Day 56

Wed 12th June.
Back up the bastard hill.

My host left before I got up, so despite giving me a place to crash, I never got to meet her or thank her in person. I wrote her a note, while I helped myself to a coffee from her Nespresso machine, showered, got ready and left. Thanks Naina.

It was about 10am when I started. I knew exactly what was install for me and as much as I didn’t want to that big a climb again, I knew I had too and the sooner I started, the sooner I’d finish.
I stopped off in the capital, Andorra le Vella to have a look around, buy some tat and suss the place out in less than an hour. There wasn’t much to it, although a Salvador Dali sculpture adorned the centre of the town with his signature surreal clock involved.
I did feel unlike anywhere else I’d been, possibly due to the fact it was located in the mountains. It made the air clearer then normal and the light seemed brighter and crisper then most places.
I’d imagine parts of Guatemala felt similar due its unique location, but less developed.

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I’d picked up the necessary postcards and stickers and got back to business. The one new problem I didn’t have yesterday was the heat. It was about 28°C all day with highs of 30°C. This didn’t help.
I stopped off at a petrol station on the way up and bought water and a coke. It was a lot cheaper than I expected. I don’t know why, but I thought things here would be expensive.
The morning had gone well so far, but I still had a lot to do and wanted to get it over with. I didn’t feel tired or exhausted as I feared I might and knew I’d be alright for the day.

To give an impression of the country itself, it reminded me of Switzerland, although I hadn’t been,
but in my mind’s eye it was very similar. Swiss-like lodges, mountains powdered with snow, good views, and rich green trees.
I learned that it was rich country, due to some kind of tax-break law as the country was so small, explaining the duty-free style town on entering. The petrol was cheaper too, so for the Spanish and French nearby it must have been a good place to stock up on essentials.
Although it’s known as being bi-lingual, people spoke predominately Spanish.

A few hours later and I was almost there. It never got to a breaking point where I wanted to give in and collapse, but by the time I was nearing the top, I was very glad to be rid of it. I could almost taste the finish.
Again just before the end, I started getting really short-tempered with other road users. I got it in my head that they were all arrogant for some reason and I really began to despise them. I don’t know why, maybe it was a part of me that started to go mad from the repetition and the output.
There were other cyclists out too, but no-one lugging a fraction of the weight I was carrying. My fault I guess, but still, nothing calmed my patience, other than seeing the finish line after a gruelling five or six hours.

And that was it.
The end, again. The same damn pass two days running. Combined it would create a climb of roughly 3400m. I got a photo at the top from some rude Spanish tourists. This killed my buzz and I decided not to hang around up there. After all, I had another McDonald’s to eat.
I went back through the weird Lego town. I didn’t notice yesterday how it seemed particularly soul-less, due to the high commercial content of the place, plastered on every shop front and interior. Perfumes, clothes, DVDs you name it. People spending money they didn’t have, on things they didn’t need. It was clear the was a one-stop shopping zone and had little else here, other than its extraordinary snow-covered surroundings.

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Now I was looking forward to another blissful hour-long descent into the lush green hills of France. I reached a new high of 66.8kph and it was wonderfully quiet on the roads. I was able to practice swerving manoeuvres with the wind blowing in my hair while I got back to a normal altitude.
It was by far the happiest, most enjoyable experience I had on the trip.

Just like that I was back at 600m where I started yesterday. I was sad that after all those hours of labour, I’d had the fruit of my efforts. But for every effort going up, it was always worth it for the thrill of coming down.

The next (and final) pass was the Col de Chioula at 1439m. I was glad to be leaving the Pyrenees and returning to more normal weather patterns and a regular routine in my cycling, although I knew I would miss the mountains, I’d had my dose.
I was so fit from two days, that the climb felt easy. I started racing up, enjoying the ease I felt from pedalling uphill. It felt like I was going to sprint up the thing, but soon enough the ache set into the muscles. I started to burnout and slow down. At a regular pace I realised the extraordinary beauty in the view to my left. The sun was setting and a golden bronze spread over the hills, trees and town miles below I had just come through. The temperature had dropped and it was almost crisp.
It was easily one of the most beautiful and peaceful moments of the trip.

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