9/6/2013 – GR20 Day 2: Bavella->Usciolu according to Ryan
17.25 miles (25k), 6,300 feet gained (1910m), 4,600 feet lost (1390m), 13 hours and 30 minutes
What a day! Probably our hardest of the whole route as far as the combination of elevation gain and distance. We awoke in the dark of the gîte at Bavella and found our breakfasts in the kitchen area - toasted bread (probably from last night), marmalade, butter, and a large pot of coffee. While we packed up and munched on breakfast the gîte slowly came to life as other trekkers awoke. It wasn't long after the power came on (6:20am) that we were ready to hit the trail. We said goodbye to our older French bunkmates and walked out of town on the main street with the Bavella towers showing clearly.
Looking south we noticed the sky was grey and soon we heard thunder. So, we definitely weren't doing the alpine variant...instead we went the longer, lower, and flatter route around the towers, stumbling across a large black salamander in the process. It wasn't too long before it began to lightly rain, but this didn't last too long. We came around the edge of the base of the towers into the valley we were supposed to follow toward Asinau and came upon a double rainbow! Again! Following this path up the valley was long but relatively painless. By 12pm we can upon the refuge of Asinau with its various bergeries for lunch. We were amused listening the the "screaming cows" below us as we chowed down on the rest of the brebbis cheese and wild boar sausage. Before long we were ready to tackle the steep and long ascent of Mt. Alcudine (multiple spellings...like everything else in Corsica).
At the top, we evaluated our next move and met Edmond, a very nice and very, very strong 65 year old Frenchman from Dragignon who was 3 days away from his birthday. Pretty cool stuff considering he is doing the same doubling up of stages we are and with 39 years on us! Anyway, from the top of Alcudine all 3 of us made a very speedy descent into a large flat basin. The scenery changed again into rolling fields of Corsican shrub punctuated by some grey and lime green boulders. As I hiked, I found everywhere that thyme was growing beneath the shrubs. We also learned that the cows could be made to move off the trail by simply clapping your hands. By 6pm we found ourselves at the ridge line that we would need to traverse in order to get to Usciolu. It was awesome to soak up so much beauty of the landscape from that ridge at sunset but it wasn't long before we started feeling the miles. The ridge proved to be harder than anticipated in an almost never-ending up-and-down kind of way.
Edmond arrived at the refuge 30 minutes before we did (8pm) and quickly helped me locate the guardian who subsequently lead me to a shed filled with provisions. I loaded up on more cheese, sausage, marmalade, and bread and 3 Pietras before heading to the kitchen to make up some more sandwiches and drink our beers. We then climbed down the hill and settled into our tent after getting some great night shots of the milky way. I think we are going to sleep well tonight.