Video: The Origins of the Trails in the Basque Country in 'Trail Tales - From Oak To Anchor'

Oct 29, 2021
by Orbea  

Euskal Herria, the Basque Country or Pais Vasco. This is the land of the ancient oak and iron. This is the land of green mountains which stand steadfast against the savage Atlantic ocean. The immovable power of the old forests and deep seams of iron ore balance the wild, capricious Atlantic ocean, and this balance of energies drives the history of the Basques.


The Basque history stretches its roots way back into the mists of the past, and nobody can say where it started. We know that the language, Euskera, is one of the very few unique languages in the world, that it has survived many challenges, and that it is still widely spoken today. We also know that the Basques were whalers and fearless seafarers as much as they were shepherds and farmers. We don’t know when they started whaling, but we do know that they ruled the sea trade at the end of the middle ages. In the 15th century, around 80% of the boats docking in Bristol (UK) were Basque and they were laden with iron ore, whale oil, wool from Castile, and Bordeaux wine.


Of course, such an industrial history leaves traces on the land and today you can still ride the old trails which start high in the mountains around the coast. The tight, twisting trails which carried charcoal down the mountains are easily recognized by the regular punctuation marks of charred earth where wood was converted to charcoal through the centuries. The Iron trails are wider, with gentle twists and turns, often passing through tunnels in the mountainside. On these trails, the iron ore was mined and hauled down the mountain with horse and cart, and later with small trains.


These trails are still used and maintained by the local biking community, offering fantastic adventures deep into the Basque mountains. Trails that have been eroded into the hillside over many centuries offer bikers leafy toboggan runs through the beautifully preserved oak and beech forests leading down to the coast.





The historic use of the trails gives them distinct characters and, while it is true that many bikers are more concerned with the ride than the history, these different characters offer us a glimpse into the past.






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29 Comments

  • 21 9
 As a Basque living abroad this makes me homesick. Said that, the fifth picture with the drifting tire is really infuriating. If you go there, bear in mind those trails have in use for thousands of years, don't be a d*ck and thrash them. If you want to surf go rent yourself a board as there are plenty of options for that along the coast.
  • 6 0
 While I agree that historical trails shouldn't be thrashed by mountainbikers, many old trails would get overgrown and unacessible if they didn't get regular usage. In my region the mountainbike traffic often helps to maintain trails that would otherwise be forgotten, especially as hiking isn't anywhere near as popular as it has been 30 years ago.
  • 26 0
 I wouldn’t worry about it… we are the riders and we are maintaining the trails too ;-) Tyres drift occasionally but if you remember the Basque Country you’ll know that one thunderstorm does a lot more damage. That particular trail was lost and we reopened it again not too long ago.
  • 8 1
 Skidding just to be cool is a dick move. Maybe I'm old school and started before regular trail maintenance but why abuse trails just because you know someone is going to fix it soon? Keep the skid marks in your undies, not on trails.
  • 3 3
 @DougBasqueMTB: I am okay being more aggressive on specific use trails that are maintained. And yes, a storm or a cow on a muddy day will do more damage. But some of these your are showing are multi use trails, and drifting roots don't help the case for long term mountain bike access on those. I also think is a matter of respect. And not only because these are in the Basque Country, every time I see that unnecessary drifting in a video makes me cringe. Gabon.
  • 8 0
 @Philthy503: nobody is skidding! We are talking about the tyre slipping because the corner is entered fast. I’m old school and started before regular maintenance too… then everyone else started riding and I realized we needed to maintain the trails! Now I do many, many days of that each year so that we can all enjoy these trails.
  • 2 0
 @Gurpil23: specific use trails?! We clear these trails for mountain bike and use them and then maintain them! If we are talking specific use trails then we aren’t talking about the parts of Spain I know, we share everything here. Gabon eta ondo pasa!
  • 2 1
 Ride it, don’t slide it.
  • 3 0
 Drifting? There’s three ways to do things. The right way, the wrong way, and the Basque way!

youtu.be/HT8PwmYOb-0
  • 1 2
 @Gurpil23: Tell us more about what you're "ok" with. Since we care SO much.
  • 3 0
 When still living in Europe, I spend many summers surfing the Basque coast. Beatifull coastline, great waves, amazing food and cozy towns. Love the no nonsense vibe of the locals, nothing is fake.. they are raw but passionate!! Now living in BC, Canada, and riding replaced surfing on the daily basis. I don't think I ever leave, but oh man, I'd love to spend my summer evenings after a great ride in a tiny Pintxos bar. Always a place in my heart and will visit ever single time I get the chance.
  • 3 0
 Basque country is some of the most beautiful in the world in my opinion. The people are genuine and the food and wine is beyond good. Imagine 40’ of bar, laden with pinchos of incredible variety and you have the beginnings of an understanding. Then go next door, order another glass and sample another impossible collection of great food. Ride hard my friends cause you will have the calories to burn.
  • 3 0
 Sweet memories of a special place! Go and see for yourself. It's worth it. Hi Doug, I hope to be back next year!
  • 3 0
 Thanks a lot! Hope to see you again next year!
  • 1 0
 @DougBasqueMTB:
Ha, I have a photo of me on that cliff too thanks to Doug. :-)
  • 1 0
 @rich-2000: the trail to nowhere!
  • 2 0
 Whaaaa!!! Looking forward to seeing that gallion. I'd really like to see the process as well. I'm a bit envious of people doing that.
  • 2 0
 It is worth a visit. If you’re into the process it is also worth checking out Sampson Boat Co on YouTube. After you give TrailTales a follow of course :-)
  • 1 0
 @DougBasqueMTB: Actually I'm not that far (Toulouse-Tolosa/Francia), I'd like to visit it... if I know where it exactly is Wink
  • 2 0
 @danstonQ: it is in Pasaia, it is called (see if I can spell it) Albaola. Best result is park in Hondarribia and ride there ;-)
  • 1 0
 @DougBasqueMTB: Milesker!!! Wink
  • 1 0
 Visited the area before the pandemic, I loved the people, terrain, history, art, and most importantly the food and beer in the Basque Country. I need to go back and ride sometime!
  • 1 0
 Just a phenomenal place to ride bikes - the picture by the cove brings back some great memories of my trip with Basque MTB (hi Doug) and the region itself is a really, really interesting place as well.
  • 2 0
 Hey, does somebody know where to find this trails? Does somebody know a guide over there?
Thanks Flo
  • 1 0
 Contact Basque MtB. Your mind will be blown
  • 1 0
 Added to bucket list. Would love to see that ship in person.
  • 1 0
 Need to visit to brush up on my Euskal and make a trip soon!

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