.

Dramatis personae 

Hiking in the wilderness is not a lonely affair. Especially when hiking along the common famous paths there are plenty of other people sharing the trail with you. During all those hours spend trotting along the route it is easy to start speculating and extrapolating stories regarding the fellow hikers. Here are some of the memorable individuals we had the pleasure of encountering during our GR20:
  • River Girl (Jokityttö) leading tourist train (turrejuna) # 1
  • Hairy Mask (Karvanaamari) leading tourist train # 2
  • General Snore (Kenraali Kuorsu) (a passanger in train # 1) - a formidable foe in the nightly snoring competition
  • Bush Guide (Puskaopas), who ended up leading her team after the silly Finns, who took a wrong turn
  • Girl with a nice bottom (Pyllis)
  • Girl with a lot of tattoos (Tatskatyttö)
  • Father and two sons from Australia
  • Father and one son from Belgium
  • Underwear Hippie (Kalsarihippi) from Holland

Well earned relaxation in Algajola after six days of hiking

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