As we drove north up the river gorge that led to the border, Karina asked me how a country like Andorra can exist, and without being able to wikipedia the history, I reckonned it was like a deep crack in the floor that no matter how hard you sweep you can’t get the dirt out. A slightly offensive metaphor, but Andorra does seem wedged up a mountainous narrow valley with only two roads in or out: one up the gorge and the other North over a high pass.
After hardly seeing the officers of law enforcement, in Andorra they were everywhere and they were busy. Questioning us at the border, giving out parking tickets, directing traffic (even though there were funtioning traffic lights), it seemed like a big employer in the country. The other big industry is shopping, like being in an endless airport duty free. Huge hypermarts selling chococalate, cognac, cigarettes as well as the obligitory Body Shops, C & As and Quicksilvers. My brother Campbell had told me years ago that Andorra was a good place to buy ski mountaineering gear, but after browsing a few shops I didnt find the prices now particulary cheap. Cheaper than england, granted, but that’s like saying warmer than Greenland.
After a couple of days in the mountains, we wanted a campground, but after driving through half the country I started wondering “even if there is one, where would they fit it”. About 10km north of the capital, we found an unlikely one in a field you had to drive through a petrol station to access. But it was cheap, had showers you could leave on without coins or pressing buttons, and we found free wifi nearby.
We drove out of Andorra under beautiful blue skies past the ski resort of Soldeu. This was the only one I’d heard of in the Pyreenese prior to coming, and though bgger than I’d thought I reckon of all the ones I saw the area around the Pic du Midi in France looked the best terrain. The region doesnt always get the best snow, as well, and being south I reckon it’s going to be one of the early ones to suffer as global warming sinks its teeth in.