A Travellerspoint blog

Andorra

Port d'Envalira and Soldeu

Distance: 53km
Total ascent: 1809m
Hours in the saddle: 3hrs 50
Terrain: mountain!

Oooof wow what a day!!! Only a short day up the Enivaira and into Andorra but boy do you work for those few km's! I have to say that to start with I was grumbling along..wondering what on earth I was doing cycling and why didn't I just take it easy and do this touring malarky the civilised way??! But as soon as I got past Ax and into the mountains all those thoughts,just faded away and I got lost in the ride. I am not sure why I enjoyed it so much..it's along a buzyish road (Andorra is tax free so a lot of traffic to make the most of the cheaper petrol and shopping)), its not uber tough or uber easy, the sun wasn't out, it wasn't particularly stunning until the last 7km. But it was brilliant and I loved it.

Being a balmy 13degrees for most of it helped, when the sun came out in the last 5 km the temperature rocketed to over 27. I got a lot of encouragement from the cars and motorcyclists going past..lots of thumbs up and 'allez allez allez' being shouted. I only saw two other cyclists strangely..both near the top coming down the otherway both shouted encouragement too. Not that I needed it but it makes me smile and I love the comraderie.

Once past the bend that brings you into sight of El Pas de La Casa and the col itself I have to say I had a huge ass grin on my face. Pas de La Casa is not particularly pretty ..very few ski resorts are..but the whole scene was just incredible. And without the snow it was like a whole new place. How different from the last time where I had to keep stopping to try and warm up and the rocks and greenery were lost to the snow.

Anyway before I lose myself to gushing more about the scenery I will move on..and down to the town of Soldeu where I was staying the night. It is about 8km from the top and unlike many places in Andorra it hasn't completely lost itself to commercialism and still retains some of its own character and charm. I have to say I had little expectations of here..I chose it because its near the col and Andorra is half the price of France. But I like it.

First things first ..food! And making the most of being back nearer Spain a tortilla baguette seemed appropriate. Ah how I have missed that food of hero's! You can't beat it as a refuel and recovery snack. Worked a little too well and after half I had to go back to my room and have a kip!

Before I went I noticed a working cable car up the peak in front of the hotel. So after the kip I headed out to see what was going on there.. Now I learnt several things this afternoon..
- don't wait until the doors are locked before remembering that actually you are not very good at heights and don't have the best track history with cable cars
- if the attendant at the top goes 'ooh well I would be careful now as a storm is coming' you listen and keep the sightseeing to a minimum
- rain, wind and lightning does not make for a happy me in a cable car
All of which resulted in me having a death grip on the safety bars the whole way.

The top was pretty cool though..there was a mountain bike track (they had even customised the cable cars to have bike racks on them), a golf course and a driving range with the best view ever. From what I could see you just whack the ball off the mountain and well that was that! I would loved to have stayed and explored for longer but there is just something about being on top of a mountain in a storm...

So that storm actually went by quite quickly but I am in my room now and it has returned with avengance. Causing me to continually check the forecast for tomorrow when I move on. Its not far..back up the Envalira and then turn off over the Col De Puymorens to Puigcerda but it won't be fun if this torrential rain continues! But most importantly..I will be back in Spain :):)

Posted by louisebenn 08:25 Archived in Andorra Comments (0)

day 52 Pech

France!!

sunny

distance: 98km
Total ascent: 1888m
Hours in the saddle: 5hrs
Terrain: one huge are mountain

Well it is not often one can say they rode through three countries in one day. But today was the day of Spain, Andorra and France..with one huge mountain between me and the end point.

It all started off perfectly..out of La Seu heading towards the border it was perfect riding and very beautiful and quiet foothills to meander through. If the day carried on like this or would be perfect. So of course it didn't..to my surprise as soon as I crossed into Andorra, the road became hugely busy and it seemed to be never ending industrial estates and shopping malls. It did amuse me that they kept showing road map signs for the country that consisted of four roads, but that didn't overcome my dislike of the continuous traffic. One plus point was that it distracted me from the several 12% sections of the road around Andorra La Vella, but other than that it was a case of gritting my teeth and trying to ignore it. Thankfully it eased off further up the climb after Encamp, and I could relax and enjoy the ride and the amazing scenery as it went by. By this stage I was already over 1000m up and the snowy mountains on the side seemed awful close. They were stunning. And it didn't take me long to work out that where I was headed was bound to be in the snow too.

By this stage too cyclist signs had started to guide you up the mountain with gradients, altitude and kms remaining. Though a little pale and small I liked these signs as they were not every km, which meant you had the 'surprise' of getting through the k's quicker than you thought.

And sure enough soon started the hairpins up the final climb averaging about 7%. Quite surreal cycling those bends surrounded by snow. Felt like I should be cold but the climbing and the sun was keeping me warm. I cannot say the same for at the top or for the descent. At the top I stopped for compulsory photos, and to pile on the layers and to grab a some food. But god it was cold. I had to keep stopping on the way down to get blood into my hands again. Luckily the road dropped quite quickly and soon the sun was able to warm me up some. But it was not til Ax ..some 25 km later..that in was able to shed some layers. It was a beautiful descent though through the valleys and a few gorges. It just kept going down and down!

I should mention the borders..which while there were stations and policemen, there was no real controls. I passed into Andorra and into France with no real marker. I had hoped for a flag or something but no. The only difference I could see were that the road was not as good the French side and that the road signs changed. Time to learn a whole new set of warnings.

I did think to stop in Ax for food or a look around but my legs were just warming and to be honest I was not sure how my brain would cope with the switch to French so soon. It would come out as some sort of Fraspanglish and confuse everyone including myself.

So onwards to Pech. Not having any stop at all after such a ride was a bit daft but I was just wanting to get there. The legs would cope..they would moan but they would cope. So here I am..my base now for the next few months. It was really good to have some proper english conversation (and being able to!), the brain and memory is a little fuzzy but its not as bad as I thought. Which is a good job as training starts tomorrow!

Posted by louisebenn 10:21 Archived in Andorra Comments (0)

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