Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Andorra – Comapedrosa Hiking Trail

We only had one day in Andorra so we wanted to make the most of it. The hotel had a few leaflets and we were desperately trying to find something to do. We really wanted to do kayaking again – not possible in Andorra. We tried to do a Via Ferrata – everything was already booked up for the next day. We looked at canyoning – I decided that it’s a bit too scary for me. The hills looked a bit too crazy to hire a bike for the day so in the end we did what we had been doing for the last 4 days: hiking.

We looked at the available routes. Andorra has two National Parks, both a bit far from where we were staying but when we looked at the photos of the hills they looked exactly the same as the other parts of the Pyrenees except they had horses instead of cows. And on top of that they only offered 3-4 hour long routes and we wanted something a bit more challenging as a last day hike. Somewhere on the way the name ‘Comapedrosa’ popped up and it looked high enough. We drove to another town not far from us and found a Tourist Information office.

I have to say that Tourist Information offices are my favourite places in Spain! The people there are always really helpful, sometimes even speak English although I’m getting more and more confident with my Spanish. They explain everything clearly, answer all your questions and give you great maps of the area, important features, scale and walks clearly indicated. The girl here told us that the whole hike to the top would be about 10 hours long (that’s a bit too much even for us) but there’s a 7 hour walk up to Estany Negra that we can do. We thought that sounds perfect, got the map and started off.

Well, we wanted to make the best of our only day in Andorra and wanted to finish off our hiking holiday with an awesome hike. I can definitely say we did exactly that. Today’s hike was the longest, most gruelling, highest, most challenging but at the same time the most awesome hike we’ve ever done!

The trail didn’t waste time easing us into the hike, it started quite steep straight away through the forest, over waterfalls, mountain tops all around us.

I called this bit of the hike ‘the pink section’ as the sides of the hills were covered with pink flowers. It was gorgeous.

After the pink bit we walked through a little flat bit then up, up and up.

The view was lovely from this bit. We saw the next leg of the route.

Next to the route was a refugi with a reservoir.  

Back on track, over the valley. Soon we left the green terrain and started to climb rocks. The next little valley was glacier shaped, the path lead next to it.

After the next stony, very steep bit we arrived to this lake. We had to sit down to take in the sight.

We sat there for a few minutes and after a group of hikers came down the ice (it was the strangest thing to see people walking on ice in T-shirt and shorts) we asked them whether it’s ok for us to go up on it. They were really nice and helpful and said it’s ok to go up but we should pay more attention on the way down. The guy told us that the name of the lake is ‘black’ but it’s white. I didn’t understand what he meant, I just thought my Spanish is not good enough. We had our lunch then off we went to climb the icy bit.

At the top of the ice we found the Estany Negra. And it was white! Now I understood what the guy meant! It was covered with snow! I’ve never experienced anything quite so incredible as this. It was summer, 31 degrees and we were looking at this beautiful lake covered with ice. I couldn’t get enough of it.

We didn’t really want to trudge in the snow any further but the map said that there’s a viewpoint on top of the rock covered wall next to the lake and we thought that the view over the other side would worth the extra climb. We couldn’t find the path though so we did some scrambling up. It was a bit scary but we got up very quickly and yes, the view was worth the effort.

We decided not to climb to the summit. It wasn’t far but it was steep and we both thought it was enough for today, not to mention the sight of the gathering clouds. We waited for a group of French hikers to show us the route (it went up on the side, not straight) then started to head down after them.

The clouds were gathering at an alarming rate so we went faster and faster. It looked like it was going to start raining any minute. The wind stopped, the birds and butterflies all disappeared, it got darker and darker around us and we finally heard the distant rumbling. We were desperate to get down to the line of the trees where we can wait out the rain. By the time we got to the ‘pink section’ we were practically running down the hill. We saw the first trees just as the first drops fell on us. We quickly ran for shelter, put on our rain jackets, Paul even found an umbrella in his backpack then the sky fell. We watched the lightning, listened to the rumbling noise of the thunder and smiled. We had an amazing trip with unforgettable hikes and this last one was especially incredible.

After about 20 minutes the rain moved on, we got out of our shelter and walked the rest of the hike. This is how the path looked like.

About half an hour before the end of the hike a big part of the path was covered with water from the waterfall that ran through it. There were lots of rocks so we prepared ourselves and went through them. Paul was great but my foot slipped and it ended up in the water.

By the time we got back to the car it started raining again. We were famished so instead of going out we just popped into a supermarket and Paul cooked an excellent spaghetti Bolognese for us. This meant we couldn’t do our usual gastronomic exploration but according to a review the most popular food in Andorra is the pizza with beer so I guess we didn’t miss out on much.

With this our Pyrenees stint has ended. The next day was Wednesday. We drove back the next day to Barcelona in the morning and by the evening we decided we’re ready to move on. We bought train tickets, met all our friends the last time, packed up and on Sunday we moved to Oviedo, Asturias.

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