Video & Photo Story: Tito Tomasi rides through the Basque Country
Thinking back to so many bikepacking missions around the world, I can’t think of anything more diverse. No matter the intensity, the terrain, the people or the objective, it’s beautiful to see what the human experience can bring!
Welcome to this episode set in the Basque Country, Spain. It was in the spring, a period of confinement. Doug and I were therefore quite free, eager for adventure! We always talk about the adventure we can have and share our experience. So after the tough 2020 we both wanted some adventure. Doug invited me and decided to guide me on something nice and fun, with real walks and real discoveries! During the quiet period, Doug was very active on the trail building side and he was eager to design an adventure where we can connect the highest mountains in the Basque Country and the ocean in two days, using an old trail from hike and trail he has been building for 2 years.
Tuesday morning I’m surfing the famous Landes beach break in the south of France, it’s a good morning. The waves are 3 feet high and the wind always offshore, I ride a few waves and enjoy the salty moments. We’ve been on the coast for 5 days and it’s a great family trip, resting and spending time with friends. But today I have a mission, after days of laziness and rest it’s time to pack for another adventure. So I’m back at my friend’s house, checking and packing my bike, checking all my backpack stuff to get it ready. I try to pack everything from food and camping gear to clothes, tools and of course my filming gear. As in the previous episode the goal is to ride, cross the mountains, have fun, laugh and possibly share the excitement! So I have to document the whole trip, record the emotions and the beauty of the Basque Country.
After packing all my things, I load the van to drive and cross the border. The next day, my friend Doug is there to pick me up in the morning. We load his van and head for the mountains. Doug is the boss of Basque Mtb, specializing in all mountain outings in the north of Spain, he is a true mountain bike lover, he has a passion for sharing and discovery. He also loves difficult adventures and funky situations! We get along really well with our visions and riding preferences. Doug is also very involved in the maintenance of local trails, trail construction, the community and Orbea, which is the local bike brand. Spending time with this boy is always great!
Chorrizo and sunset
Doug explains more about the history of the trail and route as he leads me to our starting point. He chose a pretty unique route from the backcountry to the ocean and he’s really excited to connect these different trails and places.
Our first day will take place only on old paths, some were the only ones to connect the villages, to take the cattle to the mountain pastures and many other marks of ancient life. You have to leave the big village at the bottom of the valley and the first climb is solid! But the higher we go, the more we discover the landscape and enjoy the place. At the top the trails are rugged and wild, it’s more like an ancient lost path on top of the mountains helping to reach more places. This walk starts to look like a real adventure when we finally can’t recognize anything. There is no sign of humans, roads or buildings in sight. This first day was an explosion with the old paths, the tracks of silty forest, the old fountains of the farms lost in the hills. We have a fantastic sunset session before heading to this hunter’s refuge for the night. The place of the bivouac is perfect with a fireplace, wood, water, tables … In addition, the view was nice and it was really calm.
IPA and Pottok
The second day begins with beautiful balcony hiking trails before reaching a dome, from where the view was spectacular! The early morning light enhances the beauty of the mountains, while at the bottom of the valley clouds still cover the villages. It is mystical and beautiful. We roll and we fall in a huge forest, it’s mossy green and fluorescent! The load is high and we descend the hill to a lake, before crossing a gorge and climbing our next mountain. This second day is harder and the plan has several mountains and passes before reaching the ocean. From now on, Doug says we’re going to be doing a lot of mountain biking trails! For a European riding this is not that common as we already have so many hiking trails everywhere that could explain why we never pushed to build trails.
Doug guides me to some really cool trails with little functionality and a really fun vibe, always following our destination: west! We stop at a restaurant and can have a nice local lunch, awesome! It’s life, friends, food, bikes, mountains and a feeling of freedom. Our last mountain is part of the Coast Range and sits right above the ocean, it is beautiful and the trail is an old hiking trail. There is a bit of everything and from alpine to the top to the beach, any type of terrain. From the small wild Basque horses, the Pottok, to the bamboo forest and the waves crashing on the rocks, this last ride was so pleasant. We finally arrive at Hondarribia beach, feeling a little strange with the tourist and all that, but we have a big smile on our lips. Safe to say the delicious IPA we had at the beach won’t erase that.
We’re celebrating and enjoying the end of our trip, but like every time it’s time to get back to the van, load, drive and get things done. While our spirits are still up there in the mountains, with passes, cycling, adversity, good descents and trails, we are back in civilization and already planning our next trip. For a little while we do things subconsciously, our souls still floating in the mountains.
After dropping Doug off at home, it’s time to thank him so much for organizing this sweet adventure and say goodbye!
I hope Doug will come to Savoie for our next trip together!
Follow more adventure, art and more on Instagram @titotomasi
Thanks to my partners for making this possible @urgebikeproducts @gorewear @RockyMountainBicycles @shimano @hutchinsontires @julbo @CamelBak @beea @velotoutterrain