Basking in Basque

Bruce bravely ventures along “challenging”, narrow, winding mountain passes as he heads to northern Spain. At times we have to breath-in & pray when we approach oncoming traffic! Cliffs / rock overhangs, with many blind corners and bus/trucks rounding the bend at any moment!! With such large rock overhangs it is impossible for Bruce to hug his side of the road!?!


IMG_7012On some slopes mesh is holding back boulders / rocks that have slid down the mountain side.


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Mark enjoying a well-deserved break from the stressful mountain climbs!IMG_6996

IMG_6649Passing an unhappy looking Spanish shepherd on the side of the road.




Safety “automated” roadside mannequins waving their warning flags! Will this catch on in Australia?IMG_7133 IMG_7123

Where on earth are we? …….. Have we made it to Africa?…. No – a wildlife park. Elephants and deer almost at our doorstep at our camping aire in Cabarceno!!

Click here if you love elephants….. can you hear the crickets?


In Santander we are impressed by this elegant palace and Bev enjoys the cute pinguinos!?!IMG_7167IMG_7159 IMG_7161

Continuing along the North coast in an Easterly direction, soon we notice the signs are in another language & realize we are in Basque country! The Basque people inhabited the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains around the Bay of Biscay, Northern Spain & Southern France for 1,000s of years! They are the oldest surviving ethnic group in Europe. Their distinctive language (eskerrik asko – means thank you) and culture has prospered despite being oppressed over the centuries & more recently under Franco who imprisoned or killed many. Anything Basque, especially speaking it was banned. Franco wanted only Spanish in his Spain.

Luckily for us, the Basque all know a second language – Spanish or French!

IMG_7203The weather turns very windy & rainy as we explore interesting San Sebastian. Rescue boat trying to stop a boat that has dragged anchor in the harbour.

San Sebastian was a popular holiday destination for aristocrats & the rich & famous in years gone by. It copied elements of Paris architecture & gardens etc to improve its aesthetic appeal! Today it still attracts the crowds – particularly in summer when it is too hot inland (eg Madrid). On Sunday the beautiful esplanade and beach were packed with everyone basking in the sunshine after the rain.

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Sunday morning the rain stays away as the beach is abuzz with a large International Triathlon! Great atmosphere as close to 1,000 entrants prepare to start the event! After watching the swim leg and start of the cycle leg, we decided to find a café for morning coffee. Returning when the race was near the end and then we hear over the speakers … Australie, Australie,!!….. but everything else in Spanish!! Bugger …. We missed the two Australians cross the finish in 1st and 2nd place!! We managed to congratulate them on their fantastic results! Jake Birtwhistle, 19 from Launceston won the triathlon with Aaron Royle from Newcastle a close seond. They are both based in Spain with Aaron representing us at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next month.

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Excellent bike tracks in San Sebastian included a tunnel – bikes only – open from 7am to 11pm, 7 days – 1.1 km long.

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Basques in traditional costume.IMG_7293

Bartletts – meet up again at their pub??

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After 4 great days, we headed south to Pamplona and caught up with fellow Aussies – Mark & Mirielle – and Bluey their motorhome. Weather not great – so we sat around and chatted all afternoon. They too are from Melbourne and have a blog:

IMG_7300In 2013, they purchased Bluey and traveled France for 7 months. They are back this year – loving it. This motorhome life really is great!! We shared our stories & adventures and we got plenty of tips!! They are a great couple and, who knows, our paths might cross again in Europe!!


IMG_7303In Basque country, they eat Pintxo (tapas in Spain) & the goats cheese, ham, apricot spread and walnut is a specialty. We can testify that it is delicious!




Pamplona was preparing for its population to increase from 200,000 to 1 million over the coming week. It’s time for the San Fermín fiesta – also known as The Running of the Bulls!!


The festival of San Fermín (or Sanfermines, Basque: Sanferminak), is a deeply rooted celebration held annually from noon, 6 July, when the opening of the party is marked by setting off the fireworks, to midnight 14 July, with the singing of the Pobre de Mí. While its most famous event is the encierro, or the running of the bulls, which happens at 8:00 am from 7 July to 14 July, the week long celebration involves many other traditional and folkloric events. It is known locally as Sanfermines and is held in honor of Saint Fermin. Its events were central to the plot of The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway, which brought it to the general attention of English-speaking people. It has become probably the most internationally renowned fiesta in Spain. Over 1,000,000 people come to participate in this festival.

The corrals (fences) were being laid throughout the main street in preparation for the first run – Monday 7th July at 8am – for about 5 mins. IMG_7305Six bulls are let loose onto the street to chase crazy people in white and red costumes!! Balconies overlooking the event are a premium to rent! The remainder of the day comprises festivities throughout the town for all to enjoy – music & carnivals! It is then repeated daily until the 14th. The closest we are going to get to the bulls is here!! Sixty people each day need medical attention – not prepared to be amongst them, we head back to the coast and across to France.






As Bruce has done just over 10,000 km since his last oil change, Mark took his Google Translate prepared Spanish questions into the suburbs of Pamplona.

¿Puede cambiar el aceite y filtro de aceite en mis autocaravanas?

¿Cuánto cuesta?

¿Cuándo será capaz de hacerlo, por favor?

A suitable small mechanic in a suitable “looking” factory was found (MOBIL 1 sign out the front got Mark’s attention). After a very stilted conversation, we set a time for manana at ocho – tomorrow at 8am!! When we arrived with Bruce he was ready and with only a short wait, we were over the pit and oil running out. Everything went like clockwork – the filter arrived as the oil was finished draining and we were on our way in just over 90 minutes – with fully synthetic CASTROL oil (he had MOBIL 1 sign ??)


IMG_7328Yes, there is another world out there ….. peering out of Bruce’s window when we wake this morning, we watch this man as he gathers long green grass with his large garden fork and throws it into his old wooden cart pulled by his faithful donkey!!

3 thoughts on “Basking in Basque

  1. Very disappointed Mark. After missing the start of the triathlon (Australia could of had 1st, 2nd and 3rd) you’re not making up for it by entering the running of the bulls. Where’s your Aussie spirit.

  2. Fantastic! Dawson and Tessa plan to run with the bulls this weekend. Watch out for them!! Enjoy!

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