31st May Moving on from Andorra la Vella to Font Romeu

It’s time to”let go” and move on again, this time its Font Romeu. I have grown quite fond of Andorra la Vella over the last 4 days.


The hotel staff has been an interesting bunch to get to know. The cleaner / waitress can’t speak any language apart from Spanish, at all, but is the nicest person you could ever meet. The receptionists, one of which has given me directions through a maze of streets to a car park I didn’t want. Then I had to go and move the car, next door to the one I did want. Another of the receptionists is an old boy. He was sat down in the cafe type area with his dog, smoking. I walked in asked for dos, tres, dos. This was my room key that I could have leant over the counter to retrieve. He got up, and I am not joking, it took him about 2 minutes to shuffle the 30 feet around to the counter to give me my key. I felt sorry for him as he was relaxing, but I thought I had better stick to Hotel protocol.

Last night I went to an Italian Taverna at the top end of Escalades (a 20 minute walk). I decided it would be a nice spot. It was, they had a Menu of beers from around the world, each with an in depth description. So I tried a few, and got talking to Pablo the bar tender. He is a really nice guy from Argentina, who has travelled all over the world. He has now settled in Andorra with his Italian girlfriend. He works 11 hours a day, with no days off! He ended up paying for one of my drinks, Thanks Pablo, good luck. It tipped it down, so the down side to drinking at this pub was a soaking on the way back to the Hotel.

30th May 2011 A storm in the Pyrenees

I took my daily post breakfast walk, this time to check on the car in the long stay car park. On my way I noticed a helicopter trailing a long line towards a cliff side. After retrieving my monocle from the Hotel, I could see what seemed to be 2 climbers on a porta-ledge waiting for recue climbers to ascend from bellow. It looked like an emergency, but could equally have been a training exercise. (hard to see but near the middle in the picture left)


The Weather forecast for today wasn’t too good. But I set off in good weather for the 2,658m Tossa del Braibal anyway. It was about a ¾ hour run / walk through the busy escalades high street before I started to ascend a winding road then eventually a track. I had previously plotted a convoluted route that spent less time on winding mountain roads. So I did some long sweeping out and back before closing In on Coll Jovell (1,179M), as I did I heard the unmistakable sound of thunder rumbling in the distance. As it was distant I decided to carry on. But by the time I had ascended to about 2,100M, it suddenly became much louder.

After 2 hours effort I took a breather and decided that I did not know enough about how these steep sided slopes would react in bad weather. Landslips are always a threat. Ultimately it was my own risk assessment that turned me back. On my own, on almost deserted hills, with probably an hour to get to the top and back to where I was, with a storm closing in and just starting to rain, on unfamiliar hills was enough to make me go back down. A little disappointed as this was a much better mountain to take on at speed, the trails were much nicer and less steep. As I descended I saw a lightning strike on a radio mast near the mountain I was on, on Saturday. I have never turned back before but I have never taken on a 2,600M peak before either. If that weather was in the English hills I would have carried on.

As it turned out the bark of this storm was worse that it’s bite. But still a lot of life is about self-preservation, and based on this alone I know it was the correct decision.



29th May Camping versus Hotels

The party on Friday night in Mataro, and me changing from camping to a Hotel, made me ponder the differences between camping and staying in a Hotel. A Hotel is no doubt easier i.e. you don’t have to walk 200 meters every time you want to go to the toilet, brush your teeth, or wash the dishes; or walk 400 meters every time you want something charging, or to throw your litter away, go to the bar, and buy food. Of course the shelter is better, less prone to the elements. But you don’t meet people in a hotel, especially in Andorra where it seems the Spanish holiday for the duty free shopping!

Camping is cheaper, and you meet like-minded people that love to travel, and when on your own this is an important part of the enjoyment. I have begun to realise that sharing experiences gives them a sense of worth. This Blog goes a little way to that. Camping is also more relaxing. I also had an amazing view in Potes, a reasonable one in Mataro. Here I have a small window that looks down a very narrow alley. I can just make out the light at the end, crap in other words. So from now on I am camping all the way. If I get tired of camping then I’m off home.

Another thought / enigma, I have been texting a lot until I got here, but in Andorra my phone will not pick up a network. No idea why.

28th May acent of Bony de la Pica and Pic d’Enclar

 I bought a map at a local shop 1:40,000 with a guide book in French, Spanish and Catalan, again not ideal and planned my assault on my first Pyrenees Mountain. I decided on the closest one Bony de la Pica 2,402M and its neighbouring peak Pic d’Enclar 2,383M (left of post in picture left). As it turned out this mountain run assaulted me.(Andorra la Vella is at approx 1,000m)

I knew this was going to be a tough day but it turned out to be one of my toughest trips I have ever endured in the mountains. The weather was good all day, perhaps a little too hot. But it was my run of about 1 ½ miles to the start of the track where my malaise caught me out. Reading a map whilst running down a street full of 24 hour garages, I tripped on a small curb on the forecourt. I think it’s the only time I have tripped flat out on a solid surface; as an adult anyway. I used the map to slide my right hand along on but still badly grazed my left hand and clattered my knee and hip. But I was generally o.k. My knee was bleeding, but the embarrassment was the worst thing. Here I am about to take on a large mountain and I trip before I even get to its base, the shame.

Never mind I carried on. I struggled to initially find the trail. Eventually found it and made my way through the trees on a good track. Later on I emerged out of the trees just a few cairns marked the couloir, it got steep and very difficult with a loose surface. I knew that the battle to ascend would be matched by the battle to descend this rough steep route. I struggled my way to the top, thinking if Mont Blanc is anything like this tough I can forget doing it in 1 continuous effort. The top had a nice large wooden marker with the name and height on. The view was pretty good and just about worth the effort. I made the small descent and re-ascent to visit the top of Pic d’Enclar which was easy running. Then I retraced my steps to begin the decent.

It was a very steep skittery decent. I needed fell shoes on this; it was definitely not for the trail shoes I had on. I can’t remember slipping onto my backside and hands (not ideal with a badly grazed hand!) as much as that on 1 descent. So much so that I found the treacherous scree shoot easier and kept dabbling with it. Eventually I made it down to the relatively easy tree shaded route to the bottom. It was enjoyable but it did feel like a battle with the mountain, a draw I think. I picked up a graze on my elbow on the way down, not too bad considering how many times I slipped. It was then just a mile and a half back to the Hotel to cool off. I am going to try and find a less steep Mountain for Monday.

 







                                                      



27th May arrrival in Andorra La Vella

During my stay in Mataro, there were times (post Barcelona trip) when I was itching to leave for. But after becoming friendlier with acouple a met earlier; Marie and Ian and a few others; it made me want to stay. But that’s the nature of travelling people come and go. You strike up very transient relationships, and especially for any of you that watched Lost, you have to “learn let go”.

I did and ended up In Andorra La Vella. In a nutshell, it is a small city crammed between large peaks, that has more shops than you could believe (about 11 motor bike shops in a row), very few pubs but you can smoke anywhere even in shops! On my way here I though car parking would be a rip off and so it is. I parked my car in the wrong car park initially (bad directions by the receptionist, she never apologised either) then had to move it to the cheapest car park, 38 euro for 4 days!

Some things are cheap though like most electrical goods and jewellery, but the duty free is incredible. 1 litre of Smirnoff vodka 7.50 euro! 200 Marlbro 22 euro. The roads are also mental so it was good to start planning my escape up into the Pyrenees on Saturday.

                                  

27th May the move to Andorra La Vella

On my last night in Mataro I arranged to have a few beers with a couple that I had met durring my stay in Mataro. A really cool couple, namely Marie and Ian from Derbyshire. Whilst explaining my tales of woe to a Dutch couple at about 20:30 they appeared on the back of a golf buggy. They had found a cheap bar by the beach got very merry and Ian, fed up with walking, feigned a leg injury at reception and got a lift. It was a brilliant entrance, if it is possible to enter the middle of a load of camping pitches.

We had planned to go to the campsites pub, but never actually made it there. A bottle of rose I had kept in my tent was now UHT treated by the hot and cold over the last 4 days and nights, so it was cracked open. Then a lovely dutch couple Rein, and I can’t remember the ladies name, Joined us. Then a bit later a Belgian guy motor-biking and camping for months, then another couple. It made for a wine fuelled excellent night. We were told off for the noise a couple of times. But compared to the noise on my first night there, we were quiet. Still a top night sat on the floor outside a small tent, theirs not mine of course!




26th MAY MENIAL TASKS

Guess what I have been doing today. Yes, that is what a weeks-worth of washing looks like. I saved myself 4.50 euro at the laundrette and did it by hand. See I told you I could / would. Must admit though it is a bit of graft, I can see why the washing machine was invented. It is good drying weather though mum. The clothes were dry by 5pm.


Apart from that I had a walk down the beach and got some of my kit arranged into a manor ready for a hotel stay. Not particularly exciting but rigging up a washing line and doing clothes by hand is all new to me. I dabbled a bit in Potes but not on this scale.

A quick thought. I only started thinking about television last night. I haven’t really missed it at all. I had some power left on the lap top so looked up getting the Apprentice on BBC Iplayer. But it came up with a message not available in your area, no idea what that means. It’s the only programme I want to watch. I will look at it again In Andorra where naturally I will be sat in a suitable pub to watch the big match on Saturday!

25th May a Quiet day

I had a quiet day today, after the unwanted excitement of yesterday. I simply ran down to the beach by the, too close for comfort, train line path. I took the camera this time to show you what Mataro looks like.  As you can see on the photos it was another beautiful day and very hot, about 32 I would guess. I am looking forward to a change of scenery now roll on Friday and a trip up to Andorra high in the Pyrenees.

24th May A trip to barcelona

My trip to Barcelona started off o.k. I got the free bus from Mataro to the city centre (Placa de Catalunya) were I met up with an open top tour bus (23 eur /day) which then proceeded to take me on a trip around the city. You could get on and off wherever you wanted I only chose to get off at the Sagradia Familia. I choosing to see the sites from the roof top of the bus, this took 4 hours. I had planned to go in the Sagradia Familia but the queue was about 600 meters long and not moving very fast. I planned on an early start on Thursday to go back to have a look. I say planned because what happened in the following few hours changed my mind.
I had a look around the Picasso Museum then had a bite to eat and by this time it way 19:30 and my bus back was at 22:00. So I bought some fruit at the huge market and then went for a beer, whilst going to the 2nd pub, down one of the many narrow (but not the narrowest) lanes a guy bounded up alongside me. “French, German, Dutch, English” I replied English.  “Ah great football Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United” naively thinking this was a friendly local (since informed he was probably Moroccan) I said Man United. He puts his arm around me “Barcelona me ha ha ha “ and at the same time pretends to tackle me all the time in good humour laughing. I jump his leg and carry on walking. Thinking that was odd I reached for my Wallet it is not in the pocket I had it in. I shout out no, no not my cards common give me my wallet back as I run towards him he throws my wallet to the floor and takes off. I only run a few paces and then collect my wallet off a guy who stops me running after him and stalls me (im almost certain he was his accomplice) he tells me wait there I will get him, how much was it? I only think he asked that because he wanted to know how much his share was.(no honour amongst thieves!).  I ran after them both but looking at the narrowing streets they went down I decide it would be fruitless, especially given the fruit that was weighing my rucsack down.
Luckily earlier in the day I had the presence of mind to put my credit card in a separate zip up pocket on my shorts. Unfortunately I didn’t have the presence of mind to have my wallet in that same zipped up pocket; they may not have tried it then. So I lost 120 euro; I think because I noticed fast enough it meant that I got my Wallet back as a stall tactic. I was left with an empty wallet 4 euro in change and a credit card. Luckily I ended up at the same Irish pub I had been in and San Miguel was 1 euro a bottle, so after a chat with the doorman and him buying me a bottle I stayed there until I needed to walk for the bus home.
It has left a bitter taste in my mouth. Barcelona is a beautiful city just plagued by rats. I hope they choke on it, they truly are verminous cowardly scum, that’s probably doing an injustice to rats, but I want to avoid swearing, I did enough of that on Tuesday. I have pondered that day and I think that I was targeted earlier on as well.  Just as I was drawing some money out of a cash machine on La Rambla ((photo)a very busy wide street think o’connell street in Dublin but longer) as I was about to get my card back a guy walked from my left and behind me shouting at me in Spanish, I kept my hands near the machine and he kept walking and shouting as if talking to someone that was following in his footsteps. I am almost certain this was to try and distract me from what I was doing so they could grab the money as it appeared from the cash machine.  That is why my photos of the amazing Sagradia Familia will have to do. Barcelona has got all the money it’s getting from me.


23rd May Run in the sun down Mataro beach front

Mataro is not a fantastic place for a holiday. (and as I keep telling myself I am not strictly speaking on a holiday) The free bus from this campsite into Barcelona make this a good budget base for the city though. The only life that I have found in Mataro has been some sort of drum banging student protest at the town hall. Apart from that it is the least lively big city I have been to (population 150,000). I hold much higher hopes for my birthday treat to Barcelona tomorrow.

Mataro has a reasonably pleasant beach. I explored it today by having a run down the beach front in the midday heat. What is it they say about mad dogs and English men? It was a fairly pleasant start until I was reminded that I was running on a trail between the beach and a railway line. I was startled by a train that was speeding towards me about 4 feet to my right. Apart from that it was a nice run down the beach next to the water (like hill work) and a long a long harbour wall.

I booked my next stop point today. On Friday I will be going to Andora La Vella and staying in a Hotel for 4 nights, with breakfast laid on, oh the luxury. Another birthday treat to myself, aren’t I generous? But it is a budget hotel.

A video from the F1 of Hamilton closing in on Vettel near the end.



video

A video of the first lap alonso in the lead but only until the first pit stops.

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21st and 22nd May The F1 Barcelona Grand Prix

The summing up of my day at the F1 races would be, hot (it must have been 30c sat in the sun), very loud, and expensive.

The qualifying on Saturday was good, and the other Porsche and GP2 races were good to watch. I did a lap of the track whilst watching these to find the best spot to view the qualifying, and the Grand prix the following day. Eventually I settled for grassy banks with a view of the screen.

On both days I was sat in the sun gently cooking. But the Sunday was particularly hot, people weren’t flooding in to the toilets to use them (dehydration will have seen to that) only to douse themselves down with water. I followed this trend.

Both days were fun but in truth it confirmed what I already knew, in that watching it on the BBC on a TV is the best way to follow the race. At the circuit it was very hot, the screen was a bit too far to see clearly in the bright sun, the radio commentary couldn’t be herd over the car noise and using an ipods radio with ipod earplugs wasn’t enough ear protection. So all this made the race hard to follow, especially during the pit stops. Never the less it was a great experience, and Hamilton2nd and Button 3rd was a pretty good result for the Brits. I think it will be a long time until I go to a Grand Prix again so it will probably be a long time until I pay £3.50 for a cornetto!

19th May A trip up to a very large cross.

I had a nice run up the mountain at the back of the campsite. It has a huge cross on its summit, it is the most impressive cairn i have seen so far on my travels. On inspection, after sweating mt way up all of Viornas 1088m I found that it has solar panels sympathetically placed on its sides so as to power the lights at night, it makes an impressive sighttowering high up atop the mountain above Potes. My route up their was a little dodgy as my map didnt show the tracks. I ended up short cutting and bushwackering my way through dense clawing vegetation until I eventually intercepted the large forest track I should have been on.

My route down and around the back of the mountain was nice. I got a little lost on the lower slopes at one point, but again a little fortunate bushwackering had me back on track. I then made it to Frama were a lovely old lady from the farm assumed that as I had a map in hand I was lost. i wasnt. But i couldnt help thinking, when it would be usefull to bump intto people you dont around here, but you always get help even if you dont really need it, I think the locals are just very king hearted. The mountains are empty, but so majestic, I dont know why they are so little walked or run. Perhaps it is because they are tough and unforgiving?

I have photos to add to here and Picasa at another time. I am packing up now for a long drive tomeorrow to mataro 23miles NE of Barcelona. It is a long drive so i am going to pack he big tent away and sleep in a pop up tent so that i can get an early start to a 9 hour + journey.

17th May A trip into the Picos de Europa

Yesterday was my first forray into the Picos de Europa it was hot but beautiful. I managed to bag one Pico (Pico Soliveno 1226m) despite having a less than great 1:40.000 map (1:25.000 is what I normally use). The true Picos are hard to get at from Potes. It was a fairly tough 4 hour run /walk, and that is to one of the smaller Picos they go upto 2,000 + mteres. It also feels a bit exposed as their are some steep cliffs and in the entire 4 hours i saw one guy about 20 minutes after leaving the road. The lake district it isnt. For solitude its unbeatable. But on you own these could be dangerous hills. Picos sounds cute but these have a bite to them. My next trip will be tomorrow Friday up to Sierra De La Viorna the same name as the campsite I am staying, and looming 1100 meters above.


Earlier today (Wednesday 18th May) I walked to the Monastry about 2 miles uphill from the campsite. It is a beautiful building and very peacefull. Or it was until all the tourist coaches came and emtied out their hoardes. I half expected Brendan (coach trip tv programme C4) and his union jack topped coach to pull up. I then walked to Santa Catalina, I assume it is a dug out relic of an ancient place of worship, all the info was Spanish, so that was me stumped and guessing. Then I met a charming Spanish chap at San Miguel (same deal as Santa Catalina but not a relic, forgot photo) who insisted on showing me Potes far below. He thought me looking at a map meant that I was lost. Half an hour after trying to explain the Pico in the distance that I was on yesterday. I realised I could show him the pictures on my camera. I will look up the Spanish for yesterday. The trip ended with a visit to la Isla the campsite I should be at, but went wrong on the way here. I think I struck lucky though the views here are much better.

 

I have posted, and will continue to post most of my photos on picasa just go through the folders for the relevant days.
https://picasaweb.google.com/102186521105057411582/

15 th MAY A EUROPEAN ADVENTURE BEGINS

Well its been a long time since I posted anything, I have done a few runs since late last year, but I think my lack of fitness due to a long illness over the winter (2 month long chest infection = no fitness for 5 months curbed my enthusiasm for it this Blog.

I will update these missing mini adventures at a later date, and slot them in so as to be chronolgically correct. Anyway i thought this would be a good way to keep in touch with friends to let them know what I am upto in Europe. So here goes.......

I didnt start my journey too well I whent to Davenport terminal in Plymouth, queued up and realised that the ferry looked a bit small. It was a small car ferry / barge that goes to Torpoint. Oops. Luckily I had plenty of time and soon arrived in a bigger queue for a much bigger Ferry.

Just after we sailed, as i was having a luck around the impressive Pont Avon ferry, to my amazement Matin Taylor (an ex work collegue) called me over and explained that he was on his way over to Spain on a motor biking holiday with his girlfriend. So we had a couple of drinks and a chat. Most unexpected. A good start. I decided that a "comfy chair" wouldn't be comfy enough for me that night and reluctantly coughed up the extra £80 for a cabin. It turned out that was a good move. It was only a 65 mile drive to Potes (where I am now typing this up) but the roads were mountainous and tricky for much of the way. It was about a 2 hour drive. It is a beautiful place with nice "Picos" or peaks all around. I am lucking forward to having a run in them tomorrow armed with a brand new map.

My overly large 4 man tent was a challenge to put up. It provided some entertainment to a Dutch lady, who seamed to enjoy me wrestle with the tent. No matter, I won and its up.