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Published: September 7th 2009
After our first morning of sleeping in, Alex, Kelsey, and I did a bit of shopping, first stopping at the Casa de Formatge. This store is, as you may have guessed, entirely devoted to cheese and has ample free samples. There is also a restaurant on the 2nd floor that offers everything from raclette to fondue to just plain cheese tables. You can even buy a hardcore raclette device that really is just a heat source and cheese mount so you can actually just smother your food with melted cheese from one giant hunk - no fuss with paddles. I look forward to the day I have a mental breakdown and calm myself via shoving pounds of cheese from this place down my throat. Our next stop at the food section of the Pyrenées department store proved equally amazing. Tomorrow I am going back to pick up these goat cheeses made to look like figs - I’m hoping there are figs inside, too!
Anyway, after this little excursion we regrouped with team Anglophone and planned the departure for our mountain excursion for sometime after 3pm. We chose a level 1 hike in the Vall d’Incles that would take around 3
Beginning the trek
hours and first required us to take a bus to the Parish of Conillo, further up into the mountains. There was a refuge at the top of the hike, next to the lake Junclar, in which we planned to have dinner and stay the night. The day was gorgeous so we were all pumped to get the show on the road.
We waited almost no time at all for the bus and after 15 minutes or so were at the entrance of the valley. The first half-hour or so was really just walking along a narrow road with lush mountains on either side. Donkeys, horses, and cows with actual cowbells were among the friends we met along the way. There were a number of small structures presumably used as summer homes, as well as a small, rustic church and a small tower of some sort. These were all of course in the traditional stone style of the region and had really interesting slate roofs.
The next part of the journey took us up what was at many points a riverbed. Pine trees and beautiful plant-life were in abundance and further up we came to a fun rest area
with a stone bridge, small river, and places to sit and grill. I of course got overzealous climbing the rocks and managed to slip and soak my shoe in the water - thankfully I had an extra pair of socks that more or less fixed the problem.
Next came the hard part that would be the duration of the journey - going vertically. Small yellow dots showed us our path, which took us up jagged rocks, a menagerie of twists and turns, and over running water. At one point mike and I legitimately scaled the small waterfall that trickled down into the valley. Luckily neither of us slipped and fell to our deaths. This was no “level 1” trail. Despite being out of breathe and exhausted, the promise of the Estany Junclar, or Lake Junclar, combined with breathtaking views of the valley, kept us pressing forward. We had long ago lost the two British who were probably 30 or 40 minutes behind us. We terrain was surprisingly diverse, from damp almost marshy plains to the jagged rocks covered in lichen. Unfortunately we didn’t see any bears or anything - just a hawk or eagle circling above, and then a
small herd of goats further up the mountain.
While the two girls had pressed onward, Mike and I took a more exploratory route and investigated an abandoned stone structure of some sort. I at this point also almost got trapped on a giant rock - I legitimately scaled it to get up, but it took me a couple of minutes to figure out exactly how to get down without dying. Then suddenly we heard shouts of joy a bit ahead of us on the trail. Alex and Kelsey had found the lake! The lake was gorgeous, and had it not started to become more and more chilly, we considered taking a dip. Right next to it was the Refuge - sweet. Upon asking about staying, however, it became not so sweet - they were booked. %€&!$. Our aspirations were crushed. Given there was no other option to stay there without a tent, we decided we would just have to try to make it down before dark and catch the last bus back. We also had to text the Brits the bad news since they were still a ways away. After refueling with my xoriço and formatge de cabra sandwich,
plus some Príncipe cookies, we headed back down.
The way down was significantly quicker, but due to the steepness it was a bit of a feat not falling to one’s death or at least twisting an ankle. We nonetheless reached the bottom and at 9 on the dot picked up the bus back to Andorra La Vella. It was an awesome afternoon/evening, but the next morning was sure to be fraught with aches and pains of all sorts. Oh well - that’s what it takes to be an Andorran mountain man I suppose.
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