L'Ile Rousse - Lavender Fields, Forever - CycleBlaze

June 20, 2003

L'Ile Rousse

We got out on another early start this morning, and after a 7 AM breakfast were on the road soon after 8, working our way up to the pass across the Agrietes Desert.  It is a pretty gentle climb, ascending for about seven miles to an elevation of 340 meters at the summit.  There was very little shade but we were early enough in the day to avoid any serious heat exposure.  The scenery continues to be striking - the devegetated expanses and peaks of the desert are outlined by the distant haze of the Mediterranean.  Near the summit, a scissor-tailed raptor piloted us for several hundred meters, gliding low above our heads and straight on down the highway.

At the summit, a cycling team wheeled up behind us, milled around waiting for stragglers, and then playfully lined up across the road to provide a photo opportunity for the benefit of the tourists.

Monte Genova, Agriates Desert
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Blond and bikers, Bocca di Vezzu
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Dropping from the top, we freewheeled for about 10k to the base of the pass, briefly rejoined the national highway (still virtually traffic-free), and then veered off to the south again for a side loop through the eastern edge of Balagne.  The first 15k of this ride were on a poorly paved single lane road, a contrast to the generally wonderfully smooth surfaces we have encountered so far.   It seems as if northern Corsica has been on a major resurfacing campaign in recent years, making the roads excellent for cycling.  Our rough road this morning wasn't so wonderful though, slowing our progress considerably as we worked our way upstream through the scrub and cactus to the tiny village of Novella.  This is extremely quiet country, and we were passed by only one car, a student driver, in an hour and a half.

The road climbs very slowly for about 10k before rising sharply away from the creek for a tough, very hot 4k pull to Novella, which fortunately had an open snack bar.  We collapsed at a table indoors away from the sun and revitalized ourselves over cokes, a liter of water, and ice cream.  The walls of this tiny cafe were lined with photographs of the owner and friends on a bear hunt fifteen years in the past.   The hostess kindly filled our water bottles with ice water before we departed.

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Back on the road, we continued climbing steeply for another 4k and then dropped steeply down the other side of the ridge for a few more before rejoining the highway and continuing to climb north toward Belgodere.  Though this too was a very quiet road, it seemed almost busy in comparison with the one we just left - in the next 20k, traffic on the road consisted of one car, one bull, and two other touring cyclists going the other direction.

Belgodere was another beautiful village - one of the largest of dozens we passed through in the Belagne.  There is an amazing density of these villages in the interior, all situated at an elevation of about a thousand feet, gracing precipitous ridges or summits, frequently spaced only four or five kilometers apart.

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A hot time in Corsica
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We had lunch in Belgodere - paninis and cokes - at an outdoor restaurant on the central square - and then bore northward for l'Ile Rousse, 15 kilometers away.   Our room for this and the next night in l'Ile Rouse was easily our best yet (once our hostess understood that we had reservations and quit trying to send us away).  We're in a small hotel, perhaps 12-15 rooms, of which we have one of the finest - a 2nd floor unit with a covered balcony overlooking the sea only about 40 yards away.  It was a wonderful place to stay.  On both afternoons, we beelined for the beach immediately after arrival, returning after we'd had our fill to shower and then read or doze in the shade on the balcony.

The Agriates Desert
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L'Ile Rousse
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Total elevation gain: for the day, 4,080'.  For the tour, 11,810'.

Today's ride: 79 km (49 miles)
Total: 269 km (167 miles)

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