Posted by: Team McSlade | April 3, 2010

Andorra the Explorer

Two oui oui(ks) have arrived and they are in full swing.

At present, we are in Castelmoron-sur-Lot in the south-west of France about halfway between Bordeaux and Toulouse. Before I bang on about Garorock and Frenchies enjoying the Perth drum ‘n’ bass boys, Pendulum, and how French people speak French; I must wind the clock back a few days.

Leaving Almiséra, we worked out that 7hrs driving to Andorra was not a process conducive of fun in the car, thus we stopped for the evening in Cambrils near Tarragona. Like a punter with the good word on a race fix, I came through for a win with that travel plan. Cheap hotel with breakfast thrown in for the price and a stone’s throw from the Mediterranean.

We drove up to see Tarragona and worked out why Rome wasn’t built in a day, as the Romans were off building amphitheatres in Spain. Also as Easter is upon us a Semana Santa procession went through the main drag. Free ‘entertainment’ is the right price for me. Alas these guys have a ‘Ku Klux Klan’ look with their attire – the Spaniards had the threads first, but one bad pointy hat ruins the rest. Zach asked about the KKK when seeing them, thus sadly, these guys are tarred unfairly with a racist brush; but man, can those Semana Santa guys bang a drum (see Cambrils/Terragona photos on TMS site for proof).

Moving on, and Andorra here we come. As it’s a small principality between France and Spain in the Pyrénées, how hard would it be to find a hotel in Encamp? Quite, is the short answer. Especially, when you check the hotel reservation print out again and find it’s in the small village of Arinsal (where’s that…?).
Joy and rapture was not forthcoming.
National tourist office on siesta (seriously), kids and wife needing lunch at 2.15pm; and 4 hours being a driver to nowhere, the temper was as frayed as a pair of bad 80’s white denim jeans. Still, bad Spanish can get you directions from a lady at the petrol station and with a crusty hand-drawn map and loose English instructions the second tour of Andorra was had.
About 15 roundabouts and a few valleys, chalets and 20 minutes later we arrived at Hotal Husa Patagonia, right at the base of a ski run, furthest hotel up the mountain and a cracking view to boot. If anyone has a few coins to spare and a compulsion to ski Andorra check this hotel out.

Andorra La Vella was perused next, with my mind being made up that money is spent by the truckload here. High Fashion, Cuban cigars and luxury cars were on sale and show in Andorra. They still advertise cigarettes here, have minimal taxes (petrol was 12 cents cheaper than in Spain), have no litter or beggars and I was looking quite the sore (poor) thumb in my t-shirt and Birkenstocks – perhaps the temp of 4° had something to do with it.

The next day saw us head for Castelmoron (that’s still funny to us – moron) and I decided that the Col du Tourmalet, one of the most famous mountain climbs in the Tour de France and highest mountain pass in the Pyrénées needed a visit from us. Google maps gave us the directions and we took off in search of this fabled pass. As our Peugeot crawled into the Andorran mountains, the snow piled up, a few ski lifts were in operation. Jo got some great shots of this, and then we nearly slammed into three parked cars where the road ended. Jo had thoughts of a road blockage on the drive up, but we had been led to believe that the roads were cleared of snow.
Mr Plough hadn’t got the call for this road however, so we couldn’t even leave Andorra that way, let alone get to the Col du Tourmalet. Damn, I even donned my ‘Australia’ t-shirt (cheers Mick) in anticipation of the photos at the Col. Happy snaps of this blocked road (and the dogsled team on the snow – perhaps if Ben had hung the car up on the snow they could help ‘mush mush’ the car out of that predicament,) then we spun around and tried to work out Plan B.

I’ll cut it off here as this is ripping through the word count, part two shall come tomorrow with ‘Lost in Toulouse’, ‘I hate Gabacho Roads’ and ‘Garorock in Mamande’ getting top billing.

Au revoir, Team McSlade



  1. OMG Stunning photo!

    • Yep, Andorra knows how to turn it on…

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