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Getting Lost

Discussion in 'El Camino del Norte' started by Bridgette, Jun 18, 2017.

  1. Bridgette

    Bridgette New Member

    Mar 16, 2017
    Likes Received:
    Camino(s) past & future:
    I plan to walk in July-Aug (2017)
    Hello friends,

    I'll be walking my first Camino along the Norther Route, and starting in mid-July. I'll be walking alone. I'm getting very excited!

    I'd like to seek the general wisdom of the forum re: how to avoid getting lost. I have no head for directions and modest map-reading skills. I've read that the CF is very well marked, but CdN less so. Do you think I'll run in to problems? I've looked through Gronze and Wise Pilgrim app (which has more step by step), but welcome other suggestions.

    Also, re: finding the start point of the trail once you've bunked off to explore a town. Is this difficult? Will most locals be able to point me in the correct direction if I need a hand?

    Any tips/advice will be appreciated!

    Buen camino :)
  2. The Norte is very well marked, and now walked by quite a few, you will be ok.
    Bob from L.A. ! likes this.
  3. MKalcolm M

    MKalcolm M Solvitur ambulando - It is solved by walking

    Mar 28, 2013
    Likes Received:
    Camino(s) past & future:
    north route spring 2013
    I have about as much sense of direction as a leaf in a hurricane, and can get lost going from my bedroom to the bathroom, however had no problems at all following the arrows on the Norte. I walked without maps or a guide book, or a mobile phone, but always managed to make may way to the next alberge without issue. If you are wandering around town and can't see a yellow arrow, just ask any local "Camino?" with a questioning look, and they will point you in the right direction.

    Tips / advice? ...Most hospitaleros are well informed about your options for the next day and can tell you what the next days walking entails, and what choices you have distance wise, its often a simple choice such as there is an alberge in 15kms or another in 23kms. Failing this, ask a German pilgrim. They all have good guide books, and are frighteningly well organised about the next days choices. Several of us were getting gloriously tipsy in a bar in Santander one night, and realised we would be too hung over to concentrate on route-finding our way out of town the next morning, so we appointed a German pilgrim with a bright green jacket as team leader, and simply followed them while they followed the yellow arrows....

    The Norte is a great walk, if you have half as much fun as I did, you're in for a fantastic time.

    Buen camino!
  4. NicP

    NicP Member Donating Member

    Jul 20, 2015
    Likes Received:
    Wairarapa, New Zealand
    Camino(s) past & future:
    Via de la Plata, Seville to Santiago de Compostella via Astorga, then Finisterre... April and May 2016
    I've not walked the Camino del Norte, but on other less well marked paths, having an app with GPS on your smart phone is a great insurance policy. I didn't use it often, but it was a great last resort, and saved the days for me a few times. As others have said, you'll be fine, but sometimes having the electronic option is a good way to make you feel better about it! Whilst I agree that in theory, walking a camino without being electronically connected is a fantastic idea, it was never going to be a reality for me for various reasons. As such, in my opinion, if you can take an insurance policy such as a guide with GPS, then why not? Other than that, relax and enjoy!

    Bueno camino.
  5. Marc S.

    Marc S. Active Member

    Feb 15, 2015
    Likes Received:
    Camino(s) past & future:
    2012-2016 Frances, Norte, Salvador, Aragones, Portuguese, Via Regia, Jakibspaad..
    As has already been said by others, the Norte is well marked. I do not have a great sense of direction myself, and never got seriously lost - and I do not use GPS (only a guidebook). If you do get a little lost - do not worry about it too much. If you always keep the sea on your right hand you will generally head in the right direction - and remember you are not completely in the middle of nowhere so even if you miss the occasional arrow, I am sure you will find your way back again - no worries & Buen Camino !
    Bob from L.A. ! and MKalcolm M like this.
  6. jerbear

    jerbear Active Member

    Apr 5, 2012
    Likes Received:
    Camino(s) past & future:
    Camino de madrid, camino francis, camino inverino (2012, 2013,2014)
    CdM, Francis, San salvador, primativo june 2015 CDM , francis, inverino 2016
    Camino madrid, via de Plata. Santiago.
    Coast of the dead malpica to muxia
    I am only lost if someone find me. Follow your heart. Pray for direction. Or say thank you for where you are.
    Nitka, KinkyOne and nycwalking like this.
  7. mspath

    mspath Veteran Member Donating Member

    Nov 25, 2009
    Likes Received:
    Camino(s) past & future:
    Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
    Wherever you walk a basic sense of direction is always useful.

    2004 signage on the Valcarlos alternative out of SJPdP was miniscule yellow arrows painted on popsicle-like sticks and rather randomly attached to trees, logs, etc. Eventually I sensed that I was going north within a dense wood where the correct path should be basically west. Backtracking to the last marker nailed to a moveable stake I spotted a distant farmer; he walked towards me as I walked towards him. When asked the way to Arneguy he simply quarter-turned the stake and replied "Oh those children they just love to confuse you pilgrims". ...Luckily the Valcarlos signage has vastly improved over recent years and there are no more moveable arrows, but a basic sense of direction is still most helpful.
  8. Luka

    Luka Veteran Member

    Oct 12, 2010
    Likes Received:
    Camino(s) past & future:
    Via de la Plata (2013/2014)
    Via Podiensis (2015)
    Camino Francés (2015)
    Camino del Norte (2017)
    Nitka likes this.
  9. Tia Valeria

    Tia Valeria Veteran Member Donating Member

    Jun 16, 2009
    Likes Received:
    Camino(s) past & future:
    Pt Norte/Pmtvo 2010
    C. Inglés 2011
    C. Primitivo '12
    Norte-C. de la Reina '13
    C. do Mar-C. Inglés '15
    We use the CSJ(UK) guides which are very good and not heavy to carry. Combined with the arrows you should be fine.
  10. Felipe

    Felipe Veteran Member

    Mar 28, 2009
    Likes Received:
    Some time ago I met a "monsieur" who had walked the Frances in the "romantic times" (meaning the 1980s....) before the masses arrived. He told me that he somewhat missed the feeling of getting lost sometimes. He considered the Camino as a metaphor for life, quoted Divina Comedia beginning sentence ("Midway upon the journey of our life/ I found myself within a forest dark/ For the straight-forward pathway had been lost"), and told me that the Camino had become too tame and foreseeable.
    I appreciate guides and signposting, but I think that he had a point. Actually, I have vivid memories of the stages when I felt that I was getting lost (in the Pyrinees), due to confusing or defective signposting; the uneventful stages, on the other hand, have become, with time, blurred memories.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2017
    bunnymac, KinkyOne and Purky like this.
  11. LTfit

    LTfit Veteran Member Donating Member

    Mar 6, 2010
    Likes Received:
    The Netherlands
    I just finished the Norte today and I never got lost, even when I took the coastal options. I neither have a GPS nor a guide book, just followed the arrows!
    Nitka and MKalcolm M like this.
  12. peregrino_tom

    peregrino_tom Active Member

    Feb 22, 2009
    Likes Received:
    Bridgette, I think most of us tend to do our town exploring at the end of the day, once we've secured our accommodation, freshend up and divested ourselves of backpack etc. If it's a big town I tend to head for the tourist kiosk/office and pick up freesheet street map (quite often you find these in the albergues as well). Or else I'll take a photo of the local 'usted esta aqui' map and use that - like this one. Then I get to know not only where the sights are but can also ask the hospitalero to mark the camino way out if it's a big town like Santander, Aviles or Gijon - especially useful if you set out in the half light.
    Asking the locals for directions tends to be pot luck in the big towns - some of them know where the camino goes, some think they know and others have no idea but want to help, so might then accost someone else and ask them. Either way, generally, asking is a positive experience and helps us a little to break out of that camino bubble and meet a wider a range of people.
    Cheers, tom
  13. poogeyejr

    poogeyejr Active Member

    Jan 14, 2011
    Likes Received:
    Vancouver, BC
    Camino(s) past & future:
    Norte, May 2011
    Norte, Sept 2013
    Started the Frances, 2017

    Three additional points of wisdom:

    1) German guide books and the pilgrims who use them are amazing! Don't be afraid to ask for help!

    2) - offline maps that you can use on your smart phone so you are never lost. You may not be on the Camino but you will always know where you are!
    (Download the app Then take the time to download the route and store it off line by opening the map on the city you start on and move it along the route and will offer to download and keep the map detail. Once it has northern spain downloaded, will not use data when you open the app and you can find out where you are. (Once it is set up from home - you don't need data!))

    3) GR routes - There are coastal paths that the locals walk that hug the coastline and the are mentioned in the German guide books, they are the same direction as the camino, but are often just a little bit longer - but oh, the ocean views!!!
    Nitka likes this.
  14. Lucy Keenan

    Lucy Keenan New Member

    May 27, 2016
    Likes Received:
    Camino(s) past & future:
    Northern Route
    It is mostly well marked. I walked alone last August and I found the Buen Camino app invaluable. Have a great time. It is amazing.
    intrepidtraveler likes this.
  15. intrepidtraveler

    intrepidtraveler Active Member

    May 5, 2015
    Likes Received:
    Ashland, OR
    Camino(s) past & future:
    Caminos Madrid, Frances and Finisterre (2015)
    Camino Norte-2017; Camino Ingles from A Coruna - 2017
    I second @Lucy Keenan - the editorial Buen Camino app for the Norte is one of the better investments that I made for this trip. The maps work offline which is hugely valuable. At any given moment you can see where the route is and where you are relative to the route.

    Asking for directions so you can meet new people is great in concept. There were several occasions where I had questions and not a single person to ask anywhere in sight. I have also been given bad directions by people who wanted to be helpful but didn't really have the answer.

    The Norte is a beautiful route and a great experience.

    Buen Camino

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