Tuesday, 19 May 2015

The Smugglers' Road


The Pyrenees are  three lines of high mountains running east to west from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. They form a natural barrier between France and Spain, one that is difficult to cross. However, as well as being a border they are also a bridge. 




From the earliest times, people always have found ways through. There are a number of different routes, all carefully guarded by the local community. Each crossing needs a skilled guide to lead the travellers, who might be pilgrims, refugees, or traders. Many times through the centuries, refugees have crossed the Pyrenees to escape persecution. And in more recent times, during the Second World War, a significant number of people escaped the Nazis by crossing from France into Spain

From one side to the other, the trail can take up to eight days, descending sheer slopes into deep valleys and climbing to a pass [known as a "port"] over 2,000 metres high. 

In certain remote villages, where the living was very hard, banditry and smuggling were common and the authorities often turned a blind eye to the trade.





  In the summer of 1813, the British, Spanish and Portuguese Allied Army under the command of Lord Wellington, pushed the French troops into the southern Pyrenees.

On 28th July, at Sorauren, Wellington pushed the French troops back to the north.


Wellington's local guides were Basques on this occasion.