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La Grande Randonnée: Jean-Marc's GR 20 trek in Corsica: Part II bilingual story + full audio recording

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Did you know that "GR" of  “GR20” is an acronym for “Grande Randonnée” or “long hike”? Today, Jean-Marc recounts his recent adventure along this mythical footpath, one of the most difficult treks in Europe—located on the beautiful island of Corsica.   

In books: Granite Island: A Portrait of Corsica.

TODAY'S WORD: la randonnée

    : hike, trek, ramble, walk

OUR GR 20 TREK IN CORSICA by Jean-Marc Espinasse

After a day by train on the famous Corsican Micheline, a ride by cab and a short walk, we arrived at our refuge in Asco. Nicolas and I leave the next day at dawn for our first stage of the trek. Except for the first half hour which is relatively flat, this hike comes with very strong positive and negative changes in altitude. We pass our first and only névé to cross the Col de La Pointe des Eboulis after 5 hours of effort. There follows a short traverse on a ridge from where we can already see our refuge at the bottom of the valley. But if the ascent gives our hearts and breaths a workout, the descent is much harder for the muscles and the refuge that we had seen a few hours ago is still far to reach. It is thus after 10 hours of walking over stones, without trees and in full sun that we reach our first destination. Just before that, bathing in a small natural spring water bath was a well deserved reward.

The next day, our legs were very heavy for a segment with 1,000 meters of positive altitude difference. Before that, we crossed a beautiful Alpine forest with a few streams allowing us to refresh ourselves. After four hours of walking, the final climb of 900 meters was very difficult but the fresh air, the idea of the traditional Corsican omelette and a cold beer at the finish line motivated us to reach the highest refuge of the GR 20, at almost 2000 meters.

The following day was the longest segment. We started very early and walked more than 26 kms through different mountain landscapes, forests and green plains, passing by beautiful wild horses, still taking advantage of lakes and rivers to refresh ourselves during our breaks. On arrival at the Manganu refuge, we asked the keeper for information because our initial itinerary for the next day was to double a segment in order to reach Vizzavone in the evening and take the train to Ajaccio. Antoine told us that it would be very complicated because the next two segments are "Alpine" and therefore very steep. Other hikers coming in the opposite direction (the GR 20 is done in both directions) also advised us not to try this adventure, especially since we were tired after three days of intense walking and little sleep. Finally, we learned that there was a possibility to leave the GR 20 to join another path leading to a lake accessible by car and from where it is quite easy to hitchhike to Corte, which we managed to do in 10 hours and which allowed us to take the train to Ajaccio.

These four days of walking were physically demanding, especially since we were both, for very different reasons, very badly prepared. They also allowed me to think without too much anxiety about my personal situation, which was certainly very different from that of a year earlier when everything seemed to be smiling.

Last year, I had already done half of our first stage 2022 and, on my way back to Asco, my starting point, I got injured a few minutes from the finish, spoiling the end of my stay. This year, when I passed by the place where I was injured, I told myself that this accident was in fact the first of a very bad personal phase that has led me to face a difficult psychological situation today.

So, as I passed by this place, one year to the day after my accident and at the very beginning of our 2022 hike, I also made a wish that this would signify the end of this bad cycle and that better days are now to come.


(Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator)

ORIGINAL FRENCH VERSION OF JEAN-MARC'S STORY

Audio File: click here to listen to Jean-Marc read his story aloud

Après une journée en train par la fameuse micheline Corse, en taxi et une petite marche, nous arrivons à notre refuge de Asco. Nicolas et moi partons le lendemain à l'aube pour notre première étape. A part la première demie heure relativement plate, cette randonnée est avec de très forts dénivelés positifs comme négatifs. Nous passons notre premier et seul névé pour franchir le col de la pointe des éboulis après 5 heures d'efforts. Il s'ensuit une courte traversée sur une crête d'où nous apercevons déjà notre refuge en bas de la vallée. Mais si la montée fait travailler le cœur et le souffle, la descente est bien plus dure pour les muscles et le refuge que nous avions vu il y a quelques heures est encore loin à atteindre. C'est donc après 10 heures de marche dans les pierres, sans arbre et en plein soleil que nous atteignons notre première destination. Juste avant cela, se baigner dans une petite baignoire naturelle d'eau de source fut une récompense bien méritée.

Le lendemain, les jambes étaient très lourdes pour une étape de 1 000 mètres de dénivelé positif. Avant cela, nous avons traversé une belle forêt Alpine avec quelques cours d'eau nous permettant de nous rafraîchir. Après quatre heures de marche, la montée finale de 900 mètres de dénivelé fut très difficile mais le bon air frais, l'idée de la traditionnelle omelette Corse et une Bière bien fraîche à l'arrivée nous a motivé pour rejoindre le plus haut refuge du GR 20, à presque 2 000 mètres d'altitude.

Le jour suivant fut la plus longue étape. Nous sommes partis très tôt et avons parcouru plus de 26 kms à travers différents paysages de montagne, forêts et plaines verdoyantes, passant à proximité de magnifiques chevaux sauvages, profitant encore des lacs et rivières pour nous rafraîchir lors de nos pauses. A l'arrivée au refuge de Manganu, nous avons demandé des informations au gardien car notre itinéraire initial du lendemain était de doubler une étape afin de rejoindre Vizzavone le soir et prendre le train pour Ajaccio. Antoine nous a dit que cela serait très compliqué car les deux prochaines étapes sont "Alpines" et donc très cascadées. D'autres randonneurs venant en sens inverse (le GR 20 se fait dans les deux sens) nous ont également conseillé de ne pas tenter cette aventure, d'autant que nous étions fatigués par trois jours de marche intense et peu de sommeil. Finalement, nous avons appris qu'il y avait une possibilité de sortir du GR 20 pour rejoindre un autre sentier amenant à un lac accessible en voiture et d'où il est assez facile de faire du stop pour aller à Corte, ce que nous avons réussi à faire en 10 H et qui nous a permis d'y prendre le train pour Ajaccio.

Ces quatre jours de marche ont été éprouvant physiquement, d'autant que nous étions tous les deux, pour des raisons bien différentes, très mal préparés. Ils m'ont aussi permis de penser sans trop d'anxiété à ma situation personnelle, qui était certainement bien différente de celle d'un an plus tôt où tout me semblait sourire.

L'année dernière, j'avais déjà fait la moitié de notre première étape 2022 et, en revenant à Asco, mon point de départ, je me suis blessé à quelques minutes de l'arrivée, gâchant ainsi la fin de mon séjour. Cette année, lorsque je suis passé devant l'endroit où je m'étais blessé, je me suis dit que cet accident était en fait le premier d'une très mauvaise phase personnelle qui m'amène aujourd'hui à affronter une situation psychologique difficile.

Alors, en passant devant ce lieu, un an jour pour jour après mon accident et au tout début de notre randonnée 2022, j'ai aussi fait le vœux que cela signifie la fin de ce mauvais cycle et que les jours meilleurs sont maintenant à venir.

***

Cows in Corsica on GR20 hike
Besides wild horses, JM and Nico encountered cows, goats, and wild pigs along the GR 20...

In Books: The Corsican Brothers by Alexandre Dumas

Trekking the GR20 Corsica: The High Level Route: This guidebook describes the classic GR20 trek, a north-to-south traverse of the rugged mountains of Corsica, renowned as Europe's toughest GR long-distance route.

Jean-Marc and Nicolas hiking GR 20 in Corsica
All rocks and no trees for shade: Jean-Marc and Nicolas hiking the GR 20 footpath in Corsica

Jean-Marc resting in a cool creek along the GR 20 in Corsica France
Mediterranean Plunge. Jean-Marc cooling down in a creek along the GR 20 trail. Read another post from Corsica, France's "Island of Beauty" where we went for ou 23rd anniversary (this week we celebrate our 28th, Waouh!). Pictured below: a blossoming caper plant and view off the coast of Corsica.
Caprier caper plant on corsica France

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Comments

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Pam

Fabuleux 🎈

John Hawke

Wonderful! I too hope, and believe, this will be the start of a and very positive cycle. Buen Camino!

Leslie NYC

Dear Jean-Marc,
This is such a great recounting of your external and internal voyages.
They say that how we describe and define our lives is everything. Your summary that this is the end of a hard phase is so powerful.
I struggle with demons if my own and learn from how others wrestle and dance with theirs. You give me courage and inspiration.

Gail

Congratulations on challenging yourself and conquering fears and doubts. This is frequently an ongoing process as we battle our shadows. Thank you for setting an example of working through those tough times and reflecting on how things change with our perspectives. The hike looks incredible! Thank you so much for sharing.

Suzanne Dunaway

I hope so much that Jean-Marc is feeing better, and what an amazing and courregeous trek he accomplished. It was lovely to hear him read his adventure and have a perfect French lesson from such a beautiful voice. Merci.

Nancy

Fantastic - you inspire us all with our courage and success.

Paul

"All these tempests that fall upon us are signs that fair weather is coming shortly, and that things will go well with us, for it is impossible for good or evil to last for ever; and hence it follows that the evil having lasted long, the good must be now nigh at hand."
--Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote, Chapter 18

Kristin Espinasse


Love this. Thank you, Paul.

Jacqueline

Bravo Jean-Marc! That was some trek. Thank you for sharing your words and photos.

Kay

You remind us: we all have our physical & mental demons to overcome even w/ great fatigue
Beautifully written & read..........
Merci
& yes to the beginning of a new cycle

Kathleen Bidney

I hope that you are feeling better and as we know that when you exercise the dopamines and endorphins kick in and make you feel happy and the exercise also kicks out the depressed feelings. You took the right road.
Thank you for sharing.
The photos are great and I love the flower.
Take care, Kathleen

Leslie F

To say we are complex human beings is cliche, but it’s so true that those who are the most complex, who feel most profoundly, who look inward for strength, who constantly strive to be and do better, who yearn for the best in everything, are, at heart, the most unexpectedly bruised and the most deeply bruised. Praying that Jean-Marc will move quickly to higher ground, as he must. He is a hero.

Chris Allin

Dear Jean-Marc,
We all have our struggles. How we handle them can be significant. You have shown such courage and perseverance that one must believe if it hasn’t already started, healing is part of the way ahead.
Congratulations on your Grande Randonneé success, yet one more of your accomplishments. Keep up your strength moving forward on this journey. We are thinking of you…

Suzanne

Thank you, JM, for your recounting of your trek and for the photos! The plunge in that stream looks so refreshing. I too hope this is a start of a new and positive phase for you.

Joanne Fischer

Nothing but good for you from now on, Jean-Marc!

Patricia Sands

Bravo! Congratulations to you both for staying the course! We share your hope! Let it be!

Roseann

I need to know what is a Corsican omelet.

Karen Cafarella

Fantastic!

Cynthia Lewis

Jean-Marc,

Thank you for your compelling writing about your hike along the GR 20 in Corsica. You inspire us all. My best wishes.

Caroline

Congratulations ! Please look into magnet therapy for depression. It is life saving.

Courtial

Thanks for the recording, audio really helps

Gayle Smith Padgett

Mille fois, merci, Jean-Marc for sharing the story of your challenging trek. What an amazing accomplishment--bravo! I hope that the adventure has a very positive impact on your mindset. Your determination and perseverance are a true inspiration. All the very best, Gayle

Rondo

Le Randonnee’ my new favorite word! To ramble!😎

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