Andorra − On the way in the Pyrenees

25 July to 3 August 2007
 
Hola, bon dia! (Hello, good day!)
 
Flag C3 Globe C3 No parlo bé català. (I don't speak well Catalan.) After Iceland it pulled me this time also into an only quite small country: into the Principality of Andorra. It is only 468 km² largely and lies between France and Spain in the Pyrenees. 73000 inhabitants live there between 65 mountain summits also over 2000 m. And it should be interesting straight in the summer for hikers − thus exactly correctly for me. Being lazy at the pool I leave gladly different ones. Therefore I booked a group journey with Blue and White thither. The program promised, to see much of the country and from the people there.
 
Stations of the journey
 
In the night of the day 1 our traveler group drove from Berlin with a comfortable touring bus and picked-up on the way still some travelers. Since the distance is not to be mastered in one piece, an intermediate stop was scheduled into in the hotel Les Congres in Dijon/France. And because we was located in the middle of Burgundy, one served to us a really very disgraceful speciality of this area: Charolet cattle in Burgundy wine sauce. In the evening of the day 2 we finally arrived in the Hotel Màgic at La Massana/Andorra.
 
On the day 3, the first day in Andorra, a mountain caldron in the east of the country with 20 mountain lakes (Els Pessons) was our goal. It is near Grau Roig (approximately 2150 m) that is in the winter very popular from skiers. But in this time there is nothing to seen from the many large and small lakes, which are surrounded by a nearly closed mountain range. One of the mountains of this chain is the highest in Andorra, the Pic dels Pessons with 2857 m. But we don't walk so high. Somewhat more than 2500 m were enough. The lakes are subclassified into the ones of the sun, the ones in the center and those of the shade.
 
Actually this day 4 was intended for free use. But our mountain guide Marco offered us a walk in the valley of the Coma Pedrosa, into the west of the country. Starting point was a protective wall against avalanches about 1 km behind Arinsal on 1550 m height. From there it went upward in the valley of the river Coma Pedrosa (Riù de Coma Pedrosa). Our goal was the managed cottage on 2260 m.
On the way up there was a lot of things to see: cascades, breathtakingly outlooks and many more. And something off the way I could see actually a bare, "lolling" on a rock, native beauty. Believe me! Unfortunately I couldn't ask she for its name but I could still take the photo on the right.
On the way, which we came up, nobody wanted back. Therefore Marco led us further 300 m uphill and across the pass of Sanfons (Porta de Sanfons, 2588 m) slowly again into the valley, where the bus picked-up us again.
 
The day 5, the third day in Andorra, led us from Ordino-Arcalis to the Tristaina lakes (Estanys de Tristaina), the valley of the three lakes in the northwest. Since this distance is to be mastered very easily opposite to the day before, one should be on weekends prepared oneself for meet more people. The lakes with the meadows around invite to trips with child and cone. One finds somewhat more restfulness at the fourth lake, no you read correctly. There is a fourth lake, although the name of the valley indicates only three. But according to Marco this lake does not count, since it can dry out in very hot summers with few rains − nevertheless at our arrival it was well filled, as the left photo shows.
 
The following day 6 led us from Andorra and further inside Catalania. We drove by bus first into that approximately 80 km spanish city Ribes de Freser, which lying southeast, and from there with the rack railway into the car-free valley Nuria (Vall de Núria), also named as valley of the dreams. In addition Núria is the translation for virgin and should the first name many many Catalan girls and women. The travel with the rack railway is spectacular. First it goes halfway evenly up to a stopover, from which the eye of the traveler is regaled. Unfortunately in the next two years tunnels are built at places, which are endangered by falling rocks. Thus some the travelers will not see the most beautiful outlooks. But who wants to see its, one can also go on foot the complete distance an the pilgrims way.
 
Day 7: Tuesday − market day in only 10 km away of the south border of Andorra lying spanish city La Seu d'Urgell. It is seat of the bishop of Urgell and thus the residence of one of the two co-princes of Andorra, who make however no political decisions. The second co-prince is the president of France. After the inspection of the Parc de Serge (venue of the olympic games 1992), the cathedral Santa Maria, the small Roman church Sant Pere i Sant Miquel one could stroll over the rich weekly market, which also take place each Saturday.
 
Before we drove in the afternoon in the border area between Andorra and Spain for walking, still in the Borda à Hermanas in Os de Civis a typically Andorran meal was served to us: barbecued lamb. The mountain village (photo left) is lying in Spain but is only to reach by road across Andorra. Fortunately no scarpy ways in the area of La Rabassa in the south of Andorra were to be mastered after this rich and above all tasty meal. In the winter the cross-country skiers like this area. On the driven out ways was to be recognized, that these ways are also still today interesting for bootleggers. The mountain massif in the background of the right photo is the Cadi-Moixero. It lies about 16 to 20 km away in Spain and is an enormous national park.
 
For those people of our group, which had not gotten enough from hiking yet, Marco organized on the day 8 an additional walk into the nature park Sorteny (Parc natural de la Vall de Sorteny), lying in the north. It was a real titbit for the eyes. I did not see for a long time before so many different plants together! Gentians in different kinds and enough and to spare, blue and yellow Monkshood, Harebells, Pyrenean Seseli, various Orchids and very many more were to be discovered. Not only for botanist might therefore the 3 marked ways be interesting, to which one can receive detailed brochures and maps in the information center. (photos: on the left of one forest meadow crowded with flowers, on the right a yellow Gentian)
Some travelers made themselves after the walk on the way to Andorra la Vella. But the capital is not beauteously in my eyes − and to buy cheap things I had not come to Andorra. Thus I made still one stroll by La Massana.
 
On the early morning of the day 9 last return trip began − again with an intermediate stop in Dijon/France. This time the hotel surprised us with the second, admitted speciality of Burgundy: After an appetizer with snails the main course was rooster in fungal sauce. Real delicately! In addition the dessert was not to be despised. Unfortunately I forgot its names.
In the night of the day 10 we arrived probably-keep again into Berlin. Those approximately 1900 km between Germany and Andorra are a quite long distance, even if one does not have to drive themself. Next time I will determines another solution look for it. A flight or a train ride into the proximity of Andorra would have been probable the better choice. But it was worth an attempt.
 
Amateur radio
 
Now certainly you ask oneself whether I did not think as an amateur radio operator of the amateur radio. Of course! Since Andorra is not a member of the CEPT, I was since December 2006 busy to receive a transmission license. Finally I did not want to leave my small QRP sation alone at home. But based on the informations from OH2MCN it's looked bad with a licence for Andorra. Even one day before the start I have received no tittle in responce to various letters (SAE with IRCs) or e-mails neither from the URA bureau nor the president Joan Saurí, C31US, himself.
 
Therefore I decided to try it again personally in Andorra. So I packed up my station into the metal box which can be seen in the photo also into the traveling bag. A QRP station doea not need much place. Right after the arrival I started a first attempt over the local travel organization. On the next day I received the answer that they could align nothing. Also in the following days I did not find an opportunity to make me myself on the way to the URA bureau. Thus I rejected sometime the idea to be able to be QRV from Andorra. But this project is whole not yet from the table. As I recognized now, it is possible only for all those, who do not resident in Andorra, over one at the DXpedition participate Andorran to attain a license.
 
As location for an amateur radio station the area southeast from Sant Julià de Lòria and around La Rabassa might be particularly suitable, since this area is relatively flat. The two main valleys are rather unsuitable, since they probably make DX activities in all directions hardly possible.
 
Useful things
 
If you want to drive to Andorra, I would like to give you in the end a few pieces of advice on the way. You can take good heed of or simply forget it. However they arranged however my stay in Andorra substantially more pleasant and safer.

Speak Catalan! You get along also with Spanish, French and/or English, but a few sentences in Catalan open the heart for nearly each genuine Andorran/Catalan.
Do not go alone! If you intend to walk in Andorra then walk never alone. The ways are nearly all quite scarpy and stony. And only one wrong step can lead to the fact that you at one time are helplessly alone in the mountains.
 Use a mountain guide or a good hiking map! Although many tourists visit the country, it can occur that one meets nobody often for hours straight in the higher areas. The ways are relatively well marked, but at longer trips a good hiking map or a mountain guide of inestimable advantage. In the photo can be seen a very good map on a scale the 1:25000 with the drawn in moving ways, which is avaiable in Andorra themselves for a few Euros.
Use sun cream! The sun shines nearly always in Andorra. In July for example it is to rain on only 8 days. These days were probable already all past, when we were in the mountains on the way. Anyhow we did not get not one drop off. The sun is so strong that it burns each uncovered body place otherwise fast.

Where do we go next? Perhaps again to Andorra. It would be worth always itself − also without a radio station.
 
Adéu siau! (Good-bye!)

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