The day after my Canigou ride, I was back in the train to Perpignan. Ignorant of the roads around this town (except the one I took two days before), I intended to take straight ahead the road to Céret and Spain, but it turned out to be a highway, with two lanes on each side of the road, and cars going well over 100 km/h. I went back, but found myself inside a web of highways, trying to find, with my road map and my GPS, another route that would take me on the Céret Road, avoiding the first part so hostile to bikes. I tried some cyclist path, but that led me nowhere. I looked at my GPS, and it showed me a small road nearby, that I finally reached crossing a vineyard. This kind of adventures makes you complain at first about not preparing well enough your trip but turns some days after into funny souvenirs.
I finally took the Canohès and col de Llauro road. At the pass, I thought that staying on the crest of the hills would allow me to get back to my route in Amélie-les-Bains, a little higher than Céret, so I turned right towards Oms. In fact my map fooled me as it showed a road that turned out to be a footpath. Instead I found myself in La Vila where I had a good climb before arriving in Amélie-les-Bains, that I reached finally with much more climb than expected. Apparently, there is a cyclist path between Céret and Amélie-les-Bains so I certainly would have done better to go down directly to Céret.
A nice cyclist path, the continuation from Céret, well indicated, led me from Amélie to Arles-sur-Tech, keeping me away from the main road. In Arles it was time to stop for the night. In my optimistic schedule, I should have passed the col des Ares this day, but all my wanderings in Perpignan, and the extra climbing on the small roads delayed me of course a lot. But no matter, I was happy to be on the road, my mind filled with the climbs that expected me the days to come.
No more cycling path after Arles, so in the morning, I was on the road to Prats de Mollo and col d'Ares. It was foggy and cold at the pass. In fact I found a quite cold weather at the beginning of my trip. It was not always easy, especially when going down early in the morning, but I kept in mind that too hot would be worst. And in fact, the temperature increased the last day and confirmed me that climbing in the heat causes more problems than enduring cold in descents.
After col d'Ares, I went down to Camprodon, where the climb to my first big, Valterr 2000, was to begin. It’s a long climb, 22 km, where the nicest part are large hairpins in the forest, a little before the ski resort. Back in Camprodon, I had to go to Berga for the Rasos de Peguera climb. First it was on a highway to Ripoll, but as it was mainly downhill, it was quickly done and not too annoying. In Ripoll, I had to take briefly the Barcelona road, but turned right just before entering a big tunnel.
A very enjoyable road led me to Berga, through Les Lloses and Pantà de la Baells. After the Rasos de Peguera climb, I took the direction of Bagà, trying to avoid the Puigcerda main road as much as possible. I finally stopped for the night at Guardiola de Berguedà. As always, I had to explain at the hotel that I wanted to leave at 6. It was not easy this time but finally I was early in the morning on the road to coll del Pall. At the top of this climb the road turns into a dirt track. I chose nevertheless to go down this way, as it was only a few kilometres long and avoided me a very large detour. It was very rough, and I had to walk frequently, but it was worth doing it. But cyclists must be aware that it is a tough track.
To reach Coma Morera, I went down to Puigcerda and Bourg-Madame. I could have gone directly through Queixans and Osséja, but had to take some food before the climb. At some point in the climb to Coma Morera, the road separates in two. Both ways go to the top, but the left side is much shorter. Of course I turned right, which allowed me to visit all the parts of this climb, as I went down the direct way. The road is narrow, steep and not in very good state but the views at the top, in all directions, reward us from the climb.
I spent the last part of the day climbing Puymorens and Envalira passes. In the port d’Envalira climb, there’s a surprising town (Pas de la Casa), 2000m high in the middle of nowhere, built for the tax-free shoppers coming from France. I came into a shop called Supermercat, in the hope of finding some things to eat, but it sold nearly only alcohols and cigarettes, so I found only a bag of nuts as a food.
I stopped in Encamp for the night. The hotel on the road to Els Cortals was full, so I had to go down in town, where I found a cheap hotel on town’s main street. I ate in a restaurant nearby where I had a full course for 11 €. I feared at first that Andorra would be expensive, but it wasn’t at all.
The breakfast at the hotel was at 8 am, but I left earlier to climb Els Cortals and so was back at the hotel with a good appetite. After breakfast I left towards col d’Ordino and Arcalis. In the town of Ordino, I saw a lot of runners as the Andorra Ultra Trail was taking place there this very week-end.
After Arcalis, I went down to La Manassa to start the Port de Cabus climb. I found this pass the most beautiful of all the climbs I did in Andorra. The last part after coll de la Botella is gorgeous. In fact it was so beautiful that it could have ruined my trip. I started the descent with my eyes on the scenery and not on the road. It happened that there was a little crack in the asphalt, and my front wheel chose this very place. I finished on the road, hearing the hiss of my back wheel losing its air. Well, a scratched
So the situation was the following: I was in Andorra, with a bike nearly unusable, no credit card and only the little cash that remained in my purse. Furthermore it was Friday and I feared not to find an open bank before Monday, if ever the case of a damaged credit card was handled. Well, at this point the only thing to do was to go down to la Manassa. On the way I had another flat on my front wheel that frightened me, as I didn’t know if my damaged rim would not cause other flats regularly. But it didn’t, and I finally arrived in la Manassa a little before 7pm, where I found a bike shop (that dealt mainly with MTB, as la Manassa appears to be the place in Andorra devoted to MTB) where my wheel was repaired, to my great relief.
I then resumed my ride but had still in mind the problem of my credit card. I stopped to have a more attentive look and found that even if it was folded in two places, the plastic was not broken and that maybe I could flatten it with precaution. When this was done, I advised an ATM nearby to test it. When I saw the notes going out of the machine, I was of course very happy.
As I was at the top of port de Cabus about 5pm, I had hoped being able to climb my last Andorran climb, Bosc de la Rabassa, before the end of the day, and be able to sleep in la Seu d’Urgell. Of course, with my wheel incident I had to stop in Sant Julia de Llorat instead, where I took a room at hotel Floch, nearly at the foot of the Rabassa climb. Like in Coma Morera, two roads can be chosen to reach the top, that join in a pass called la Peguera just a few kilometres before the end of the climb. This time I chose the most direct way, turning right where the roads separate, but through curiosity I took the other one for descent, which has a little bit more ups and downs. The top of the Bosc de la Rabassa is the entrance to an attraction park, called Naturlandia. Again, I was able to do the climb before breakfast, so I was out of Andorra by 9pm, with the last three Spanish BIG of my trip ahead: col Canto, Estany de Sant Maurici and Port de la Bonaigua.
Coll Canto is steep at the beginning, the road is a bit busy, but it offers nice views to the Segre valley on the left. Closer to the pass, the road gets easier, and the pass takes place in a nice reddish rocks environment.
As I said before, it was exceptionally cold the first few days of my trip, but normal July heat came back on my last day. So I began to be overheated on the valley road that climbs slowly along the Noguera Pallaresa river to the beginning of the Espot and Sant Maurici lake climb. When getting out of
By now, only port de la Bonaigua was to climb, but as I said, the heat, and maybe the tiredness from the previous days, caused me to
After the pass, I just had to let me down to Vielha, where I arrived at about 9pm and went into my last hotel. The day after, I climbed the col des Ares. Having started with col d’Ares, I found that funny. I then went down to Saint-Gaudens (with a last little pass on the way) where I jumped into the train to Toulouse, and finished this fructuous 14-BIG trip.