Alarm breaks what was finally a sound sleep at dumb o’clock (4am). I would love to smash that snooze button but know there is no time. After packing all the last minute stuff, I get ready and head down to finalise my account. Thanks to everyone at Kuta Station Hotel…… you looked after me well.
At the airport I make it through all the gates and check in procedures and wait. Wait and reflect. It has been an amazing couple of weeks that started out what seems like months ago.
Wow, how that time has flown. I met some great people, saw some amazing things, faced challenges that literally made me shit myself, indulged and ticked a whole lotta boxes!!!!!!! Again, to everyone that kick started my dream in February this year…..THANK YOU!!!!!
This has been such an amazing journey! Still have a few boxes that need ticking, but that’s partially because I kept drawing new boxes while I was away!
It’s raining lightly as we take off and I am doing a little panic that I haven’t allowed myself enough time in Perth for arrival/security checks and quarantine procedures. My flight to Karratha leaves not long after I fly in to Perth. Hopefully the divine intervention that has played a part in my story so far, can grant me one more act of grace.
Nothing I can do about it now…..it is in the hands of the Universe. I’m going to indulge in the on board snack because I am starving, then I might attempt to carry on from where my alarm so rudely interrupted this morning. Bon Appetite and sweet dreams……
My arrival at Perth airport was followed by a frantic run to the other end of the terminal to board my flight to Karratha….theoretically my holiday is over, but I’m reluctant to let it end so I am going to include today as my last day. My detour to Karratha is so I can attend a work related PD day tomorrow.
My friend and colleague, Katherine, picks me up at Karratha airport and once settled in our rooms we indulge in a quiet beverage by the pool. A great family friend, Sharron, from my teen years and her beau, Harry, meet us there. There are lots of laughs and reminiscing, a few drinks and a great feed. My journey was absolutely amazing, but when you share time amongst the special people in your life, sitting back enjoying the freedom we have, you can’t help but get a little warm and fuzzy….. appreciating how lucky we are to be Aussies!!
Amongst that laughter, the sun set on the final day of my holiday. I feel lucky that I am able to experience the life changing events that I do. Fortunate to be surrounded by people that love and support me. It is because of these people I found the motivation to set out to achieve goals and accept challenges, the courage to stop procrastinating and do something I’ve talked about for years. It is because of these people I have grown….(certainly not in height) and blossomed internally. I feel a sense of pride that has been lacking for quite a while now.
Like everything in life, with hindsight I may have done a few things differently, but overall I’m glad I made some of the choices I did. Some of those choices being the reason I was faced with obstacles that forced me to face, and inevitably, conquer some fears.
Will I continue to travel? Yes, I believe so!
Any immediate plans? My next goal will involve travelling with grandchildren…..hopefully in 2018.
Travelling alone….yay or nay? I’m glad I tackled this journey alone. It became more of a journey of self discovery than one of sightseeing. The phenomenal sights were just a bonus!!!! That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t consider travelling with someone else next time, but it does mean that I am confident enough to fly solo if need be.
Hire a car or jump on a guided tour? I’m kind of glad I hired a car-it gave me freedom, independence and more importantly……heart rendering moments that left me with a feeling, once I had overcome them, of self-assurance. The flip side of being a nervous wreck and keeping your eyes glued to the tiny strip of tar ahead, is that you miss the opportunity to smell the roses. For this reason I guess I’m lucky I considered this more of a self discovery journey than a sightseeing expedition…..because I bloody missed a lot of it!!!!
Wing it or plan ahead? I planned the foundation of the trip, but for the most part I just went with the flow. If time and money permitted? I would wing the lot!!! There is something exhilarating about not knowing what’s in store next! Scary? Hell yes, sometimes it was!! But Geez I learnt some stuff along the way…..about the places I was visiting, the random people I accidentally stumbled upon and of course, I learnt a shitload about myself and my resilience. I don’t think I would have returned home with the same sense of achievement had I left with an explicit holiday plan in mind, with everything running like clockwork.
Travel to a place where you know little or none of the spoken language? Hmmmm….undecided. Knowing the local language would certainly have made life easier for me on numerous occasions, but would I wait until I know the language before travelling? No, I don’t think so.
Hard copy maps or GPS? When GPS is working well it’s great, but for me? I think I’d prefer up to date maps. The ones you unfold and hold in your hands….the ones that don’t require reception of any kind, the ones that don’t rely on battery to be useful….yep, old school maps all the way for me!!!
Backpack or luggage with wheels? This is a tricky one. There were times when I was glad I had my backpack, and other times I was cursing myself for not going with wheeled luggage. Depends where you’re travelling and what you’re doing I guess.
I lugged my laptop everywhere with intentions of blogging daily. Clearly, this did not happen. Between now and my next adventure I will experiment a little so I can take a million photos without running out of space or paying a fortune for memory storage, and still be able to access internet so I can update whenever/wherever I like…….not really sure what the answer is, but there has to be a more effective way than the way I did it.
Was 2 weeks enough? Hell no!!!!!! Given the time, money and opportunity I would book one way and just let the experience dictate my movements and ultimately, my return, but given that I only had 2 weeks available, I’m glad I didn’t wait. I’m glad I grabbed that fortnight by the balls and milked every drop out of it! Of course I would’ve liked longer, but I’m glad I didn’t delay my trip waiting for the ‘right moment’. No regrets.
Anything I wish I hadn’t done? That’s a NO from me! I loved it all!!!
The people I spent time with along the way….. family, old friends, new friends & even strangers, are part of my story and the reason it was so special, so thank you xxx
The people who gave me the nudge to stop procrastinating….THANK YOU!!
I am truly blessed to have these people in my life!!!
And here I am…… what a journey it has been, but I’m back and I remember. I remember why. For, as blue as the ocean is in other places, as white as the beaches are in other places…..other places just aren’t Hedland. So I’m back.
First day back and the weather is ominous at best. It’s Dad’s birthday ……our 5th year without that amazing man!!! Soooo….yep, you got it! I head to the beach. The great thing about Hedland is….it can be pissing down rain but you still wanna stroll along the beach- combing for goodies. Appreciating the little things. Feeling the rain in your face and revelling in the fact you’re not freezing your arse off!!!
I’m not sure if it’s something I’ve heard along the way and adopted as my own or whether in some demented moment I decided it was a ‘thing’, but nonetheless, whatever it was, I convinced myself you should never go back. Don’t return to live in places you left. Never backtrack. You left for a reason right? And what the hell is it about Hedland that makes you want to come back anyway? My brother sure could never understand it 😆. Sorry Steve, as confusing as it may seem, there is something alluring about this end of the state 😍. People argue that it isn’t picturesque-I disagree. I find it phenomenally beautiful. The people are amazing and I’ve always said I think it’s because of the isolation we forge family bonds with friends-strangers even. And interesting!! A storyteller could find material up here to last a lifetime. When it’s all said and done though, none of the above are solely responsible for the Pilbara’s seduction of my heart.
My walk along the beach brought clarity. I think at a time when I was lost and had no direction I stumbled into the Pilbara clutching to life by a thread (by stumbled- I mean dragged by the hair by Juli Coffin 🤣🤣). Whatever the reason that brought me here all those years ago…..it was where I found my inner strength. I became a better me because I had to. There’s no room in the Pilbara for piss weak Princesses!! My kids and I became a part of this community and together we faced, and conquered, so many hurdles.
I learnt real quick to pull on my big girl pants (and later to fill them to capacity!) and get the fuck on with living.
So, today, on the Ninth day of the Second month in TwentySeventeen,
I say Happy Birthday to my beautiful Dad, I say farewell (for now) to my amazing Mum and family, I gulp back tears as I leave 4 of my kids and their partners and foremost I wonder how I will go not seeing my 7 adorable grandchildren regularly. I think of friends in Geraldton and with fresh rain drops on my face, I step into the next chapter of my life. I hope to find the same fortitude I found years ago so I may embrace whatever lies ahead.
Wish me well
Love you 40-leven
ps….this is my first attempt at ‘blogging’ (if that’s what this is???). If it is, once I get the hang of it, it should be a piece of piss. Pretty much just having a yarn right? How hard can it be? I’m sure I’ll find out 😆. Any and all advice gratefully appreciated! My inner strength, thus far, has not conquered the crying scared little girl that hides inside this mammoth carcass…..SO BE GENTLE!!! If you are, by nature, a negative fucker……..kindly take yourself somewhere else and leave your derogatory remarks 👍🏼👍🏼 Constructive feedback VERY welcome-just not negative shit. xxxxxxxxxx
A tradition amongst many work places is the Secret Santa gift-giving tradition.
The school where I work , Hedland Senior High, is no exception. Run by one of our deputies, the Secret Santa spreads across the last week of the year. All who participate are secretly given another staff member. From Monday to Friday you shower your secret recipient with small gifts or gestures, dropping clues along the way. On Friday, the final day, you reveal yourself if they haven’t already nutted it out.
I love Christmas and I love doing nice things for others, so naturally I participated. The best part, however, is not the giving and receiving of presents, but the opportunity to get to know your colleagues better. In whatever field I have worked throughout my career, I have firmly believed that a team that works well outside of work can work wonders at work.
To be honest, when I first received the letter that divulged who I would be showering with gifts this week, I was dumbfounded. I had no idea who this lady was. I asked around and my queries were enthusiastically answered. Naturally, I facebook stalked Haley and was pleased to be looking into the eyes of someone I recognised from around the school. This lady had caught my attention in the past because her smile is radiant.
The more I dug for information , the more I loved this lady. Teachers, students and admin alike , all reinforced what Haley’s smile already says about the beautiful person inside.
Haley is a Math teacher at HSHS and a credit to herself. Over the past week I have been told Haley is fun, bubbly, a bit of a party girl, loyal, happy, a great friend and an awesome teacher. I have worked amongst many Teachers and can identify many differences between a teacher who teaches to pay their own bills and a teacher who is passionate about their students-the ones that teach from the heart. Haley, I am happy to say, is the latter. We should never underestimate our ability, as educators, to help our students reach their full potential. I have loved learning about you Haley and hope you have also enjoyed your role as the gift bearer this week.
I am glad this tradition has remained firm amongst Australian workplaces and encourage people to jump on board if given the chance.
If you work with young people….be the mentor you needed when you were younger, because a teacher who LOVES teaching, teaches their students to love learning.
I fly out tomorrow, my journey has almost run it’s course. Today is a casual day with not a lot on the agenda. I start the day with breakfast, before heading up to Kuta to the Skate Shop-Motion, to purchase a new skateboard deck for my son. I indulge at the Starbucks across the road while my son looks at the photos I messaged him, of the decks available. Purchase complete, I make my way back toward the hotel. On the way back I buy a couple of small things for my grandchildren and a few trinkets for the students in my class.
It is as I am almost at my hotel, that I remember getting my hair straightened during my last visit here with my sister. I head back and book myself in……as usual, they are ready to get straight onto it. Balinese-born ready!!!! I love it!!
The establishment is Eve, near Kuta Station Hotel. They are a friendly bunch who laugh easily amongst themselves and with clients that come and go. It is evident that they have made similar impressions on others as the clients who enter, speak with familiarity to the staff. I am happy to just to sit back and listen quietly while friendly banter fills the air.
Hours later I emerge feeling like a million dollars! It is raining now so I run to the hotel to avoid getting my newly straightened hair wet. I sit and enjoy my evening meal and then indulge in one last massage before I leave. I need to be at the airport in the morning before the sun comes up so there will be no massages tomorrow! The masseuse at the hotel that I get, is Darmi. She is BLOODY FANTASTIC!! I even recommend her to a couple considering a massage as I walk out.Will definitely be coming back here for more!! You were right Payney!!!
I’m not gonna lie….the massage was the end of me. I made my way back to my room. Made sure everything was good to go in the morning and climbed into bed.
I drifted off to sleep thinking about the past couple of weeks. Even though it had gone quickly, it felt like it had lasted a lifetime!!
Last moment in Corsica. My alarm interrupts my sleep and ,while I’m tempted, I know there is no time for the luxury of hitting the snooze button. I drag myself up, have a quick shower to wake up and freshen up. I know for the next 30 hours, minimum, I won’t be able to shower. The stretch that starts out this morning…..will ultimately finish in Bali tomorrow evening.
I have a few last minute changes to my packing and head off. I find the airport easily and arrive with plenty of time to spare. I wait patiently for check in with another couple of guests, and it is a good 20-30 minutes before someone opens the check-in counter and serves me. The frustration of knowing I could have taken my time is soon forgotten as the reality that this is it, sets in. Bags checked I head back now to go and deliver the hire car. It takes me ages to get out as the machine won’t accept my credit card. After having to go back inside the terminal to pay cash, I am eventually out of the car park and lined up at the boom gates which leads to the Hire Car section of the parking area. I am parked behind another car and not much is happening. Slowly, one by one, cars begin to pile up behind me. There are people everywhere trying to talk to someone on the speaker to sort out why the gate won’t open. I remain seated as the conversations are all in an angry form of French…..turns out some words are the same Universally!!! I’m not sure how, but someone managed to get the boom gate up and stood in place to allow all the cars to enter. By this time there are about 20 odd cars filing through. I know I am now pushing it for time, so I quickly lock the car and make my way to the hire company offices. Nobody is around and a gentleman shows me where to put my key. It all seems a little unorganised but I have no time to stand here trying to debate it.
I am running now, through the airport to find my gate. I order a kick Cappucino and throw a croissant into my mouth. They are now calling for us to board but I am finishing this drink!! I’m not sure I ever remember smashing through a breakfast that quick.
Finally I board and am seated beside a Frenchman who now lives in Ajaccio…..originally from mainland France. The flight feels as though we’re no sooner in the air before being told to prepare for landing.
Since I do not have to waste time waiting for baggage I buy bus tickets for bus 98 into Nice and return. Nice is pretty. It’s large but has a small community feel about it. The streets are alive and colourful and walking through them exploring the sights, smells and tastes of Nice is exhilarating. I make my way to Castle Hill and climb to the top. They are doing some maintenance works at the very top so there is no access. I am high enough, though, to bask in the beauty of this historical city. Nice, with its many tales, still captivates people enough that the city is thriving with tourists. It is hard not to get caught up in the magic. I am aware that my strides are not leisurely like those around me, but I am on a mission-I still have boxes that need ticking before I leave Europe in a few short hours.
I cannot resist a ride on the Carousel that looks like it leapt straight out of a Childen’s Fairy Tale book. It is exquisite.
“Parlay Vous Anglaise?” I ask the man in the ticket booth.
About to dismiss the idea of a ride I resort to google translator and ask the man a series of questions, to find;
Yes adults can ride on it
Yes I can take a video while I ride
Yes he will take a photo of me on it
Yes he will stop it when I’ve had enough, because I have things to do.
Before I leave I thank him and his smile beams back. He is adorable!
“Au Revoir. Monsieur….merci” I say, and he nods, still smiling. “What is your name?”
“Jack”. Of course it is! Now I am beaming. Between me and google translator I ask him to write it down. I look at the note he slides across to me, expecting to see, Jacques.
“Just like my Dad” I tell him, knowing he hasn’t got a clue what I’m saying. Even the handwriting seems familiar. I take the simple note with ‘Jack’ scrawled across it and once again bid him farewell.
I find a post office, post my postcards to the grandkids and wander through Bielefeld ville one more time toward the Promenade. I am determined to have escargot and frogs legs in France before I go. Time, again, is beating on my door and I know I’m pushing my luck. I scan the shopfronts and am drawn to the friendly disposition of a young man explaining to potential customers what they have to offer. The couple decline and I ask, “Parlay Vous Anglaise?”
“You would like to sit inside or outside madam?”
“You would prefer upstairs overlooking the Promenade?”
Figures. He leads me upstairs and I fall in love with this place as I enter. The decor and ambience of this place is a pleasant surprise. The shop front, while nice, does not reflect the heart and soul of the interior. Before long I am presented with my escargot, frogs legs, some other surprise entree and my large beer! I am happy. The sun is beating down on me and the scene before me is spectacular. The food is delicious, the beer is cold and the staff are friendly. The setting really is just a bonus.
I watch with amusement as armed soldiers patrol the streets below. They cross the road in front of traffic which has a green light……any arguments?? NOPE!!
I could happily have stayed longer, the atmosphere relaxing and casual, but I need to find a bus stop and catch the 98 back to the airport. I thanked Benjamin and made my way back out to the street. If you’re in Nice and want a relaxing meal that truly reflects France….check out ‘The Warehouse’ overlooking the Promenade. Delightful!!!!
The directions I am given lead me in the wrong direction and I am feeling a little frenzy setting in. I ask a lady in a “pushbiketaxithingy” if she knows where I need to be. She gives me directions, I ask how much for her to take me there and she explains that she has a set route and minimum price. I acknowledge this and thank her anyway…..she clearly feels sorry for me and follows me to tell me she will take me there. I am mesmerised by this lady’s ability to dodge traffic in this thing, the jury is still out on whether I think this would be easier getting around in or harder? You have more room to move, but you’re also so exposed to nearby vehicles.
Anyway she obviously knows what she’s doing and manoeuvres easily through traffic and delivers me to my bus stop. I am leaving Europe anyway, so I give her whatever notes I have. She appears very grateful and I make time for a quick selfie before she disappears into the crowd.
Bus 98 arrives shortly after and I get on with a few minutes to spare.
At my gate, I throw a Pumpkin spiced frappuccino from Starbucks down the hatch and we commence boarding. I had forgotten the thrill of being on a Qatar plane…..wonder what this journey has in store.
By the time the captain announces we are about to take off, the two seats beside me are still vacant.
I spend the trip catching up with some journal writing and after 5.5 hrs we land in Doha. I get a chance to look around this trip-3 hrs to be exact. It is massive! To get to our boarding gate we have to catch an indoor train, then the ‘conveyor’ walkways. Feels like I’m now in another suburb! The wait is long and I’m now starting to feel really tired. When we board just after 3am, I am keen to get on and settle in to try to sleep.
The couple beside me are lovely and speak English! Not that that really matters because all three of us wrap up in the courtesy blankets and close our eyes…..no small talk here.
After 9.5 hrs my arse is sore and my feet are swollen. I limp off at Bali airport and think about the massages ahead. I am bombarded by missed calls and messages once I am through customs. My daughter informs me that a young friend has been in a severe car accident. The tears are instant and I cannot stem the flow. I make my way through customs, a blubbering mess. Sending my love and prayers to he and his family.
I check straight in to my room at Kuta Station and collapse onto the bed, tired and preoccupied with the recent news. I allow myself some time to compose myself and then head out for a massage and then some dinner. Can’t really gauge how good the massage was because I think I slept as soon as my head rested on the massage table.
It is not until after dinner I remember I am in Bali, where potential customers meander around well into the night while the rest of the world sleeps. I decide to try the massage place out on Sunset Rd that my kids and I discovered years ago. It is getting quite late so I accept a lift on a scooter the first chance I get. Now, I’m not a fan of the exposure and therefore danger of being on a motorbike of any shape or form, but the Balinese make it seem like a breeze so I’m happy to be at the back clinging on like a bloody koala!! The reality is, even in the daylight I’d probably struggle to find the same place so as soon as I see a massage place that’s still open, I indicate that I want to go there.
Inside I am served quickly and notice there is only an hour left before their midnight close time. The masseuse has strong pressure and after ensuring her it was a ‘good pain’ she continued to try to knead out some of the knots. Don’t think this is what they call a happy ending!!! I was in tears! Despite it being after midnight, the staff at Reborn continued to pamper me when my massage was done. Asked to sit and relax, I did so while they prepared fresh fruit and juice for me. There were a few others sitting around also and the atmosphere was tranquil…..there was no pressure to hurry and no indication that the staff were anxious to get out. I caught a taxi back to my hotel and crashed the second my head found the pillow, wondering vaguely as I drifted off, if my phone was on silent.
My plans for today are many and varied. Hike to find a waterfall and river? Drive to the mountains and hike another part of the GR20? Take a boat trip? Ideally I would have loved to make my way up to the Scandola Nature Reserve. The reality is, I’m not sure my final day in Corsica will be as memorable as I had anticipated.
Last night was fraught with nausea and headaches and this morning I wake feeling washed out and lethargic. I eventually force myself to rise and head out to take some sunrise shots….I
know if I don’t I will regret it later. I am not even sure where to go to get the best vantage point, and at this point, I’m not even that bothered. I would rather be back in my room with my pounding head planted in my pillow for the day.
I find a parking area and make my way toward the rocks that line the shore. The first glimpses of light are peaking over the mountains in the distance and the pink and purple hues spread across the horizon. Even though I am not feeling well, it is impossible not to be impressed by this sight. There is definitely something about the rising and setting of the sun that is calming for the soul.
I wander along
the palm lined shore front and happily snap away as the sun makes it’s way into full view. Children are bustling around with school bags on and the traffic is becoming quite hectic. I guess it’s hard to forget that for the local’s, it’s business as usual.
I walk around the marina afterward trying to suss out out a boat trip. Any chance of getting to Scandola is gone….all day trips left first thing. I settle for a trip to the nearby Iles Sanguinaires later that afternoon. Trip booked, I head back to the hotel and have some breakfast. I collect together what I need for the day and head out once more to explore Ajaccio. By this time it is mid morning and I am feeling a little better.
Finding parking in the city centre proves to be a challenge and I eventually find an underground parking lot and park. I decide there and then, that regardless of the cost….I am staying parked here all day.
I come across a mini train and climb aboard…..the train takes myself and the other passengers on an hour tour around Ajaccio. At the furtherest point of the journey I am able to see the islands I will be visiting in a few hours. The driving skills of the train driver are phenomenal….I struggle to manoeuvre the car in and around the narrow streets. This guy trails four carriages between closely parked vehicles in busy parking lots, with ease!! I got my money’s worth just watching his skill!!!! We take in the views and listen to the commentary that provides us with an abundance of knowledge and history of the local area, in several different languages.
I notice a casino not far from where our journey ends and I walk back to have a little flutter. I only have an hour now, before my boat leaves.
I wait on the dock alongside other people eager to board, and once on settle into a seat on the top deck. The sun feels warm against my skin, but the gentle breeze ensures it isn’t too hot. A perfect day for cruising the ocean. The trip is, again, complimented by commentary sharing points of interest with passengers….well….presumably they were. Unlike the train ride, this commentary was not provided in English so I had no idea what was being said.
Upon arriving at the island, everyone scuttled ashore and made their way to either of the two tourist attractions on offer. I chose to climb to the lighthouse first and was puffed by the time I reached the top. The views were astounding and you were afforded a sweeping view back toward the mainland, including Ajaccio and North to Pointe de la Corba. I hiked next along the path up to the Genoese tower. The island looked to be a place that one could spend an entire day at without getting bored. The urge to climb down the North side of the island and swim in the glistening blue water had to be curtailed as I figured I would be on some sort of time restriction. I needed to keep the others in full view to follow their lead as I was unsure how long we were here for…..another down side of not learning the local lingo!
I decided not to take chances and headed back to the small jetty we were moored at. I noticed some of the men from our boat swimming nearby so I made my way across the slippery rocks and asked to join them. They spoke a little English and were extremely friendly. The water was divine and I wished then that I had more time to relax and enjoy it, however, the men started to get out and I knew our time must be up. I followed their lead and went back to the boat with them. The wind in my face, on the trip back, was refreshing. My skin felt tight with the salt water and I could feel the sun beginning to burn my skin. By the time we disembarked I felt I had a glow about me. Not sure if that was from the sunburn, or just an internal glow of contentment.
Back at the hotel I showered and laid down for a bit. I was exhausted. I decided on a cocktail at the bar before heading to the dining room. Unfortunately, that decision meant later, when I was ready to eat, the dining room was full. There was a function on. Not willing to wait another 45 minutes before ordering I retrieved my car keys from the room and went for a drive in search of something quick for dinner. Mindful of the fact I had to be at the airport before 4:30am, I wanted an early night. It was already 9pm by the time I found a Burger King. The queue for the drive-through was about 20 cars long!! I opted, instead, to walk in. It turns out that was just as bad and as I waited patiently in line I began to wonder if I might have already eaten had I stayed at the hotel and waited!
It seemed like forever, but I was eventually tucked up in bed with my bag semi-packed, car fueled, alarm set and hotel bill paid.
My last night in Corsica! I felt a little sad. It has been an adventure of a lifetime and I have enjoyed every minute of it……okay, so there were actually a few moments that I did not enjoy at the time, but am so very grateful that I had the opportunity to experience them. Glad that I was able to face challenges that pushed me beyond my comfort zone and reinforced my belief in myself. This journey has been not only a journey exploring an unfamiliar country, but a journey exploring myself……an invaluable experience.
The smile was still with me when I woke to the unbelievable view from my window! The sun had still not quite poked its head over the mountains when I made my way to the seaside and out onto the jetty. Certainly far from what I could have hoped to wake to!! In my despair to accept any bed I was offered last night, it felt like I had stumbled across an oasis.
After snapping a hundred odd photos down at the beach and around the hotel, I sat down to a breakfast for champions.
People milled about everywhere, basking in the sun and the scenery. This place offered everything from a kiddy playground to an adults leisure paradise. If you couldn’t find something here to entertain you…..you probably should just never leave home. I did another seaside stroll before leaving …..and of course took another hundred or so photo’s. I made my way around a bend on the shoreline and had a dip before making my way back toward the hotel. I stopped along the way to stand back and breathe in the magnificence of this place. While I was standing there a lady approached and smiled. “Bonjour,” I greeted and smiled back.
“Bonjour Madame,” she replied and continued speaking in French as she swept her hand to incorporate the glorious views.
I put my hand up to stop her and asked, “Parlay Vous Anglais?” She shook her head.
You know when you meet someone, and you just know? You just know you are going to get on. You just feel their warmth and see the friendliness in their eyes? It was like that. She was an amazing lady and we ‘conversed’ for ages using my translation book, (which turns out had barely any of the words we wanted), sign language and the one or two words we A) knew of each others’ language, or B) sounded similar enough we were able to deduce what we were trying to say. Our mutual interest in learning about each other, was our common bond. I was amazed at how long we ‘spoke’ for and Fernande insisted on introducing me to her husband before we parted. The whole encounter a little surreal since none of us could speak the others’ language…….something that did not escape her husband as he looked at us both as if we’d lost our marbles!! I bidded Au Revoir to them both and made my way up to pack my bag and check out.
I hit the road again with my sights set on Santene. As usual, the trip took forever….not, this time, because of the roads, but because I kept stopping to admire the scenery and take hundreds of photo’s.
It was at one of these stops I noticed an amazing beach at the base of the mountain and decided on the spot I was going to find my way down for a swim. After driving back and forth for a bit I finally found the track that lead down. The beach, it turned out, was called ‘Plage de Roccapina’. The track down was pretty decent, a lot of forks in the road but I basically stayed to the left. I seemed, I found out later, they all lead to the same place. I locked the car and walked toward the glimpses of ocean I could see between the trees. When the foliage gave way to the open I was in awe of the beauty! A beach of soft white sand greeted me and the glistening blue water beckoned me. I hurried toward the far end of the beach to get away from the majority of the crowd. I stripped off (just to my bikini-nothing over the top :D), and went straight in. The water is crystal clear and so invigorating. I swam out quite a way and spoke to fellow swimmers that I happened across. One young lady was from Germany and we chatted for quite some time. A man rowed his dinghy up alongside us remarking casually, “You ordered a Taxi, Madame?”
She laughed and explained, “this is my husband.” To him, she said, “paddle away, I’ll call you when I’m ready.” They both laughed at their shared joke and I couldn’t help but smile at their casual intimacy. I reckon the value of having a sense of humour is Global, being able to have fun is so important in keeping relationships interesting.
I swam out to a yacht anchored a little way out just to take a selfie. Trying to explain that to the occupants in broken French was interesting!!!! After I got back to shore I decided I would tackle the hike up to the tower nearby. I started in my bikini’s because it was hot, then added a singlet for good measure. The hike up was wonderful and looking back down on the bay as I walked higher was breathtaking. It looked like a vision straight from a postcard. Stunning!! At one of the (many) forks, I decided on the left when I shouldve taken the right…..gotta love hindsight!! I came across a couple who looked decked out to the max. They had their hiking gear on, hiking boots, water, walking poles…..they looked bloody schmicko!!! “Parlay Vous Anglais?” I asked them. Head shake and zero smiles. They went to continue on the walk and I thought I’d give my trusty old sign language/broken French a crack. I attempted to ask if they had just come from the tower. They looked slightly agitated. I tried again….us Aussies are persistent buggers!!! “Is.. this… the… way…. to…. the….. tower?” I don’t know if it helps, but when I can’t get my point across I start talking to someone like they’re two…..like that will help!! Ha! what do you know? It worked!! They responded, “We’re lost.” They again turned to walk away. Sure I knew where I’d gone wrong AND not to be brushed off, I had another go.”It’s….this..way.. follow….me” and began to lead the way. I turned my head back and they stood there looking at me with bewildered looks on their faces. They were looking me up and down and shaking their heads……I could almost hear the cogs ticking over in their brain thinking……..”You’re hiking in your bikini, a singlet and those flimsy white ‘shoe-things’ and you want us to trust you? No thanks!!” With that, they turned and walked away in the opposite direction. Well, I trusted me, so I backtracked to my last turn and was at the top within five minutes. I scoured the bushland below for the lost ‘professional’ hikers so I could direct them out, but the foliage was just too thick!
For this reason, I took detailed notes on how to get to the tower WITHOUT getting lost!!! I will post them in a separate blog and link it here when I’m done. WELL WORTH THE WALK!!!
Back on the beach I saw a group of friends taking it in turns to photograph the rest. “I asked if they wanted me to take a photo of the whole group and they were over the moon! They looked like a fun bunch so I said, “On the count of three I want you all to jump in the air as high as you can.” They looked a little confused. Before they could ask questions or argue I started counting, ” one….two…three.” They all jumped and I snapped. The photo looked amazing!! They all crowded around to look and were delighted. I now made them go back for a couple of serious shots. They were very thankful as I left and I could still here them laughing and teasing each other while they gathered around the camera to have a better look. I smiled…….I love the sound of laughter.
Back in the car and on the road. i only made a couple more short stops before getting to Santene. I had been in contact with Jo and Brigitte but had nearly given up finding them after about three frustrating bog laps of the town. I ended up in a supermarket and used the translator on my phone to converse with the security guard there. She was amazing and gave me very clear directions on how to get to where Jo and Brigitte were waiting.
I found them easily and we whiled away the afternoon doing touristy things and having smoothies. Eventually I knew I had to say my final goodbyes to these two. I would be hitting Ajaccio just on dark as it was….knowing my luck, something could easily turned that into a midnight arrival!!!! They walked me to my car and we kissed and hugged. I love these two!! They really have been me shining lights!! So easy to get on with….just love them to pieces. I love their sense of humour too. After laughing about how I always have my mouth open in photos, they mimicked me as I took one last pick of the pair of them…..bloody ferals!!!! ❤ ❤ xxxxxx
The drive to Ajaccio was event free and I arrived to see the last of the sun as it fell behind the hills to the West. It took several laps to get the turn off to the hotel, but when I did, I was pleasantly surprised!! The hotel decor is magnificent. It oozed elegance. I waited for a while to get checked in and then made my way to the elevator. I spoke easily to the couple who got in behind me. They were from New York and this was their final night in Ajaccio. They were lovely to speak to and as they exited they invited me to join them for dinner. I agreed, but went to have a shower first. I feel I still had some sand samples in my bathers from Plage de Roccapina.”
Arnold and Ruth…a beautiful couple from New York. What a pleasure it was to meet them! xx
Dinner was relaxed and pleasant. What a wonderful couple. I’m sure we could have spoken for longer but Ruth was not feeling the best and they had an early start. Arnold and I chatted for a bit longer, before he too, was ready to retire for the night. I felt priveleged to spend their last night with them and loved their company. I left at the same time Arnold did as I wanted to get an early start. Arnold refused to let me pay for my meal!! I was taken aback by the selfless gesture of two people I had just met!! I firmly believe that doing good deeds comes back tenfold (sometimes you may have to wait a while…..but I believe it happens), and for this I wish Arnold and Ruth an abundance of love and joy. They are a great couple that I am so very glad I met. xxx
My bed could not come up to meet me quick enough! I fell into the luscious softness of the mattress and drifted off to sleep on my cloud. I woke through the night, violently ill and did not sleep much past midnight. I hoped that I felt better in the morning but I decided against my early, early start to chase sunrise photo’s, and turned my alarm off.
The thunderstorm through the night was like music to my ears. My journal is still beside me when I wake. It is my grandson, Lachy’s, birthday today.
I know I have to leave today, where to…..I’m not sure. I think I might try to find a backpackers around Bonafacio? I’m pretty sure Jo and Brigitte are down that way so my plan might just be to catch up with them. We’ll see. First things first though-they were having problems with the Eftpos last night due to the storms, so I needed to get some money out from an ATM in Aliria,and I needed to send a birthday message to Lachy.
I get dressed and head down to the car. There is a tower just south of the resort that I might try to get photos of with the sun rising behind it. Of course, what seemed like an easy task turns out to be another headache……the sun rising behind the decrepit yet glorious tower would have to remain an image in my mind. I could not find the road that lead me to it, despite having seen (from afar) many vehicles parked nearby yesterday.
I gave up and continued my drive to Aliria, stopping once in a while to take photo’s. Once I had withdrawn money from the ATM I parked just out of town and made a birthday video and sent it to him. Happy 3rd birthday Lachlan Kyle!!!!
The day is a little brighter with a lot more blue showing in the sky! I go for a swim when I return to the Resort. There is even a bit of a bite to the sun today…..almost a shame to leave. I was told at reception that even after you had checked out you were welcome to stay and enjoy the facilities. I was not sure if this meant you had to check out at 11 and could then stay, or you could hang around and just check out as you left. Decided to err on the side of caution and check out before 11. I began doing my housework, cleaning my little abode as I shuffled my belonging out the door. There is a little semi-enclosed foyer type outdoor area at the front of the bungalow. I had just finished cleaning this when the non English speaking barman approached. “Bonjour Madame.”
“Bonjour,” I replied.
I indicated to my bags and looked confused. I said “I’m leaving,” and tried my best sign language that supported what I was trying to say. He asked if I wanted a massage and I figured when I’d pointed to the direction of the car he must have thought I was saying I was going to the spa. “No, I had a massage yesterday.” I don’t know what happens in your head that makes you continue to speak in English even when you know someone doesn’t understand you. I accompanied my words with the best sign and body language I could muster. His sign language however, was a lot clearer than mine…….. Now, at this point I feel I should use the good old saying……….. “What happens at band camp, stays at band camp.” What I will tell you is, there are lessons to be learnt from every situation. The lessons I learned from this scenario? 1) You don’t need to understand someones verbal language to get your message across, 2) Language barriers can be overcome without speaking, 3) I believe I am owed a massage and 4) “What happens at band camp, stays at band camp.” 😀
Every holiday needs one of ‘those’ stories. Every holiday is incomplete unless you can tell at least one story that leaves your audience gobsmacked. Well my story belongs in this spot right here…..this is my story……..
…………….. (I hope you did this spot justice!!)
The rest of my afternoon was spent casually lazing around, soaking up the sun’s rays and finishing off with a cold beer before leaving. As I stood at the bar waiting for my beer, the TV showed chaos and I wondered what in the World had happened now? There were frantic scenes but the newsreader, naturally, narrated the scene in French. The sub titles, also, were in French. As I walked out with my beer I noticed ‘Las Vegas’ flash across the screen and made a mental note to google that when I next had wi-fi.
I had a ‘semi’-plan in my head. Drive toward Bonafacio and call Jo and Brigitte to see what they’re up to….if I get waylaid along the way? So be it. Go with whatever the Universe throws my way.
I head South when I leave and stop occasionally to take photos…..oh and climb random hills to get to any of the many towers that surround this island. Each one of them stand proud and tall, and hold secrets from era’s before us. Each one worthy of time spent exploring, that I just don’t have. I scramble up a few and admire as much of the passing countryside as I can.
Porto-Vecchio turns out to be another occasion where I do an endless spiral of u-turns. I get momentarily trapped in a supermarket car park which results in a wild goose chase trying to get out, followed by me ending up on some back street. There are people milling about everywhere and I slow down to about 10km/hr to accommodate the massive crowd, many of whom are casually walking on the road and crossing ad lib. As I get closer to the heart of the crowd I see the reason for this horde. Signs everywhere advertise Rallye Tour De Corse Historique and there is a thrive of activity around the many cars displayed to my left. This is obviously a big deal here.
I continue driving South until I see signs that indicate I am on the right path and very near to the Southernmost region of Corsica. Bonafacio is stunning!!!! I am captivated by her beauty!! The sun is low so there are already streaks of pink and purple hues dancing across the township when I arrive. I follow other cars and try to get myself a good vantage point; excited about how these photos will turn out. The backdrop is spectacular…to say the very least!!! The play of light and colours mixed with the age old setting, was a photographers dream!!! Instead, however, I drove around…and around…..and around in a seemingly endless spiral, trying to find somewhere to park so I could take a photo….or at least enjoy the view. By the time I parked and got out of my car, the best of the day, from a photographic perspective, was gone. I strolled through the market area which was thriving with activity. My nerves were still a little raw and although this was one of the towns I had planned to spend some time in, I felt a little inundated and found I was keen to escape. I think this is one of them ‘pro’s and con’s’ scenarios……where the con of driving is that by the time you calm your farm from the stress of driving….you have sometimes missed the best of what is on offer, and you’re too exhausted to appreciate the crumbs!!! I made my way back to my car and the final nail in the coffin was the decider…….I was stuck in the car park….boom gate not working….unable to read instructions…..information attendant when I pressed ‘what appeared to be the intercom’ button could not speak English…….sweating……knowing I now have no choice but to drive in the dark to look for accommodation……..ONCE AGAIN, slapping my forehead in frustration at my own stupidity! How many years would it take for me to learn to be more organised!!!!?????? GEEEEEJUSSS!!!! I think the attendant just gave up…..whatever happened, the boom gates lifted and I was gone!!!! I shot out of that car park like a woman possessed!!!! The sun has well and truly set now and upon leaving the confines of Bonafacio….it is black. Again, I start to doubt myself.
I spoke to Jo and Brigitte and they also, decided against Bonafacio and settled instead for a town called Santene.
I looked on the map and figured that might be too far to attempt tonight……as soon as I could find accommodation (hopefully backpackers), I was in!!!! I drove….and drove….and drove. The first accommodation park I tried had closed for the season….the day before! I decided to head in the general direction of Santene, when I came across a neon sign advertising bed and food!!! I whipped the car into the car park and made my way to the reception. “Parlay Vous Anglais?” I asked hopefully. The lady shook her head. I tried to use sign language and the little French I knew to ask for a bed and a feed. She understood the bed part and was telling me something about the ablutions…..I’m guessing maybe it was share toilets?? Anyway….I didn’t care, I just wanted to stop driving. I got my credit card out and asked about food…..indicating putting food into my mouth. She shook her head. I pointed to the Neon sign outside that said, ‘Restaurant’ and she shook her head, saying “non.” I thanked her and left…….my hunger was much greater than my apprehension about driving at night. Time to face another challenge and pray there were no ridiculously skinny roads down this way!! Even if I can find food….I’ve decided I can sleep in the car.
There are not a lot of towns en-route, and the few villages I pass through are dark and appear deserted. I came across a small town that also looked dead, then noticed a small sign pointing off to a road leading West. I quickly take a left because the sign promises camping AND restaurant …..the little road I follow gets darker and narrower….there’s someone up my butt so I pull over to let him pass …..while I sit there waiting for the car to pass I am having second thoughts. No reception to check maps or search Google to try to find out where the heck I am; should I go on? I continue, mainly because the alternatives don’t seem like better options…. I take a couple of dead end turns before coming to a small wharf. There are a few cars here, some yachts moored, but no sign of people. I backtrack once again and carry on heading in the same direction. It is dark and I feel like I am basically in the middle of an abyss, when out of nowhere I stumble across a hotel!! I can’t believe my luck!! I pull in and approach the reception desk. I am tired, starving and desperate………I am willing to pay any price for a room or be subjected to any conditions. I have gone past caring if this is a five star or a half star establishment…..hell I’d even stay if the rules were dining naked were mandatory!!!!!!! When I enter I am greeted warmly AND the man speaks English. Between myself and the couple behind the desk we work out that I want a room for one night for one person and the price is 99 euro. Not exactly backpackers price but given my track record, if I leave, I may end up spending the night freezing in the car. I take it and am offered a choice of double bed with no view or single bed with ocean view……after the amount of croissants, pasta, pizza, wine and beer I have consumed lately, I’m not sure I will fit the single, but opt for the Views anyway. Before paying I ask expectantly, do you have food? “Oui,” I am told, “but the restaurant closes shortly so you will need to be quick.”
I quickly have a shower as I realise I am still covered in beach sand from this mornings dip in the ocean- ‘that was this morning?’ I take a couple of seconds to reflect on my day before accepting, yep, it was. I hurry down to the restaurant before it closes. As the lift doors open at the bottom, the noise is deafening. The restaurant of this hotel I stumbled across in, seemingly, the middle of nowhere, is packed. The crowd is jovial and it is hard not to be affected by the joyous atmosphere of this room. A waitress seats me and between our limited vocabulary of each other’s language, I order.
The meal was beautiful, but the dessert?? A whole new level of superb! I would gladly have had three courses of the dessert alone. Soooo tempting to lift that plate and lick it to within an inch of its life!!! Delicious!!! It was a thin base of set milk chocolate, topped with stewed pear, then a layer of chocolate mousse, with a dollop of cream and chocolate shavings to top it off. This masterpiece was presented on a plate swept with melted dark chocolate.
After dinner the crowd made their way next door to a lounge bar. Here they all joined the MC for the night for a Music Quiz. I would have dearly loved to have joined them as they laughed and sang along…..but not a word of it was in English and I was way out of my depth. As I settled into my luxurious bed and settled my head on the cloud of a pillow, I listened to the music and laughter from below. They went well into the night and the sound of such happiness sent me easily to sleep. I think I fell asleep smiling ……….
I set my alarm for an early start on this morning…..I wanted to get great sunrise shots! That’s what I told myself anyway-I think I really wanted a quick dip in the ocean before others meandered their way down. Even with the sun out, I expected I would see a few full moons today!!
The beach was, understandably, deserted. I stepped out of my bungalow and onto the beach, quite literally. No need to waste time dressing this morning!!!! I walked briskly toward the waters edge, my teeth chattering loudly in my ears. Before I even got to the water I had changed my mind. I did a U-turn and headed back to the refuge of my cabin-it was overcast and bloody cold! I needed clothes on-stat! I’m normally not one for breaking rules, but fair suck of the sav (pardon the pun), this had to be an exception! I strolled along the beach taking photos as the sun tried its best to peak from behind the heavy cloud cover. The photos I was hoping for probably wouldn’t be happening today, but the serenity was priceless-well worth the erect nipples!
The sky to the East looked darkly foreboding. A faint flash of light every so often suggested lightning as well. I shivered as I made my way to the dining room. In my head this justified walking on the beach with clothes….’I’m just heading to the dining room, where clothes are mandatory’ I told myself. The same staff that worked last night, served me again this morning.
“Bonjour Madame,” they greeted, “Cafe?”
God I love you!!! Of course coffee!! “Oui,” I replied and smiled.
They smiled back and the non English speaking guy said, “Grand?” I remembered this word, from either my translation book or the couple of online lessons I had attempted before leaving WA, so nodded quickly. The English speaking man laughed, “Aussies like large, no?”
“Yes.” I confirmed and laughed along with he and some other guests that had now filtered in. The atmosphere was homey and very friendly. Everyone chatted with familiarity, like they were all part of a big family, and it gave me an instant feeling of genuine warmth. As much as I was enjoying the warm and friendly atmosphere, I chose again to sit outside and watch the ocean play with the shoreline. It was hypnotic to watch. I doubted I would be doing much swimming today and felt I had been let off the hook by Mother Nature…. no skinny dipping for this chic!! I might try one of the many pamper treatments the onsite spa offered. Happy with this decision I ordered a second coffee once I had drained the first. It was good. With my second cup in hand, I tucked my feet up and settled in to catch up on some journal writing.
My senses were heightened, yet I felt completely at peace. I could vaguely hear the chatter and laughter from indoors and the sound mingled with the tiny chirps of the little birds that flitted around me, perching once in a while to have a break from their seemingly busy task. The ocean continued it’s rhythmic serenade and the smell of fresh coffee wafted toward me. My coffee was, of course, accompanied by fresh croissants that melted in my mouth.
Reluctantly, I stood to leave once I had finished. Decision made, I was keen to go and book in at the spa. The sun was still fighting a losing battle to break through and I resign myself to the fact I may not be swimming today unless it warmed up.
On my walk to the spa, I stopped to speak with an elderly couple who spoke relatively good English. I asked them about the ominous looking weather and they confirmed what I was thinking- it was heading our way.
They were quite busy at the spa, so I was unable to get the treatments I had selected back to back. I decided there and then that I would stay another night. I was not keen on heading into that thunderstorm and the idea of being pampered for the day instead, won me over. I booked the deep tissue massage for then and the relaxation package for that afternoon.
I had bits (that I had forgotten existed) that ached from the past few days’ hard slog. The massage was nice, not as deep as I probably needed, but enjoyable nonetheless.
When I exited the spa, there were patches of blue in the sky and the sun kept peaking momentarily from behind the clouds. Enough so, that it was warm enough now for a swim. I walked back to my bungalow to change into my bathers…..then I remembered. I, instead, stripped off, donned my sunglasses and headed toward the water. I dared not look around in case there were people on the beach and I chickened out. The water was so refreshing. I dived in and swam out a little way before turning to see how many people were out enjoying the little sun we were being offered. I was a little relieved to find there were not many people out at the moment. After wading around in the shallows for a while I dried myself off and settled on to one of the many sun lounges. I figured half an hour lazing around writing in my journal might be nice…..and it was. So nice, I drifted off to sleep with the sun gently lashing my backside.
I woke with a start, some time later, to realise my pamper session was in five minutes. I quickly gathered my sarong and threw it around me as I raced toward the spa. I was offered a list of alternatives and decided to try things I had not heard of before…….it’s a pamper session-surely I can’t go wrong? The first of my treatments is a Cloak Shower. I was instructed to strip off and lie on a raised bed. A curtain was then drawn around me and my body was subjected to micro jets spraying me with tepid ‘seawater rain’, which is designed to loosen muscle tension and improve blood and lymphatic circulation. It felt a little unusual at first but I soon fell into state of bliss and allowed myself to just lay there and enjoy. This treatment was followed up by a Watermass. THIS WAS AMAZING! I loved it. I laid once again on a bed in a wet area and was lightly massaged and a lather of some sort was rubbed over me. The Masseuse then proceeded to use a machine that combined a suction technique with a palpating-rolling stimulation. It felt like she was literally sucking the fat from my body….I actually thought I might walk out of there a size 8!!!!! It was a shame it had to come to an end. I was then lead to the steam room and a seaweed application was painted over my entire body and I was then told to spend time in the steam room wearing the mud body paint. It smelt like I was up to my neck in a mangrove swamp back in Hedland. Not the most pleasant smell, but the sensation of the mask was awesome. When this treatment was finished it was time for the mud to be removed. I was given an option to either have a warm shower in the spa room or walk down to the ocean and rinse off in the seawater???!!!! I don’t know how to put a shock faced emoji into this paragraph….if I did, it would go here!!!!!! You can’t wear clothes to the beach but it’s ok to stroll around covered in mud? I would have looked like something out of a horror movie and I figured if I wanted to fly under the radar on the beach, that was not the way to go about it! I thought about it……for a millisecond, then opted for the indoor warm shower. The prices for all treatments were comparable to something you might get in Australia and worth every cent.
Back at my ‘shack’ I stripped off and headed back to the water to wash the remaining mud from my body. The sun, when it did come out, was warm and invigorating on my freshly revitalised skin. I floated on my back and allowed the waves to gently rock my body to and fro. I felt any remaining tension float away and I felt so light. I’m not sure how long I floated there for but when I came back to Earth I scrambled my thoughts together and made my way back to where I’d started.
The beach to the South of the resort, I learnt today, is a ‘normal’ beach. I made my way along the shoreline in that direction to do some exploring. Sarong in hand (but not on!), I head South. As soon as I saw a sign which I think told me you are leaving the Naturist Beach, I quickly wrapped my sarong around me and combed the beach admiring the driftwood of hundreds of shapes, sizes and colours.
There were yachts sailing out from where I walked and hang gliders soaring above me. Up ahead a couple of men were fishing. As I approached them I asked the first one, “Parlay Vous Anglais?” When he nodded and indicated he knew a little, I asked what fish they catch here. “None” he replied and when I returned to walk past him half an hour later, this has not changed! Time to give up I told him. He laughed and we chatted a little before I continued on my way. There was a lean-to that has been crafted from driftwood on the beach and I sat under that for a bit before making my way up an overgrown bush track to overlook the bay from a height.
When I passed the sign on my way back, without even thinking about it, I untied my sarong and let it fall. I strolled in the shallows and chatted easily to a couple that I encountered along the way. It wasn’t until after I left them, it dawned on me I had just had a casual chat with two completely naked strangers wearing nothing but a smile myself! This is an amazing accomplishment for me…..I felt liberated somehow. Lighter. Freer. Maybe even stronger? What started out as an uncomfortable and reluctant decision to stay here, has turned out to be a challenge I had embraced and grown from. It took me way out of my comfort zone initially and ended up grounding me in a way I can’t describe. Taking that right turn yesterday and booking in to a Naturist Resort may have seemed like a huge mistake at the time, but looking back now, it’s a mistake I’m glad I made. It’s a mistake I have learned from. A mistake I think I needed. A mistake from the Universe.
The sun is getting low behind me when I approach the bar, (yes, reluctantly I put some clothes on!) and order a glass of red. I take my glass of wine and a plastic chair and head to the beach……………. this one is for you Miss Kenlee…..my Shirley Valentine moment!!!!!
Selfies done, I ordered my meal and another glass of red. The older gentleman that does not speak English was playing the guitar tonight and the soft sound of the music, together with the effects of the day’s activities, sun and wine, made me feel sleepy.
Tucked away in my bungalow I pulled out my journal to update……………
So today was one of the only days I had planned ahead for. My 4×4 adventure which was to include a boat ride, a hike, a swim and a 4×4 drive was not going to happen. It’s fair to say I was a little peeved at not being told they don’t operate Saturdays when I first enquired, but what can you do? I made a coffee, heated some leftover pizza and sat to ponder my options.
Bloody decisions!!!! I hate them! I figure I can move on to the Calvi area and try to do the hike I was planning for the next day, or I could explore the Asco area, which I had only just read about 5 minutes earlier. Flip a coin? Or I could stay here and wander down to the marina and try to score myself a boat trip? I don’t have a 3-sided coin, bugger! Or….I could head straight across to the East coast and start making my way South? Aaahhhhh!!!! Too many choices.
Ding! A message comes through on my phone.
Ken: What are your plans for today?
Me: I can’t decide……perfect timing! You decide-1,2,3 or 4? Pick a number.
Me: Well in that case-I’m going to Asco!
Because Asco has not countered into my plans at all before today, I know very little about it. I was hoping today would change that.
With a plan (of sorts) in mind, I was now keen to get on the road!
There were a few little moments along the way, like encountering a fork in the road and being unsure which way to go, but unlike on previous occasions where I would flip a coin to decide, I followed GPS instructions because I had reception! All in all I found my way to the main road N197 and was pleasantly surprised!! It was a real road! Like one that could comfortably fit 2 cars side by side, with lines marked that made sense. I was beside myself! I quickly fell into the pace set by other motorists and even overtook my first vehicle- shoulda done the mountains first buddy then this would be a breeze!!
I easily find the turn off to Asco and make my way along the picturesque country road.
Corsica is covered with old buildings, some intact, some not. I can see why this place would be a photographer’s delight. The colours are constantly changing as the sun moves position and you are spoilt with views of mountains, villages, green countryside and much much more.
Absorbed in the beauty surrounding me, it takes a while to realise, as I gain altitude the road becomes narrower and narrower.
My nerves start to rattle again and I am quietly cursing Ken for choosing number two! The only comfort is that this time I am on the mountain side of the road. A lot less daunting, but scary nonetheless. My relief is short lived once I realise I will be on the other side coming down. My legs feel like jelly at the thought and the further up the mountain I go, the less sure I am that I want to keep going. I am instantly reminded of the previous day’s experience and feel sick. Tears, once again, prick my eyes, threatening to flow. After I pass through (and get lost in) the tiny village of ASCO, I come across an information Bay. I pull in, turn the car off and get out to stretch my legs and try to contain my anxiety. I look around and while there is no denying it’s beauty, I am in two minds as to whether or not it was worth the stress. To continue or not? Flip a coin? A car pulls in to the parking area and breaks my line of thought. A couple get out and I smile.
They move to take in the views and are standing beside me. Worth a shot…“Parlay Vous Anglais?”
“Oui,” they say, “a little.”
I can hardly contain my excitement. Words start flying out of my mouth at a rate that even made my head spin! One would think I hadn’t seen or spoken to a living soul in over a year! I told them how much I had shit myself on the drive to this point and how I was deliberating on the benefits of putting myself through even more anxiety by driving to the peak. We chatted (well, mostly me to be honest) for quite some time. I think I managed to spill out my whole life story in 30 minutes without taking a breath! They knew what it was that brought me to Corsica, and that my original dream was to hike the GR20…….they knew also of my inevitable acceptance that I was not nearly fit enough for this challenge- yet. None of us were achieving anything by standing on the side of this mountain gas bagging and it soon became apparent someone would have to make the first move. I was so reluctant to let them go!
“Would you like to travel with us to the top?” Oh my God!!!! I swear those are the sweetest words I’ve ever heard!!! I am tossing up whether to laugh or cry. Instead I almost scream my response at them….”YES!!!” …… and quickly check my car is locked and am by their side in no time!
Brigitte was an absolute angel and offered me the front passenger seat (YEP-even she knew better than to offer the Drivers Seat!!) The difference between being a driver and being a passenger is unfathomable. Without fear of certain death, I could look around as we climbed higher up the mountain, and enjoy the breathtaking scenery……really enjoy it. The scary parts of the drive, like the narrow bridge we encountered, didn’t seem scary at all when it was someone else tackling them. I took heaps of photos. At one point Brigitte, the cheeky bitch, asked Josef if I might actually be Japanese? This sealed it! I officially LOVED them!! So easy to talk to, kind, fluent AND a great sense of humour!! I felt like the Universe was shining down on me when I met these two gems!!!!!!
The view from the Asco Ski Resort was sensational. For an Aussie who is used to admiring our Pilbara Red Carpet, the greenery of the trees and valleys below was phenomenal. I felt like I had a permanent, ridiculous looking grin spread across my face. When Jo and Brigitte told me we were at a GR20 refuge and the trail was not far from where we stood, I was ecstatic!! Like the born cheat than I am, I borrowed Jo’s back pack and posed for a couple of tourist pics so I could claim I walked the GR20! Technically, this is actually true! I DID walk on the trail of the GR20, which was on my bucket list, so I gave that a HUGE tick and paid no heed to the fact that I only walked 20metres of it! Minor detail!!
The treasures I found at Asco!!!!
I chatted with some young lads who informed me the GR20 was bloody tough! They looked mighty fit, so upon hearing this, I felt a little relieved at not tackling it. Of course I posed for photos to give credibility to my earlier claims! They were quite accommodating and even let me hold their poles!! ………………………… You know what I mean!!
We topped our trek off with cold drinks at the Asco Bar (NON ALCOHOLIC!! I was well aware I still had a massive driving task ahead of me). I knew I would soon have to face reality. My car was still half way down this mountain and I knew I had to get it to the bottom.
On our drive back to my car, however, we stopped a couple of times to admire the views, stroll along a picturesque river bed and even applaud Josef’s wonderful skimming abilities!
I followed Jo and Brigitte after picking up my car, and with Jo leading the way and giving me warning of oncoming traffic, the drive was less daunting. I got to laugh at the wildlife who thought they owned the road, relax a little and enjoy the driving challenge I was lucky enough to be able to experience. We stopped and did the ‘tourist thing’ a couple more times before reaching the bottom.
At the base of the mountain Jo and Brigitte carried on with their planned itinerary. I, stupidly, had decided to investigate a place I had seen on the tourist map at the location where I first met Jo and Brigitte. “Serra Debbione.” I think just because it had the word Deb in it and sounded a bit like ‘Debbie is the one’………. well in my head anyway! I was hoping maybe this would be where I found my own sign and could finally let go of the disappointment of not capturing the “A.Sellula” sign in Nonza. Whatever the reason, I parted with Jo and Brigitte and went on my own expedition. Pfft!! To say I wasted my time would be an understatement. Still not 100% sure why Serra Debbione is even marked on maps. Is it a rubbish tip? Maybe I should have translated it first? I drove aimlessly around in the area where Google Maps was showing me to be, but could find nothing of significance. I decided to give up and carry on driving in the general direction of the East coast. Number 4, on my list that morning, had been to drive to the East coast and make my way South making the most of the beaches along the way. I deserved to lounge around I reckon! This driving had pushed me way beyond my comfort zone and I was looking forward to a little indulgence. The open highways were a breeze to drive and I nailed that right hand driving like a pro!! Quite happy with myself and internally high-fiving myself, I drove in to Corte. I had originally planned to spend a night here, but continuing with my current lack of procedure, I decided to keep winging it and forget previous plans.
Now, when I say I nailed the driving part, you will notice I said that after I mentioned ‘open roads’ were a breeze. I was pretty confident at roundabouts, general traffic conditions, reading road signs….BUT, every now and then I would come across an intersection which made me just think…”What the F*#@??” In these circumstances, to avoid causing accidents, I simply followed the car in front of me and pulled off the road as soon as safe and practicable to do so. I would then re-evaluate the situation and try to get myself back on track. It is at these times (and there were MANY of them), that I became lost. The fun would then start when, as I was trying to get myself back on track, the same thing would happen again. On the plus side of these diversions, I encountered many things I would not have otherwise come across. It is with this outlook that I was able to laugh at myself and keep trying.
Where the mountain meets the road……literally.
Not quite sure what thiswas pouring from the side of the hill…it was bright green!
Out of Corte and heading East! It is now late in the afternoon and as confident as I sounded two paragraphs ago, I was not ready for driving at night! I would have liked to find a cheap backpackers for the night but was now thinking, the first thing I find on the beach will do. I was heading North from Aleria, so figured any turn right would take me to the ocean, so I would take the very next turn as it was getting quite late and the sun was starting to set. As luck would have it, the next turn sported a massive billboard flaunting a beachside resort. Probably a bit flash for this Aussie Shiela, certainly didn’t look like a backpackers, but I figured it was near the ocean so I was on a winner. Get to the resort and drive along until I found something affordable….and quick! I was very conscious of the sun lowering behind me.
The end of this drive revealed the resort and the resort alone. There were no ‘cheaper’ options, this was a private road. “Shit!” I sat in the car contemplating my next move, then figured, stuff it, go in and see how much I’m looking at. Maybe the following couple of nights can be at backpackers to make up for the splurge on this place.
“Parlay Vous Anglais?”I asked the young receptionist.
“Oui.” Not sure, but I think my sigh of relief may have come out louder than anticipated.
“Do you have any vacancies for tonight, and what is your cheapest room?” I knew I sounded like a penny pincher but I didn’t care……truth was, I probably would take any room at any price, just to avoid nighttime driving!
The young girl showed me the list of accommodation options and I was pleasantly surprised. Wow! These prices were actually pretty good! They ranged from budget priced bungalows to resort priced villas. I was ecstatic!!! “I’ll take one!”
We exchanged pleasantries…..where are you from? How long are you in Corsica for? Do you know where you are? (um, pretty sure I just drove myself here, so Yes!) and details for my booking. I felt a sense of relief that everything had fallen into place today, despite the hurdles along the way.
The girl handed me back my credit card and as I prepared to leave she mentioned, “We have a few rules,” I spun around.
“You must wear clothes in the dining room.” Now, I don’t know about other places, but here in Australia….this is a given!!!!!!! I picked my bottom jaw off the ground and then, controlling an urge to smile at this somewhat bizarre rule, I nodded. She continued, “Clothing around the camp is optional…”
“Oh thats ok….I’ll be fully clothed!!” I interrupted.
“……but on the beach clothes are not allowed.”
Thump! Yep, that was my jaw back where it started. Say what??????!!!!!! With a voice that barely sounded like my own, I squeaked, ” like a clothing optional beach?”
“No,” she corrected, “No clothes.”
“No,” I can see the exasperation in her eyes now, “NO CLOTHES!”
“Ha,” then after a few seconds, “ha.” Not so much words, as pent up air releasing itself forcefully between my lips. I clearly looked gobsmacked! I now understood her earlier question, ‘Do you know where you are?’ In hindsight, smartarse, the correct answer would have been ‘No.’ Serves me right for being so smug!!!!!
“It’s really quite easy,” she encouraged.
I looked at her small frame and well toned young body, and thought, “If I looked like that I’d find it easy too!” I looked slowly down at myself and thought, “…..but I don’t. I look like this.” My heart felt heavier than it had only moments ago, but I shrugged off the negative thoughts and feelings and thanked her for her help.
When I got out to the carpark, I laughed out loud. It was actually bloody hilarious!!! I don’t act like a prude and prudish doesn’t really describe me, but baring my bits for all to see???? Hell no!!!! I was determined to challenge myself on this journey and I had done so thus far. Could this challenge prove too much??? I felt I would more than likely concede defeat on this one. My self-esteem is at rock bottom. As a person I am happy with who I am…….physically though? I can’t go into a store changeroom without crying. I avoid looking in mirrors and I keep my eyes averted when I enter a shop so I don’t inadvertently catch a glimpse of my refection. It would be fair to say…I hate my appearance-with a passion!! My outwardly fun loving persona hides a scared little girl. The bubbly, bright, comical me, is a facade for the unhappy me that is trapped in a body I despise. I know some of you may think….”If you don’t like it, do something about it.” Unfortunately, that prospect opens a whole new can of worms for me……..and since this blog is about my Corsica Journey and me facing my fears…..I’ll leave that topic alone for now.
So, key in one hand, backpack in the other, I let myself in to my bungalow by the sea. It is quite literally on the beach! The only things between me and the ocean, are the beach umbrella’s! My bungalow is great! It has everything I need and I take a moment to listen to the sound of the waves rolling in. I smile. Life is good. As much as I love the ocean, I’m sure I can manage to stay off the beach until I get further along the coast where I can wear my clothes. The sound, the smell and the sight of the ocean is enough. After parking my car I head to my bungalow to shower and ‘dress’ for dinner (I’ll never take that for granted again!!!)
A gentleman nods as he passes, “Bonjour Madame.”
“Bonjour,” I reply and nod in response. As I do so, I get my first flash and hence, initiation to my new surrounds……..mentally, I add, “and bonjour to you too!” The tune of ‘Singing In The Rain’ springs to mind, with a couple of changes.
I am still singing, “Swinging In The Breeze,” as I enter the dining room. I mentally scold myself for the mammoth smile still spread across my face.
“Parlay Vous Anglais?” I ask the two barmen. The younger of the two nods and the older gentleman, probably around my age, shakes his head.
The young man recognises my accent and leads me to a table, “You’re an Aussie! This way mate!” in his best Aussie accent. I love it! There I am, smiling again!!
The service was great, the music was loud enough to enjoy but low enough that you could still hear the faint murmuring of the families and couples gathered at the tables enjoying the evening. It was a balmy night and the cocktails went down a treat. I chose a table outside so I could watch the waves crash onto the shore while I relaxed. I was not disappointed. I doubt you could hold on to stress in this environment if you tried. The tension of the past couple of days flowed from me and I was overcome with a sense of serenity. My smile now, was gentle. I felt calm and at peace. I breathed in the salty damp air, I smelt the ocean breeze, I listened to the lapping water and the chatter and laughter of those around me, and I was thankful. So many others, for one reason or another, are denied the freedom or the ability to enjoy life’s simple pleasures, and here I was surrounded by them. Again, I reflected. Another big day. One that started with uncertainty and, it would seem, ended with uncertainty as well. Another day of learning. Another day of accepting challenges and accomplishing dreams.
Back at my bungalow, I opened the window to allow the breeze to sweep over me as I slept. The symphony of sounds through the night changed from a gentle ocean sound, to the clapping of thunder. Lightning lit up my room. The thunderstorm brought with it, it’s own ability to soothe. I lay awake for a while watching mother nature play over the ocean and was mesmerised. I love the ocean. Staying away from it in the morning would prove to be another challenge for sure!!!
As I board the plane in Hedland, to fly to Perth then drive to Geraldton I smile. I am so excited!!!
Twelve months has flown by. Can’t believe it has been a year since we religiously and ‘intentionally ‘ walked around and round in circles for 24hrs straight! I don’t even do that when I’m having a big night!!
Yet, here we all are, ready to do it again.
This year has been particularly hard for us, since I nominated myself as Team Captain, then up and left town! I think there were numerous occasions when we seriously considered throwing the towel in and withdrawing from the event.
However, right there, in a nutshell, was our answer-right?
We walk all through the night to remind us….”Cancer Never Sleeps.”
Should that same logic not be applied here? Sure, being together made it harder; sure, we could forget about it until next year; sure, we wouldn’t get to finish all the tent decorations we had planned; sure, we weren’t prepared for it…….and with that thought process, came our answer. When you get the news, “You have Cancer,” there are no guarantees, except that, more than likely, a) you won’t have your family always by your side, b) you don’t have the luxury of ignoring it until next year, c) you are not always going to look like a million dollars as you face your battle and d) you sure as hell didn’t counter this into your life plan.