Entries in 1964 (2)
Through the Pyrenees in Pink Pyjamas
Paisley Scouts’ Adventures in Andorra
[First published Paisley Daily Express, Tues, Sept 1, 1964]
Grinding down into a still lower gear, the driver worked the bus round yet another hairpin bend on the mountain road. As the vehicle groaned and protested, and stones dislodged by its wheels cascaded down the mountainside, he gesticulated wildly with his hands and announced that the French Frontier Post was round the next corner. Rounding the turn, the bus drew to a halt by the barrier, and the passengers dismounted to have their passports checked by the French officials. Fifty yards further on, the words “Andorra Control”, and the blue, yellow and red flag fluttering in the slight breeze indicated that in a few moments we would be entering one of the smallest and strangest countries in Europe: Andorra, set high up in the Pyrenees between France and Spain.
As we stood shivering in the cool air at 7.500 feet, while the irksome frontier formalities were carried out, our party - fifteen Scouts and three Scouters from the 7th Paisley (John Neilson) Scout Troop - thought back on the months of planning and the three days travel which had culminated in our arrival at the Andorran frontier, the Pas de la Casa.
A large gathering of parents, friends and well-wishers had assembled at the Scout Hall in Arthur Street on the evening of Friday, July 31, and while the Scouters ensured that everyone’s kit was correct and passports in order, tea and buns were served. Finally, with bagpipes giving us a real Scots send off, the expedition was transported to Glasgow by car, to board the train for London. In London, we left the rucksacks at Baden-Powell House, the international Scout hostel, and after breakfast explored London and managed to sleep through a demonstration in the Planetarium. After an evening meal at BP House with some Dutch Sea Scouts, we installed ourselves in the Paris train at Victoria. The sea-crossing Newhaven-Dieppe was without incident, and by 6.30 on Sunday morning we had arrived in Paris. Spending the rest of the day in the French capital enabled us to see the usual round of tourist sights, and we left from the Gare d’Austerlitz at 8 pm.
By morning, the train was climbing slowly up one of the valleys leading into the mountains, and we eventually alighted at the station nearest to Andorra to await the bus which, according to our information, connected with the train. However, half of France seemed to want to go to Andorra at the same time, and it was the fourth bus before we managed to load the rucksacks on to the roof pile inside, and begin the long haul up over the mountains. The frontier was a mere five miles distant, but it took the bus the best part of an hour to negotiate the snake-like bends and steep gradients of the road. Cars with over-heated engines were parked along the verges every 250 yards or so, testifying to the difficulties of the highest pass in the Pyrenees open to motor transport.
And so to the Andorra-France frontier...