Encamp, Andorra

April 13, 2000

(Still thinking I am making my way back to La Vella at this point...)

The rain dusting on my shoulder made it be know that I couldn't stop here and it was too late to leave the comfort of the city lights. Down I went at any sort of trail, or most likely a rainwater run off that had made a clearing over some rocks.

I picked up a walking stick before I started out in La Vella and now it was saving me from all kinds of spills as a third leg. None-the-less, I did go down a few times.

One was where I thought I had come across someone's anti-erosion device for a garden terrace: some chain linked fence in the ground. With that, a tree and my stick, it let me make it over that area of ground with decent footing. But where it ended, I slid out with only the tree holding me up and I slid just a foot or two to find my right foot trapped in some sort of metal structure. No panic (the thought of this being an unsprung animal trap came to mind, but was best pushed away). I couldn't get it out on it's own, but wiggled and lifted myself with the walking stick and I was free again.

It turned out this wasn't something for a garden, but a new road.

The other spill was a bit more exciting and it must have come before the foot trapping one, but it's hard to remember. I slipped again in the mud and it went like this:

1. Boom - Sort of like the big bang - it was an almost instant type of thing, but it did happen as I remember knowing that I was going down on my butt (you could say the mountain whipped my ass at this point), I had hit the ground and... 2. Snap - I had it so hard, the small metal caribeaner holding my day pack on my main one snapped and my day pack tumbled down. 3. Slide - As I began to slide, I kept an eye on the tumbling pack so I'd know where to dig it up. My left leg was folded under so my boot could get some traction and the right was extended to avoid any direct smashes into anything. Out came a half hearted "ahhhhh." I'm not really sure why, I just did and when I stopped sliding, it seemed to fit right in like a scene from an Indiana Jones film. Lucas must have been here too.

Then I picked up the other pack and carried on.

But this must have happened before the other crash, since I was now looking down at some new road construction. Just a muddy space that went on forever along with a 15 foot wall (that I stood on top of) and a rail on the other side before the cliff started down again.

Does this wall ever end? Apparently not. I searched around, but no, I'll have to jump. Packs down first. Bam, plunk. Bam, plunk. That's the sound of two backpacks bouncing in the mud.

Now for me. It seemed way to high, but now I could easily walk up and down the wall looking for it's end. It actually really didn't have an end since I later saw the the end was even more of a drop, but I found a spot that must have been only 10 foot high. I sat on the edge and jumped. A perfect landing!

The road was long, long, long. It went up and down, but all in all was going down. I stopped and took a break in a small construction vehicle (the radio worked just fine) and then headed off.

I remember thinking, 'I wouldn't be doing this on a Friday night at home!' This isn't comfortable, but it isn't boring either. Actually, I was feeling rather positive about the whole thing (although somewhat ridiculous at being so).

Hours later, after a tunnel I was on a real road making my way down a hill. My pack food had transformed from a doughnut and cookies to a chocolate covered pancake and tasty brown dust, but a refreshing snack just the same.

Past some barking dogs (the only ones that make a fuss seem to be the ones behind bars or tied up, the free ones rarely are a hassle), through some real garden terraces and finally, FINALLY, on the edge of town.

It's 2am. The first hotel would not answer the door. The 2nd hotel, no one was there, but the entrance to the apartment building was warm, so I took a rest there. Two young blokes, who seemed to know the hotel manager, wanted to stay there and banged on a window until he came out. I checked in at 2:30, learned that this was not La Vella, and was sound asleep before 3:00.

In the morning, I was sort of embarrassed of how I left the bed. There was a dirty outline of my body on the white sheets. Oh well, I actually only used the place for half a night anyway.

Down into town, on a bright morning, I was ready to try making an early start over the next hill.

But that sliding must have taken it's toll. I was fine until I had to go back up the small hill. The old ladies I once jumped into the street to pass were now passing me as they speed around corners and sprang onto buses.

My knee was badly sprained. Consulting my first aid book, the most important thing was to rest it. I'd wait and read and relax at the bus stop. I started carving at the hiking stick. The steak bone foot I removed, since it was getting way to many stares.

And then I cut myself. This proves Dan Fielding was right. Fielding is the author of a book, "Fielding's Most Dangerous Places in the World." He goes into war zones and has tea with revolutionaries and terrorists to find out their point of view, dodging bullets on the way in and out.

His view is this... he's prepared out there and he feels more at risk in his bathroom tub than in the middle of a civil war. I had gone up and down a Pyrenee with only a sprain and now had done more damage while waiting for a bus.

The first aid book came out again and took care of that.

The bus finally came and took me past skiiers (some limping on both legs) and out the other side of the country, where the altitude is higher, and the low roads are above the snow level.

Given better weather, I'd love come back to Andorra and take on the great whites again.

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