Tarascon-Sur-Ariège to Andorra la Vella

Strange day this one; some great highs (literally) as well as some real lows.

The day started well enough on quiet roads out of Tarascon-Sur-Ariège, but that was it, the rest of the day was spend on traffic laden N roads.

The gradient was an increasingly upward path and it was slow going, as the temperature was in the thirties. With the constant stream of cars and lorries charging past, the scenery was beginning to loose its charm.

Further down the road the traffic came to a standstill as it tried to get through Aux-les-Thermes. Trying find some fresh air to breathe in a sea of exhaust fumes while slowly weaving around stationary vehicles was definitely not how I had pictured today would be.

The traffic does ease a little the further uphill you venture, particularly when the road splits the Spain or Andorra bound motorists at L'Hospitalet-Près-L'Andorre and later on at tunnel (no bikes), but at no point did it come close to a level that might be considered pleasant.

Just after crossing the border with Andorra and before the town of Pas de la Casa, at about 2000 meters up, there is another tunnel that may have been accessible to cyclists (there were no signs to the contrary). However, I can’t imagine a cyclist wanting to use it, you can’t come this far and not go further.

The gradient, which had been variable, increased a little for the last 400 meters which seemed to take forever. Eventually I crawled round the final hairpin and a French couple cheered me to the summit.

At 2,408 meters (7,900 feet) Port d’Envalira is the highest pass in the Pyrenees and marked another personal achievement - my highest altitude by bike!

The descent was rapid at first with the hairpins separated by some long stretches of good quality road which, even free-wheeling, had me averaging about 45mph.

However, once you get to Soldeu, the road surface deteriorates and the traffic gets heavier again, as you are joined by the vehicles leaving tunnel. This trend continued the further I ventured into Andorra until it struck me that the whole country is just a huge building site and really, really busy!

Unfortunately, for some reason (probably ignorance), I had imagined Andorra to be a wealthy, but peaceful tourist retreat. I was right on the first count and couldn’t have been more wrong on the second.

Its hard to describe just how horrible this shrine to materialism and the motor vehicle is but, thankfully, I don't have to because this article already pretty much hits the nail on the head. Suffice to say it was the biggest disappointment of the whole tour.

If you plan to follow this route, I definitely recommend not stopping in Andorra; just keep going to Spain.... and maybe bring some ear muffs and a nose peg.

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Day:8 of 15
Date:26 July 2007
Distance:93 KM
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