9/11/2013 – GR20 Day 7 Manganu->Auberge du Ballone according to Ryan
20 miles (32k), 4,400 feet gained (1345m), 5,000 feet lost (1520m), 10 hours and 40 minutes
I didn't sleep very well last night. In between stomach pain due to too much dinner and the occasional pouring rain and wind it was bad. Nonetheless, the alarm went off at 6am and it was quickly time to get moving. We quickly packed up and headed to the hut to grab our breakfast. The kitchen became packed soon and it was definitely time to hit the trail and put some mileage between us and the crowds. Everything was damp in the early morning and the clouds still hung low as we quickly made our way across a series of completely flat fields.
Soon, the sun began to rise and through random small breaks in the clouds, illuminated the landscape. It was marvelous to be moving so quickly over beautiful landscape early enough that we felt the solitude we had come to miss. When we began to ascend a little bit after Lac de Ninu we found ourselves in a cloud…a very cold and extremely windy cloud that made September feel like mid-January. It wasn't long before we were wearing every piece of clothing we had packed – including socks on hands for Jamie.
This continued for maybe an hour as we made our way over a pass, but luckily there was no rain. As Hotel Castel de Vergio came into view in the distance we descended out of the clouds and the extra layers went back in the packs. An hour and a half later (11:30am) we were at the tiny ski resort loading up on supplies like peanuts, Haribo candy, sausage, cheese, and bread. There we enjoyed too big of a lunch before heading out again. We continued through forests until we came into a dramatic and tall canyon (narrow valley?). You can definitely tell that the rock is changing – granite being replaced with some smoother red rock.
It was a nice surprise to find a shortcut that allowed us to eliminate walking by Refuge Cuittulo. We made it to Bocca de Foggile and then started a long and steep descent into the valley over rocks. Roughly 2 hours later we sighted the bergerie (which looked like Rivendell). Wonderful place to stay! Camping was 8 euro total and you didn't need a reservation for dinner! So, we snacked on sausage and cheese and a pitcher of decent red wine before heading inside (warm!) for the best soup course of the trip with large chunks of pork, beans, and noodles. And large portions! As we stepped outside to head to bed we walked by a group of 6-8 older men singing (folk?) songs, laughing, and drinking – their merriment echoing off the close mountain walls. 2 ibuprofen today. My feet hurt.