Lucy Ferriss


I've called this blog "Travelin' Thoughts" in the past, because I kept it mostly as a journal to record impressions of new places and cultures. But in a way, it's still a place for traveling thoughts--ideas that move through and past me, and out into the world. Some of these are literary, some just about life. It's a good place to open up the conversation, and I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Hello Lake, Goodbye Voice

July 04, 2016

On Thursday, June 30, we left in our 8 cars for Porto Pollo, on the southern end of Corsica, to stay for two nights while we performed our first concert in the town of Bastilicaccia, with Spartemu, the renowned Corsican paghjella quartet. This was a stunning trip, though in the end I couldn’t take part in the concert. My assigned passengers en route to Porto Pollo were two teenagers, Rahel and Yael, who were game to take one of the hikes in my fabulous little guidebook. So after winding our way down Cap Corse and through the Desert des Agriates (an “ecological disaster” of sheep overgrazing the land and creating a stark landscape of stony mountains and valleys of gorse and thicket), we stopped outside Corte to find the Lac de Melo, one of two lakes more than a mile above sea level.

Already, at this point, my voice was fading. I had pulled out of auditioning for some of the trios because my vocal chords had gotten too fragile – more experienced singers told me I was clearly pushing it – and had only a short solo intro to a Kyrie we were doing. But I figured I might never get another chance to see this lake, so up we went. A narrow, winding road followed a gorge for perhaps 15 kilometers southwest, climbing all the while, with river swimmers parked at precarious angles along the way. At the end of the road a hut announced the start of the path and we began scrambling up. At this point I realized Rahel was in sandals; had I known how hard the path would get would be I might’ve announced we were turning back. After about a half-hour we passed another hut and a trio of donkeys who were quite friendly, surely expecting tourist treats. Then the path split, and we chose the supposedly more strenuous and gorgeous route. It led us past trickling streams, mountain cows, and wildflowers up to a very sharp rise that we could manage only by pulling on chains and eventually climbing a pair of steep metal ladders. Almost no vegetation at this point, only great boulders and narrow paths of loose shale. After about 80 minutes we got to the plateau, and the lake shone before us. Across it, another steep rise to the second lake, which was not on our agenda. No one was at the lake, and I suggested we not bother with suits. The water was ice cold, the kind of shock that turns to numbness so that after 5 minutes you don’t even want to get out. Across the lake, as we swam out, I noticed what looked like a huge white plastic sheet curling down the mountain. Odd, I thought. When I felt my lungs starting to constrict, I told the girls I’d head to shore. And along the shore, at that point, I saw a deeply tanned older man making his way, picking up trash. There I was, alone on a mountaintop with two delectable teenaged girls and a strange man . . . so I decided to strike up a conversation in French. I began by asking him if he would mind my getting out, though I didn’t have my suit on. No problem, he said. He sees naked swimmers every day; he lives there. He pointed out his hut, on the northern end of the lake. He was the keeper of the lake, he said. He’d been there three months, all alone except for his pet fox. I was getting out of the lake at this point, and admired how he didn’t let his eyes stray past my face. He hated doing the kind of pickup his was doing, he said – but people shat in the bushes and left toilet paper around, and he had to pick it up. I wish I had gotten a picture of him. He offered to turn his back when the girls came out, but they felt safe. I asked what the white sheeting was on the far side, and he said it was snow, a deep bed of it that doesn’t melt till mid-July. He also said the lake was filled with trout that he often eats for supper. He offered us a glass of wine back at his hut but I said we had to get going – it was 7:00 by then, and even in midsummer bound to get dark. We took the "less strenuous" path down, and found the description to be a misnomer, but we made it to the car and the main road before dark.

By the time we reached our idyllic residence in the seaside town of Porto Pollo, I'd lost my voice. Maybe it was the cold swim. More likely, it was simply too much singing all through the week, plus the usual bugs that go around a group of 30 people coming from all over. I had to sit out the concert that night with one other singer. Another missing person was the fourth member of the Spartemu quartet, who'd flown to the Continent for some medical emergency. So everyone improvised a good bit, but the audience whooped and cheered loudly. I was bummed not to sing, but I'm on a gorgeous island with lovely people -- and the next day, I was picking up Don at the airport. (This blog is now lagging behind by about four days!) Prehistoric ruins and the adventurous drive north in the next post. A preview:







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