Tuesday, October 13, 2009


A wet walk in the desert

Today we decided to revisit a walk we have done once before, along the edge of the Desert des Agriates where the rocks of this “desert” tumble down into the Gulf of St Florent. The last time we did the walk we started out too late in the day – the Tour de Mortella had proved just too far and we had been forced to turn back with the tower visually close but tantalisingly out of reach.

After a worryingly bumpy ride along an unmade road – the recent heavy rains have gouged huge ruts in its surface – we finally parked our car in the car park at the head of the Anse de Fornali. Refreshed by coffee from our flask and armed with swimming gear, our lunch and plenty of water, we were off.

The walk, part of the Sentier de Douaniers, dives into dense woodland, then immediately breaks out into a flat and accessible mud and rock path that winds along the coast north east, away from St Florent in the direction of Ostriconi. For once, the Mediterranean sun was hiding behind a veil of thin cloud and we were grateful for it. To say the walk zig-zags would be an understatement. One minute you are close to a jutting promontory where cormorants stand rock-still waiting for their prey; a hundred metres later you are tramping along a weed-strewn shingle beach, heading for the next scrambling ascent.

Two rivers crossed our path and needed to be crossed by us. The first, the Fiume de Boghiu, has a sandy bar across its mouth and we were able to cross it with few problems. The second, larger river, the Fiume Santu, is another proposition altogether. Here the sand bar is set back from the coast and you have to wade thigh deep in the sea to get to it. And at the northern end of the bar we found another problem – the river, swollen with recent rain, had cut a deeper than usual gouge in the bar and made wading impossible.

It was time for our swimming gear. With all our belongings in our ruck-sacks, we braved the sea, walking in an arc round the mouth of the river. At the furthest point we were forced to put our bags on our heads as the water rose to our chests. We were grateful to feel the level dropping again as we approached the other side.

Another hour’s walking brought us to the imposing Tour de Mortella. Just half of it, the north-facing half, remains. Originally part of Genoa’s coastal defence system, the tower is now incredibly remote, with only the seagulls, foolhardy walkers and the Mortella lighthouse for company.

Then of course, we had to walk back.

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