30/9: Day Twelve
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!!
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.
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!!!
Love you all