Thursday, June 30, 2011


A confrontation

We were just east of Montemaggiore, nearing the end of our walk, when I heard a very loud rustle in the grass next to the wall just ahead. As I drew alongside, the rustle intensified and out of the undergrowth slithered a long and elegant snake perhaps a metre in length or slightly less.

The snakes I know from home in the UK tend to beat a hasty retreat when they see humans. This one was different. With me slightly in front of it and Chris behind, we were blocking its route across the path, and it reared up, hissing at us. Mainly black on top and a vivid yellow underneath, we reckon it was a whip snake, more accurately described by its French name colèreuse (“hot tempered”). We got the impression that it was less than pleased to find us in its way, and we backed off so that it could cross the path and disappear into a hole in the wall on the other side.

I am sorry that it moved too quickly for me to take its photo...

If we had been relying on the Lonely Planet’s guide to Corsica (2001 edition) we would have been very confused – and possibly scared. The Lonely Planet assures its readers: “Walkers will be happy to learn that there are no snakes in Corsica” – p 28. In fact, there are two – the grass snake and the whip snake, neither of which are poisonous. Why walkers should be pleased to learn of the absence of these fascinating reptiles, venomous or not, is beyond me, and this so-called “fact” about Corsica is just plain wrong.

The circular walk we were about to complete when we met the snake started at Montemaggiore, took in the beautifully simple but isolated Pisan church (pictured) near the hamlet of Lunhignanu, and touched the corner of the village of Casanu, where we were able to replenish our water supply on a very hot day.

This was perhaps the easiest of a new series of walks published by the Balagne Office of Tourism – just 4.5km according to the leaflet (though we thought it was more) and a vertical range of 220 metres. It took us over three hours including stops (the leaflet suggested a length of just 1hr 40 mins!); we found it pretty tough, but may tackle one or possibly two of the others on our next visit.

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