Hospitalet pres Andorra to Andorra la Vella 48km
Twelve kms took me three hours. The views and scenery were spectacular, and almost made up for the screaming of my legs..... almost. There was a good deal more traffic, most with skis or snowboards, and moving fast, as snow bunnies world wide do, on their way to a day on the slopes. I was knackered, and after a night emptying my stomach and bowels, and not feeling like too much breakfast, my energy levels were not high. And then I turned a corner. Oh Wow. Suddenly, a big town, with ski lifts, and huge shops, and lots of ski runs. Not what I was expecting. It's Pass de la Casa.
There is still a climb of about 1km, and there is a tunnel option....... but it's Peage and "NOT for Velo".... so I push on. I need food..... I cross an invisible line, and I'm no longer in France, but have entered the Principality of Andorra. The big shops are all open, selling tax free booze and cigarettes, but I can't find anywhere open to buy food....."But Mr, it's Easter, Good Friday, a holiday. Food shops don't open until the evening...... except McDonald's". I had no idea it was Friday. I had no idea it was Good Friday. But I was so hungry..... Chicken nuggets, disgusting, fries, I couldn't eat them, but the coke was vacuumed. The body knows what it needs, and today it needed sugar.
Now there's another 5km of climb, but it's steady, and follows the edge of the ski field, so there's plenty to look at, and the skiing looks great. Perhaps I should jump on a snowboard for the rest of the day? Nope, my legs are already jellied. The climb reminds me very much of climbing with Tessa in NW India, but this time I didn't have her motivating me, and I was pretty certain I wouldn't see the utter chaos we found at the top in India. I'm about 500m from the top, and a road cyclist passes me. When I reach the summit, he is waiting for me. He congratulates me on my effort. He is a semi pro from Spain (Catalonia), spending the long weekend in the Pyrannes training. I'm pretty chuffed that he thinks I've done well. I'm pretty chuffed to be at the top. 2408m, after climbing to 1400m, and going down to 700m. Yep I'm feeling proud.
The downhill. Oh goodness gracious me. Awesome. Almost 30km of it, and steep, and fast. Woohooo. There's alot of skiing happening down the valley too. There are lots of people about. Its a booma holiday weekend, and next week there is a World Cup Ski event here. I zoom past the downhill course. I need to stop to see where I am. A delightful man, and his daughter offer me help and advice, without even being asked. I'm liking Andorra. They point out a camping site, and I head there. It's busy, it is Easter weekend, but there is space for a small tent...Yippee. And just below the campsite is the National Soccer stadium, and I get to watch my first Soccer International, Serbia vs Andorra, from the Scotsmans stands. Yep I like this country.
Except...... I go to the toilet. I plug my battery pack in a socket to give it a boost while I'm in the cubicle. I come out..... and it's gone. Damn. This is only the second time on my trip when I've had something stolen. The other was in India, my cycle light. I didn't expect it from a wealthy nation........
But..... A family from Catalonia, hear I've had my charger stolen, and find a spare, which they give to me...... and a little later turn up with a bottle of wine...... where are you Juliet?..... which I have to turn down. It's a little while since I've been treated so nicely by the local population....... sorry Italy and France......
On a wander this evening, I find the shops open...... everything. But it's Good Friday? I buy a new battery pack, and get my glasses tightened...... and I walk past a brand new Rugby Stadium. A team is training. I stop to watch. It's Latvia, and tomorrow they play Andorra. I'm chatting to the injured Andorran winger. He tells me I should come and watch. It will only cost about €5. I think I might.