Sunday, 29 July 2012

GR 11 part 1

L'illa refuge
Connecting to the GR 11 had brought me into Spain but the trail would soon pass through Andorra. The weather was threatening to turn bad and I hurried to the first refuge. L'illa was a huge unmanned hut and a big group of hikers were sitting outside. Immediately I disliked them and was right. They were all cracking stupid jokes, smoking and mainly guarding their huge supply of beer cans that they were cooling in the water fountain. Inside the hut it didn't get better. A big group of Spanish hikers had arrived who now very noisily had lunch that mainly consisted of a bottle of wine each. No wonder the officials had placed a big trash can outside the hut that could be helicoptered out. It was full to the brim with beer cans and bottles. There was no tranquillity at this hut and the main target for local hikers seemed to get drunk.

When the weather cleared a bit I left wondering how far I would get. The weather forecast had been really bad predicting thunderstorms in the evening. All the ensuing huts were also full of merry hikers and so I hiked on and on despite black clouds in the sky. And then it started thundering and I realised I was in trouble. No campsites in this steep terrain. Luckily I had a guidebook for the GR 11 and that promised a shelter soon. I more or less ran down the trail hoping for the shelter to appear. Just minutes before the deluge started I saw it. Just in time!

The shelter was huge and nice but it had one big problem. It was meant to be a barbecue shelter and had a rough and uneven stone floor. Outside it was just pouring down flooding everything. It was one of those thunderstorms you don't survive dry in no matter what tent. When the rain let up a bit I checked the ground outside. Everything was still flooded and I had to face sleeping on the rough stone floor. To say it was uncomfortable is an understatement. At midnight I gave up and moved my tent outside. But as soon as I had settled in it started raining again. My tent was only sloppily set up in freestanding mode and would not withstand serious rain in this setup. Grudgingly I moved back into the shelter.. After about 1 hour of sleep I was woken up by loud techno music. Apparently some kids in the valley had decided to have some impromptu after hour techno party in an empty parking lot and noise travelled very far in the valley. At 7 am I gave up and packed. Not a minute to early as soon the first hikers appeared.

View over Encamp
Grumpily and tired I walked into Encamp in the valley. I was completely out of food and hungry on top of being tired. Things improved after a huge breakfast out of the local big supermarket. My French phonecard would not work here any more but then I discovered free wifi. At that point I decided to once be reasonable and stay. I walked into the first hotel and was surprised how cheap it was. I paid 43 Eur for a fantastic room, great AYCE dinner and breakfast buffet and free wifi. Having a rest day here had been a very wise decision. I had slept well, could repair my gear and update my blog. Life is good again!

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