With three nights left on Corsica, we departed from Camping La Chiappa just after 9am intending on seeing some sights before finding another campsite.
We wound our way slowly up into the mountains to visit the town of Zonza (plenty of restaurants but unremarkable) and then continued on to Cascades de Polischellu.
As we traversed the mountain roads several tourist attractions were evidenced by the long rows of cars parked along the road side for a considerable distance before and after their access points. Many of the tourists had stopped at gorges, waterfalls and rock pools, while others were visiting a church.
The waterfall/ rock pools we had chosen were Cascades de Polischellu and we found a full car park there. Luckily it seemed most people were canyonning rather than looking to bathe in the nearby pools.
It wasn't immediately obvious how to access the waterfall-fed pools until we spotted people emerging from a steep bank at one end of the car park. As we climbed down we could hear the splashes of cascading water and the screams of bathers sliding down the smooth rocky ledges between pools.
Tony and I found somewhere to leave our bag of belongings and waded in to a deep pool. The water was crystal blue but very cold. After swimming in the warm sea for two weeks the water temperature here was a shock and so we didn't swim for long. It was enough to have seen and done it.
All sights ticked off our list for the day we went in search of a campsite. We had ear marked one near the town of Corte but, as we got nearer, Corte didn't look nearly so pretty as in photos we'd seen and the campsite was small, full and cramped.
I said to Tony that I'd rather we found somewhere else and, as it began to rain hard, we decided perhaps we'd go back to the coast.
Less than fifteen minutes into our drive we stumbled across Camping Campita. We decided it was worth a look and we followed the turning off the main road down to the campsite. We parked Cleopatra and went on foot to evaluate this new possibility.
A small cluster of tents were pitched under trees while a track led across a small bridge. We followed the track which traced the path of a small river where clear waters bubbled noisily over smooth pebbles and stones. The first few pitches by the river were taken but the last few were all free. We were smitten with the last pitch before the road ran out and decided we could make do without electricity in order to park Cleopatra there for two nights. We retraced our steps back to reception.
With nobody in sight and the only signage being a handwritten note saying 'cash only', we rang a doorbell. The door was answered by an elderly gentleman and after our usual 'bonjour' greeting I asked if he spoke English.
'No,' said the man, before asking where we were from.
Once he knew we were from England he suddenly and inexplicably became able to speak English.
'Come in,' he beckoned, before explaining: 'I am blind.'
We followed the man into the house and in to a study just off the hallway. We managed to explain we were two people in a camping car and that we didn't require electricity.
The man, now seated at a desk, picked up a pen that was between the pages in a ring binder. He passed the pen to me and asked me to fill in the next empty row on the page, explaining column by column what information was required.
Next he wanted an identity card and I gave my driving licence. He flipped through a box of plastic wallets, finding one with a yellow tag inside and asking us what number it was. We told him it was 11 (because it was). The man took out the yellow tag, replacing it with my driving licence. Then he returned the wallet to the box, having to ask us when he'd correctly filled it between 10 and 12.
We were to put the yellow tag in our camping car window and pitch where we liked. We returned to Cleopatra, Tony driving while I moved a rope which was acting as barrier across the road. The man came out of the house to 'watch.'
We found level ground easily and soon had Cleopatra ready for two nights' camping. Hot and sweaty in the midday heat we donned our swimming trunks and sought out access to the river.
After more than three years of camping in Cleopatra we've got her equipped with pretty much anything we could ever need, squirelling away things like hammocks and petanque sets beneath the drivers' seat. It was from here we pulled or two pairs of water shoes that would make swimming from stones comfortable rather than a painful, clumsy ordeal.
The river was cold but so clean that it just invited us to persevere. It was shallow, just ankle deep until almost the middle, and then plunged into an area in which we could see but not touch the bottom. I was soon swimming around while Tony continued slowly, millimetre by millimetre.
I hauled myself out onto the opposite bank, lured by a log swing hanging by a rope from a tree. I climbed the tree but the swing remained out of my grasp. Tony watched expectantly and the only trick I had left was to leap back into the river from my perch halfway up the tree. I splashed back into the cold water, going completely under before resurfacing, exhilarated from my daring feat.
We spent the remainder of the day relaxing in front of the campervan. Barely able to see any other camper or tent and, with our lovely big pitch under trees and beside the river, it felt like true wilderness camping. Being off grid added to the feeling of remoteness.
We cooked our dinner of vegetable chilli on our gas stove. We started cooking early, since chilli is always best when left to infuse slowly. I turned on the gas for short periods, the lentil, onion and soya chunk mixture in its tomato sauce keeping warm in the pan between bursts of heat.
I've never been a big fan of soya chunks, finding them spongy and watery. I'd have rather used the soya mince we also had in our camping larder. However I was pleasantly surprised, as I would be again the next night when we used them in a madras curry. Whether in chunks or mince form, soya is a great camping supply to have - it's inexpensive, light and versatile and, unlike meat, keeps for months with no requirement to refrigerate.
The temperature was a slightly more comfortable night-time level up in the mountains and I slept well. Tony even fetched the duvet in the early hours.
The next day I was up before Tony and I decided I'd get the first use out of a camping shower Tony had bought from Amazon during one of his moments of off-grid, wild-camping ambition. I filled our collapsible bucket from the river, hung the shower head in a tree and plonked the motor and pump unit into the cold clear water. With my shower gel and conditioner standing on a rock next to me I pressed the on/off button and a powerful stream of water launched from up above. The duration of a shower is limited only by the amount of water in the bucket. I was able to complete my normal shower ritual before time ran out.
We ate breakfast of feta which, by then, hadn't been refrigerated for 24 hours, on top of a baguette we'd bought when we'd left Porto Vecchio the previous day. The feta packet had begun to balloon but its contents seemed fine.
Tony couldn't let me be the only one to try out the camping shower and he performed the same process as I had earlier.
Then we walked into the small town of Francardo, which despite its diminutive size boasts two bars, two restaurants, a shop and a hair salon. It also has a train station and about half a dozen times a day a two-carriage train stops there before completing a lap of the valley as it continues on its way.
The shop was closed - this is France after all - but one of the bars was open and an outside table was full of drinkers just before lunchtime.
We'd probably walked for an hour when we arrived back at Camping Campita, but in the 30-something-degree heat it was all the exercise we could muster and the remainder of the day was spent in, or lounging beside, the river. It rained towards the late afternoon, briefly but quite hard. That would really be the only downside to camping in the mountains - occasional cloud cover and rain showers.
On our second morning we had to leave and locate ourselves nearer to Bastia for the early ferry on Wednesday. Tony opted to use the campsite showers, while I decided that, rather than take a bucket of water from the river to shower in, I may as well just swim in it. I took my shower gel and conditioner to the deep section, allowing the bottles to float next to me while I bathed. I couldn't take my eyes off them for too long thanks to the fast flow of the crystal waters. Tony would report upon his return that the site's showers were warm, but I thought I'd had the more off-grid and exhilarating experience.
When we checked out a young lad was present and took our money (€40 for two nights) and returned my driving licence. A little girl, only a toddler, dropped the rope barrier for Cleopatra as we left Camping Campita, a truly special campsite hidden in the Corsican hills.