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LIVE from the Camino Counting pilgrims on the Norte AGAIN

Time of past OR future Camino
Ingles, F+M, Salvador, Norte, V.Serr., Fr.Leopoldo
Last May I walked the first part of the Norte in the opposite direction, from Santander to Irun. Since I only had two weeks and couldn't reach Santiago anyway, I wanted to swim against the tide, especially since the most beautiful stages were between Bilbao and Irun, which I enjoyed a lot at the end of my reverse camino.

The disadvantage: no in-depth social encounters because I never met anyone again. The advantage: I had the camino to myself in the mornings and evenings; I met most pilgrims around lunchtime. And I enjoyed counting the pilgrims, mostly, but not always, in silence ("Hello, you're my number 115" – "Oh, that's a nice number"). In the end, there were 882 pilgrims in total.

Now I'm returning to the Norte as a pilgrim version of my favorite Sesame Street character, Count von Count (unfortunately without the cape and thunder). I start next week, on April 30 directly at Asturias airport, from there it's only a few hundred meters to the camino. In about two weeks I'll be walking comfortably east to Santander. I will post my progress and pilgrimage numbers here. I think this might be a good indication of how busy the Norte is at the moment.

So if any of you are walking the Norte in Cantabria or Asturias in the first half of May, keep your eyes peeled. If you see a very tall pilgrim dressed all in olive green, you are being counted! Feel free to say hello to me. Last year, for example, I had the great honor of counting forum mod @trecile between Markina and Bolibar.
 
The one from Galicia (the round) and the one from Castilla & Leon. Individually numbered and made by the same people that make the ones you see on your walk.
You might happen to count me as a pilgrim, while I am not. 😅 I will be walking the Sanabrés half May and am having most of my training walks on (parts of) the Norte. However I prefer to avoid the Norte's asphalt where I can.

To add my grain of salt: I stayed in albergue La Xana in La Caridad on Saturday night and we were 8 in the albergue. Both walking days I met about 5/6 pilgrims on the road (walking in the same direction as I did, that is).

Buen Camino!
 
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At the end of October and the end of our Camino Aragonés my French son in law and I walked the Camino Frances backwards from Obános to Saint Jean Pied-de-Port. Several helpful local people pointed out that we were going the wrong way. Some oncoming people were baffled. Our daily pilgrim count changed from 5 or 6 on a big day on the Aragonés to well over a hundred on the Frances. Buen Casino
 
You might happen to count me as a pilgrim, while I am not. 😅 I will be walking the Sanabrés half May and am having most of my training walks on (parts of) the Norte. However I prefer to avoid the Norte's asphalt where I can.

Hi Luka, are you walking with a full bagpack for training? Then you certainly will be counted! I will try to walk all the coastal alternatives of the Norte in reverse too, which might be challenging. I use Buen Camino App and thankfully some of them are included there.

I loved watching for you and meeting you last year!

It was an honor and a pleasure! My first non-virtual contact with a forum member.

At the end of October and the end of our Camino Aragonés my French son in law and I walked the Camino Frances backwards from Obános to Saint Jean Pied-de-Port. Several helpful local people pointed out that we were going the wrong way. Some oncoming people were baffled.

So far that had not happened to me. And I have walked Muxia-Finisterre-Santiago (which technically is not a reverse camino), the first part of the Norte (Irun-Santander) and the Camino Estrecho (Algeciras-Puerto Real) in reverse. But I was asked other things by pilgrims. If I may quote myself from my first post about reverse walking:

(...) That means in the last 4 days of my camino 675 pilgrims came towards me! No wonder I felt like a bobblehead, constantly greeting people. On my last two days I met pilgrims almost every few minutes. I also encountered huge groups, for example I passed around 80 portuguese-speaking pilgrims at a parking lot close to A Zas. They just got their briefing by a guide.

Of course I always said hello and buen camino. Once I was chatting near Mount Aro with an American, who asked me about Olveiroa. I told him what I knew and added “You are my number 125 of the day”. He said he liked that number. But at the end I got tired by the huge number of encounters and then just smiled and raised my hand for a greeting. I have learned that a reverse pilgrim can be very beneficial for those who walk in the other direction. I answered questions about topography (“How many climbs tills Muxia?”) or upcoming services (“How far away is the nearest bar?”). When I walked on my last day I came upon a group of Brazilians. A girl stopped and asked me for help. She had accidentally taken her room key from a hotel in Negreira. Of course I offered her to return her key (after all the hotel was right on the camino).

I am excited to see what will happen on my next reverse camino, which will start next week!
 
Hello, cycling the Camino del Norte at this very moment. I'm with my son who's 18 years old and started our journey in Hendaye. We are now in Santander and reading your post while charting our best way to Santimlana del Mar and figuring out if our favorite albergue there is open this off season. Yes, we've done this part twice before when we are still a family of 4, two young boys of 10 and 13 the last time we did it. (Plus a dog).
Last year, we lost our eldest at the ripe age of 21. Weeks before he left us, he told me he would like to do another camino with me and his brother. Now, we hope to make it to Campostela on the anniversary of his passing to realise his wish. We know he's with us all along the way.
 
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Hi Luka, are you walking with a full bagpack for training? Then you certainly will be counted! I will try to walk all the coastal alternatives of the Norte in reverse too, which might be challenging. I use Buen Camino App and thankfully some of them are included there.
At the moment yes. Good luck with the alternatives! Wikiloc could be helpful as well.
 
You might happen to count me as a pilgrim, while I am not. 😅 I will be walking the Sanabrés half May and am having most of my training walks on (parts of) the Norte. However I prefer to avoid the Norte's asphalt where I can.

To add my grain of salt: I stayed in albergue La Xana in La Caridad on Saturday night and we were 8 in the albergue. Both walking days I met about 5/6 pilgrims on the road (walking in the same direction as I did, that is).

Buen Camino!
I was in the same albergue on Monday 22nd and there were only 6 of us, including myself.
 
First day: Now in Aviles

I had imagined it would be so nice, fresh off the plane and straight onto the camino in glorious weather. But when I left Asturias airport at 1pm today, I was greeted by pouring rain. So I had to put on my rain poncho straight away. I covered the half stage to Aviles in just under four hours, taking the alternative route via the really unremarkable seaside resort of Salinas.

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The sea was grey and the tide was low. So was my mood. The nice café I knew from my Camino Norte in 2022 was closed for the public. So I had just a gloomy break with an apple and energy bar on the edge of Salinas. The rain never completely stopped, but in the last hour it was at least reduced to a drizzle.

And here is my first count:
Day 1 (30/4): Asturias Airport - Aviles (via Salinas): 6 pilgrims plus 2 reverse pilgrims(!)

Of course, this is not yet very meaningful, because I was walking on the Camino only in the afternoon, when most of the pilgrims had certainly already passed. To my great surprise, in the very first hour, I met two pilgrims who, like me, were also walking eastwards, but who had probably already turned in before Aviles today, as I didn't see them again later. According to them, the weather will stay bad for another three days(!). That will be quite a difficult start...

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I'm staying in a small hotel today as I had an online course in the evening. The pilgrim albergues will come later, and I'll report on the number of pilgrims here too. Stay tuned.
 
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Second Day: Now in Gijon

The weather was much better today! I took my time in the morning because I wanted to get the stamps from the Tourist Information (opens 10am, rather ugly) and the Centro Niermayer (opens 10.30am, wonderful stamp). Luckily the rain had stopped and the sun was shining, at least sometimes. In Aviles, an elderly man with a dog ran after me because he thought I was going in the wrong direction. I then introduced myself as a reverse pilgrim. Today's route first led along the river and then came the first heavy industry facilities.

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This stage is often described as the ugliest of the entire Camino Norte and I can see why, as there were kilometres along a busy road sandwiched between the huge ArcelorMittal plant and the highway. The middle section is better and mostly on field and forest paths, before industrial plants await again on the outskirts of Gijon (pictured above). It took me almost 2 hours from the Gijon town sign to the eastern centre of the city.

Count of the day:
Day 2: Aviles - Gijon: 41 pilgrims

I met pilgrim #1 after just 4km, an athletic man in shorts. The first ten pilgrims were all male. The female pilgrims (about a third of today's count) seemed to be more relaxed, I only met them in the afternoon. Most of the pilgrims were hiking alone, there were a few couples and a group of six cheerful French pilgrims. Pilgrim #38 recommended the coastal alternative before Santander, which has also been described here by @peregrina2000. The last pilgrim of the day (#41) was wearing a ski mask with a slit just for the eyes, as if he had just robbed a bank. Left me a bit disturbed.

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I'm taking a break tomorrow in Gijon and will report back on Friday. Then I walk to Villaviciosa, and judging by the altitude profile of the stage, it will be very strenuous. Stay tuned.
 
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Third day: now in Villaviciosa

After a rest day in Gijon, I started early and was ready to go by 8am. But the Buen Camino app, which I rely on as a reverse pilgrim, suddenly didn't work. It always closed again as soon as I clicked on it. I had read about such problems here. I then found a pilgrim's stage on wikiloc, which also included the alternative route (less tarmac!) through Gijon.

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The weather was cloudy all day with a few rays of sunshine and light drizzle from time to time. Today's stage is classified by gronze as difficult (level 4 out of 5) due to a large hill in the middle (around 680 metres of ascent of the whole stage). Some of the forest paths were quite muddy. I took breaks every hour this time, the last 8 kilometres in particular dragged on endlessly (3 km extra due to crossing over and under two national motorways). I reached the albergue in Villaviciosa at 4:45pm and got the last bed there (28 places)! Maybe I'll have to make a reservation from now on, because now I'll met also the future Primitivo pilgrims who will leave the Norte from Villaviciosa and walk to Oviedo.

Count of the day:
Day 3: Gijon - Villaviciosa: 59 pilgrims and 2 pilgrim dogs

I met all the pilgrims between 11am and 3.30pm. This time, four of the first five were female, but the gender ratio was balanced today. Pilgrim #2 had a dog with her, as did the last pilgrim #59. I met pilgrim #41 at the highest point of the route after around 18 kilometres. I saw most of them together at the El Curbiellu bar, which is just before the big climb (from my point of view). I arrived at noon and a dozen thirsty pilgrims were already waiting for the bar to open. According to the impression of some German pilgrims, the Norte seems quite busy these days.

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Tomorrow I will head to the coast. Colunga (17 km) seems a bit too close for me, let's see where I end up. I expect the number of pilgrims to increase. Stay tuned.
 
You had better get ready because I’m near Laredo and the path is very busy!
 
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Thank you so much for reporting the traffic on the Camino del Norte! This is so helpful for those heading there soon!

For tomorrow, apart from Colunga, you have a pretty village of la Isla 21 km from Villaviciosa, although the albergue in La Isla is a Municipal one, and being usually full of pilgrims on budget, I'm not sure if they would be happy to welcome a pilgrim who is neither going to Santiago, nor coming back from Santiago...

On the other hand, the "donativo" albergue in Duesos, 24 km from Villaviciosa would probably welcome you with open arms, I think they get less people lately after a few pilgrims who stayed there left negative reviews about "highly suggested" donation of 20 euros, which, in my opinion, is actually quite low expectation on Camino del the Norte for a bed, communal dinner with wine and basic breakfast.

Duesos on Google Maps (a bit off the Camino) : https://maps.app.goo.gl/6ehyQcjdDmCqa1G79
Photos - Google Maps
AF1QipNqxyZpK53-DQbkWjwNlmXPErqgRo6KsGHqDVaU=s0

AF1QipOdKLLW8eihfgBLISbsO_cf8PHqxkYd39tEAxFZ=s0
 
Wow, 59 pilgrims between Gijón and Villaviciosa is quite a lot, I would say. Considering that the vast majority you met had already walked past the Camino Primitivo junction.

I don't know when on the next stage you plan to head for the coast, but there is a far better alternative to the several kms of road walk between Colunga and La Isla. These are my wikiloc tracks of a circular walk there. Especially the path directly on the cliffs is very recommendable.

 
Fourth day: Now in Duesos

I'm not a morning person, I need time to warm up to the day. And I first have to get used to albergue accommodation again. The first light came on at 5.55am and the first alarm at 6.10am. When I got up at 7am, I was almost alone in the dormitory. I actually wanted to leave later, but when pilgrims at the breakfast table started singing "Oh happy day" (before 8am!) I decided to leave.

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Like the days before, it drizzled almost the whole day, sometimes more, sometimes less. The route looked easy on the elevation profile, but I was already having problems after 8 kilometres. Was it because I hadn't slept well or just had a small, unhealthy breakfast with juice and bizcocho? The fact was, there were a lot of ups and downs today and the small, poisonous climbs were getting to me. It was also a bit annoying having to cross the motorway again and again (six times!). But I had a lot of counting to do:

Count of the day:
Day 4: Villaviciosa - Dueres: 119 pilgrims including two children

The first three pilgrims met me already as I left Villaviciosa (they must have started before sunrise). Pilgrim #15 and pilgrim #64 spoke to me about my existence as a "Peregrino Invertado". The counter in my head jumped from 19 to 45 in two minutes when a large group (possibly organised?) with two children passed me. By 11am I had already reached the total number of pilgrims from the day before. I finally reached Colunga at 2pm and met pilgrim #100 at the entrance to the town, whom I congratulated. Silvain from Canada was happy and we exchanged a few words.

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After a long lunch break in Colunga, I called the albergue in Duesos (many thanks to @OldHands for the recommendation) and got a place over the phone. So I probably escaped the presumably party-loving pilgrims on a tight budget in La Isla. And maybe also a discussion whether I can be considered a "real pilgrim". There are only three of us in Duesos today, we had a delicious communal dinner (exactly what @OldHands had pictured: lentil soup, rice, salad, yoghurt, wine and water), I'm sure I'll sleep better tonight.

Tomorrow I was thinking of Piñeres del Pria as my destination, even though my French bed neighbour told me about a particularly grumpy hospitalero there. Vamos a ver. Stay tuned.
 
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Wow, 59 pilgrims between Gijón and Villaviciosa is quite a lot, I would say. Considering that the vast majority you met had already walked past the Camino Primitivo junction.

I don't know when on the next stage you plan to head for the coast, but there is a far better alternative to the several kms of road walk between Colunga and La Isla. These are my wikiloc tracks of a circular walk there. Especially the path directly on the cliffs is very recommendable.

In fact, I had already met them all before I reached the bifurcation. I'm still wondering where the last pilgrim with a dog was hiking to, as it was practically too late to reach Gijon before sunset.

Thank you, @Luka, for your recommendation. Unfortunately, I was already so exhausted in Colunga that I had no energy left for the beautiful alternative. But I will be aware of further coastal options!
 
You are getting close to where I live now. Unfortunately I can't meet you on the road, as I am preparing my own Camino and I still have lots of things to do...

You could walk all along the cliffs from Ribadesella to Playa de Guadamía (and even a lot further with low tide). It is beautiful, but it will be a lot harder than walking on the asphalt roads of the Camino del Norte.

Another tip: it might not fit in the lenght of your stages, but if you would like a tasty communal dinner, a good breakfast and a bit of conversation with other peregrinos, I can definitely recommend albergue Aves de Paso in Pendueles. But you should make a reservation, because it is almost always full.
 
It was nice to be helpful, I hope you will rest well at the Duesos albergue!

I am guessing that the comment about grumpy hospitalero is about so called Casa Rectoral on the top of the hill before (looking from your side) Piñeres de Pria, next to the San Pedro church. It is in the middle of nowhere, offers good views if the weather is fine, but if it is raining... not much to do. And I don't think there are any food options there or even close by, unless something changed lately.

My choice for that night would be a tiny town of Nueva, for some reason I like it a lot. It is 26 km from Duesos. There is no albergue there but Pension San Jorge used to give a discount for pilgrims (if you booked directly, not through booking:com). This is a family business, nice people, pilgrim friendly, they have a hotel, pension and a restaurant all named San Jorge. In case if you were planning to get next day to the albergue in Pendueles recommended by Luka, it would be easier to get there from Nueva rather than from Casa Rectoral with its peculiar hospitalero.

Buen Reverse Camino!
 
The one from Galicia (the round) and the one from Castilla & Leon. Individually numbered and made by the same people that make the ones you see on your walk.
Last time I walked into Nueva (a couple of weeks ago) San Jorge was still advertising, but it might be wise to give them a call beforehand.
 
Fifth Day: Now in Piñeres de Pria

After breakfast at the albergue in Duesos, I set off at 8 a.m. The sky was still overcast and it promptly started to drizzle again after half an hour. I met the first pilgrims after just an hour and a half. I felt fitter again today and enjoyed walking with a view of the sea. I took a break in a bar in Berbes and shortly after me, eight pilgrims came through the door.

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Approximately 1,5 km before Vega and directly after pilgrim #24, I left the camino to walk directly along the beach (this was recommended to me as the camino before Vega was very muddy and difficult to manage yesterday). Beach picture above.

Count of the day:
Day 5: Duesos - Piñeres de Pria: 69 pilgrims (*)
*missed some because of walking alternative paths

The number today is lower than expected. I met pilgrim #52 at the bridge in Ribadesella. After that I must have missed some pilgrims because I took an hour's lunch break (at the launderette in Ribadesella with a salad from the supermarket) and then walked along the cliffs on the coast thanks to the recommendation of @Luka. Luckily the rain had stopped. It was a bit adventurous at first because I had to climb over a kind of small door and walk freestyle across a wet meadow without a path (I followed the blue line of the Buen Camino app), but then a breathtaking coastal path began.

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I really enjoyed one hour there and would highly recommend the route in good weather conditions. I met no pilgrims there, only a few locals. However, I returned to the camino early because the alternative seems to be much longer and I didn't want to walk over 30 kilometres today. Especially as it started to rain again and I realised that I was getting tired. In Cuerres I got lost several times, but shortly before 6pm I finally reached the hostel with the 'grumpy' hospitalero (@OldHands, yes: it's Casa Rectoral). And he was very friendly, as I brought greetings from Marisol (the hospitalera from Duesos).

I think, I wouldn't have made it to Nueva. There are around 25 pilgrims here at Casa Rectoral today and there are still plenty of free beds, the whole place makes a pretty rustic impression and the albergue is indeed in the middle of nowhere, so you definitely have to bring something to eat.

Tomorrow it's quite a long 34 kilometres to Pendueles, but I'll give it a go. The Aves de Paso albergue sounds lovely. Thanks again to @Luka and @OldHands for the helpful suggestions!
 
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Oh - you might count me tomorrow- going from La Franca to Llames! Will sure say hi if I see you 😊
Of course, it would be a pleasure. I look forward counting you! You can‘t miss me, I am very tall and dressed all in olive green.
 
Ah yes, you found the coastal path! Did you get there by walking up to a small beach in Ribadesella (Playa La Atalaya)? The first bit from the beach is quite steep uphill and I recall that fence as well, but the walking through a meadow without a path is new to me.

If you make it to Pendueles say hi to Anna from Lonneke :)
 
A selection of Camino Jewellery
Sixth Day: Now in Pendueles

I started at 7.30am today, really early, as this is my longest stage (planned: 34km). The first test right at the start: the path led from the hostel directly across a sloping meadow with cows and calves standing in the middle of the path and staring at me stoically. After this moment of stress, I met the first pilgrims before 8am. Finally a day without rain (my first on this camino). I had sunshine for most of the day and really enjoyed walking. I stopped for drinks in two small towns along the way and had a longer lunch break in Llanes.

Count of the day:
Day 6: Piñeres de Pria - Pendueles: 115 pilgrims

During a break, I had contacted @Luka's recommendation, the Aves de Paso albergue in Pendueles, via WhatsApp and was offered immediately a place to sleep there. As the communal dinner there takes place at 7pm, I wanted to be there by 6pm at the latest. My count stood at 77 pilgrims in Llanes. Later in the afternoon I met charming #82 @MilenaS from the forum. Her live report is here. Milena, it was a pleasure to meet you!

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The landscape was very beautiful today, after Llanes I went over a ridge on pleasant country lanes. However, I started to get tired around 4.30pm, after 25km my body always makes itself felt, and after 30km it starts to complain loudly. I also passed some Bufones and had to wade through a herd of goats.

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I finally arrived at the hostel at 6pm sharp. The atmosphere here is very nice, there are 12 pilgrims from Argentina, Belgium, France, Mexico, the USA and Germany. And the food (vegetarian) was excellent. Everyone introduced themselves, and it turned out that the youngest in the group, a quadrilingual pilgrim from Belgium, is also walking the Camino Norte in reverse. And Anna, the hospitalera (in her second season) said that she now sees this more often. Maybe that's a trend now? Tomorrow I'm going to San Vicente de Barquera and treat myself to a rest day there. Stay tuned.
 
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Please kindly try to bring those numbers on the Norte down, @Umwandert , they are scary 🙂

Well, what can I do? Maybe, if I do longer breaks and walk more alternative options, the number might decrease?

Ah yes, you found the coastal path! Did you get there by walking up to a small beach in Ribadesella (Playa La Atalaya)? The first bit from the beach is quite steep uphill and I recall that fence as well, but the walking through a meadow without a path is new to me.

If you make it to Pendueles say hi to Anna from Lonneke :)

Anna was delighted to hear about your greetings! Thank you so much for the wonderful recommendation!

This is the way (in blue) I took after Ribadesella, proposed by 'Buen Camino'. It involved the wet meadow (where the jag is):

IMG_9349.jpgIMG_9109.jpg
 
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Anna was delighted to hear about your greetings! Thank you so much for the wonderful recommendation!

This is the way (in blue) I took after Ribadesella, proposed by 'Buen Camino'. It involved the wet meadow (where the jag is):

View attachment 169634View attachment 169644

Ah yes, that is slightly different. On the map you can see a little beach on your left hand. You could have walked from there (but it would have been practical if I would have explained this beforehand... :rolleyes:).

Great that there was still a bed available at Anna's albergue and I am pleased to hear you enjoyed it! Anna is a wonderful host and a good cook. :) Also interesting that a reverse pilgrimage is not that uncommon anymore.

And wow, 115 pilgrims... You walked a very long stage of course, but still, sounds like quite a bit more than the number of beds available...
 
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Last year, we lost our eldest at the ripe age of 21. Weeks before he left us, he told me he would like to do another camino with me and his brother. Now, we hope to make it to Campostela on the anniversary of his passing to realise his wish. We know he's with us all along the way.
So sorry to read this @lagalag. I hope your Camino goes well and I am sure he will be with you every step of the way.
Buen Camino
 
Seventh Day: Now in San Vicente de Barquera

After a great breakfast with the other pilgrims who had spent the night in the Aves de Paso albergue, I set off eastwards at 8.30am. The weather was excellent again today, 17 degrees, sunshine and a bit of wind – ideal walking conditions for me. The path initially led close to the coast with many beautiful views, then crossed the railway and went more inland. I didn't have to look at the app much because every few minutes a new pilgrim showed me where the path was.

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I took a break around midday in Colombres, the last town in Asturias, and got a stamp from the town hall. Shortly after Unquera, I left the camino unnoticed and walked through an area with a petrol station and furniture shops, where I should have turned right beforehand. However, my app showed that I would soon reach the camino again. But only almost: suddenly I was almost 10 metres higher and there was a railway line between me and the camino. In the end, I made my way down a slope through thorny bushes and jumped from a height of almost 2 metres onto soft ground next to the tracks. My bagpack cushioned the impact. I lay on my back like a bug for a minute and thought: that wasn't very clever. I reached San Vicente at around 5pm.

Count of the day:
Day7: Pendueles - San Vicente de Barquera: 125 pilgrims

125 pilgrims is a new record for me, at least for this year (in 2023 I counted 148 on the stage from Morga to the Ziortza monastery and in 2022 even 361 on the stage from A Pena to Santiago on the Camino Fisterra-Muxia. From today I particularly remember: Pilgrim #2 had a guitar with him. Pilgrim #62 suddenly overtook me from behind shortly before Comillas. It was Yannick from Belgium, who was also in the albergue and was also walking in reverse along the Norte. However, we quickly parted company because he was walking faster and didn't want to take a break until later. A short time later, I saw pilgrim #74, a baby being carried by his father in a carrier bag. Pilgrim #108 was singing to himself the whole time. And pilgrim #123 was pulling her rucksack on wheels behind her.

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I'm starting to feel the effects of all the walking on tarmac. Now I'm taking a rest day in the picturesque fishing village of San Vicente de Barquera and will walk to Santillana del Mar on Thursday. Stay tuned.
 
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Love those photos!
Mind you, the mental images are pretty good too: baby in a carrier bag ( mental image of child in shopping bag); you on your back like a bug ( olive green beetle…. :)
Glad you didn’t hurt yourself, enjoy the rest day!

-
 
I’ll be seeing at some point on Thursday, then! Walking just ahead of a pretty big wave so I’m curious if it has flattened out once I left it behind. Hopefully I won’t miss you, but I also tend to walk off-Camino by mistake even though I’m walking in the normal direction! Buen Camino!
 
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Eighth Day: Now in Santillana del Mar

Wow, how much good a day's rest does. I felt very fresh and fit for the long stage right from the start today and had a good walking rhythm. And the weather was fantastic, sunny and 18 degrees. The route offered great views of beaches and the coast, especially in the first third to Comillas. There were already some surfers out and about in the morning.

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In Comillas I treated myself to (expensive) churros con chocolate for breakfast. My lunch break was supposed to be in Cobreces, a town famous for its cheese, but I didn't get a cheese sandwich, everything was closed. My information was that Ascension Day is not a public holiday in Spain (maybe only in cheese towns?). Luckily I always have power bars and some fruit with me. However, my apple had already been given to an admirable donkey. I arrived in Santillana at 6 p.m. sharp, but the last 5 kilometres were really tough (four long climbs!) and then the cobblestones of the museum-like town, which is full of tourists and school classes.

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Count of the day:
Day 8: San Vicente de Barquera - Santillana del Mar: 138 pilgrims

Just a few minutes after the start, still on the bridge in San Vicente, pilgrim #3 approached me and asked: "Are you from Ivar?" Rob had read my posts and informed me of a wave of pilgrims rolling towards me behind him. In fact, I counted 51 pilgrims till Comillas and 129 till Cobreces. Pilgrim #118 also knew me from the forum, Ray said that it wasn't always easy to find accommodation. Thanks a lot for the information, Rob and Ray!

IMG_9567.jpeg IMG_9663.jpeg

For the first time I counted a pilgrim for the second time! Pilgrim #68 turned out to be Yannick from Belgium, who is actually also walking in reverse and whom I had already counted two days ago. Today, however, he met me with a small group of pilgrims, he had probably travelled on by bus and was walking towards San Vicente again. In the end, there were 138 pilgrims in total, with only a few more joining in the last three hours. That's more than ever before since I started.

Tomorrow I wanted to hike to Liencres and follow the coastal route in the opposite direction, but I haven't found any accommodation there. So I walk on to Soto de la Marina. But I will save some kilometres on the way and will not follow the partially re-routed camino, but take the train over the infamous bridge between Mogro and Boo, as @Magwood once did. Stay tuned.
 
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I’ll be seeing at some point on Thursday, then! Walking just ahead of a pretty big wave so I’m curious if it has flattened out once I left it behind. Hopefully I won’t miss you, but I also tend to walk off-Camino by mistake even though I’m walking in the normal direction! Buen Camino!

Did I miss you @Vacajoe? Or were you one of the two guys I spoke to today?
 
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Eighth Day: Now in Santillana del Mar

Wow, how much good a day's rest does. I felt very fresh and fit for the long stage right from the start today and had a good walking rhythm. And the weather was fantastic, sunny and 18 degrees. The route offered great views of beaches and the coast, especially in the first third to Comillas. There were already some surfers out and about in the morning.

View attachment 169892

In Comillas I treated myself to (expensive) churros con chocolate for breakfast. My lunch break was supposed to be in Cobreces, a town famous for its cheese, but I didn't get a cheese sandwich, everything was closed. My information was that Ascension Day is not a public holiday in Spain (maybe only in cheese towns?). Luckily I always have power bars and some fruit with me. However, my apple had already been given to an admirable donkey. I arrived in Santillana at 6 p.m. sharp, but the last 5 kilometres were really tough (four long climbs!) and then the cobblestones of the museum-like town, which is full of tourists and school classes.

View attachment 169895

Count of the day:
Day 8: San Vicente de Barquera - Santillana del Mar: 138 pilgrims

Just a few minutes after the start, still on the bridge in San Vicente, pilgrim #3 approached me and asked: "Are you from Ivar?" Rob had read my posts and informed me of a wave of pilgrims rolling towards me behind him. In fact, I counted 51 pilgrims till Comillas and 129 till Cobreces. Pilgrim #118 also knew me from the forum, Ray said that it wasn't always easy to find accommodation. Thanks a lot for the information, Rob and Ray!

View attachment 169893 View attachment 169894

For the first time I counted a pilgrim for the second time! Pilgrim #68 turned out to be Yannick from Belgium, who is actually also walking in reverse and whom I had already counted two days ago. Today, however, he met me with a small group of pilgrims, he had probably travelled on by bus and was walking towards San Vicente again. In the end, there were 138 pilgrims in total, with only a few more joining in the last three hours. That's more than ever before since I started.

Tomorrow I wanted to hike to Liencres and follow the coastal route in the opposite direction, but I haven't found any accommodation there. So I walk on to Soto de la Marina. But I will save some kilometres on the way and will not follow the partially re-routed camino, but take the train over the infamous bridge between Mogro and Boo, as @Magwood once did. Stay tuned.
Such a treat to meet you (I was #3 for the day!). “Celebrity” sightings on the Norte are rare! 😎. Arrived in Llanes and am shocked By the low numbers of pilgrims - I think I finally outpaced the crowd that started late April in Irun! More more pleasant to not be in a huge wave of folks looking for beds.
 
Ninth day: Now in Soto de la Marina (off-camino)

I took things slowly today and didn't set off until around 10.30 am. After getting a stamp from the tourist information centre in Santillana, I headed out of the historic town full of cobblestones. The route today was very unspectacular and, like the day before, overwhelmingly on tarmac. And for the first time since Gijon, I encountered an ugly industrial complex that I had to walk around. By the time I reached Barreda at 1.45pm, the first option for getting on the train to shorten the route, I wasn't ready. But the further walk was very difficult along a long, busy road full of bad fumes.

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I was shouted at from a moving van that I was walking in the wrong direction. Sigh. I then took the second option of shortening the camino by taking the Feve. I didn't want to take the new, more circuitous route further south because I would have ended up walking almost 40 kilometres. I left the camino in Requejada at 1.20pm and waited for the train to Santander. It didn't arrive for half an hour. 11 minutes later (4 stops) I was in Boo de Pielagos. Without a ticket (you could only recharge a FEVE card at the ticket machine on the platform and there was no conductor on the train).

Count of the day:
Day 9: Santillana del Mar - Soto de la Marina: 60 pilgrims (*)
*missed some because of walking alternative paths

And up to Requejada I had counted 57 pilgrims. If I had stayed on the camino, the number would certainly have reached three figures, just like yesterday. On the formidable coastal alternative, I only met three more pilgrims, but a lot of tourists and even a school class on an excursion. I really enjoyed the path through the pine forest and realised that the camino had not passed through many wooded areas so far. The rest of the route offered many great views of the sea.

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When I unexpectedly came across a nudist beach near Liencres at 4pm, I took an hour's break and dived into the water twice. It was glacier cold! I finally reached my private accommodation, the Costa San Juan del Canal hotel (more a country inn), at 6.30pm. I'm looking forward to the final 21 kilometres along the coast to Santander tomorrow! The coastal alternative is great! Stay tuned.
 
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Thank you again for your invaluable counting work, @Umwandert ! I hope that when you accidentally stepped onto the nudist beach near Liencres, you took off your pilgrim armor and bathed according to the beach rules, following the famous quote "when in Rome, do as the Romans do"
At least my German friends would surely bathe that way! :)

I just prepared a track for the Santander - Boo de Piélagos stage for myself, it is a little shorter than the ones on wikiloc (it is mainly based on Luka's gps tracks - thank you very much for that, @Luka )
It is 28 km long instead of 32-35 km, it starts at my favorite hostel in Santander (Enjoy Santander) and ends at the Hostel Piedad in Boo.
I thought someone else might use these tracks for their walk.
Feel free to download them to your phone.

download kml
download gpx

Google map

Thank you again @Umwandert and Buen Camino!
I am following your reports with great interest!
 
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
Tenth Day: Now in Santander

Still fantastic weather greeted me today at the end of my Camino del Norte. I set off at a leisurely pace at 10am. At first the route was not very spectacular, on tarmac roads through populated areas and along meadows, but it got better and better as time went on. I took my first break on the promenade at La Maruca beach, after which I continued over hill and dale much closer to the coast. I met lots of Spanish tourists with small rucksacks, locals with dogs, some mountain bikers and male joggers without T-shirts. The path went up and down and again offered great views of the sea.

IMG_9996.jpeg

Count of the day:
Day 10: Soto de la Marina - Santander: 1 pilgrim (**)
**missed all because of walking alternative path

I met the only pilgrim in the middle of today's stage. The Brit had read about this alternative in a book and said: "We are so lucky". He was right! Later, a light fog rolled in from the sea and I couldn't see very far. It was a little scary, but also interesting to walk in the fog. I took my second break at the lighthouse (there was a bar), which signalled the end of the north coast, then continued southwards with more great views. It became urban very quickly. I walked along a few more beaches and the long promenade before reaching the cathedral in Santander at around 4.30pm. The weather got much worse towards the end, with raindrops falling and light thunderstorms shortly before the end of my walk. The coastal alternative Santander-Boo de Pielagos is really to be recommended to every pilgrim!

IMG_0057.jpeg

I'm taking the train (Feve) to Oviedo tomorrow and am looking forward to seeing some of the stations of the last few days from a different perspective, as I've crossed the railway tracks often enough. There might be a little counting bonus at the end of the week, I'm thinking about adding another short tour before I return home. Stay tuned.
 
Thank you again for your invaluable counting work, @Umwandert ! I hope that when you accidentally stepped onto the nudist beach near Liencres, you took off your pilgrim armor and bathed according to the beach rules, following the famous quote "when in Rome, do as the Romans do"
At least my German friends would surely bathe that way! :)

Naturally, I took off my olive green pilgrim outfit and enjoyed the sun, sand and ice-cold sea water. In my home country, skinny-dipping at lakes, rivers and in the sea is something completely natural. Thanks for the GPS data, @OldHands based on @Luka. I walked almost the same way, only I also walked along the two narrow peninsulas on the east coast. It's worth it for the views!
 
Conclusion – Camino Norte Reverse (Asturias Airport - Santander)

IMG_9355.jpg


Here is a summary of my pilgrim count:

(30/4): Asturias Airport - Aviles (via Salinas): 8 pilgrims (*)
(1/5): Aviles - Gijon: 41 pilgrims
(3/5): Gijon - Villaviciosa: 59 pilgrims and 2 pilgrim dogs
(4/5): Villaviciosa - Dueres: 119 pilgrims
(5/5): Duesos - Piñeres de Pria: 69 pilgrims (*)
(6/5): Piñeres de Pria - Pendueles: 115 pilgrims
(7/5): Pendueles - San Vicente de Barquera: 125 pilgrims
(9/5): San Vicente de Barquera - Santillana del Mar: 138 pilgrims
(10/5): Santillana del Mar - Soto de la Marina: 60 pilgrims (*)
(11/5): Soto de la Marina - Santander: 1 pilgrim (**)

(*) missed same because of walking alternative paths
(**) missed all because of walking alternative paths

In total, I encountered 735 pilgrims and two pilgrim dogs on my route, the middle section of the Camino del norte. I counted one pilgrim twice (because I met him on different days), namely Yannick from Belgium, who was also one of three reverse pilgrims I counted. That's fewer than a year ago, when I also walked a comparable distance (Santander-Irun) in May and counted 882 pilgrims. My conclusion at that time was that the route was not overcrowded. I thought it was ok now too, but there were some signs that it was more crowded overall (conversations with pilgrims, two full albergues).

I had mixed weather, the first half I had rain every day, often just a drizzle, but it was constant and it really affected my mood. In the second half it was sunny. In terms of the camino, I liked Asturias better, as there was often a surface other than just tarmac. Cantabria was more of a tarmac hell. I spent my best hours on the wonderful coastal alternatives, for example directly after Ribadesella or from Boo to Santander. I also really liked the fishing village of San Vicente de Barquera, where I took a break and happened to get a free credential for the Camino de Lebaniego at the tourist information centre. That's a sign! I will definitely be returning here again.

I stayed in very different albergues on four consecutive nights: a fully booked standard albergue in Villaviciosa, a small donativo albergue with a communal dinner in Duesos (with the "extremely strong" recommendation to pay 20 euros), a very rustic large hostel without any frills in Piñeres de Pria and the wonderful donativo hostel Aves de Paso in Pendueles, certainly one of the best albergues anywhere on the entire Norte! This is where the pilgrimage spirit was at its strongest. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to talk to pilgrims in more detail, which is something I usually don't experience due to my reverse walking preference. I also thought it was great that I was able to meet several forum members, which were very special highlights! Many thanks also for the tips and recommendations I received from the readers here. This contributed to a great overall experience.

IMG_0197.jpg

I'm currently enjoying Oviedo and will have a little follow-up to my camino on Wednesday: I'll be hiking from Oviedo to Pola da Siero and then onwards to Villaviciosa on Thursday. This is the camino connection between the Norte and the Primitivo. So here I will count pilgrims who have left the Norte to most likely start the Primitivo afterwards. The number might be a small indicator of what will be happening on the Primitivo (of course, many pilgrims also start in Oviedo, the starting point of the Primitivo).

I'm already looking forward to two more counting days. Stay tuned.
 
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Loved the regular reporting! I know it’s difficult to post every evening, but so many of us really appreciated your insights into what was happening at each stage on the Norte. Thank you!
 
Bonus / Reprise

It was forecast to rain, but when I left Oviedo on Wednesday morning, it stayed dry and the sun even came out. The 17km to Pola da Siero are not very spectacular and are all on tarmac and in urban surroundings for a long time after the start. When I arrived at the hostel in Pola at 2pm, there was nobody to be seen, but a telephone number was displayed. Roberto, the hospitalero, explained to me in German(!) – as I understood neither his Spanish nor his English – how to get to the hostel (the key was hidden nearby) and then other pilgrims arrived. Men and women have separate dormitories and showers here, the hostel standard is good (only a kitchen sink is missing). There are 22 beds, but there were only 6 pilgrims here that evening. Mostly Australians. All the others will walk the Primitivo from Oviedo.

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Additional count:
(15/5) Oviedo - Pola da Siero: 15 pilgrims
(16/5) Pola da Siero - Villaviciosa: 31 pilgrims(*)
(*) missed some because of walking alternative paths

The next day also looked like it was going to rain, but it didn't come for a while. This stage was much nicer than the day before because it wasn't just on tarmac, but also on forest and field paths through beautiful green countryside. However, after 5 kilometres I had a typical "Indiana Jones moment", which lasted half an hour and reminded me a lot of the ordeals I experienced on the Via Serrana. Summarised in one sentence: "How my camino app made me walk a non-existent path and crawl under barbed wire twice." Would also make a good title for a new thread.

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I recovered quickly though and enjoyed the rest of the day with a break in Vega and another at Valdediós Monastery, where I unfortunately arrived for siesta and found the monastery closed. The alternative route to the monastery included the biggest descent of my entire tour. When I got to the crossroads 3 kilometres before Villaviciosa, where the Camino from/to Gijon joins, it started to rain. I met 25 pilgrims up to the start of the alternative, 2 on the alternative and 4 afterwards very late in the afternoon near Villaviciosa, including pilgrim #29 (again) the Belgian Yannick, whom I counted for the third time now. He had changed his plans again and was now walking westwards again with two other pilgrims. I finished my additional camino in Villaviciosa at 5pm, just in time before it started to rain heavily.

I had actually expected more pilgrims on this stretch, I thought that around half of the Norte pilgrims were turning off onto the Primitivo, but maybe I'm wrong and maybe it's just a bit quieter again in this section of the Norte. Thanks again for the attention, likes and comments! I think I'll be back on another camino in December (probably somewhere in Andalusia).
 
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