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Friday 1 September - Day 1

The next day dawned. But where was the sun streaming through the shutters? Must be facing the wrong direction. Hmm, someone is sprinkling his garden already. Finally, the awful truth dawned: the warning the barman had given us about this being the season that the weather turned had not been an old local's general words of wisdom. He meant here, now, tomorrow, today.

The proprietor watched the weather forecast on the breakfast room TV with barely concealed amusement. The weather-man assured us that although it was not so good today, over the week end, and certainly by Sunday (the day after tomorrow) the weather would be back to its normal, cheerful, self. We were to receive this exact same message with increasing skepticism at least another half a dozen times during our trip.

But today, nothing was going to dampen our spirits. We collected a fresh loaf of pain complet (good for three days the baker assured us), and at exactly eight o'clock, the taxi pulled up. We piled our rucksacks in the back, ourselves in the front, and we were off. As we approached Calenzana, the head of the trail and the foot of the mountains, the weather was not improving. To me, the Brit in a party of Americans, this only served to make me feel more at home. In that sadistic way that characterizes the British hill walker, I almost looked forward to being able to use my new poncho, and the cozy feeling it generates hearing the rain pattering down the outside, and knowing that you and your possessions are (more-or-less) safe and dry underneath it. But to some other members of the party, some of whom had never walked in rain before, things were decidedly gloomy.

Figure 2: Still ignorant, but beginning to get suspicious

They were to be proved right: things were decidedly gloomy. The taxi dropped us right beside the first sign, and then dashed off to pick up more suckers from the morning's boat. We were alone. Nothing daunted, we saddled up and set off. Within moments, we spotted the first blaze: a red and white horizontal strip painted on a wall. These pointers were to prove remarkably reliable, and were always there when you needed one.

As the little town petered out, the rain petered in. Out came the ponchos, and the first surprise. The cheap plastic we had invested in might have been adequate for waiting at a bus-stop for an overdue bus, but they clearly had not been intended for us serious walkers, despite the fact that we had bought them from a hiking shop, not the local bus depot.

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