We headed out late at 11 am north again towards the Pyrenees in France. We planned out route to cross Andorra for country number 43!
We had the perfect storm and over 2 hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic thru Andorra. It is a Saturday and the cross border shoppers are here in droves, the tunnel is closed so all the traffic in on one road, there is a big sporting event on, the boarder guards were spot-checking cars on the road after the slow down for the actual border, and there was a police check after that! The last 90 km we had from the Spanish/Andorran border to Tarascon-sur-Ariege France took 3 hours!
The village of Tarascon is nicely situated on the L’Ariege River and is at the eastern “gateway” to the Parc Naturel Regional des Pyrenees Ariegeoses! We did a bit of a walk about the town, but found our hotel had the only open restaurant.
From Tarascon we continued west to end in Cierp. We spent the day touring on the tiny roads in the Park and trying to hit as many of the passes or Cols as possible.
The first was the Col de Port at 1249 meters. The ride up here was stunning with the fall colors. There are numerous cute French villages with area of hairpin switchbacks between. The only hazard here is the huge amount of cow manure on the road. Unlike in Latin America they do not tether the cows they craze at the side of the roads here so they can just wander about.
We even did one section of the tour de France route and found this memorial on the down side. It is incredible to think these guys ride on these steep narrow twisty roads at such speed.
We are happy to see the Col Portet d”Aspet is Ouvert or open. This was a wall of switchbacks up one side of the mountain and down the other. They are so tight that at time the GPS does not always know which side of the switchback you are travelling on.
We arrived to Cierp to the cabin we had rented. (38 CDN dollars and sleeps 7). We had luckily remembered to stop for groceries early today since it is Sunday and everything is closed after 1230. Dan did some chain maintenance.
From Cierp we are headed only about 60 km as the crow flies to Pierrefitte-Nestalas, but we managed to make that into 150 km of total awesomeness in the Parc National des Pyrenees.
We started out south on the 125, soon headed west on the single-track roads in the Park.
At Louderville we took a side detour we thought up the switchback to the ski resort, but up there we found a tiny road that snaked over the top of the mountain and down the other side to Azet. This is along the route of the Col de Val Louron-Azet at 1580 meters.
From here we went north again towards Aspin-Aure and over the Col d”Aspin at 1490 meters. We were so luck for the last 2 days to have amazing fall weather it has been mostly sunny and 10-14 degrees in the morning and 14-22 in the afternoon.
From Campan we did take a detour by following the GPS coordinates of the hotel. This was 10 km up a road that ended in a dirt walking path…so backtrack it was.