The Freedom Trail…
(Le Chemin de la Liberte.)
The Freedom trail was one of the escape routes used by civilians and allied servicemen during WW2. The route was operational throughout the war due to the bravery and determination of local families and the mountain guides known as passeurs. The Passeurs knew the mountains well, many of them being shepherds, forestry workers, miners or traders who used the many routes in their daily work. They were people who were not unfamiliar with life’s hardships and were prepared to risk their own lives to help hundreds of people escape the Nazi regime in France by fleeing to Spain.
While the route provided a lifeline to many people fleeing the horrors of war, be it oppression, imprisonment or forced labour, it was not a certainty that they would reach their destination. Bad weather, poor clothing and equipment, a lack of food and fatigue, often took their toll with many having to abandon their efforts while a few even perished along the way. It must also be remembered that once in Spain, evaders then had to avoid the hostile Spanish border patrols who were sympathetic to the Nazi regime in France. Many evaders were caught, imprisoned in Spain and then used by General Franco to barter with the Germans for food and provisions.
The success of the Freedom trail as an escape route was based on, among other things, the sound local knowledge of the passeurs, the challenging terrain, the inclement mountain weather, and the thick woodland that provided cover. One other key factor was the abundance of paths and trails that led from the many villages and hamlets that lay scattered throughout the foothills. From these secluded places, locals would access the foothills and mountains using the paths that eventually wound their way up to the high mountain passes and into Spain. These routes often passed shepherds huts, barns and deep caves cut into the limestone, They provided welcome shelter to rest in the daytime and where necessary supplies were stored. This factor is now easily overlooked as today there is only one official route of the Freedom trail, that often does not take in the original network of paths and trails.
Our aim is to provide options to the official Freedom trail, so that today’s adventure explorer can choose a route that stays true to the original Freedom trail, while also suiting their needs. Good food and accommodation are important to us and route choice is key to suit our clients aims. Thus we seek out local providers along the way that offer good service and work hard to make the experience special.
Contact us to discuss our 2-5 day walking options, which have been designed to take in some of the alternative routes, or let us know what you would like to do in the time you have.
Whatever you have in mind, we can guarantee that you will have a real life adventure with its roots based in the drama and upheaval of wartime, while the mountains will deliver the thrill and beauty of a pristine environment as well as offering up the raw challenge of being alongside nature.
We also offer guided walks in the Biros valley, an area with an impressive mining history where the evidence of man’s industrious efforts on the mountain landscape can still be seen. For more information, please contact us using the link.
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