Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Day Twenty-Nine

Danger! Adventure! Excitement! Challenge! Thrill! Buckling of Swashes! All of these things, plus some marmots.

In Andorra and in some other countires as well, there are small cabins built in remote places, accessible only by foot. They have cots, a fireplace, cooking supplies, and firewood, normally. These are called Refugi.

So the tourist info lady told us the way to one of them. We stopped at the store to buy a few things and then started hiking on the GR10 trail, which runs the full length of the pyreness mountains from sea to sea along the spain-france border. The trail started off paved with cobblestones but soon became dirt. When we were unsure which way to go, we followed the red and white stripes.

Things around us got slowly less and less civilized until the trail was fairly steep and rugged. The last signs of civilization we saw were some horses in a high mountain pasture and then a nasty old lean-to made of wood and tarps all nailed together.

By about two o'clock we had gained a fair amount of elevation and gone almost the entire length of this canyon. We saw an Andorran guy coming down and we talked to him for a few minutes. He told us there were marmots ahead and I asked him if he had seen any mountain goats. "Si, he visto uno hoy." He had seen one today. His Spanish had the same bored-sounding nasaly casualness that seemed to be the way to speak here in Andorra, but at least he was easier to understand than the lady at our hostel. He also told us we were only about ten minutes away from our cabin.

Twenty minutes later, actually we arrived. I wish I could describe the peacefulness and beauty of the meadow where our cabin was. It just seemed so remote, especially compared to the feel of the rest of our trip. Europe is so developed that it is difficult to get away from people. Andorra, although they are developing it fairly quickly, is still mostly mountains. So it was such a contrast to the rest of our trip.

After setting things up in the cabin, gathering wood, etc. Rob and I decided to climb one of the several peaks around us.

It was while in the meadow, while hiking up, resting on the peak and seeing the view, and hiking down, that I got that feeling. You know the one where you don't know what it is. It is powerful, and you feel like crying, but also like crying wouldn't begin to express its depth. It hits you like unbearable waves of elation and melancholia at the same time. Andorra was where I finally came to the realization that I shouldn't wonder what this feeling is every time it comes, but rather just relish it and let it wash over me.

Anyway it lasted until about nightfall when we went to bed and the feeling was replaced with me getting really cold. I had to wake up every hour or so and put more wood on our fire an climb back into my single layer fleece sleeping bag. Rob slept like a dead man though. Did I mention he was pretty much completely recovered from his illness by now?