Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Turquoise calanques once more

Boating with Éric was an experience to remember. But water is not my element. I need to move, walk long distances, change places. Why not walk the Calanques? Over 20 km over the mountains? I'm up for this!

On Friday Thierry and Jehane picked me up from Marseille and we headed for Grand Méjean, on Côte Bleue. We reached our clandestine place to sleep just before sunset - a rock with little space on the top enough for 3 sleeping bags. The red sun like an eruption and its rays reflecting on the rocks was an alluring view.

Our planned hike from Callelongue to Cassis became a hike from Les Goudes to Col de la Gineste. With moderate difficulty at the beginning, it slowly became more demanding when it advanced. First difficult passage came at Calanque de Marseilleveyre (3rd km). Jehane chose to follow a small passage and not the main trail and this way she led us to a precipitous slope with a drop right to the water. We had to be hypervigilant while crossing it but still it was a piece of cake compared to parts of the trail that were in store for us.

The path...

...and how it looked from the beach.

More difficulties came around Falaise des Toits (6th km). First time to climb into the mountains, which was demanding only because of how long we had to walk uphill on a steep slope. Still nothing to really make you think "hell, that can't be done." Yet when you see a mountain that is almost vertical in front of you, you'll for sure think how the hell it's possible to reach the top.

After Calanque de Morgiou (12th km) came the first chance to check our adhesion abilities. A vertical rock, with just enough holes to put your hands and tiptoes, nothing more. And the empty spaces were damn slippery with no edges to grip strongly. What if we had to pass it the other way, not seeing anything? It would probably be a slide that ends in the calanque.

The diagonal connecting top left corner with the bottom right corner is the way we made.

Roads just like in Alps! Everything resembles beloved Alps.

Mingling colors of Calanque de Sugiton (13th km)

Another difficult passage and the first point with chains. Holding to them, we had to make a U-turn in a tiny corridor (with our backpacks) and descend on the ladder. Too slippery and too tight to take photos of the corridor itself (13th km).
We didn't manage to complete the hike in one day. Around 14th km we started searching for a place to sleep. At that part of the trail it wasn't very difficult. Compared to some parts of the trail we encountered, this one was like an autoroute. Small rocks on the ground didn't bother too much; after entire day of walking on slightly demanding terrain anybody would sleep like a baby.

Have a close look!

The second day started with getting woken up by a runner passing next to our camp. Once again, mosquitoes ate us alive. No sunrise this time, too many rocks. But the improving weather and other magnificent views made us afire for more.

More obstacles on our way this day. More steep passages to traverse or climb. How good we didn't decide to hike the other direction, otherwise we'd probably be forced to change our route too many times. 5 hours on a safer detour or 5 seconds - the duration of a jump from the top of the rock?

Pas de l'Œil de Verre - even with chains and steps to support it's still a perilous place (16th km).

How much determination in Jehane (17th km)!

Around 1 pm we saw our destination from afar for the first time (20th km). But instead of getting closer, it slowly receded. We reached some road and I tried to figure out our location, futile. It turned out that we took the wrong trail and passed the mountains to get to Col de la Gineste, almost the same distance as to Cassis (24 km in total). But no regrets, the views were splendid too, and moreover, no sooner had we hitched a ride to Marseille than it began to rain. And that'd be even more lousy to be in the mountains at that time and climb even more slippery rocks.

Jehane was defnitelly the bravest person. This girl is almost 9 years old but did things that many grown-ups would quiver in fear to do were they in the same position. She never whined, cried or threw fits when we had to pass the most difficult parts of the trail. With her little hands and legs she reached for the best place to place them and safely pass the cliff. Sometimes the good spots were too far from each other for me (or rather because of our size, she had bigger choice to find the right spot) but she tackled them without any problem and even in some situation was the first one to run and make it happen. Never in my life have I seen so much courage in a child.

And Marseille itself? The first impression about it I had seeing Le Vieux Port and its surroundings two weeks ago was "It's so dirty." Worse was yet to come. After many walks in different parts of the city I thought that I'd never been to a place that looks quite nice seen from above and so disgusting when you walk its streets. At least in the center. Marseille resembles one big landfill. The oldest city in France that has nothing old about it, with the most lively part of the city inundated with trash, the old quarter Le Panier very quiet, with houses that not much different from derelict buildings in my home town, almost empty at nighttime, with steps leading to the beach that smell like sewers, with rats running on the streets!

But I don't travel only to see places! It was good to come and spend time with my host Stéphane and hist friends, use both English and French to communicate, listen to Stéphane's stories about hitchhiking in Sicily and his Mediterranean roots, discover the city at nighttime, talk to strangers on the street, receive smiles. However the city is disgusting, its people are one of the kindest I've met during my travels. Even if they insist on having a drink with you or getting your phone number.

Great team: Pierre, Stéphane and Endrik. Only Gersende, my French-speaking mate is missing.

I loved being back in touch with nature of real adventure! Hopefully the weather stays as good as it is right now, so we can do the second leg of our hike to Cassis!

1 comment:

  1. "the city is disgusting, its people [...] insist on having a drink with you or getting your phone number"
    So funny comment!
    Thank you for your all article my friend!
    I showed your article to my mates: we all appreciated you too, come back whenever you want ;-)