December 29, 2017

Les Goudes and Calanques

One of my resolutions this year is to hike from Marseille to Cassis in one day - along the coast in the Calanques. The trek is 37 kilometers (23 miles) and represents an elevation gain of 2203 meters (7228 ft) in total. A long day and really tough, but these are the most beautiful parts of this part of the coast and there is little access in or out, so best to do the whole thing end to end. I did a segment of it the other day - started early in the morning at Les Goudes and hiked to the Col de Cortiou. Just spectacular. I saw three other people. It felt really wild and lonely in a nourishing way. A guidebook I found recommended staying on the more technical trail along the coast. It turned out to be a lot of exposure, but well-worth the views and the sensation of being perched on a true cliff with the sea straight below. A few cables and a bit of climbing - mostly just fun.

The culmination of the stretch I did, the Col de Cortiou, offered these spanning vistas of the sea and the small islands that hover out in the distance. The sky that day came on strong, the clouds convincing in their changing forms.

I found the Calanque de l’Escu and sat on the enormous chunks of rock there in a stupor for a while. Such a wild and hidden place, almost like a sea cave. The day was a bit stormy, so the waves came crashing into the cavern with force. The place feels tragic and ominous because it is. Above the cavern there is a plaque with a boy’s name on it: Sylvain Menu. In 1981 an older boy scout dove into crashing waves to save one of the younger boys in their troop of hikers. He managed to save the boy, but was carried out to sea by another forceful wave that came just after.

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