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Thirteen Days of Hiking on Corsica -- Tizzano to Cala di Conca

The few weeks before I left for Corsica, my French clients assured me that I'd probably die in a forest fire set by a crazy arsonist. And if I didn't meet this fate, I'd certainly be shot or at least shot at. All the road signs, they said, are riddled with bullet holes. So of course I was glad to finally be embarking on a truly dangerous adventure--which I've returned from, a spoiler I guess.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing my hikes on Corsica for those of you who think this island might be for you, forest fires and bullet-hole-riddled street signs notwithstanding. I'll be giving some tips on how to maximize pleasure and minimize hassle. And I'll be sharing some photos, mainly of rocks. Brown rocks. Gray rocks. Small ones. Big ones. Wet ones. Dusty ones. Corsica is a medium-sized box of rocks--actually the fourth largest heap of rocks in the Mediterranean Sea.

My first tip: book your accommodation close to the area of Corsica you plan to visit the most. There are lots of camping facilities and a range of bungalows to choose from in the mountains or on the coast. If you plan to hike in the mountains, stay in the mountains; if you plan to broil your poor skin on the beach, stay near the beach. The main roads--and there are only two or three--are jammed with cars from morning to night. Plan two centuries longer than you think you'll need. Traffic jams on Corsica are notorious, but if you avoid the main roads altogether, you won't have to worry about them.

So for our first hike, Ignatius the Cartographer's Accountant chooses a place a million miles away. We set out down the main road in the direction of Bonifacio, a drive that might take an hour with light traffic. It takes us five. It might have taken us only four hours, but Ignatius the Cartographer's Accountant makes a wrong turn and keeps driving in the wrong direction until a nice, elderly couple asks us if we need help. We can't understand much of what they say, and they can't understand much of what we say, but it's a sweet exchange.

"Tizzano!" I yell out the car window, coughing in the cloud of dust from our cars.

"Ohhhhh!" The man waves his hands around like You are nowhere near Tizzano. Tizzano is on another planet. Your children will be grown before you get to Tizzano. Forget Tizzano. OK, so I actually understand quite a lot.

In the end we understand that we need to turn around and turn left--which turns out to be right--after we pass the hospital that we passed a century ago.

The tiny town of Tizzano is our starting point. Actually, the end of a poorly maintained dirt road 30 minutes beyond Tizzano is the starting point. This trail, Tizzano to Cala di Conca, is billed as one of the "greatest walks of the island" in our German guidebook (a five-hour walk). When we finally arrive in Tizzano at the end of that dusty, potholed road, we are all too ready to get out of the car, but no one is up for a five-hour walk. It's already 2 p.m.

Tizzano to Cala di Conca is actually a good initiation to Corsica. The path along the coast is mostly flat but with a few ups and downs over rocks, rocks and more rocks. The rock formations are the stars of this walk, but the little coves and bays you'll encounter along the way are close runners-up. There is even the very occasional bar or restaurant on this path, which is not the case in the mountains.

The coast along the path from Tizzano to Cala di Conca, Corsica

Corsica Fun Fact: Ajaccio, the capital city of Corsica--or the head office of the Collectivité territoriale de Corse--is the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Stay tuned for more Corsican hikes in the coming weeks. And also keep an eye out for the winners of the 2017 I Must Be Off! Travel Writing Competition. The long list and the shortlist have already been published. If the title of your entry is on one of these lists, congratulations! Sadly, if the title of your entry does not appear on the shortlist, this means it is no longer in the running. Thank you to everyone who entered this year. As blind judging is still in progress, please do not share the title of your entry on social media. Good luck to everyone on the shortlist!

I must be off,


Christopher Allen is the managing editor at SmokeLong Quarterly. His debut flash fiction collection is forthcoming from Matter Press. Allen's fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in [PANK], Indiana Review, Juked, FRiGG, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts and others. Read his book reviews in Necessary Fiction, The Lit Pub, Fiction Southeast and others. In 2017 Allen was both a finalist (as translator) and semifinalist for The Best Small Fictions. He lives somewhere in Europe--for now.

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