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My 1st Camino: Irun-Bilbao first week of September - good id

#1
Hi all,

I'm planning to do 6 days of the Camino del Norte during the first week of September, from Irun to Bilbao. What drew me to it was the idea that a) I'd be close to the coast and b) I could avoid crowds that I might encounter on the Camino Frances. I live in Spain but haven't done much traveling in pais vasco, so I'm excited to get to know it better!

While I'm anxious to start, and physically/mentally prepared, I am a bit nervous about where to stay. My guides offer suggestions of albergues but I see that in each destination, there is really only one place, or two at the most (obviously San Sebastian, Irun and Bilbao offer many hostals aside from the pilgrim albergues, but the smaller towns don't seem to have much).

Since most of the albergues don't offer the option of reserving ahead of time, I suppose as long as I am there when they open, I shouldn't have any problem reserving two beds (traveling with 1 other person), but I was hoping some of you could let me know your thoughts...being September, will the crowds die down enough for me to find accomodation in the albergues, or is it just a safer bet to do the camino frances?

I also realize I'm taking a risk with the weather -- I know that region gets a lot of rain, but I'm hoping that in September it'll generally be nice, even if I have to endure a shower or two! Something about hiking near the green coast (not to mention visiting one of my favorite cities - San Sebastian -) instead of through Burgos/etc. is really attractive.

The last thing I was hoping for advice on was regarding my backpack. Since I'm really only traveling for 6 days, and am not planning on bringing a sleeping bag (maybe a mat, but friends have told me really all I'd need is one of those sleep sacks that's like a sheet), would a pack around 1600 cubic inches/24 liters be ok, or would something a bit bigger be better? I'll definitely keep the pack under 2.5lbs. My ideas were:

http://www.rei.com/product/733143 Osprey Stratos 24
http://www.mammothgear.com/shop/shopexd.asp?id=22903 Osprey Atmos 35
http://www.rei.com/product/762509 REI Venturi 30

Anyway, sorry for so many questions, I'm so pumped -- any other advice or recommendations would be greatly appreciated!!
Best, Laura
 

viajero

Active Member
#2
HI,
I walked the Camino Frances in March and used the REI Jet pack:

http://www.rei.com/product/747523

It was inexpenisve, very lightweight and comfortable. I did walk in March though so I didn't have too many hot days--if it were warm I might prefer a pack with some air space between my back and pack but for me it was perfect. It is a 30 liter pack but I walked for a month and in cold and warm weather so the bag got a bit crowded but I loved it.
 

sillydoll

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
#3
Hi Laura,
Regarding your backpack - I like Viajero's pack suggestion - it weighs 620g as opposed to the three you have given links for that all weigh over 1kg.
Most bacpacks are made for mountaineers or campers who will be carrying tents, poles, cooking equipment etc whereas camino hikers usually only carry clothes and toiletries. You should aim for the most comfortable, lightweight pack you can find.

(The lightest pack I've found weighs 7.5 oz. (213 g.) - the Gossamer Gear Murmur - and costs $90) http://www.gossamergear.com/cgi-bin/gos ... urmur.html
 
#4
Hi All!

I'm the original poster of this thread, and just wanted to check back and give you an idea of how my 1-week Camino del Norte went. One word: AMAZING. I had the most unbelievable, unforgettable experience walking from Hendaya/Irun to Bilbao. Over the course of 7 days the camino took me from sleepy beach towns to mountaintop monasteries, to pinxo-hopping in San Sebastian and beyond.

The guide book I used was in Spanish, published by Aguilar/El Pais called (http://www.elpaisaguilar.es), ISBN 978-84-03-50749-4 and while not 100% accurate (some details of routes seem to either be incorrect or perhaps just outdated), the maps are key, and the info on each day's route (the towns you'll pass through, where there is food/albergues/pensiones) is key. I basically tore out the pages I was going to use to keep packing light. The route is very well marked with the yellow arrows, but the guide is a nice extra.

The outstanding sights for me were:

Irun (nice albergue with really friendly staff, pretty riverside walk)
San Sebastian (beautiful/great eats/albergue juvenil is nice)
Zarautz (beach town/surfer's paradise/nice albergue juvenil)
Monastery of Zenarruza (friendly monks, really special place to spend the night)
Guernica (good eats/pretty city)
Bilbao (my destination!!)

Some things to be aware of:

The route is not easy. There are days when you start out at sea level and reach 500meters. The uphills at times seem never ending, and what's worse, the downhills did a number on my knees! But the pain is worth it because it's so beautiful. Ibuprofen was my best friend. I spoke to a few other pilgrims who had done the camino frances and they said there's no comparison in terms of difficulty -- this is not for wimps! Going up and down all day, at times for 7 or 8 hours is grueling, but like I said, beautiful, so a walking stick can help!

The only albergues I ended up not staying in were in Deba and Lezama. Deba's albergue is basically a tiny room filled with bunk beds, no room to move around, it was hot and unfortunately pretty smelly. For me it was well worth it to split a room with my travel partner at the pension nearby and for 25€, get a good night's sleep. Lezama is a bit more of a pain. The albergue isn't as bad as Deba's because it's bigger, but it's basically a trailer/box with bunk beds, very little light, and didn't look very comfortable. But it's free, so you can't complain. I did however take a tip from a local Lezaman (?) who directed me about 1.5km down the main road towards Bilbao and stayed at a country house (casa rural, called Rural Matsa) that was not only big, but charming and comfortable, a double room was 40€.

Other tips: bring a plastic cheap poncho. Some other pilgrims had brought rain jackets that seemed bulky, and also didn't cover their packs. I had bought a plastic poncho for about $1.50 at a pharmacy in the US -- it not only weighed close to nothing,but it was big enough to cover me AND my pack, and came in handy one morning when we got stuck in a brief rain shower. Clothespins or safety pins are a good idea to hang your washed clothes that haven't dried overnight on your backpack.

A walking stick isn't a bad idea either. Make sure to bring snacks (fruit/nuts/granola bars/candy/crackers/etc.) since some days you will walk 4+ hours without passing through ANY towns (or passing through tiny towns that don't have anywhere to buy anything). I only brought 1 1-liter water bottle, and it suited me fine. There seemed to be water fountains regularly if you keep an eye out for them.

Pack light, don't forget vaseline for your feet and blister bandaids/compeed/, as well as a needle and thread etc. for any unexpected blisters. That's about it! Hopefully will upload some photos to flickr soon and will post the link - I hope to continue my camino the next chance I get!
 

sillydoll

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
#5
Well done - great report back post! You did the camino - and you didn't bust - so the question is, "are you hooked?"
Hugs,
 

jojo

New Member
#7
It was lovely to read your comments. I have done the main Camino in 3 holidays with a friend and 4 children. We thought we had finished with the camino, but once we heard about the Norde we Knew we had to do it. We will just do the first bit and see how we get on. Your points were helpful especially about the snacks and accommodation.
To start with the children needed some encouragement but now they encourage us! Peolpe used to think we were cruel taking children (age between 10 and 14) and would tell us so. Yet when they saw them after 10 or 14 days still laughing and bumbling along they wished they had brought their children along instead of leaving them in front of the T.V. or computer. Now if one is struggling with homework they look at their shell and think of what they have conquered! Thank you and looking forward to reading more comments.
 
#8
Reading your post was great - thanks 'Camino or Bust'! I'm planning the Camino del Norte for September-October this year, and your information is invaluable for me. Good to hear about the uphills and downhills - my fears will help me step up my training!

Well done!
 
#9
I cannot believe I found this post!! I am doing the same exact trip this June. I have been so worried about it, because it is only my second time in Spain and my first Camino walk. I am trying to find a guide that shows the distances between towns...along with all the other good information. The guide that was mentioned above sounds great, but Im not positive if my Spanish is good enough..I am a pretty good speaker, but wouldn't want to be very confused once there! Is it smart to wait to buy one in Irun?

Also...if you ever read this again:)... what was the mile... or kilometer distance a day average? We are taking 7 days to get to BIlbao, but I do not want to feel rushed...Thank you!!!

Sierra
 
#10
La Vasquita said:
I cannot believe I found this post!! I am doing the same exact trip this June. I have been so worried about it, because it is only my second time in Spain and my first Camino walk. I am trying to find a guide that shows the distances between towns...along with all the other good information. The guide that was mentioned above sounds great, but Im not positive if my Spanish is good enough..I am a pretty good speaker, but wouldn't want to be very confused once there! Is it smart to wait to buy one in Irun?

Also...if you ever read this again:)... what was the mile... or kilometer distance a day average? We are taking 7 days to get to BIlbao, but I do not want to feel rushed...Thank you!!!

Sierra
From Irun to Bilbao should take 8-10 days.

About buying a guide, is much easier in Madrid or Barcelona than in Irun, in my opinion. But you can ask in the albergue, may be they know where to buy it in San Sebastian (after first etapa)

Buen Camino,

Javier Martin
Madrid, Spain.
 

jl

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances('05, '07), Aragonese ('05), del Norte / Primitivo ('09), Via Tolosana (Toulouse '05), Via Podiensis (Le Puy '07), Via Lemovicensis (Troyes '09), VF ('12), Winter Camino ('13/'14) Cammino d'Assisi ('14) Jakobseweg (Leipzig - Paris '15) San Salvador/Norte ('15) Ignaciano ('16) Invierno ('16)
#11

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