My camping car park in Andorra, just by the small town of El Pas de la Casa, was, more specifically, just by the town garbage unit. That's no problem for me. With a camping car you get used to hiding as far away as possible from the main drag, and if the town want to make it official that you be there that's even better.

I was on the end of the line, nearest to the gate to the refuse unit. Later arrivals had to back up and double park otherwise they would have blocked access. At about 9pm a very smart 4 wheel drive pulled in and parked next to me, very close to the gate, and 3 guys jumped out, two wearing Day-Glo jackets. They opened the gate and jumped in and on the refuse truck parked inside. In a trice they were gone.

It seemed like hardly another trice had passed and they were back. Actually it was 10.30 pm. As quickly as they had arrived, they went. Back just in time for a beer I guessed. But that explained the new 4x4. These guys have day jobs as well. The high speed garbage collection was just pin money!

In the morning I pulled out of the park and checked my map. There wasn't the usual whirring from my electric coolbox. It wasn't working. I checked all the connections, and took it apart. It didn't help. The fan motor wasn't turning.

I asked in the tourist office, did they know where I could get another? Not here they said. One of them rang a couple of possible stockists to check. Either go back to the main town, they said, Andorra la Vella, or continue to the next big town in France, Foix. He'd bought one in Foix himself, just a month back, when he was on holiday.

I took a stroll around to check. I found two after looking in around 10 stores. One was way too big, and too expensive. Another was too small, and was also expensive - almost twice the price I had originally paid for my broken one. So I did without for the time being.

Now one of the things I bought in my 77 bargain shopping yesterday, as well as the camera lead I already mentioned, had been some digital kitchen scales. I've been gently eyeing these up for a while but never thought I needed them enough to pay the regular price of 30 or 35. Yesterday I bought a set for 10. The on/off switch is written in German as ein/aus but I can live with that. I can certainly live with the price.

I only mention that because right next to the small expensive coolbox I found was an identical set of scales to those I bought yesterday for 10. But the price here was a cool 26...........So not all stores in Andorra offer bargain prices.

Some of these bargains though are amazing. In my 77, I bought 2 bottles of brandy (the maximum duty free limit) for 2.50 each. I also bought 25 Traxdata DVDs for less than 5. In the supermarket today, in France, the price was 10 for 5 DVDs. For those not mathematically inclined, or even for those not interested in bargains, I'll work it out. I paid one tenth of the price you can expect to pay in France. (France has a special performing rights tax on blank CD's and DVD's and since I only use DVD's for personal backups I have absolutely no moral reservations in buying without this tax).

Oops. All chat, no photos.

Well, I have to fill in somehow.

I wasted the early part of the day on my coolbox, both trying to fix it, then trying to buy another. Later in the day it came down all cloudy.

I did take one photo though that turned out OK, although that was 100% lucky fluke.

You know that as I travel, I have to take internet wireless connections as I find them. Well I was just exploring a narrow street when my computer bleeped. I stopped, clicked to send and receive emails, and then realised the side of my van was totally blocking someone's front window. What to do?

Quick as a flash, I was out of the van, camera in hand, and this is the result.

Not bad, eh? Better than the photos I took of some hens in Slovenia last year when stuck in similar circumstances. You didn't get to see those.

I drove past an area just south of Foix where there are lots of caves but felt like pressing on. I'll be back later to visit those caves.

I did stop in Seix to visit the Chateau Museum which mostly showed a record of life in the valley. The museum was well designed and laid out, but it didn't hit home with me. What did though was the exhibition of photographs of the bearded vulture, it is huge with up to 3 metre (10 ft) wingspan. Amazing, superb, beautiful photographs. One thing that makes the photos so amazing is that there are only about 100 couples still living in the Pyrenees.

There was low cloud after Seix, as I climbed the visibility dropped. I missed the views at the Col de la Core because of the mist and carried on until I saw a sign to the Lake of Bethune. Now one of the reasons I came this way, over the Col, is because 3 years ago when I had been exploring round here the road was closed, and only accessible up to the Bethune Lake. So I wanted to see the lake. It was getting towards evening so I turned off . There was a park by the lake but I carried on past, along a gravel road, after a few miles there was a track leading off. The operative word is 'was', because now there was just the start, the rest was overgrown. A perfect stopping place for the night.

In the morning the mist had cleared, and I found I was looking straight at this view.

The night before this had just been a wall of white. Driving back I stopped to look at the lake.

Then I drove through some small villages.

I noticed when I was around here last time, they have put in bypasses to the waterfalls, so that the trout can navigate upstream.

Here's another method, the bypass is on the right.

A nearby notice announced that before the bypasses were made, the number of nests had dropped to 50. Immediately after their introduction, they counted 200 nests.

I had wanted to re explore a small valley I had seen last time, but the road was partly closed, so I stopped at the cheese museum in Castillon instead. I complimented the young lady in charge, about her English. Maybe it's because I am English she said. Duh!

I tried to buy ice for my broken coolbox. In Spain every petrol station sells ice. Here, in France, the lady proprietor of the service station almost exploded when I asked for ice. French regulations are impossible she said. We used to be able to sell ice, but now it is so much regulated against bacteria it is impossible to sell it.

My route took me back into Spain for a very short time. Just long enough to buy ice.........

The next photo is Spain.

Back in France again I passed a rather nice waterfall.

Approaching Bagneres de Luchon I took a quick left turn to Superbagneres, found a small lane that continued down alongside the river, and stopped for the night at the end.

Best regards

David Barker
Mirande, France

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