Carcassonne to La Souco Negro 75km
To Hospitalet pres Andorra 54km
Oh wow, these medieval castles, with their high walls and narrow twisting streets, create quite a draft on windy days, and this morning the wind is bitterly cold. Gets right up your kilt. I managed a km, being buffeted from wall to wall, before I realised just how cold it was. Then it was on with additional layers, extra gloves, another hat, even longs. I wish I hadn't packed my extra socks so deep. But I suppose it was fitting, as today I was heading into the Pyrannes.
I had spent the previous evening talking English, to some native English speakers, which was a real treat. A family from Vancouver Island, BC, Canada, on a Spring break holiday. Mum and Dad were surfers, now kite surfers, who in their youth had toured the world looking for the perfect wave. They must have found it in NZ, because they decided that they would emigrate there, but family ties at home.....they still live in Canada.
I navigated the very complicated one way system out of Carcassonne, and then I began to climb. I could see shadows of mountains in the distance, in the haze, and I was excited to be heading there. But it was definitely up. Not since Armenia had I been so cold, but sweating so much because of the climbing that was happening. Definitely granny gear stuff. Amazingly, even as I climbed, the villages were not very far apart, so the odd local that was about was interested in "what the heck are you doing, climbing this hill, and with a trailer? " One old fellah on sticks, shuffled out of a cafe while I was having a breather. He had seen my NZ Fern flag. "NZ? Rugby? All Blacks tres bon. Daniel Carter fantastic." It took me a while to understand the last bit. It was only the way the old fellah was acting out the flicking of the Rugby ball to the number 12, that I clicked and understood the French pronunciation of Daniel Carter.
The villages were very small, so it became obvious that I was going to need to camp out tonight. But I've climbed to 1200m, and the wind is strong and chilling. Luckily, just when I felt like my legs were about to give out, a small dirt road headed off to the left, into a copse of trees. Along this road I found a wonderful spot, protected from the wind. All night I could hear the roaring of the wind through the tops of the trees. Just a little spooky.
Day two and I'm still climbing. There is very little traffic, except for the odd school bus. They are all heading to the top of the road, where there is a ski school. Not alot of snow, but school was operating. It's at 1400m. And the views are amazing. I'm definitely in amongst some amazing mountains. And then the downhill began. For the first time ever, I'm not happy about downhill. It was glorious, sweeping bends, smooth roads, and no traffic, but I had just struggled up 1400m, and every metre down I would have to reclaim, as the highest pass into Andorra was about 2000m. Damn downhill......
700m we dropped into a pretty, sunny town, with a gondalla heading up out of it to the ski fields on the southern side of the valley. Time for food. The first resturant I visited didn't serve food until noon, so I opted for a delicious filled roll, chicken, salad, mayonnaise. It was yummy, and then Fiona and I started climbing again.
The scenery is amazing, and the wind has dropped. I get to take off some layers of clothes. There is more traffic, as now I'm on the main road to Andorra. And the uphill is unrelenting. From Carcassonne to Andorra is about 170km. I figured three days of climbing, so at 50ish km, when my legs are screaming, "no more..... STOP", and a "Camping" sign appears, it seems like an omen. The camping is actually closed, but there are no gates nor barriers, and really nice sites. I find one, protected from the wind, and with amazing views across the valley to beautiful, snow covered mountains, and sit in the sun and read my book.
When the sun drops behind the tops, the temperature plummets. I climb into my sleeping bag, even though it's only 6pm, and am asleep pretty quick. But...... I'm woken by cramps, and a bout of VnD 's. Not pleasant, and unexpected. Maybe the mayonnaise? The only bonus is, there is a full moon, and despite the freezing cold, I'm standing naked, staring at the beauty and glory of those mountains, standing so close, and so clear in the wonderful moonlight. It's great to be here.