Hola Lachie here.
With a final eey-orr from the donkeys I left Asturias for the infamous Basque Country. At the Bilbao bus station I walked off the bus and straight towards the friendly face of a great friend.
I met Ana last year in El Chalten when there were 13 people crammed into a tiny couch-surfing place. As we motorbiked North Ana cycled after us and did such a good job of keeping up that we saw her again in Northern Argentina, Bolivia and Peru. Having kept in touch since, it worked perfectly to come and stay with her and her family before she launched off on her next big trip.
Ana herself had only been home for 24 hours, having just flown in from Mexico, so had a list of things to get done. There was time to squeeze in a whirl-wind tour of Bilbao and catch a few mates before winding up inside the TV and radio broadcasting station. As a real leader in female solo adventure travel, she was scheduled to record a nationwide radio segment. Low and behold there was also an opportunity for me to join in and contribute a few dumb things in appalling Spanish.
She talked about bike touring up South America, doing some documentary filming projects in Central America, and seeing some epic places in Mexico. Once that was done we headed over to a bike shop in the old town for a presentation about her upcoming adventure. Bike packing Iran, Armenia and Georgia for 3 months. She was leaving for that trip in 10 days time. If you want to keep up with her epic journey (https://www.instagram.com/remoteana/) is the best place to do that.
Back in the quiet town of Sodupe with her family it was time to head out into the mountains to test out her brand new bike, and get some photos for her sponsors.
The hospitality of the Zamorano’s is second to none and it was such a privilege to stay with them for 2 weeks. So many people pass through here they’ve nicknamed it ‘Hotel Villa Araceli’. Theres enough energy bouncing around the place to power their small town and the king of the house was Muse, a 60kg Bernese Mountain Dog.
Fortunately here in the Basque you can take your dog with you and Muse accompanied us everywhere from the bar to the top of mountains. One mountain in particular, Durango, was the cream of the crop and to share the summit with some epic type of mountain goat was pretty fun.
The route down was insane and had some absolutely stunning views. I kept hearing talk of how the Basque people were so rugged and tough, and the entire community and culture is centred around the mountains. With the first steps out of your door starting you on the trail of walks like this its now easy to understand why. On the trail we passed 75 year olds out on their morning walk, a 60 year old guy trail running faster than I reckon I could, and an endless stream of hikers and cyclists who all look as fit as a fiddle.
An interesting case on how television and tourism can change places was when we went to visit San Juan. Ana told stories of coming here, to this insane place, and not seeing more than 3 or 4 people each time. Now, having been made famous by ‘Game of Thrones’, this island sees more than 3000 people everyday, and in holiday periods up to 7000.
Over in Mundaka, apparently half the population is Aussie because of the epic waves that coming rolling through. But that day it was a quiet, serene coastal town and such a nice place to finish off the day.
All up it was such an awesome time to stay with Ana and her family. They were so welcoming, generous and fun to be around. And on top of that the Basque country has some absolutely insane places to check out. My last night was spent sleeping in the underground carpark of the Bilbao airport to catch an early morning flight back to Paige in Sweden. Catch ya soon.