Chapter 7

Thursday 7th August

We rose, breakfasted in style and packed our lunch. Keith was deputised as leader, as Peter had some high finance to deal with.  By about 11.00 a.m. Keith had us all seated on the step and prepared to lead us off with vim and vigour. Over the bridge we went and on to the road to Massana. I was expecting Bing and Bob to appear at any moment but, alas, it was not to be.

Bristol had been detailed off as the only serious cripple in the party, to go to the Col du Puymorens by bus to inform the proprietor that we intended stopping in our beloved Andorra for another day. In the absence of Bristol, therefore, Keith apparently felt there was no excuse for lagging and, presumably in an energetic mood, kept us moving briskly. No doubt he was irritated by our frequent stops to take snaps, admire the view and so forth. When we caught up with the front runners of the party at the Massana Tunnels, he gave us only a moment’s respite before rousting us up once more and swinging the bull whip (metaphorically speaking) with renewed vigour. We paused in Massana for a drink but were spurred on quite soon by the horrible crowing of the female from Radio Andorra.

Just beyond Massana we all congregated to eat a sumptuous lunch of bread baked fresh that morning, cheeses, salami type meats and fresh tomatoes followed by cake and juicy oranges. The latter created a great deal of amusement as we all, but the girls in particular, attempted to eat them without coating ourselves in the juice. Easier said than done. My comments on how likely we were to attract the attention of the local fly population were not well received. Again, especially by the girls. I fear their interest in entomology is less than skin deep. As a result, I kept to the minimum my observations on mosquitoes and their ability to smell orange juice from miles away but their reactions to my innocent attempts to educate them on the subject were not of a positive nature. Fortunately, there was a stream nearby and we managed to erase the worst of it.

During the meal, Keith, Jack and Peter came upon us after they had been doing some fancy footwork looking for each other on the hillside.  Having finished eating and the subsequent ablutions, a sing song followed but Jack and Keith barged off to make an assault on Pic Casamanya, one of the giants of the neighbourhood.

We followed some time later, much more slowly and with less ambitious motives. Entering Ordino, we drank Bock Biere at the local wine shop, examined the church, some with more enthusiasm than others but then Peter announced that time was short, immediately leading us off at a brisk pace over towards Encamp. Unwilling to be so forcefully led, Marjorie, Joan, Scotty and I naturally asserted our rights and pointed out that Marjorie, Joan and Scotty desired shoes. Marjorie and Joan purchased theirs quite quickly and followed the rest of the party but by the time Scotty had been satisfied, the party was nowhere in sight. We roamed about the lanes without finding the track our party had taken until we struck upon some farm workers who were busily driving cows towards us, thus blocking our way. (In so far as we knew this was our way, that is.)

Our tempers were exceedingly frayed by this time and we did not take kindly to the invasion of the bovines and the information that these gentlemen gave us, to wit that it was impossible to get over to Encamp before dark, did nothing to improve them. Bad language flowed freely until we calmed down, not helped, of course by the fact that it was our own pig headedness that had made us so late. We eventually decided to walk back  to Escaldes by the way we had come. We were extremely dubious as to whether we were doing the right thing but it seemed futile to carry on.  Down the valley once more we tramped and enjoyed a most refreshing session of low humour as we went, competing hilariously for the best “mucky” joke or story. It was a close thing and, in the end, we agreed that there was no outright winner.

We reached the Hotel Pla at about 7.30 p.m. and reported to Madame. We had hoped that dinner might be served but Madame insisted on waiting for the others, an admirable but unwelcome decision, I have to admit. Jack turned up at about 8.30 to collapse despondently on the bed in a state of exhaustion. He was followed some time later by Keith, who looked as fresh as a daisy. It seemed these two tough guys had managed to scale the top of the Pic and down the other side to Encamp, where they had, perforce, been compelled to bash madly down the road to Escaldes.

It was felt that we should make further enquiries about dinner, as malnutrition was setting in and so we went downstairs. Madame had by this time relented of her earlier decision and told us to go out to dinner but, she said, we must be prepared to go in search of our lost comrades immediately afterwards. Ready to promise anything, we agreed. Fortunately, even as we stepped out of the hotel, a car rolled up and out of its doors poured our rambling friends, all, that is, except Peter, Pat and Maureen.

We encouraged them to hasten and then all proceeded to dine. We had just finished dessert when Madame came in to ask  for two volunteers for the rescue party. Keith and Jack nobly volunteered, for which both Scotty and I were heartily thankful. They were packed off, heavily laden with the remains of dessert and good wishes. Resembling, if only slightly, Captain Oates, they manfully strode out, only as far as the door, it turned out, where they received with pleasure the tidings that Peter and the girls had arrived.

The remainder of the evening was spent pleasantly enough, singing sentimentally, if not very tunefully or harmoniously, to the accompaniment (Or, more often, AGAINST the accompaniment ) of Carlos’ harmonica. The party piece was Keith’s spirited rendition of “Santa Lucia”, a soulful effort which brought tears to the eyes of the natives who sat drinking in the cafe across the road.

Xavier contributed to the fun with boisterous humour, whilst Francisco and his betrothed “fratted” with Scotty. At about midnight, Madame sent instructions that we must go to bed or else…

We went to bed!

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