Return of the World – Bardenas Reales, the Wild West in the Basque Country

Sep Bardenas Reales, the Wild West in the Basque Country

A few kilometers from the foggy hills, there is in the depths of the Basque Country, on the border of Navarre and Aragon, an unsuspected and surprising landscape. A desert carved for millennia by water and wind, a paradise for the curious in need of landscape, the Bardenas Reales.

We then left the humidity of the mountains of the Country Quint and Aldudes valley to sink a little more in the heart of the Spanish Basque Country, driven by a desire to discover more and more. After leaving the mist of the Urkiaga Pass, we took the N-135 road, which descends gently from the mountains. We are still in the middle of the countryside, crossing the road to many rivers and lakes, often stopped by dams, such as the small village of Eugi .

It was about that time that a question arose. Are we going through Pamplona or not? Still in our bubble, we are not super motivated to fetch the hustle and bustle of the city, which is just recovering from the season of feria. Plus, we look at the map, the more we realize that the Bardenas Reales Park is not so far. We have often heard about them, these photos have always made me dream, and moreover just before leaving, a friend has mentioned the idea: “Are you going to Pamplona ? I hope ou will push to the Bardenas ! “.

Well it is true that we did not really think long, we swallowed our sandwiches and we took the road to swallow the miles. When we arrived on Valtierra and Arguedas we went through a road lined with forest without really suspecting that just behind was hiding dry lands.

Well as you say, arrived to the Bardenas , we were a little lost, we landed in the almost deserted village of Arguedas . And no doubt, it feels like lost in the depths of New Mexico . A rocky village, a restaurant with Mexican haciendas architecture, a wind to decorate a buffalo, sand that crosses the road … in short, a true western landscape.

We tried to take a road, and we reached the foot of the Ermita Nuestra Senora del Yugo , a church placed on a hill, erected after a shepherd saw an apparition and which dominates the vastness of the 42,000 hectares of Bardenas. In the distance, the clouds seemed to announce the rain, so we resumed the road to get to the real entrance of the Bardenas, Aguilares .

Before returning to the heart of the park, an answer to the question you ask is needed, the Bardenas Reale s, kezaco? To put it simply, it’s an American desert in the heart of Europe. To be more technical, it is a semi-desert landscape, composed of clay and sandstone that as time has worked. Landscapes are quickly thought Monument Valley (a good few kilometers separate them, but both have about the same geological composition), but also the plain of Montana , and then to Iceland and then … In short you’ll understand , the Bardenas Reales , it is several landscapes gathered in 42 000 hectares.

After a visit to the information center, we took the track (only 4 reserved for cars, a dozen for bicycles, and a multitude for hikers) pebbles, rolled at 30 km / h (maximum speed) and we began to take our first visual slaps. The landscapes are grandiose, from a promontory we are facing the immensity of the landscapes, we feel small, elsewhere, without really knowing where.

It is even hard to say that until the middle of the 17 th century , the Bardena Blanca (located in the north and composed of dry landscapes) was covered with vegetation. It was in 1675 that a fire destroyed 3000 pines , and in 1752 , 6000 pines were cut, which made the Bardena Bianca definitely white.

The road takes us past a small mountain surrounded by barbed wire, overlooking a white building and antennas of all kinds. In the middle of the Bardenas , is a huge military ground reserved for the Spanish army since the 50s . A shooting range exactly, regularly flown over by fighter planes. In short a boil in the middle of the park, which is subject to various protests.

The road advances, sinks in the landscapes, makes us pass in front of mountains with ocher and salmon reflections, and one arrives in front of the Castildetierra , the emblem of the Bardenas and the logo of this article. It’s a fairy chimney . A poetic name for a column of rock. At its summit, a harder rock (like sandstone), more resistant to erosion, protects the more friable layers below.

At its foot, a pedestrian path sinks into the bed of an old river and winds towards the horizon. We cross a small sheepfold, empty, with the name of the owners engraved on the lintel, which awaits the period of transhumance to be able to see there reign the agitation. There are also tourists who seem to be bogging down danger signs and bans on approaching ravines or climbing fairy chimneys. A fragile landscape.

All the more fragile, it must be known that the Natural Park was created in 1999 before that, there have been major disturbances of wildlife, a disrespect for flora, and a large number of fools from all over Europe having fun playing Paris-Dakar in the desert landscapes.

While the road runs, we like to imagine the many stories of the Bardenas. Bandits, smugglers, great characters having crossed or hiding here, a jailed queen, a chase between the villain Sancho Errota , self-proclaimed “King of the Bardenas” (or Prince of the Bardenas), and the King of Spain Don Juan . The bandit who can not bear to lose the battle will commit suicide in the Bardenas, in his territory.

The history, the passages, the hiding places, we see them, we imagine them rather well while passing by the stony roads. This dry and dry land is not devoid of fauna. In winter you can see foxes and wild cats. All year round, you can see adventurers, vultures and golden eagles flying overhead. We will only see little birds.

We still cross other sheepfolds , reminding us then the first use of Bardenas: they are for the shepherds valleys, a wonderful winter pasture. And every year the Sanmiguelada takes place, the third weekend of September. Immutable ritual dating from the Middle Ages , where the ewes of the Pyrenees arrive to the Bardenas after several days of transhumance.

Each hole , valley , mountain , makes you want to venture and discover a little more this magnificent park classified since 2000 at UNESCO as “Biosphere Reserve” . This “label” obliges countries to reserve part of the park for the sole development of species, without any presence of humans, so that animals can reproduce quietly.

We then moved away from the loop, we took another path reserved for cars that go up north of the park, arms tired of rolling on the rocks, dust full mouth, but landscapes in the eyes.

In the distance, like a lighthouse, we saw the statue of a shepherd several meters high, indicating that the Bardenas Reales road ended here, or began for others.
The Bardenas for sure, we will return, just to enjoy a sunset or a sunrise on these breathtaking landscapes, but also to discover the south, Bardena Negra greener and with more vegetation. In short we can only advise you to go see this unique place in Europe, now well maintained, and well preserved. In the Bardenas, to immerse yourself in the landscape, all means are possible: on foot, on horseback, by bike or by car.

As a bonus , and history to impregnate the best of these landscapes, we leave you with a small video, our first, tour only with a Go Pro, on a music bluesmen T-Bone Walker . Because yes, let it be confessed, when we crossed the Bardenas, we listened to blues, open windows, landscapes scrolling, and fucking what was good.