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Meseta vs Karoo...

2020 Camino Guides

nickymd1

Member
Camino(s) past & future
CdN + Fisterra 2017
Jakobsweg (Imperii + Regia) | BER-Leipzig-Naumburg 2018
Burgos-SdC 2019
Hi guys,

Not sure if anyone will be able to help me with this but I thought I'd ask here rather than annoying the general population ;)

I'm hoping to be back on the Camino in April for 3 weeks (fingers crossed) and although I am a true CdN lover, a German friend of mine has been telling me for ages that I "must walk the Meseta". She's lived near the Black Forest all her life however, and all her descriptions make the Meseta sound like a slightly greener Groot Karoo.... I'm not that keen to walk it if I have to choose between the Karoo 2.0 (or is it the original recipe..?) and seeing the ocean at the end, so either I'll be starting in Burgos and walking to SdC from there, or starting in Leon and ending in Muxia/Finisterra.

Can anyone comment on the similarity between the two, or provide reasons with a different perspective on why the Meseta is worth doing?
 

jsalt

Jill
Camino(s) past & future
Portugués, Francés, Le Puy, Rota Vicentina, Soulac, Norte, Madrid, Salvador, Primitivo, Aragonés
Hi, you either love or hate the meseta. But you can’t really compare it with the Karoo. Yes, they are both highveld, with extreme temperatures, sublime sunrises and sunsets, and endless horizons. Whether it’s greener than the Groot Karoo or not depends on which time of the year you’re walking, but April on the meseta should be greenish. The meseta has villages and towns every 15kms or so, with albergues, bars and restaurants; you won’t find that crossing the Karoo. If I had to choose between Burgos to Santiago, or León to Finisterre, I think I would choose Burgos to Santiago.
Jill
P.S. I love the meseta.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Caminos Frances (x4), Finisterre, Aragon, Via de la Plata, Portuguese 2011 -2015. Hospitalero 2015
I am Australian and love the Maseta and all my Australian friends who have walked the Maseta also love it.
But I have met many Europeans who find it boring. My theory is that Australians love it because it is a country with long horizons and big skies and engenders a mental freedom, rather like outback Australia. This is not to say we do also not love the many villages and small distances such as in Galacia and the country between France and Burgos, it is just different. That's only my theory anyway. I have not seen the Karoo but imagine it is like the Maseta.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2017 SJPDP to Trabadelo
Norte /Primitivo 2019
Comparing the Meseta with the Karoo is not really accurate. Jill has explained it well. Burgos to SdC in April should be great. The weather of course is not predictable.
 
Camino(s) past & future
.
Meseta should not be missed or rushed through. I was back there last November. A heel blister forced me to slow up and it was the best injury I've ever had. Take it slow through the first part at least. Try not to miss the Green Tree cafe/restaurant in Hornillos. Aim for San Anton if it is open. Second half is less dramatic, but if you want to experience in one day what the Via de la Plata is like, take the Calzada Romana option after Sahagun.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
I am Australian and love the Maseta and all my Australian friends who have walked the Maseta also love it. But I have met many Europeans who find it boring. My theory is that Australians love it because it is a country with long horizons and big skies and engenders a mental freedom, rather like outback Australia.
Interesting to read this. I do think that the way people view this part of the CF, from Burgos to Astorga, depends on where they come from and where else they've been in their lives. I neither hate nor love it, I see it as part of the varied landscapes of Northern Spain. A managed cultural and agricultural landscape. Large-scale fields. Some less fertile parts. Wide views but not at all amazingly flat, rather slightly undulated with hilly bits at the horizon, a few rockier and more arid parts. Some parts actually don't look foreign at all to me.

I don't know Spain as a whole too well and wonder whether this part is actually typical for "the" meseta or mesetas of Spain. I travelled by train or bus between the CF and Madrid a few times and crossed landscapes that looked a lot more desolate to me and perhaps more boring to some. I personally don't find landscapes boring and that includes the Sahara - the really flat bits of it - and the sea.

@nickymd1, I can imagine that someone like your friend who takes the Black Forest as a benchmark is fascinated by the Meseta section of the CF. I myself have still vivid images of The Beauce to the south of Paris. It is a pretty flat region with wide views. I had known nothing at all about it beforehand. I still rave about it occasionally but I have yet to meet someone who shares my amazement. In particular French people don't understand what I'm going on about. 🙂
 
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Mugatu

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, Finisterre, Muxia (2018)
Camino Frances or Norte (2019 , June 27-Aug 8)
It was interesting how my perspective and feelings changed about the Meseta. Prior to embarking on the CF I always planed I would ship my bag ahead and run the Meseta (I was getting ready for the Honolulu Marathon) since the majority of individuals commented negatively about their experience on it; however, circumstances out of my control forced me to change my plans walk through it instead...it was one of the most valuable experiences I've ever had.

From my experience, the people who occupy the towns in the Meseta were wonderful and some of the warmest and most welcoming throughout the CF.

If you are an early hiker, I found the sunrise on the landscape awe inspiring, filled with momentary silence, in between the occasional rustling of the wind amongst the wild flowers. If you enjoy vast horizons, and find beauty in desert landscapes, you may find value within the Meseta.
 

RJM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
A few times
The type of landscape that comprises the meseta portion of the Camino Frances is not unique to Spain. There are other similar places in other countries. It is not boring, nor is it exciting. It is simply just another part of the walk. It is best described as a mix of flat terrain and rolling hills. Agriculture fields of wheat, sunflowers and such. In the fall most of it has been cut and harvested. Not desert like at all. Some scattered woodlands here and there. I never considered the prospect of not walking it as I can not understand why someone would not. Odd that the question is posed so much on this forum.
In a nutshell, go ahead and walk it and ignore the tall tales about it.
 
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nickymd1

Member
Camino(s) past & future
CdN + Fisterra 2017
Jakobsweg (Imperii + Regia) | BER-Leipzig-Naumburg 2018
Burgos-SdC 2019
Hey all, thanks so much for the interesting and varied responses! They're so appreciated.

My leave request has been approved and I will indeed be walking from Burgos (after meeting up with a friend who is long-term staff at an Albergue just outside of Pamplona). I figure if worst comes to worst, I can always adapt my plans to travel forward (not my first camino or first compostella, so willing to bend the 'rules' this time ;) ), but I can't bare the thought of travelling backwards...
 

nickymd1

Member
Camino(s) past & future
CdN + Fisterra 2017
Jakobsweg (Imperii + Regia) | BER-Leipzig-Naumburg 2018
Burgos-SdC 2019
I wanted to update this quickly for any pilgrims who are asking themselves the same question.

To be honest, I didn't like the meseta. But I think I didn't like it because I started there, not because it is in-and-of-itself hard, boring, dry, ugly, or any of the other ways I've heard it described. It's none of those things really. Arriving there after the green that one sees in late springtime Spain pre-Burgos makes it a tough change but one is already in the rhythm, already inspired, and already fit enough to handle the mental challenge. Without that bit before, the meseta is a trudge. The people I walked with were the best part of the Meseta from Castrojeriz - León for me, and I think if I could go back and do it again, I wouldn't have started in Burgos. I may well have ended my Camino in Leon or Astorga though instead.

If one is wanting to walk through to Santiago in 3 weeks or less though, there is little other option than starting in Burgos if one wants an 'authentic' Camino experience (save starting in Gijon, perhaps! ;) ) Starting in Leon to get through to the coast means you're basically a week from the hell that is Sarria to SdC (boy was I glad to have done this part before, and in a way that had me staying in different places and missing the rush, even in August). This breaks the whole experience in half - and not in a good way. If one is NOT intent on getting to Santiago, I would totally recommend starting closer to France and walking as far as you get. There's something very special about the initial couple of days that really creates a basis for the relationships, and that is something I think it's more fun to be a part of than to be joining later.
 

Felipe

Veteran Member
You see, lots of Meseta fans in this forum...
My take is the Camino is not about "landscapes" or "the highlights". It is about the experience, and that comes with beautiful and (apparently) not so beautiful parts. That's peculiar, because in other treks I have not qualms about taking a bus to skip some stages due to different reasons (because of lodgment, schedule, etc). But there is something special about walking the Camino in a continuous manner, day after day. I can't explain it, but I really think that skipping stages breaks the magic.
As for the Meseta itself, I loved it -its vastness, the green fields (I walked in April) the little villages, the kind local people, the old churches.
But it is true that there are people who find it "boring". So, it is a personal, subjective decision.
 

nickymd1

Member
Camino(s) past & future
CdN + Fisterra 2017
Jakobsweg (Imperii + Regia) | BER-Leipzig-Naumburg 2018
Burgos-SdC 2019
As for the Meseta itself, I loved it -its vastness, the green fields (I walked in April) the little villages, the kind local people, the old churches.
It's so interesting to hear you say that because I also walked in April and I found it so... brown. Very little had sprouted and the wheat was barely 5cm high, so between dusty roads, a few dark and rainy days, some recently-tilled fields and stark, neverending roads, walking the meseta after Castrojeriz was less boring and more... difficult. The way that everyone says it is - mental, rather than physical. But without the fitness increase of the first 2 weeks, or the beauty of the mountains and rivers that one passes through during them, I honestly found the meseta was somehow desolate. Contrary to me thinking it would remind me of the Karoo, it actually felt so much more like the Gauteng Highveld in August :p

I do however totally agree with you about stage skipping - I'm not a fan. At very least, take a bike ;) I think for my next Camino I'll be heading back to the Norte.
 

Felipe

Veteran Member
You see, apparently I was fortunate...on the other side, there were light rains,certainly it was a bit cold, and we got even a bit of hail (not recommended in an open field...). And mud, very sticky mud...some sections after Hornillos were more about navigating, instead of walking. Cyclists had to dismount and carry their bikes.
I suppose my feeling was related (as mentioned above) to the usual weather where I live -that is, where a "real" winter is rare. So, me it was a change, and an interesting challenge. And I had good company, too, and that helps.
 

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