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J85 - Saturday, January 9: Andorra (Border) – Merens-les-Vals

66.18km  9H32’
Altitude 1082m
Back in France, a few days ahead of schedule, I make the suggestion to Serge that we stop 3 days so the team can enjoy the winter sports and he can run around the slopes.  I don’t know why but he doesn’t like the idea at all….Too bad !
Our plan is to arrive in Toulouse the 16th so we will take the time go through Tarbes, Pau and Auch before reaching the “pink city,” on January 16.
There is bright sunshine with a few clouds in the distance; the first 30 kilometers are run without difficulty, except for the slope which is rather steep.
Once past Soldeu, it is snowing, with a sky white as cotton, which blends with the surroundings and the wind is fierce.  Serge and the van go over the Envalira Pass, while I hope to go through the tunnel in the camper, if the hand brake will let me:  it’s frozen after waiting an hour at the turn off between the tunnel and the pass.  René advises me: “let it heat up, kick the rear wheels a few times, go forward, then back up” and that’s what I do.  It grinds and all of a sudden, bang !   The brake shoes release and I go through the tunnel which is about 3 km long.  Then I wait for the team, this time without putting on the hand brake!
-13°C, per se, doesn’t seem so cold, but there is also the wind chill factor. Going through Port d’Envalira at 2,408 meters, Serge scowls, we are at the heart of the famous Pyrenees Mountains which we rather dread!
When it’s cold, the hands are the most vulnerable part of the body.  Generally, when you run blood does not circulate well, at least in the four extremities.  It’s not unusual to have swollen and stiff fingers when you run for long periods.  Serge’s fingers are white and numb, in spite of the 2 layers he has on his hands.
Rather than suffering these inconveniences, my idea of spending 3 days on skis wasn’t so bad (smile !!!).
The cold has chilled us all to the bone and even though the heating in the vehicles runs on high when we are stopped, it doesn’t warm us.  Our feet are frozen and the ends of our fingers are numb.
We are very careful as the day draws to a close because we need our vehicles, and for Serge the end will come with night fall.  At just past 6:00 PM he is at the gates of Merens-Les-Vals, paralyzed by the cold.
Tomorrow : Tararscon sur Ariège – Foix – puis la D117

Town : Merens-Les-Vals (Ariège)

GPS : N42.65031° W001.83461°