Sunday, 6 September 2015

Covering Miles, desserts and the Pyrenees!

We are in Andorra! And i'm thoroughly impressed, i was a little unsure as of what to expect. The small country, nestled high up in the Pyrenees between France and Spain, famed for having the only co-principality in the world, the Principat d'Andorra is a truly impressive place. Because of it being such a mountainous country, the majority of its buildings, towns and villages are set in the bottom of various valleys, meaning that everywhere you go, you are surrounded by mountains! Sitting in a restaurant typing this now, 400m behind me the land rises sharply to at least 1000m!

Don't look down!

Anyway, yes we are in Andorra, but what about the last few days?! When i last wrote, we were near Valencia, that evening we ended up at a campsite in Calig, another hundred or so miles North up the East coast. That was actually the second campsite that day we visited, first headed to one in nearby Tirig, However upon arriving the place was deserted, i say deserted, but there was a few caravans there, an open restaurant and the place was clearly maintained, lights and music on in the restaurant, pool jets running... Yet there wasnt a single person around! After having a look around to see if i could find anyone, and failing, we waited for a little before leaving... It was starting to get a bit weird! We ended up at camping l'orangeraie in Calig. One of the best sites we'd stayed at.

We're not afraid of the dark!

Next morning we were up and ready for another day of mile munching. We headed for the Ejea de los Caballeros, north of Zaragoza. Whilst it was a bit of a trek, we ended up there earlier than i'd expected. So we started exploring some local tracks, the majority of these were on loose gravel, but very smooth and flowing, it was fun to get the car sliding around a little, and if you follow our Facebook page, you'll see some evidence of that! The day before though it had rained, meaning that by the time we actually got to the campsite, Tim was filthy!

 Where's it go?

Nobody knows...

Admittedly, could do with a bath at this point...

The next day the plan was to spend the morning and early afternoon exploring the Banderas Reales, before heading to the Pyrenees later on. The Banderas Reales is an awesome place, and if you are in the area, it is somewhere that is well worth exploring. The Banderas reales is a semi-arid desert, and has purpose made unsurfaced routes for exploring the place. We spent a few hours driving around the place, taking in the views, and exploring some of it on Foot. Very cool.

 Although only at most, 50 miles from the nearest town, you could feel truly isolated.

 Could almost be Nevada...

 Geography isn't my strong point, but the examples of erosion were incredible...

Leaving the Banderas Reales, i made a small navigational error, meaning to be headed north-east towards Andorra, for some reason i headed north-west, and ended up in Pamplona. Bugger. As nice as Pamplona was, we were now several hours further away from where we wanted to be! We headed into the Pyrenees anyway, and stopped at a campsite just outside Broto, cool place, and i was in awe of the scenery regardless.
 At times hard to focus on the road, the scenery was amazing...

Yesterday we awoke at Camping Oto, and headed off, travelling east towards the town of Alins. Alins was our target destination for it is the start of the not-so-secret but surprisingly un-well documented 'smugglers route' into Andorra. We had a leisurely drive through the Pyrenees, stopped off for plenty of photos along the way, had some lunch and arrived in Alins just before 5. Aware of the challenges that would face us tomorrow, i spent a few hours going over Tim, raising his ride height, adjusting suspension, swapping the two front tyres for the ones with better tread on the roof, and letting a load of air out of all four to hopefully aid traction. We chilled, for the evening, made some chow, and then i got a fairly early night.

 Not a bad spot for lunch!


This morning i awoke, it was cold! For the first time this trip i'd actually set an alarm, not wanting to sleep in too late, and with a rough target of being in Andorra before midday. An hour after being awoke and eventually making it out of my cosey sleeping bag, we were ready to go!

Compared to 30+ degree heat, this was brrrr!

I won't publicly list how to find the route, as part of it's charm is that its not massively overpopulated and isn't too busy. If anyone is genuinely interested though please feel free to send us an e-mail and just ask.

Anyway, once on the route, tarmac turns to concrete, and the concrete quickly ends, leaving the path ahead based on mud and rocks... Once passed through a small and very remote village, the track opens up, and begins to climb quite steeply, the rocks getting bigger and the gradients getting more challenging. Tim coped remarkably well, as long as we kept moving he managed to get over some sizable rocks and gradients. Setting off on a hill was a careful balance of keeping the revs high enough to get him moving but being gentle enough with the clutch so that he didn't just wheel spin on the spot and get us nowhere! There were a few small river/stream crossings, no problems!

 And so it begins...

 Climbing slowly...

 Getting higher!

 Splish, splash!

 Encountered some traffic...

 Views were nothing short of incredible...

At the top of one of the peaks we were greeted by several four wheel drive tour operators, to say they were surprised to see Tim at the top would be an understatement! The greeting was more than friendly though, with one of the drivers offering us advice and asking all about Tim. Several members of the tour were even having photos taken with Tim! Basically celebrity status!

 Pfffft! Who needs four wheel drive!

Some random dude insisted on having a photo with Tim!

Around 5 more miles off road continued, with some of it quite testing, before we arrived in Andorra! The border post now abandoned due to Andorra's 'relationship' with the EU, the only way to tell you've arrived is that the path turns into tarmac!

 Don't fall down the ruts!

 The end is near...!

And we made it, back on Tarmac! Almost a shame...!

We continued down the CG-4, through Pal, and headed towards Andorra la Vella, Andorra's capital. Typically, as we were driving down through the mountains, it became apparent that the UCI Mountain bike world champs are happening here this week, we parked up and i tried to see if there was a way i could get in. Unfortunately it turned out it would be almost impossible to get a ticket for the day, unless you had very deep pockets! Bummer.
Giant steel tea-cup... No idea what it means, but pretty cool!

We are currently in Andorra la Vella, planning on spending a few more hours here exploring the city, before heading North in the direction of France! Not before filling Tim up with some cheap fuel of course....

So for the last time this trip, we have left Spain behind us, goodbye for now, we will be back! Onwards North, and into France!

Peace, Joe.

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