On our day 4 of GR11 we hiked around 20kms from the Refugi Fontverd to the town Encamp in Andorra and arrived to Coll d’Ordino.
The day before we had a hard time planning that day because we were falling a bit behind our initial plan of the hike. So we decided to divide counting all the extra distance in several days to be able to compensate it step by step. The plan for the day was to get to the town Encamp that was in 8kms going mostly downhill where we wanted to buy some food to resupply. And then we saw the major 1000m uphill further on the trail and we hoped to be able to do around 7 kilometers more and stop somewhere up there.
We have started the day at 6am waking up in the quiet forest where we camped the day before. We had a good night and heard only the roe deer sounds somewhere deep in the forest. We even felt like it was one of the warmest nights we had on the trail so far which was very nice.
We did pack all our stuff first, then had our breakfast and wrapped up our tent. Also we collected some water from the source close to the refuge and we were out on the trail at 8am which was a normal good start for us.
The trail continued to follow the river for the first several kilometers and it was going mostly downhill. As always, we did enjoy the fresh morning air and walking in the shade with no sun during the first hours of hiking. But the weather was promising to be hot and sunny again.
We have done the downhill part along the river in around 40minutes and then faced ascend to tackle which didn’t seem to be very long nor difficult.
So first we had to go through some rock fall parts and then the trail began to twist in a zigzagging mode which made it easy to follow. On the way we met the cutest donkey that was hiding in the rocky barn for some reason and we did feed him with a bit of green leaves and grass.
The sun was gradually coming up on the horizon but fortunately the mountain hill and forest was protecting us from its rays. Getting higher we could enjoy the beautiful views of the green valley from above. In some parts of that uphill the path was even going flat which helped us to conquer it even faster.
At the highest point, we saw the indicator stating that we have around 1.30 hours till the town Encamp left. The trail continued to go in the shade of the forest and it followed the gentle downhill for the first part. Some parts of the route were made of solid rocks which reminded us of old Roman roads.
Then we came to the lovely park area that was quite big and had a lot of benches and rest areas in it. It still felt like we were in the natural forest and followed the easy well-made walking path. At some points there were even the tunnels made in the rocks for the people to pass through. There we started to meet quite a bit of people but nevertheless it was nice to walk there.
At the final stretch of the park area we came to the lake Engolasters that had a turquoise blue waters and we learnt on the info board that it was an artificial lake used for the hydroelectric facilities. That was a very common practice throughout different regions of Pyrenees.
After that we had to do a pretty challenging and steep uphill much more steep than the one before as we had to skip over the rocks and wet roots and constantly watch our step. So it did slow down our pace significantly.
It was already around 12pm when we entered the town Encamp. First we went through the the several gardens in the outskirts of it and then arrived to the streets of the town itself. It did look like a small old town with lots of old rocky buildings in it as well as newly constructed houses. We went to the first closest supermarket and bought all the necessary food, like cheese, grains, bread etc. Also had our little snack on one of the benches in the park and headed outside the town.
The time was already 14pm and it was the hottest period of the day. We saw that in front of us we had a long and hard uphill to conquer and we didn’t know how we are going to do it at such hour. We just hoped for the shaded trail that won’t be too steep. But when we started hiking up we quickly realized that we won’t be able to tackle it now as we saw no trees along it in the distance and the ascend was quite steep. So we made our mind to take the siesta time for several hours and then continue hiking for several kilometers more when the sun would be a bit lower on the horizon. It wasn’t our normal routine of hiking as the previous days we managed to arrive at our camp spot until this hour already and chill out for the rest of the day but that day it wasn’t the case. As we did waste some time in the town while buying the food and so had to adjust our routine accordingly.
It felt like it was even hotter that day with more than 30 degrees Celsius even in the shade. But we luckily found a nice spot at the field where to stop and had a nice rest there just laying down and eating some fruit. We were glad about our decision because we knew how bad it felt after hiking in direct strong sun as there was a real danger of a sun stroke.
When we were back on the trail at 16pm the sun was still quite high but the angle of it wasn’t that aggressive anymore. It was obviously very hot but at least we got more shade on the trail.
Getting higher we could see the panoramic views of the town Encamp and also the mountain where we came from and our down trail that we did on our way to the town.
The path was climbing quite steep and we were very hot as even in the shade we got no fresh air nor wind. That uphill part reminded us of the other trail we did 2 years ago – Cami de Sant Jaume. It was our first Camino de Santiago and we remembered it well because of the hot weather we had to hike it in. And we knew that we entered now kind of the same region of that Camino we did so maybe it was the climate norm for these places. And even the fact that we were now higher up in the mountains didn’t help.
So the climb did continue for quite some time, at places it was going fine and at some places it had the steep small rock parts on which it was hard to balance. When we finally came all the way up to the flatter more forestry part we felt absolutely killed and exhausted. That climb seemed very long and tiring to us. We would definitely advice to tackle this part in the early morning if possible as only then it will be bearable and less exhaustive. In our case, it was inevitable but we would escape it if we could and if we knew how hard it will be in advance.
Then the trail turned to the wide mountain plain with lots of possibilities to camp but unfortunately we didn’t find any water source there exploring the surroundings. It was such a pity because at that point all we really wanted was to stop there and have our well-deserved rest. But still we had to continue on.
We came out to the Coll d’Ordino high viewpoint from where the pictures were incredible and very picturesque and we could see all the surrounding mountain ranges from it. Then the trail went down following the steep path with huge rocks on it. There we met several water sources but it was already late as we didn’t see any possible camp spots whatsoever there. The slopes were very steep and abrupt on both sides of the trail and down below we were following the river flow. So we ended up doing at least 6kms more down the trail and hiked till the darkness. Luckily, we found our spot at the river bank in the forest away from the trek. We were so exhausted that we barely could set up our tent, have a quick meal and went to sleep.