[The following originally ran in the August 2013 edition of Canoe & Kayak.]
DIRTBAG DIARIES: Kayak Corsica
Known as the birthplace of creekboating, the Mediterranean island of Corsica has long been a crown jewel for kayakers. But its hard-to-pinpoint, fluctuating flows keep the masses out. That didn’t deter Slovenian-born Rok Sribar and photographer Darin McQuoid, who brought three fellow Americans to the island for two weeks of Corsican creeking during one of the best runoff seasons on record. — Eugene Buchanan
Darin: It’s expensive to fly kayaks from the U.S. to Corsica, so we flew into Munich and borrowed boats from Prijon. From there we drove through Austria to Slovenia, paddled the Soca River, then onto Italy to catch the ferry to Corsica. We knew the boating was going to be good; we could see blankets of white covering peaks rising 8,000 feet above the Mediterranean.
Rok: Corsica’s water levels are notoriously hard to predict, but flows were almost optimal this year.
Darin: Most of the rivers hadn’t run for three years or so, but we hit it on a huge snowpack year when everything was high. It was cool to be where creekboating all started. Everything we were running, people had run in fiberglass kayaks more than two decades ago.
Rok: It was rainier than I’d ever seen. I’d never paid for a campground there, but we had five wet people cramped inside a Subaru Forester. Plus, the campground had a large tent where we could organize and dry our gear.
Darin: You definitely want to use official campgrounds over there. If you don’t, locals may start throwing rocks at your car. Use one and no one messes with your stuff. The local “mafia” will protect you, so you definitely get your money’s worth.
Rok: The rivers are short, which let us slip into a comfortable rhythm: breakfast in a cafe, a quick paddle down classic whitewater, lunch in a quaint mountain town, an afternoon high-water run on a different river, then dinner at camp.
Darin: It was super cultural. Beforehand, we’d spent two days wandering around Bovec in Slovenia, the setting for Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms.” In Corsica we went sightseeing to Napoleon’s birthplace. We didn’t put on that day until 4 p.m.
Rok: We rarely started paddling before noon. The culture is very relaxed over there. Where in the U.S. you hit the drive-through at Starbucks, over there it takes and hour and a half just to get coffee.
Darin: We weren’t really roughing it, but we tried to keep it as cheap as possible. Having a few connections makes a huge difference.