My Pandora Escape in Andorra

(Text from my Instagram)

Andorra is tiny, landlocked and unreachable by flight. People ask me “Why Andorra” and I always reply “Because I want to hike”. Other than that I am weird af and this makes me feel more knowledgeable when I tell people where I am going and most of my friends in Hk don’t even know this country existed (and most of my other friends where it is), there is a reason behind my journey to this unusual destination.

7 years ago when I was in F2 (Y8), I was rebellious af and my class teacher assigned me to sit with a class prefect. The class prefect plays the same online game as my teacher does. One day my teacher showed a national flag to the class and expected my class prefect to know where the flag represents because somehow the coat of arms on the flag looks similar to a badge from the game.

Facebook started to boom at that time and I was an expert in a game called “Geo Challenge” which basically makes you recognise flags of countries in the world. I thought I would know the answer, impress my teacher and improve my image (my class teacher was also my math teacher and I failed all my math quizzes). Of course I didn’t know the answer and he told the class it was from Andorra. That was the first time I hear this name.

Over the years I have grown to be a hipster and I have decided “travelling” in Hk style is too mainstream for me. Don’t get me wrong, despite their overwhelming popularity I still long to travel in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, etc. Yet I am here in Europe, and Andorra has attracted me for her natural scenery and low number of (Asian) tourists. Therefore there I went.

There is a reason behind my every journey, but none of the countries I had been to carries such a long story like Andorra. I went to Andorra between the end of my semester in Sheffield and the start of exams, that’s why I call it my Pandora Escape. To be fair, Andorra la Vella (the capital) as a city is boring, even it has a lot of shops and people went there to shop. But as I went there “to hike”, I will write about my hikes.

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A very interesting modern architecture, but also probably the only one. It’s a hotel.

The first one was a coincidence. I was looking for the Parfum Museum in la Vella but ended up in a hiking trail called Sa Calma in Escaldes-Engordany (it’s a “city”/ parish just next to la Vella reachable by 30 mins walk). It was a nicely paved trail and there is an elevator in the middle so people on wheelchair can “hike” as well. It is at an altitude of over 1000m but I didn’t really feel it’s that high. According to the official website, it “shows the urban growth of the country and Andorra’s evolution from an agricultural and stockbreeding country to a totally urban and tourist country today.” I think it is accurate.

Sa Calma Panorama
View from Sa Calma trail
The elevator
The elevator

The another hike was spectacular, and I hope I will come back in winter to ski. The owner of the mountain lodge I was staying, Monica, drove me to the Parc Natural de la Vall de Sorteny in the Ordino Parish. The trail was called l’Espany. It’s over 2ooom high and I wasn’t properly equipped … I didn’t go all the way up, but at the highest point I stopped, I have seen the most beautiful summer scenery in my entire life.

Summer glacier
Summer glacier.

The trail faces enormous mountains from three sides and hikers feel they are in the middle of a mountain’s den. I went in June, and I still saw the glacier lying on the chains of mountains. It was incredible. The snow were shining under the sun and the green of the mountain was so peaceful.

The third hike was absolutely photogenic. It was called the Arcalís Peak and it’s almost 3000m high in altitude. I felt I was in Teletubbies land and I am short of literary words to describe. I will attach photos instead.

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I would also like to talk about the mountain lodge I was staying. It’s definitely a hipster’s place and I loved it. The owner, Monica is from Ordino and speaks perfect French because she had skied professionally in the Alps before. She is a very chilled but energetic person. She takes care of the lodge all alone, except sometimes with a young man whom she acquainted from a music event she organized in the lodge.

The lodge is a very relaxing place. It’s a very old building furnished in wood. In the lobby funk, electric and reggae music were always played. Every morning Monica prepares for me breakfast and set the table in my favourite spot – the living room. I loved the lodge so much 2 days out of 7 of my time in Andorra I stayed in and read, drew, listened to music and just forget all my problems. Inside my room the wifi is lost, and so it made me think a lot before I sleep as I am not occupied by the internet. It was almost too relaxing, I did nothing substantial but I enjoyed it. It’s not a waste at all.

Monica's dog Jassa
Monica’s dog Jassa

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Just some penguinos :D
Just some penguinos 😀
Jassa is watching TV. What TV ? See next photo
Jassa is watching TV. What TV ? See next photo
This is the TV. Two rainbows on my first day in Andorra and a small village under sunlight.
This is the TV.

In Andorra, such a small and landlocked country, the sense of community is very strong. People know Monica and her lodge, and vice versa. Like Spanish people, they are friendly, passionate and sociable. People I have met in Andorra are very interested in me as a person. They haven’t seen a lot of Asian young females. They asked where am I from, why did I come to Andorra and how do I think of this lovely country. Of course they also think I am a “bella” – very beautiful and wanted to take photos with me. Haha.

A Swedish couple I met. 25 years, 3 children, 5 grandchildren, never married.
A Swedish couple I met. 25 years, 3 children, 5 grandchildren, never married.

In the lodge, the magic place in Andorra for me, I was the only visitor for 5 days and at the end another visitor came in. He is mysterious af and would never reveal his origin or age. He told me something, though. He walked to Andorra, studied linguistics and philosophy in London, reads a lot and speaks a lot of languages. Sometimes I would also like to be such a person, so people don’t judge me from my background, but from my thoughts and knowledge instead. He definitely is unforgettable, and a true traveller.

Very chilled working hours of the national library ... haha
Very chilled working hours of the national library … haha

Gracias, Andorra. I had such a journey when I am so close to the nature – both physically and psychologically. Without respect to nature, Andorra wouldn’t be so well-conserved today. If you think Andorra is poor or rural or underdeveloped, you are absolutely wrong. In Andorra, it’s not about the pursuit of development. It’s about bringing yourself closer to your origin – the nature.

I sketch I left for Monica and her lodge.

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