2 - 7 July 2017

This section covers the 325k from the French foothill of the Pyrenees in Quillan up to and through Andorra and down into Spain. I had considered doing a long ride through the Spanish part of Pyrenees all the way to the Bay of Biscay. However, the high temperatures, additional 10-12,000 elevation metres climbing and poor quality roads (a problem with the fragile rear wheel) made me change my mind. Instead, I did a fairly short loop through the Spanish Pyrenees and then to the French border at Bagnères-de-Luchon (half way between Bay of Biscay and the Mediterranean). Lots of climbing every day navigating 1-2 passes between 1,400- 2,400 elevation metres in between descending to valleys at 6-700 elevation metres. However, despite the extensive climbing, I found the Pyrenees less spectacular than the Alps – I think because I appreciate rugged steep snow-capped peaks while the Pyrenees were predominantly “round” overgrown hills.

Itinerary and weather

From Quillan, it was a long rolling uphill to Col de Chioula – partly along a river through a narrow gorge and partly through open valleys, where a fierce headwind made it hard work. A steep downhill to Ax-les-Thermes at 700m and an even longer climb up to Andorra at altitude 2,411m. From there, it was 35k downhill to the Spanish border at 1,200m with detours to a couple of valleys. Very hot with temperatures around 40C and little wind - at least the dry heat made it more manageable. Andorra is a “peculiar” country where almost all activity takes place in the “main street” – taking a sideroad implies immediately leaving the hustle & bustle for lovely farmed valleys, also offering great hiking (reminded me of recently built American towns with their strip malls along mainstreet and nothing behind).

In Spain, I rode south to Adrall, west to Sort and north to the French border. Constant long ascends or descends between mountain passes (highest 2,072m) and valleys (around 600m) more often with 8-10-12-15% changes in inclination making the Pyrenees steeper riding than the Alps. The road mainly went through remote mountain areas (overgrown with bushes and forests) passing few towns and villages. It was still very hot with 35-40C and little wind though some  day a strong headwind at the same time cooled and slowed me down. At night, temperatures dropped to pleasant 16-18C, so sleeping was never a challenge.

Roads and drivers/people

In France, nothing changed compared to my previous descriptions. The road quality was still an unpredictable mix of good and bad changing ever so frequently, and the drivers were still speeding but being cautious when overtaking me. More people greeted me than on the last stretch from Monaco but I have a feeling, it might have been tourists rather than locals.

The road quality in Andorra was generally great, however sometimes a lacked a shoulder on the big main road through the country. Being wide there was room to ride it, but it was busy and people were speeding impatiently by occasionally honking at me. At least I was going fast downhill all the way – climbing the other way could have been unpleasant.

The Spanish roads were more often bad quality being poorly patched, cracked and potholed. It didn’t matter much riding uphill, but the many downhills were risky going 50-60-70 k/h despite frequent braking. When little wind, recurrent rim-cooling were required while strong headwinds cooled the rims lowering the risk of exploding tires. Besides the heat and poor roads, riding in Spain was a pleasure as there was little traffic and drivers were cautious when overtaking me on the curvy roads. The Spaniards were generally also very friendly smiling or nodding at me - a gratifying change from the indifferent French.

Camping

Despite riding in the mountains, camping was unusually difficult. In France, the forests were accessible but full of hikers and mushroom pickers and in Andorra, the valleys were farmed and fenced off. In Spain, the problem was (again) steep slopes and rivers on both sides of the roads. In the end after long searches, I of course always found useful spots though the boggy/humid areas implied swarms of flies and mosquitoes and subsequently showering in repellent.

Equipment

I had a flat tire but no broken spokes. The latter, likely because I made frequent spoke adjustments especially after the steep downhills were the wheels took hard beatings on the bad roads.

My problem with the dynamo charging cable continued breaking by the soldering. In Andorra, I unsuccessfully spent hours looking for a shop to have it fixed (bikes, cars, electronics, etc.), so I had to continue using tape until it’s fixed.

The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
Great view from the hi...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
I was tired and since ...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
I left the river for t...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
On a weekday, it would...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
Riding the open countr...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
Lots of lovely flowers...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
Riding through a lovel...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
Nice low-hanging cloud...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
Riding the last 15k up...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
I continued on the ver...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
I got up at 8.15 and a...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
First view of the high...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
Downhill to Ax-les-The...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
...before beginning th...
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The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The road was busy but ...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
It was 30k to the bord...
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Looking back down at t...
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The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
Stunning views approac...
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The town was terribly ...
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Pushing the last 300 e...
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The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
Looking down the valle...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
A strenouos hour later...
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On the other side, it ...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
Some kilometres downhi...
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Back on the main road,...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
10k later, I turned in...
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I pushed the bike up t...
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7-800m later, I reache...
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Back down the hill to ...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
While setting up camp ...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
It was a lovely mornin...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
I left at 10.30 and wa...
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The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
It was a lovely and pe...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
Back on the main road,...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
Approaching the capita...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
Helmets are mandatory ...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The downhill continued...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
One problem (the cable...
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Another 5k downhill to...
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The steep incline quic...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
I decided to camp earl...
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Great view. I had agre...
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It was a pleasantly ov...
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Tough to begin on a 10...
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Nice to know! However,...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
Nice enough but the vi...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
After 7k up, it was 3k...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Spanish roads were...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
Finally at El Cantó af...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
There had been no wind...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
Lovely views but unple...
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The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
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The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
Rapidly approaching So...
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On the 20k downhill ro...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
A long uphill along th...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
15k later I reached Ll...
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The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
Further up the river, ...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
While talking, it had ...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
From the lake it was u...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
... and then 4k double...
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I was tired so just be...
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The road was fairly qu...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
After climbing 4k, I r...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
Switchbacks ahead. I w...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
A "river" running down...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
Looking back down the ...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
High up a bit of snow ...
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The last kilmetres to ...
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The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
Finally at Bonaigua at...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
A rare stunning Pyrene...
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The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
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The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
Riding through Viella ...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
Riding through Bosost ...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
No luck finding a spot...
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
The Pyrenees incl. Andorra
It was only 4pm but ah...
 
 
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