Andorra, andorra… where to start?
I was disappointed at the start. We drove right into Andorra-la-vella and it was just like an outdoor shopping centre. People rushing about, a bit of traffic and obviously stupidly low prices for petrol. As we got further away from the centre I saw the real you – and you are just shy of my ideal place to live. Absolutely stunning scenery, smiley people, beautiful smells of wood, flowers and cured meat.
Going in May has it’s ups and downs. You practically have the place to yourself, the trails are empty, the roads quiet and everyone seems generally relaxed. BUT (and it’s a big but) there’s very little going on, no real lowcost accommodation and the choice of campsite is close to zero. We had to choose between the one right on the main road or the dodgy looking one.
It wasn’t too dodgy in the end. The man in the reception had a massive grin on his face, looked like he knew something the rest of the world didn’t. He put us next to the river – “you don’t mind the river do you?”- “No problem”, I said. Little did we know that the “river” sounded more like a storm drain but we were very tired and ended up staying for two nights.
Fantastic walking routes and Refugis (shepherd huts) led us to our first walk. Nearly 1000 m up from where we were. The way up was stunning, you could see the gradual thinning of the flora, tall trees being replaced by small ones and these being then replaced by bushes, until all you have left it’s just a nice and massive grassy field. Up there everything was big and small at the same time; the air was Crisp and clean, the colours were brighter and the mountain lines well defined.
The previous night, when Tom saw the route to Refugi Prat Primer, he said there was another hut that we could try and get to afterwards – “If you feel like it” – Refugi de Claror. I knew what was coming, and I try and keep this man with the shadow of a smile on his face. My philosophy is, keep him happy and he might cook dinner!
There was nice solid ground with bits of snow, then patches of it, then that was all you could see! I have NEVER walked or seen proper snow, the only thing I could picture was me falling into a crevasse. That is the only reference I have. So… we got to the top (2497 meters) and guess what… more snow. Even Tom reluctantly agreed, that we should head back. And so we did.
The way down was one of the scariest things I have ever done. We literally slid almost all the way to the hut, on our bums, through slate and boulders. It was loose and it was bloody hard to control your speed. There was no one there, no signal and we could’ve died as heroes and no one would know about it. But I guess it was fun once we were safe in our tent, right next to the ever calming storm drain.
The next day we went for it again. A different one, but more of the same. Beautiful route with the promise of not one, but two lakes right at the top (2300 meters). What could be worse than the day before?
I wasn’t as reluctant to go on the snow as I was and the fact that there were more people doing the same route left me more at ease. I finally realised why people carry those silly walking poles around. There is a purpose to them. Those people had the poles, we had our hands and knee deep of snow.
Everything was going well – we passed the snow, the streams and river, we could see the chimney of the hut and we could see a black sky falling on us. “We’re nearly there and a bit of rain never hurt anyone”. Until we saw a big group of French people telling us about the orage. I didn’t know what it meant until I heard the beautiful and ear filling sound of thunder.
We saw the lake. Only long enough to take a picture and I was literally running down that path. We got lost, then we found the path, then we got lost again and then it started to snow ever so lightly. Tom kept mentioning how soft the snow was and I was ready to put it to the test – head first if I had to. I found a way to get us back on the path again and nearly fell to a severely handicapped future – that’s when Tom got upset and I went a little bit slower. We were a bit wet, but we were whole.
I realised that the mountains are very much like women on their down days; edgy, unpredictable and sudden mood changes! But I will always find solace and piece of mind next to them, even if it is from a safe distance.