Category: Pyrenees

Multi-Activity holiday in the Pyrenees mountains of Andorra


meclouds I decided to do a week long multi activity holiday with the adventure company in the pyrenees mountains of Andorra.

For the cost, it was actually cheaper to do a trip like this overseas, than it was to do the same thing in the UK.

Me standing on Pic Maia.

I am awoken by a woman with dyed blond hair and a spectacular tan.

I am obviously in Liverpool, and only need her to speak to confirm it.

Then I realise, that she is wearing an orange uniform, and it come’s back to me, I am on a flight to Barcelona with Easyjet.

I arrive in Barcelona and have several hours to kill. I spot somewhere that looks friendly, but I draw the line when I read its name. I refuse to drink in any pub called ars.

 rochotel After a 3 hour coach drive, we arrive at our hotel in Soldeu.

I had a very comfortable room with a bath, just what I wanted.

Unfortunately, there were mechanical diggers outside. Since we were mostly out doing activities it didn’t matter.

After a superb “Sunday” roast, our guide for the week Ed, introduces himself and fills us in on some of the details of the trip.

One concerning thing, is the weather, which at the time, is appalling. No matter, we are from the UK, and quite used to rain.

 map The following day, we set out on a day trek to Pic Maia.

The superb thing, is that we are driven to the top by Landrover, and only have to walk down.

At nearly 9000 feet, the air was fresh and cool.

One thing I found surprising, was that we didn’t see any other walking parties.

You don’t see signs like this one in the Lake district.

 snowcrossing  Heading down from Pic Maia we cross a snowfield.
 Me standing on a snowfield.  mesnow
 vulture Griffin vulture.

It was flying so high, that I have had to enhance this picture.

 Further along the walk, we drop down into the forest.  fwalk
 emmabar The hotel was very friendly, and during the day, you served yourself at the bar, and just wrote down what you drank.

Here the excellent Emma (a woman of boundless enthusiasm), acts as barmaid and serves me a pint.

Disaster strikes.

Rushing around in the morning, to get ready, I slip on the bathroom floor, and injure my hand on the cast iron radiator.

This is a picture of me on a skidoo, I didn’t see much point in putting up a picture of a bathroom.

 smug1 We tour the smugglers rout in 4×4 vehicles.

Apparently, up until 5 years ago, smuggling was a perfectly legitimate profession in Andorra.

Here our guide Ed, briefs the group, before they take part in some excellent downhill mountain biking.

Unfortunately, because of my injured hand, I was unable to ride a mountain bike at that point. I was pretty disappointed, but the views and the countryside made up for it.

 mbpath  You can see from the shape of these trails why the place is so popular with mountain bikers.
We stop on a peak in the smugglers rout, for lunch.

I wander around, and find gun emplacements and dugouts like this one, used during the civil war.

I am saddened, when I realise that someone could have died on this hill, and it doesn’t even have a name.

 village As we drive back, we stop to visit Civis village.

I found the people there were very friendly.

We drive back across the border into Andorra.

At one point, we were passed by a police car, that was patrolling the border, looking for smugglers.

 beerwork In the afternoon, its out with my laptop to review the mornings photographs.

Some bikers had checked in and were watching a bike race in the main bar.

I couldn’t see the screen, but I could hear them cheering, and the commentary on Eurosport.

Imagine my surprise, when I came to fly home, that I was sat next to Julian Ryder, the actual commentator I had been listening too, during the race.

This picture didn’t turn out very well, as I turned of the flash. He was asleep, and I didn’t want to wake him.

For a TV personality, he was very friendly and genuine.

 crun1 The following day, we have a free day, to do various activities.

My hand is still causing me enormous pain, so when the group go to do Via Ferrata, I cant join them.

No matter, I didn’t come here to sit on my backside, the hotel owner tells me of an easy walking rout into the village, the Capsa a cale.

The route is known locally as the Chicken run.

Not surprisingly, it is marked throughout with this symbol.

 crun3 A beautiful sunny day, with fantastic scenery.

It was supposed to take 1.5 hours, but I enjoyed it, and took 4.

This tunnel had been “blasted” out of the rock.

I didn’t see another person, during the whole walk, and only had animals and birds for company.

In this picture, I finally got the timer on my camera to work, and was able to photograph myself.

 pcat2 In the evening, we walked up the hill, to Soldeu.

Although it wasn’t the ski-ing season, and the town was practically shut down, we found this English bar called the pussycat.

It was run by a guy called Robin, who like most of the people in Soldeu, works as a ski-instructor during the ski-ing season, and does another job out of season.

It made me wonder, how the infrastructure of the town, actually works during winter.

The following day, was a mixture of mountain biking and white water rafting.

Because of my hand, I couldn’t do either, so I decided to walk into the town of Canillo and rest my hand.

On the rout down the road, was this spectacular outdoor climbing wall.

 stilts Canillo wasn’t so much a town next to the river, as a town built on top of a river.

You can see from this construction how its cleverly raised above the water.

 I sat in the comfortable village square, spent some time on the internet and had a couple of drinks and a pizza.  town
 wwrafting1  Meanwhile the rest of the team had a go at white water rafting in a place called Sort.
 These pictures were taken by Emma, and I would like to thank her for allowing me to use them.  wwrafting2
 band  That evening, The hotels resident band, the Roc ‘ers, entertained us with charismatic live music.
On the left, the Hotel Chef, Ben. A superb cook, and quite the most modest Chef I have ever met.

On the right, our multi talented barman Pepe. Throughout the week, he couldn’t have been more helpful, and literally nothing was too much trouble for him.

In the center, a charming girl called Laura. She worked at the pharmacy in the village. She was one of the few people I met who wasn’t a ski instructor.

 mbpark1  The following day, my hand is a little better, and for the first time, I am able to ride a mountain bike (I have to hold the handlebars a certain way, and take lots of painkillers, but I am actually riding !).
 We cycled a circular rout through the a park near El Cortals valley.  mbpark2
 mbpark3  It was great to be out on a bike, I haven’t enjoyed riding one that much, since I was a child riding my Chopper.
 The path went past this beautiful lake.  mbpark4
 bbq1 At lunchtime, our guides cook a Barbeque at this delightful picnic spot in the El Cortals valley.

I was so tired, and it was so warm, that I found a really smooth rock, lay down on it, and went to sleep.

Me at the start of the GR11 trekking rout.

In the afternoon, we drove to the top of the El Cortals valley and and peddled down.

 icekart1  A skating rink in Canillo, featured the go karts, with special tyres, which enabled them to race on ice.
 Apparently, the Karts had a governor on them, so if you were driving recklessly, they could slow you down by remote control.  icekart2
 canyone1 While I went walking, Emma and Preston went canyoning.

I had thought it would be like gorge walking, but actually involved abseiling down waterfalls.

 It looked pretty exciting to me.  canyone2
 border On the last morning, we head out walking, in perfect sunshine to the Incles valley.

The ridge behind me, is the border between Andorra and Spain.

 In places, the rout was quite steep, and days of activities and late nights in the bar had taken their toll on me.  steep
 high  It was worth my exhaustion, as you can see from these spectacular views of the valley we had, once we got up high.
A thing that really impressed me in Andorra were the refuges.

They were similar to mountain bothy’s in Scotland, but had beds and windows and stuff like that.

 ref2 Here you can see the fireplace inside the refuge, with a bow saw for collecting wood.

There were even tables for cooking and food preparation.

 We sit by the lake and eat our well deserved packed lunch.  lake
 wfall As we descend back down the valley, I pause next to this waterfall.

I was really sad to come home, despite my hand, I still had a brilliant time.

I would like to thank the hotel staff, the locals I met like Robin and Laura and the many friends who were other adventure company participants like myself.