GR20 Day 1 – Conca to Auberge du Col de Bavella
As we ascended from Conca, the scenery that surrounded us was of lush greens with tall mountains and reddish rocks towering over us. Flowers were blooming along the trail, vivid pinks, and yellows, and some quite interesting white blooms as well. The scenery, until we crested to the first saddle, nearly had a tropical feel.
We left Conca at 8:00 a.m. According to our fellow trekkers, we very lazy. Everyone else was gone at least an hour before us, except for Adele and Hannah with whom we shared dinner last night. They left at 7:30
Dave and I purchased breakfast at the gite. Many other trekkers got breakfast here too, we could tell from the empty baskets left in dining area. If you are a big eater, the breakfast would suffice you for what a breakfast is supposed to suffice you for. People who eat smaller portions could have easily taken leftovers with them to eat for lunch. We received one croissant each, deliciously fresh one, even better than we tasted at Bastia, I dare to say, and a long baguette with jam to share. There also was a hot drink included. I opted for hot chocolate while Dave went for caffeine.
The hike out of Conca was a sweaty one. All the greenery gave way to humidity and even though the uphill was gentle compared to what we normally hike, my shirt was completely drenched by the time we arrived at the first saddle, where there was a light breeze for a change and where for a brief moment we reconnected with Adele and Hannah. Their hiking pace was more relaxed than ours and their hiking plan was to spend night at gite d’ I Paliri, which we planned to only take a brief lunch at and so it might as well been the last time our journeys crossed path. But then on trails like this, one simply never knows.
At gite d’ I Paliri, we met with our roommates from Last night, a French couple in their later 50’s. They were extremely nice and we enjoyed their company a lot, though due to the language barrier our communication was limited to the basics. They originally planned to hike all the way to Bavella, a small mountain village couple hiking hours past I Paliri but it happened that the husband developed a shoulder pain and they decided to finish their day early to allow for his shoulder to rest and hopefully recover. With their help, we contacted gite in Bavella village to make sure beds were still available. There is absolutely no camping in Bavella and it was nice to have a room pre arranged. We got a green light and after saying good byes, we were on a move again.
The trail, rocky and rooty and sometimes requiring us to use our hands to make it up or down a severely tall step, was everything we hoped to experience. There were views of beautiful mountains and deep valleys, and pleasant forests to walk through. We rock-hopped several creeks. We saw two natural springs signed as SOURCE where one can drink water without filtering it first, and then there were flowers of many shapes and colors. It was truly a lovely walk.
Shortly after 4:00 p.m. we strolled to Bavella, a peaceful village with beautiful views and friendly people in the Auberge du Col de Bavella where our beds were reserved. Beds in a shared room were available for €45.00 per person. For €65.00 per person we could get a private room with our own shower and board. I feel like such a sisi admitting it, but I have never hiked in a place where at the end of the day, I could wring a stream of sweat from my shirt and I wanted a hot shower quite badly after this stage. Dave, who sweated even through his pants, was on the same page. And man, did the shower feel nice.
Night at the La Tonnelle gite was not as restful as we hoped for. While our roommates were extremely polite and quiet, people in other rooms were celebrating their successfully finished hike and were super loud until well after midnight. (Even after we asked them politely if they could tune things down a bit.) I’m not sure if it was just our luck but since this is the finish line for majority of trekkers I have a feeling this place has hold countless noisy celebrations over the years.
Camping at the Gite I Paliri looked lovely. There were plenty of flat sites in a semi open forest. The actual gite offered tables in the open, a pleasant place to hang out on a nice day, not so much if the mountains were moody. There was a cold shower available and water from a source (spring). Camping as we were told was €11.00 for two people. One could buy a large beer for €7.50 and advertised dinner was spaghetti for €19.00
In Bavella, there was one more gite, just up the road (Les Aiguilles de Bavella) where they offered us board and a room for €40.00 a person but the only beds they had available were in a shared 5-bed dorm. There is a cell phone reception up on the hill if that makes a difference to you. No internet.
The private room in Auberge du Col de Bavella was small but super comfortable. The dinner was included in the price and we had a three course meal starting with vegetable soup, followed by very good pork and quite heavenly potatoes and for a desert we got custard. Alcohol was on us. €7.50 for large half liter Pietra beer, or €5.80 for the same size Siena beer. Half liter of house wine was also €7.50. For €4.00 we had an access to washing machine and drier was €2.00. Clothing lines were also available but not much sunshine touched them in late afternoon.
Getting all the way to Bavella is not a problem for an experienced trekker. Those new to trekking and/or those not accustomed to carrying heavier backpack might consider stopping at I Paliri. The trail is rocky and has some ups that you might feel if you are not in a decent trekking shape.