.: words – Carmen Kuntz
.: photos – Rok Rozman
Hiking trips are great – you have all you need on your back. Bike trips are cool too – with everything neatly tucked into panniers. But when it comes to comfort, carry capacity and the ability to cover some solid kilometers… nothing beats the kayak. Regardless of whether you are a lover of saltwater or whitewater, the kayak is a vessel that allows you to pack all your gear inside your mode of transportation. And this opens up a world of multi-day adventure possibilities.
This spring we had a thirst for on-water exploration, but couldn’t decide between rivers or the sea. So, we brought boats for both. We loaded two Scorches and two Leos onto our truck and rumbled our way to Corsica to dip our paddle in two types of paddling styles, enjoying the simplicity of paddle-powered multi-days.
Sea kayaking is best done in the sun.
And sunshine is what greeted us when our ferry landed in Bastia, Corsica’s primary port town. Mid-April in Corsica can mean that either snowmelt or rain storms fill up the rivers. We were a little late for the former, and a bit too early for the latter, so we sipped some Cap du Corse liquor and poured over the paper map to plan a 6-day sea kayak trip. What better way to wait for the rain than to build up some paddle muscles on the sea!
We drove to the small west coast town of Galéria, which is located approximately on the forehead of the almost-face-shaped island. Parked just meters from the sea, gear was spread out in the parking lot like a yard sale. This was my first multiday-day sea kayak trip, and I was shocked by the amount of gear I could tuck into the hatches and hull of my lime-green Leo. As my boat was swallowing gear, I realized I would have space for my book, paints, a camp chair and some cans of beer. All the luxuries that often get left behind when we go hiking in the mountains of Slovenia. For this holiday-style trip weight wasn’t a concern as we would be floating, paddling (or sailing) our way some 150 km to the Liamone River Delta, and taking our time to do so.
I felt like a pirate as I walked into town to buy provisions – bread, rice, wine, and some local wild boar salami. Rok, on the other hand, was enjoying the puzzle of tucking fishing rods under the elastic hull straps and securing lures and line in the cockpit for easy access. The plan was to catch the protein that would power our paddles.
Once on the water, we glided over the turquoise water, and popped our sails up as soon as we rounded the first point, red rock cliffs and a tailwind greeting us. We used paddles and the power of the wind to trace the coastline, relishing in the details of the rock formations and the scents of the flowering macchia.
As the sun dipped low, we found a beach to camp on and dragged our boats onto the pebble shore, appreciating the sturdy nature of our CoreLite X hulls, which felt stiff and responsive in the water, yet were light enough (and tough enough) to easily move on land. These boats perfectly matched the carefree yet efficient vibe of our trip. On the pebble beach, shoes came off immediately and gear came out, one hatch at a time.
Again, I was surprised – this time by how easy it was to be organized in a long sea kayak. Each hatch had a purpose. Water and other ‘hydration’ liquids in one hatch. Sleeping gear in another. Placing my trust in the watertight hatches meant I didn’t have to wrestle with bulky drybags. Navigation implements (map and phone) were within reach in the small front portal. And the final hatch was home to food – veggies and spices, cookies and coffee.
Rok’s preference for camp spots was based on fishing possibilities, while every beach looked like a piece of paradise to me. He wasted no time in casting a line, and we ate from the sea each day of the trip. From barracuda, to conger eel, amber jack and even a massive snapper! Add rice, garlic, salt and wine, and we ate like kings!
Each day we were treated to sunshine, blue skies and often a tailwind – a real treat on the exposed west coast of the island. We had easy morning coffees, packed and paddled, some days not before noon! We stopped at a couple of seaside villages for ice cream and sightseeing, castles on rocky outcrops drawing us in. We played the lottery daily, gambling on choosing the perfect beach right in front of us, or daring to check the next. Fish over a savory driftwood fire and sipping beer until the stars made their late arrival, our heads hit the pillow each night without worries. We were drunk on the simplicity of having all the gear to be comfortable, while having a vessel that allowed us to explore a coastline that was otherwise completely inaccessible by foot. And doing it all in the season before the crowds and yachts pepper the bays.
We almost lost track of time, enjoying the daily routine of the nomadic life on the sea. But on our sixth day, the weather made the call for us, and we half sailed, half surfed our way onto the kilometres-long Liamone beach, with high winds and waves building and the forecast calling for rain. It was a perfect way to end a trip rich in flavours of the sea, coastal exploration and pure enjoyment of moving over water with all the camping luxuries stowed below deck. Because no matter how much gear and treats you have with you, the weather and the sea provide the real indulgences.
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Whitewater kayaking, on the other hand, is a sport often enjoyed in the rain. But a multiday trip spent dodging raindrops and hiding out under tarps isn’t much fun. So, we let the rain build the rivers up, and when the sunshine returned we packed up and paddled off for an overnight on one of the mellow sections of the Taravo River.
With its source in the mountains near the small village of Cozzano, the river flows mostly southwest meeting the Mediterranean near the town of Propriano, just two big bays down from where our sea kayaking trip ended. We washed the saltwater from our gear on the grade 5 section, but were keen to see more of the river. A night sleeping on the granite banks was one way to satisfy that hunger.
After an hour of mostly floating and sightseeing, we found a flat granite slab with a little eddy tucked behind, and stopped to enjoy the afternoon sun. Packing for a whitewater kayak overnighter (not to be confused with an expedition), is much simpler, as the limited space in your boat ultimately dictates what you can bring. Unpacking my kit, I realized how our luxurious sea kayaking kit was slimmed down for a river trip. Small and simple. Sleeping gear in one back quadrant, safe inside a big drybag. Clothes and cooking gear in separate drybags in the other. And a third drybag in my lap – holding my notebook, snacks, headtorch, toothbrush and other necessities. (Rok’s fishing rod also made the cut, a small tenkara suited for some catch-and-release fishing for the native Corsican trout).
After Asian noodle soup with tuna and veggies, (followed by whiskey and chocolate cookies), we were ready for bed. We taco-ed ourselves in the small tarp and hoped for a dry night, but the steady drizzle that started in the early morning hours eventually forced us out of bed and into drysuits. Like on our sea kayak trip, we left each camp spot without a trace of our presence. The sun broke through after about an hour of paddling, and the trees overhanging the river lit up, in sections forming a disco-green tunnel over the water.
Leaning back and letting the current take us at the river’s pace was much like letting the wind push us along the sea. Going at the pace of nature – with the help of a paddle stroke here and there – we were able to appreciate spring in a way that can’t be done by day trips. These days and nights spent by the water ultimately reminded us that a kayak is more than the sum of all its parts; it allows you the ultimate luxury – being a part of the aquatic environs for a moment or two.