• Susannah Hart

Trail Riding and Tapas!

An active break and a vacation filled with culture and cuisine do not need to be mutually exclusive!

In a bid to burn the calories before indulging in the local cuisine, I took a two-wheeled trail riding tour around the mountainous Basque Country region of Spain.

Nestled in the foothills of the Pyrenees, the Spanish Basque Country region has previously been more famous for its separatist movement than for its gastronomy and scenery. However, the undulating landscape lends itself to many active holiday pursuits.

As a newbie mountain biker, with a penchant for Spanish fare, when my husband suggested a trail riding trip based around San Sebastian I could almost taste the adventure, not to mention the tapas!

Although we were to be based in Hondarribia, a vibrant fishing village, 25km from San Sebastian, we arrived early to enjoy the sights and flavours of the region’s coastal capital.

Migrating towards the labyrinthine Parte Vieja (Old Town) to seek out the traditional pintxos (Basque tapas) we were not disappointed. Dishes of these bread based towering treats, layering anything from ham and quail’s egg, to crab and smoked salmon, littered the bars.

To accompany these carb-laden delights I chose Txakoli, the regional lightly sparkling white wine, although the ‘fizz’ appears to come from the height it is poured rather than any oenological process!

The mountain biking itself was a little more challenging than sourcing good tapas! Even though the mountain bike company, Basque MTB, had split us into groups based on experience, I was definitely behind the curve. This compounded with my fear of heights, made for interesting riding in such a mountainous region!

It all came to a head on the second day. Whilst riding up a narrow track with a steep slope to one side, the person in front stopped suddenly and, unable to keep my balance, I put my foot down – on the wrong side!

After my ensuing roly-polies down the slope, emerging covered in wet leaves with a stream of expletives coming out my mouth, the guide decided to take action.

Whilst the rest of the group continued, myself and another female rider with similar vertiginous issues were taken to a less ‘frightening’ trail. This turned out to be none other than the Camino de Santiago – the famous Pilgrims’ trial. The rest of the d

ay was spent navigating this historical

route and dodging ‘pilgrims’ to calls of ‘Buen Camino’.

Having established my limitations, the guides at Basque MTB worked hard to ensure that I was accommodated for. Alternative trails were agreed that had ‘no edges’! This isn’t to say that they were easy going. The hills were exhausting but there was always compensation at lunchtime.

One particularly taxing session, which had traversed the breath-taking rocky coastline, terminated in the town of San Juan. Cut into the cliff overlooking the harbour entrance, was the AIabortz Kantina, with just eight items on the chalkboard menu - all cooked on the outdoor grill. I was treated to the best calamari I have ever had.

Mountain biking in the Basque Country is not for the faint hearted (or the unfit) but if you have a sense of adventure and a passion for different cuisine then it is perfect. I just need another holiday to recover!

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