So, Andorra. Mountains. Mountain – related shops. Mountains. Lots of French people coming to buy tax free stuff. More mountains. You get the gist!
Its size is a bit ridiculous actually, you sometimes forget that nations this small can exist and, well, not have been invaded over the last few centuries. Admittedly, it’s bloody hard to access and it must have been a lot harder a century ago, but it still seems like it would have been an easy land grab had an evil ruler fancied somewhere new to ski on a break from building their empire. 77,000 people, 20km by 20 km, and landlocked.
Also, random fact, it’s a diarchy (two rulers), one of whom is… The French President! Bet Macron didn’t expect to become a Prince quite so easily.
Anyway, we were in the Pyrénées with our friends Matt and Libby, enjoying the relaxation of lockdown rules in France, and doing a bit of altitude training at Font Romeu, which isn’t too far from Andorra so we decided to head over and check it out.
The first thing you notice when you arrive (other than the huge queue going the other way as the French customs check how many tons of cigarettes people have bought) is the queue going the other way towards a gigantic 30 (?) pump fuel station for the half price Andorran diesel.
The next thing you realise is that it really is just a few villages / tiny towns in a few liveable cracks amongst some really quite steep mountains!
If was so steep actually that we managed to find probably the only conveniently flat 10km segment which runs along the 1600m altitude line near the capital Andorra La Vella. I genuinely don’t think I’m exaggerating by saying it’s the only flat bit.
That said, something was odd about the course in that I felt like there was a slight decline on the way out, but also felt like a slight decline in the way back, which definitely doesn’t work.
Our segment – for those of you who may one day happen to be in Andorra – starts at the Font de la Cosa campsite. After an initial super steep climb through the woods (30% gradient…), Matt and I hit the flat trail and headed out towards the Engolasters lake.
The rain was just about holding off and the views were beautiful. That is, until we stumbled upon this bench and its creepy as fuck doll.
Despite (genuinely, and annoyingly) breaking my toe the day before by kicking a bed post with all my strength, I had enough speed to get out before it cast a spell on me.
A few kilometres and tunnels later, we got to the turning point and got to see the views on the other direction before I did a few reps around the lake.
And there you go, not exactly the most adventurous of reports, but I feel like there’s not really a middle ground in Andorra. There’s the easy run (which we did), and then the immediate next level is a 6 hour trail run up a cliff. So we chose safely.
The capital itself is a funny place : walled in (almost literally) by mountains all around it, it’s a dream city for a wealthy adventurous / outdoorsy person looking to stock up on good gear. It also has a fun Dali statue. That aside…. I’m afraid it may get a bit boring. But worth a visit. Just don’t be afraid of possessed lifeless dolls.