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Jesso

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances - SJPDP to Muxia - (2016)
de Madrid (2018)
Norte (planning June 2019)
Hi,

Having walked the Frances in Sept/Oct 2015 from SJPDP to Muxia, I am looking forward to another month on the Way over the summer. I am planning to walk from Irun to Santiago.

I'm looking for any advice and suggestions to the following:

- I understand it is not the most ideal time to be walking (more pilgrims and the heat) but as a teacher, I have to walk in the school holidays. I am hoping that by starting around June 22/23 I might just be ahead of the European holidays and there might be a few less pilgrims on the Way. Has anyone here walked during this time? How busy/hot was it?

- Thoughts on sticking with the del Norte all the way or changing over to the Primitivo? I'm very open to both options and as yet do not have my heart set on either. I love the coast and the mountains. Perhaps the Primitivo may offer more shade/cool?

- Packing list suggestions for the summer. Especially in regards to a sleeping liner Vs sleeping bag. Should there be a need for anything more than a pair of light pants and light jacket?

- Any recommendations for a must stay albergue (or ones to avoid if possible?) on the route?

- I walked the Frances in 30 days including 2 rest days (SJPDP - Santiago). I started small in the first week (20-25 km days) and was consistently walking 33-35km ish day from then on. I am planning on about the same timeframe for the Norte (Irun to Santiago). Is this reasonable? I understand that the Norte and Primitivo involve a lot more change in elevation, whereas the Frances had a bit, it also has a nice share of relative flat ground to cover.

- Language: while communication on the Frances was never an issue, I don't speak Spanish (yet!). What have your experiences been like on this Way? I lived by a section of Jakobs Weg in Germany for a while and I know that German was a must in order to get by in smaller towns.

I'd love to hear any stories about your experiences, links to any blogs you've written or those you have enjoyed that were written by others.

Thank you in advance for the experience and wisdom that I know so many of you so kindly share.
 

Jan_D

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Aragones (2011)
Frances (2012)
Norte (2013, 2014)
Hospitalera (2014)
Portugues (2017)
Hi Jesso,

To answer a few questions at once: June is a great time to walk! The weather should be good - it's usually cooler/milder along the northern coast than it is on the Frances, but it can be wetter. Pack a poncho, but don't worry too much about fancy rain gear - even if you get wet you everything will dry out pretty quickly over the summer. The clothes you packed for your last camino should be fine.

As for numbers of pilgrims: the Norte only accounts for 5% of camino pilgrims. The problem, if you can call it that, is that sometimes there's only 1 small albergue per stage, so even though there are fewer pilgrims, the "bed race" can feel worse than on the Frances. It's weird, you can go a whole day hardly seeing anyone, and then arrive to a full albergue! Over the summer they try and mitigate this by getting mattresses for the floor, opening sports halls, etc - but sometimes you might need to be flexible, or even get a cheap hotel/hostal/pension (which are aplenty as it's a touristy part of Spain - and the hotels often do special pilgrim rates). As an aside: don't worry too much about your level of Spanish - obviously it helps to have the basics, but it's not too different to on the Frances.

Norte vs Primitivo? I love walking next to the sea, and after Gijon the Norte gets much quieter as many pilgrims opt for the Primitivo. However there's a lot of road walking in this section, and the landscapes don't change that much, so maybe you'll need a change of scenery. I haven't done the Primitivo, but I hear it's wonderful.

Sorry that's all I've got time to reply to right now, I'm sure other forum members will have lots of answers/suggestions to your questions!
 

Walli Walker

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances '2009', Camino Portuguese from Porto '2015', Camino Ingles from Ferrol '2015', Finisterre and Muxia '2015'. Tentatively planning Camino from Granada '2017'.
Hi Jesso, thanks for your post. I’ll be starting from Irun about the same time & have a lot of your queries.
Thanks Jan D for your response. Very helpful.
Will a sleeping bag be necessary or will I get by with a silk liner? Coming from Australia I’m not good with cold!
 

Jan_D

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Aragones (2011)
Frances (2012)
Norte (2013, 2014)
Hospitalera (2014)
Portugues (2017)
Will a sleeping bag be necessary or will I get by with a silk liner? Coming from Australia I’m not good with cold![/QUOTE said:
Hi Walli - as a South African I'm not too good with the cold either... and after a long day of walking I sometimes get very shivery, even in the middle of summer. I really like the comfort of snuggling up in my own sleeping bag at the end of the day, even though it's an extra weight. However I've seen many other pilgrims coping fine with silk liners, so it's very much a personal choice. Also, I'd say most (but not all) albergues have blankets for when it gets cold (although I'd try not to think about when last these were washed...)
 

lt56ny

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2013-Frances SJP-Finisterre, 2015 Camino Le Puy-Santiago, 2017 Portugues Lisbon-Santiago 2018 Norte
I walked from Irún in late September and October. There are fewer Albergues. There are definitely more shifts on elevation. It is definitely harder than the Frances. I think that what the earlier pilgrim wrote about racing for beds may very well be true. When I walked it was never a problem as there seems to be more Albergues earlier on. After Santander and the split for the Primativo the amount of pilgrims drops considerably as the last place I think people start walking is Santander or Gijón but it was not a lot. In fact I personally didn’t meet one person It doesn’t pick up again until the last 100k. But just a few people it ain’t Sarria. I doubt you will need a sleeping bag. It is definitely just a preference not a necessity. You can always sleep in your clothes if it does get cold.
I didn’t walk the Primitivo but friends did. I got the distinct impression that after the split it is a lot hillier and harder than the Norte. After you turn south and west the last parts of the Norte are pretty easy. They said the Primitivo was beautiful. The Norte is also. It is a lot different then the Frances.
 

Jesso

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances - SJPDP to Muxia - (2016)
de Madrid (2018)
Norte (planning June 2019)
Hi Jan_D,

Thank you for all this info.

I'll definitely look into Primitivo a bit more. I am excited for the summer break, even more so now hearing from you! I was lucky enough to not have to experience the bed race on the Frances, walking in Sept/Oct. So this will be something I'll need to adjust to by the sounds of it.
 

Jesso

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances - SJPDP to Muxia - (2016)
de Madrid (2018)
Norte (planning June 2019)
Hi Walli, happy planning! This is the place to ask all the questions, that's for sue. Others on here are so knowledgeable and always happy to share their experiences!

Hi Jesso, thanks for your post. I’ll be starting from Irun about the same time & have a lot of your queries.
Thanks Jan D for your response. Very helpful.
Will a sleeping bag be necessary or will I get by with a silk liner? Coming from Australia I’m not good with cold!
 

Jesso

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances - SJPDP to Muxia - (2016)
de Madrid (2018)
Norte (planning June 2019)
Hi It56ny,

Thanks for the note on the sleeping bag.

Was there a lot of road walking on the Norte? I have have heard some talk of this. Not sure how it compares to the amount on the Frances. Perhaps more after the split with the Primitivo?

I am keen for a physically challenging walk, that involves more changes in elevation. This sounds like it could be it, especially the Primitivo.

How did you find the dogs when you walked? I am very cautious (scared!) of them.

I was surprised to hear that you walked for such a long stretch without meeting a fellow pilgrim on the Norte. I had that experience when I walked from Madrid. I must admit, I do like having a few pilgrims around.
 

Jan_D

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Aragones (2011)
Frances (2012)
Norte (2013, 2014)
Hospitalera (2014)
Portugues (2017)
Hi again!

A few comments:

Beds: didn't mean to scare you about the 'bed race'! I've only experienced this a handful of times over many walks on the Norte, although people do complain that the infrastructure isn't as good as the Frances, and the simple fact is there's sometimes only one albergue, so you might want to have a back-up plan on these stages, just in case. But come to think of it, I've never had to sleep outside on the Norte (although I've budgeted a bit extra to avoid this). On quite a few occasions I've shared a double or triple hotel room with other pilgrims, often for the same price or less than an albergue. Whatever happens, you'll be ok. :)

Road walking: basically, along most of the Norte there are wonderful coastal paths, but for some reason the "official" camino goes along the road. My advice is not to worry too much about this being the "official" path - basically, the town councils try and find the paths of least resistance from A to B, and it doesn't always have anything to do with the historical Camino. So just try and take the coastal alternatives when you can (and sometimes you might actually prefer the road, as they tend to be more direct). You'll see that they've built a massive highway (the famous "A-8") across the north of Spain, so this has made the 'old' local roads very quiet. These are the roads they send the pilgrims on, and sometimes you won't see a car all day, and they go through pretty parts of the countryside. But the asphalt can be very hard on your joints, I've seen pilgrims almost crippled from the constant pounding over long distances. So definitely choose the "softer" paths when you can. Forum member Laurie has done an amazing job listing all the coastal alternatives: https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/coastal-alternatives-to-the-nortes-asphalt.49578/

Other pilgrims: you'll definitely meet fellow pilgrims in June!! Even though it's less busy than the Frances, the albergues will be full of fellow pilgrims every night, so it's just a case of meeting people you like and walking together the next day... Also, although quieter than the Frances, you'll be walking through and between busy touristy cities and seaside resorts, so there's always a sense of life and activity.

You're going to have the time of your life!! :D
 

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