Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tough Hike, Beautiful Lake

“Many people nowadays live in a series of interiors...disconnected from each other. On foot everything stays connected, for while walking one occupies the spaces between those interiors in the same way one occupies those interiors. One lives in the whole world rather than in interiors built up against it.” 
― Rebecca SolnitWanderlust: A History of Walking

Irises ---the state flower of Tennessee and a shy companion on this hike.
Great views for us!
Today we started at a nature park above the city of Ordino, which just so happens to be one of the oldest cities in Andorra.  Our hike started out benignly enough with a stroll to a botanical garden that had many of the wildflowers we have been encountering with their names Catalan.
Not that I can remember all these names!
When I was in college in Mobile,Alabama majoring in biology with an emphasis in zoology, I was required to take several botany classes to earn the degree. My professor for the taxonomy of flowering plants was a displaced Frenchman, Dr. Michel Lelong. He bearly spoke English, which was okay, because for all intents and purposes, learning genus and species, the class was conducted in Latin--it was like going to Mass.
Cannot remember the Catalan name for this one either...but...

I do remember how it looks with the mountains behind it!
The light walking to the botanical garden was just a warm up though. From this point, we slogged forward with blood, sweat and tears up 600 meters of forest trail, pretty much without any rest breaks to a beautiful lake high in the Pyrenees. This lake was just below a moraine and near a permanent snow field. But it was unthawed enough to let us get right up to it.
Reflecting pool. I stood on a field of moraine to photo this!
In fact, some amongst us were nutty enough (not me,mind you) to take a swim in this very frigid water.
An Irish woman and a Brit take the plunge

No Aussie could consent to be outdone by the likes of the UK and Ireland.
The amount of time spent in the water was mercifully small, but as for the Americans:
Every exhibitionist needs a good spectator!
Sorry if we let you down, fellow countrymen, but it didn't seem like a good idea to be wearing a jacket and swimming in snowmelt!
WE were told we might see marmots and chamonix but donkeys is about as close as we got.
Grasshoppers, flies, bees, ants and various domesticated animals are the local fauna thus far on these hikes.
Cows grazing near the lake

Horses are the most commonly encountered non-insect. We are told these are sold to France for culinary reasons.
From this point it was downhill to the point of origin following the headwaters of the Rialb River.
Hikers follow the ribbon of water 
We managed to just avoid a brewing storm that touched us with only about 2 raindrops.
This peak looked none too welcoming.

But we cannot complain about the scenery at all....or the weather. It's been glorious.
On the way back to Soldeu, we stopped in the city of Ordino, which had buildings dating back to about 340AD.  This church dates back to about 1200 AD 
The church at Ordino

Interior view

The altar

Wall art. All he is saying is give peace a chance.
Although people don't appear overly religious here, the Catholic church is still the official religion and the Bishop of Urquell is still part of the government.
Streets in Ordino were narrow and most of the houses date back to the 13th century. Window boxes abounded.

Paul stopped to smell the roses in city park.

Paul and Bert checked out the electric rental cars.

Then we waited for the bus. This is the whole group sans yours truly.
We returned to our hotel to get cleaned up and enjoyed a nice buffet dinner at Hotel Naudi....lots of great salad and salt cod--all tasty and after a strenuous hike, everyone was hungry.

Needless to say, this day plum tired us evidenced by the fact that Mr. Paul Parris is snoring loudly while I complete this blog entry and I slept while he wrote Paul's Ponderings. But all in all a great day with good weather and excellent company. 

We are learning not to take something that seems as simple as walking for granted and to be grateful for all our wonderful gifts.

Paul's Ponderings:  It was a  tough hike up from the reserve's parking lot, ascending thru a forest and field to reach the lake we were headed for -- heart rate definitely raised in other words.   The descent was pretty tough too, with a lot of loose rock down several hundred meters.  That said, the massage I had at the "Sport Hotel" was very helpful in reducing the muscle issues from the first couple of days.   Apparently the French President stayed there a couple of weeks back.  The weather was great today, very warm and humid for this area.   We had a beer late at the Tapas place from last night, followed by a buffet meal.  Spanish and French wine is incredibly cheap here, which is a bonus :-)    So far, everyone in the hike group has made it thru all the hikes, albeit at different paces.   As we explore more, it's more obvious why this area did not have any major battles fought in it over WW1 and's small, mountainous, and remote in general.  A good place to be when sandwiched among major countries.  

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