“¿Donde están las rutas de senderismo?” An Adventure in Andorra

Friday evening I went down to Estacio Nord (confirmed from earlier posts: It is a bus station) and hopped on a bus to Andorra for a day in the mountains.  For those of you who are thinking the same thing I thought when I was first told about Andorra:  It is not in Spain; it is actually a small country situated in the height of the Pyrenees mountains, sandwiched between France and Spain.

Anyway, I got on a bus and three and a half hours later, I was in La Seu d’Urgell, the last stop in Spain.  Here, everyone remaining on the bus was told to exit and get in a taxi van that would take us to Andorra.  This seemed very strange to me.  When the five of us left on the bus got in the taxi, the driver explained to us that the bus station was already closed, so the bus could not enter Andorra.  We approached the border and handed our passports and identifications forward to the border agent and unstamped (I’m not happy about that), they were passed back.  I was in Andorra.

The taxi driver dropped us off at the bus station, and with the station being closed, all hopes of getting a map there were gone.  I walked in what seemed like the right direction until I reached the nearest hotel.  I went inside to ask directions, and the woman at the desk called me a taxi.  In five minutes I was outside of my hostel.  I checked in, put my stuff down and went out to find dinner.  After dinner, I went to sleep to conserve my energy for a long Saturday.

I made a mistake in my travels – I did not do nearly enough planning for this trip.  My plan was then to wake up early, and head straight to the Tourist Informatio Office for some advice.  The person at the desk at my hostel (it was more of a hotel than a hostel, but that isn´t important) told me that the tourist offices didn’t open until 9:00.  I spent the morning walking around the old section of Andorra la Vella, the city in which I was staying.

As soon as the Tourist Information Office opened, I headed down the hill to get my information.  The person in the office told me that the hiking trails in Andorra la Vella were far out of the city, and mostly accesible by car.  She gave me the advice to take a bus to Ordino – another city in Andorra.  On a map it looked quite far away, but I figured I’d try anyway.

It turns out nothing in Andorra is that far away from anything else.  The bus ride – to the end of the line – was only 20 minutes.  In Ordino, a pleasant little mountain town, much nicer than Andorra la Vella, I headed again for the Tourist Information Office.  Again, the person behind the desk was quite helpful.  She pointed me down a road toward El Serrat and told me that there are many trails in El Serrat, as well as on the way.

I thanked the woman at the office, and went on my way.  El Serrat was 8 kilometers away, so I started walking.  Along the way I saw browm arrow signs with what seemed to be names of trails on them, pointing upwards in the mountains.  They looked like trail markers, but I wasn’t sure.

ImageAfter passing about four of the markers, and only having walked 2.5 kilometers, I walked into a roadside restuarant to find out about the brown markers.  They were in fact trail markers.  Instead of continuing toward El Serrat, I decided to try the trails that I had already passed.

The first one was unsuccessful.  About 250 meters from the start, the trail disappeared.  I looked around for it – but nothing.  So I came back down to the road as walked back to a different trail marker.  I started up this trail.  After quite some time, I came across a barrier line that was set up along the trail path, preventing anyone from hiking further.  Obliging the barrier, I climbed back down to the road.  As the saying goes, third time’s a charm.  I found the first trail I had passed on the road to El Serrat.  Unconvinced that it would lead anywhere, I started the climb.  This trail was a success.  I lost the path a few times, but after a few minuts of retracing my steps, I managed to find it again.  Everything was beatuful.  The trail wound around walls of rock, fallen pine trees and small plateaus.  Each plateau presented a beatifull view of the surrounding mountain range and the trees changing color with the season.  There were parts of the hike that made me nervous – spaces in which you could hear the creaking of a tree preparing to fall in the near future – but most of the scene was breathtakingly beautiful.  I hiked until the trail got dark and overgrown – not a good place for a lone wanderer.  And then I descended the mountain, content with my trail find.

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I walked back to Ordino and saw a bit of the town.  Since I still had time until my bus back to Barcelona, I thought maybe I would walk back to Andorra la Vella instead of take the bus.  Andorra itself is well known for hiking, skiing and tax free shopping, the latter of which makes itself very known in Andorra la Vella. I had no desire to spend a lot of time in Andorra la Vella as I had already seen the interesting part, and most of what was left were shops.  I started walking, which was quite easy, as there is only one road between Ordino and Andorra la Vella.  As I was walking, a guy walking the same direction pointed to my necklace – a hamsa – and asked me, in a very Israeli accent – if I was Israeli.  The answer was no, but we walked to La Massana together and talked along the way.  In La Massana (a town between Ordino and Andorra la Vella), we parted ways.  Being later than I had planned, I hopped on the bus back to Andorra la Vella.  There was one last thing I wanted to see in that city – a sculpture I had seen on the bus ride out of town.  I went to the sculpture on my way to the bus station.  It was a Dalí sculpture of one of the melting clocks.

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That was it for Andorra.  A 24 hour adventure.  I got on the bus back home to Barcelona having discovered a good portion of a country that I did not know existed until 5 weeks ago.

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