The Freedom Trail - Andorran Escape - Passeurs, fugatives and spies
Duration: 6 nights accomodation, 4.5 days mountain walking with the chance to swim in high lakes
Dates & Availability: If you have a minimum of 4 people we are happy to offer the trip on dates suitable to you. July - September are the best months.
|FTA1/17 Andorra Freedom Trail||12-17 August 17||£695||Available|
|FTA2/17 Andorra Freedom Trail||20-25 September 17||£695||Available|
|FTA1/18 Andorra Freedom Trail||11-16 August 18||£695||Available|
|FTA2/18 Andorra Freedom Trail||22-27 September 18||£695||Available|
Group Bookings & minimum numbers: Guide ratio is maximum 1:10 so larger groups can be catered for if you would like to bring more people.
Fitness Level Needed: You should be able to walk for up to 8 hours per day in the mountains with up to 1000m of ascent in a day
Equipment: A list will be provided on booking
Walk Description: Andorra played a crucial role in the Spanish civil war and the second world war both through its location and relative neutrality. Claude Benet documented in his book several escape routes or Freedom trails crossing into Andorra via the port de Dret, col de juclar and port d'Incles, Sigeuer, Rat and Arinsal. Routes lead to either the spa town of Escaldes or to the now known famous ski resort of Soldeu. The Pat O’Leary, Dutch-Paris, Francois and the Marie-Claire Lines all used Andorran routes. Having been compromised in the lower and coastal regions the lines had moved inland to take on the high level routes where, it was rightly thought, they were less likely to encounter enemy patrols as the dangerous and difficult terrain was a deterrent to their pursuers. These routes then headed on into Spain where an uncertain fate awaited the escapees. We follow in their footsteps making an escape from Ax les Thermes to Soldeu (Itinerary 1) or Auzat to Escaldes (Itinerary 2).
The Pat O’Leary, Dutch-Paris, Francois and the Marie-Claire Lines all used Andorran routes. Having been compromised in the lower and coastal regions the lines had moved inland to take on the high level routes where, it was rightly thought, they were less likely to encounter enemy patrols as the dangerous and difficult terrain was a deterrent to their pursuers. Therefore the line changed direction to Toulouse, St Girons, Foix and, very often, Andorra in order to cross the barrier of the Pyrenees.
Despite being neutral, Andorra was under close observation from spies and agents from all belligerent countries. Many clandestine meetings are reputed to have taken place in the Hotel Mirador, where everybody watched everybody else! Radio Andorra, a powerful radio station that aimed to remain neutral, broadcast all over Europe and was greatly coveted by the Germans who dearly wished to purchase it or at least manipulate it for propaganda purposes – all to no avail, although they did succeed in gaining access to Radio Montecarlo. However, Radio Andorra did apparently provide a platform for some refugees to send coded messages in the form of dedicated songs, to their relatives in France. Most of the guides on the Andorran routes were Spanish – often smugglers; sometimes their groups were quite large. Generally evaders were ill-equipped to take on the hazardous routes, however to dress for the mountains would have attracted unwanted attention as they traversed the lower, more populated, levels. Many routes started from Ussat les Bains (where our base www.chezarran.com is!! according to the WW2 Escape lines Memorial Society) and when there was no moon the mountain nights would be pitch-black. Sometimes the guides had their own deadlines to meet and if the evaders could not keep pace they found themselves sent back down the mountain or, at times, left behind to make their own way. Francesc Viadiu who had been recruited in Montpellier by a British agent known by the name of ‘Mr Miller’. It was Viadiu who organised guides for the evaders, one being Joaquim Baldrich who, in his twenties, was a mountain guide and smuggler who assisted several hundred refugees to enter Spain.
We offer one of these routes to commemorate these escapes starting close to Ussat les Bains and just 15-20 minutes drive away.
- All accomodation and meals as specified in the itinerary
- International Mountain Leader
- Local transport
- Single timed airport group transfer
What's not included:
- Telephone calls
The Andorran Freedom Trail Trek
This four day trek follows in the footsteps taken by escapes from France leading to El Serrat and Soldeu in Andorra. These routes all converged in Andorra de Vella before heading further south into Spain. Despite being neutral, Andorra was under close observation from spies and agents from many countries. Clandestine meetings are reputed to have taken place in the Hotel Mirador, where everybody watched everybody else! Radio Andorra, a powerful radio station that aimed to remain neutral, broadcast all over Europe and was greatly coveted by the Germans who wished to purchase it or at least manipulate it for propaganda purposes. However, Radio Andorra did apparently provide a platform for some refugees to send coded messages in the form of dedicated songs, to their relatives in France. This trek is a perfect challenge for those interested in a historic challenge, following in the footsteps of escapees.
Day 1 Arrival at Toulouse and transfer to Ax les Thermes
Enjoy the evening in this bustling spa town with cobbled streets, local produce shops and the stunning bains de couloubret. (D)
Day 2 Walk Merens les vals – Refuge de Rhule (2185m) 5hrs, 18km +1141m
We make a stiff start to the trip gaining height above Merens les Vals heading up a wooded path to the beautiful high mountain lake, Etang de Comte. Then ascending further we access the Refuge de Rhule, nestled on a high plateau below the peak de Rhule. (B,L,D)
Day 3 Walk Refuge de Rhule (2185m) – Refuge de Juclar (2310m) via porte de Incles or collada de Juclar +380m
Today we cross a high pass as the smugglers would have done to reach Andorra passing four beautiful high mountain lakes. Should conditions allow we will climb a peak and may cross some residual snow. (B,L,D)
Day 4 Walk down the stunning Val d'incles to Soldeu from Refuge de Juclar
Descending into a beautiful valley with spectacular mini waterfalls and lined with rhodaddendron bushes. There is often the chance to see bearded vulture in this area. Soldeu is a lively ski town and we can celebrate reaching a new country Andorran style in the afternoon. We also have the option to go via the Port Dret and then dropping steeply down into town. (B,L,D)
Day 5 Walk Soldeu - Escaldes on the Andorran way (8hrs)
Today we walk 12km over gently undulating terrain via Canillo and the chapel of Sant Joan de Cabellos and the Sanyuari de Meritxell. In the evening you will visit Caldea - Europe's largest health spa that offers 6,000 square metres of inside and outside lagoons, saunas, jacuzzis, Indo-Roman baths, cascades and bubble beds. The Estany de Engoglasters. We will stay in a hotel in Escaldes with spa facility, hot tub, sauna and Turkish bath for our final two nights. (B,L,D)
Day 6 Rest day in Escaldes and Andorra de Vella
Some of the best examples of the andorran romanesque art are situated in Andorra la Vella as well as world class shiopping in this tax free haven.
Day 7 Departures
Morning travel back to France and afternoon departures to Toulouse Blagnac. (B,L)