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Norte in October compared to CF

MhaelK

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances: SJPdP -> Fisterra, (sep 26- oct 18, 2017)
Q: Is it stupid/to late to start Camino del Norte on september 25 for a solo first timer?

So I arrive in Biarritz monday the 25th of september, and the plan was to the go to SJPDP and start the CF. I have spend hours/months thinking about if I should take the CdN or CF and finally settled on the CF due to everybody keeps saying do the French way first to get the real Camino experience and friendships. However, the Norte keeps calling me - I just know I will love the views, the walks, and the mountains of the Norte. While the magical Camino-feeling sounds fantastic/interesting. I’m a little worried of the super highway of pilgrims and tourists offered by the French way, and especially don’t like the idea of the bed-race or the need to stop early just to get a bed. And while I do like to share my experiences with others. I've never been that type of person who just need to be part of a community or herd.

So while I know that only I can answer which camino is the right for me, I have some questions about starting in the end of september. I was originally planning to start my camino on september 1, but due a small running injury in august I had to cancel. So my packing list was made for CF in September and I now need to change to a new situation, which is okay - but how much different is the need for warmer clothes in October on the Norte compared to the CF?

So many questions/thoughts.

Thanks
 
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NolaVulling

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances-2011&2012, Portuguese- 2013,from the Netherlands -2014, Del Norte-2017
I am currently on the del Norte and can tell you I have had a lot of wet weather. Between Irun and Bilbao it is positively dangerous in many sections to walk after rain or when it is raining. It is much harder than the Frances with very steep and long ups and downs. My advice would be to start in Bilbao particularly considering your injury.
 

MhaelK

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances: SJPdP -> Fisterra, (sep 26- oct 18, 2017)
I am currently on the del Norte and can tell you I have had a lot of wet weather. Between Irun and Bilbao it is positively dangerous in many sections to walk after rain or when it is raining. It is much harder than the Frances with very steep and long ups and downs. My advice would be to start in Bilbao particularly considering your injury.

Thank you, that is very valuable advice.

I'm okay with the weather not being perfect, however maybe I could consider starting in CF and then taking a bus to CdN or Primotivo. I like the idea of walking from border to coast.

How are you finding the camino del norte? and is it your first camino?
 
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MKalcolm M

Solvitur ambulando - It is solved by walking
Year of past OR future Camino
north route spring 2013
I walked the Norte in Spring of 2013, which was the wettest spring for decades, and despite the rain and the mud I absoloutely loved it. There were times when it was hard going, others when it was really marvellous. I hadn't walked any camino before, so had nothing to compare it to, but soon began to really enjoy it.

September should be fine for walking, just ask the hospitaleros at the alberges what your options are for the next day, they are usually well informed and can tell you your options. Often it involves a choice of walking say 18km or longer at 25km or so. Many of the cafes in the little villages will be closed, just grab a coffee when ever you get the chance, and carry some food and fruit, chocolate etc. so you can fill up when hungry. The views, scenery, woods, beaches, coastal paths, big cities and little towns make for varied and interesting walking, and there was always the option to walk alone or with other pilgrims.

I was prepared for all weathers, and had everything from pouring rain to warm sunshine, make sure you have good waterproofs, and a set of warm clothes to change into after you arrive at the alberges.

If the Norte is calling you, forget the conventional wisdom and walk it! If you have half as much fun as I did then you will have a ball. I would walk it again in a heartbeat.

Buen camino!
 
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Year of past OR future Camino
Camino de Santiago, Norte (2016)
Camino Portuguese, Coastal (2018)
I walked the Norte, my first Camino, last year Sep 13 - Oct 26. We began in Irun. We had a few days of wet weather but overall the skies were sunny. It is a challenging walk at times, particularly from Irun to Bilbao, with lots of ascents and descents over rocky Roman roads. Sticks are what saved me. We did skip one section before Noja that is supposed to be particularly challenging/dangerous when wet and it was raining that day. I have very fond memories of my walk and would to it again.
 
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Jan_D

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
I just got back from walking on the Norte a couple of days ago, and although there were some beautiful days, when the rain came down it was positively torrential! I only had a poncho, so was thoroughly unprepared and the solution of waiting it out under a bush wasn't really sustainable in the long run... I absolutely love the Norte, and I try and walk a stretch whenever I can, but I would recommend packing the right water-resistant gear for a more enjoyable experience.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino de Santiago, Norte (2016)
Camino Portuguese, Coastal (2018)
I just got back from walking on the Norte a couple of days ago, and although there were some beautiful days, when the rain came down it was positively torrential! I only had a poncho, so was thoroughly unprepared and the solution of waiting it out under a bush wasn't really sustainable in the long run... I absolutely love the Norte, and I try and walk a stretch whenever I can, but I would recommend packing the right water-resistant gear for a more enjoyable experience.

I was fortunate to have packed rain pants and a Gore-tex jacket, both of which kept me quite dry.
 

NolaVulling

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances-2011&2012, Portuguese- 2013,from the Netherlands -2014, Del Norte-2017
Thank you, that is very valuable advice.

I'm okay with the weather not being perfect, however maybe I could consider starting in CF and then taking a bus to CdN or Primotivo. I like the idea of walking from border to coast.

How are you finding the camino del norte? and is it your first camino?
This is my 5th Camino. We have had many rainy days along the way. I started in Bayonne on 25/8 but due to poor weather& the treacherous terrain, I prefer to be safe than sorry, took a bus between Markina and Bilbao. After Gijon there were many days of muddy tracks that really should be avoided after rain. Overall it has been a fantastic experience. Remember though that the del Norte does not have the pilgrim friendly infrastructure of the Frances. Albergues often do not open until 3pm. Stages are longer thus requiring you to carry more food & water with you and many of the towns offer little to eat in the evening until after 8pm. If you arrive after the kitchen closes due the afternoon the food is usually limited to pinxos. Enjoy whichever route you take. The Camino is worth every step, muddy or wet, cold or warm. Buen camino.
 

Jan_D

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
I was fortunate to have packed rain pants and a Gore-tex jacket, both of which kept me quite dry.

Just wondering, for the sake of the OP, were the albergues open in October last year? I've walked in mid-winter when quite a few of them were closed, but I presume October is still 'in season'?
 

MhaelK

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances: SJPdP -> Fisterra, (sep 26- oct 18, 2017)
Thank you all for the helpful replys and for showing your love for the Norte as a first camino.

I can understand that raingear is of the most important on the norte. I have in my possession a great lightweight rainjacket, a storm-umbrella and even a rainponcho. My weak spot is waterproof-pants as I wasn't planning to bring any, but just rely on shower-proff hiking-pants and wool-socks. I don't know if this is a good strategic for norte in october.

I will have to study the weather forecast in detail.
 
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MhaelK

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances: SJPdP -> Fisterra, (sep 26- oct 18, 2017)
Just wondering, for the sake of the OP, were the albergues open in October last year? I've walked in mid-winter when quite a few of them were closed, but I presume October is still 'in season'?

According to my research october should still be in season
 

Jan_D

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
Thank you all for the helpful replys and for showing your love for the Norte as a first camino.

I can understand that raingear is of the most important on the norte. I have in my possession a great lightweight rainjacket, a storm-umbrella and even a rainponcho. My weak spot is waterproof-pants as I wasn't planning to bring any, but just rely on shower-proff hiking-pants and wool-socks. I don't know if this is a good strategic for norte in october.

I will have to study the weather forecast in detail.

For the first time ever I wore waterproof hiking shoes, but without the rain-pants the water ran down my legs into my socks and soaked my lovely new shoes from the inside, so they took days to dry properly! My mom had better luck with her light sneakers, which got drenched but were nevertheless more breathable so dried relatively quickly. In future I'd keep the waterproof shoes, but make sure there's no way any water can get into them!
 

MhaelK

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances: SJPdP -> Fisterra, (sep 26- oct 18, 2017)
For the first time ever I wore waterproof hiking shoes, but without the rain-pants the water ran down my legs into my socks and soaked my lovely new shoes from the inside, so they took days to dry properly! My mom had better luck with her light sneakers, which got drenched but were nevertheless more breathable so dried relatively quickly. In future I'd keep the waterproof shoes, but make sure there's no way any water can get into them!

I learned my lesson while trail-running. Waterproof-shoes are great for light showers or casual walks, but when things get really wet your best bet is wool-socks and shoes that drain fast.
 
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Pilar

Active Member
Thank you all for the helpful replys and for showing your love for the Norte as a first camino.

I can understand that raingear is of the most important on the norte. I have in my possession a great lightweight rainjacket, a storm-umbrella and even a rainponcho. My weak spot is waterproof-pants as I wasn't planning to bring any, but just rely on shower-proff hiking-pants and wool-socks. I don't know if this is a good strategic for norte in october.

I will have to study the weather forecast in detail.

Consider adding gaiters to your list. Although not foolproof they do help keep your feet and shoes dry to some extent. On Norte now and it has been wet.
 

Jan_D

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
I learned my lesson while trail-running. Waterproof-shoes are great for light showers or casual walks, but when things get really wet your best bet is wool-socks and shoes that drain fast.
Now you tell me!! :eek: ha ha
 
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MhaelK

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances: SJPdP -> Fisterra, (sep 26- oct 18, 2017)
Now you tell me!! :eek: ha ha

Seeing that you have done quite a few caminoes. How would you compare the CdN vs CF, especially for someone who's doing his first camino?
 

Jan_D

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
Seeing that you have done quite a few caminoes. How would you compare the CdN vs CF, especially for someone who's doing his first camino?

hmmm... I'd say that the major difference is that the route of the CF is built around the camino: every village or town you pass through has a major connection to the camino, and it has the infrastructure to match. And everyone you meet on the path is a peregrino, for many it's their first camino and there's a lot of excitement, so it's very sociable and can be a lot of fun. The CdN is more like a beautiful coastal walk: the beach towns are more tourist than pilgrim-oriented, and you only really see other pilgrims when you get to the albergue in the evening, unless you decide to walk together as a group. It seems that many of the pilgrims on the CdN are camino veterans (i.e. this is their second or third camino), and they tend to be a wee bit more serious in general: the atmosphere in the albergues is far less festive, lots of folk are in bed by 9pm - although maybe I just missed the student-aged crowds over the summer!

So I guess it depends on what you're in the mood for: a beautiful walk next to the sea... or something more akin to what people have in mind when they picture the "camino experience"?
 

MhaelK

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances: SJPdP -> Fisterra, (sep 26- oct 18, 2017)
hmmm... I'd say that the major difference is that the route of the CF is built around the camino: every village or town you pass through has a major connection to the camino, and it has the infrastructure to match. And everyone you meet on the path is a peregrino, for many it's their first camino and there's a lot of excitement, so it's very sociable and can be a lot of fun. The CdN is more like a beautiful coastal walk: the beach towns are more tourist than pilgrim-oriented, and you only really see other pilgrims when you get to the albergue in the evening, unless you decide to walk together as a group. It seems that many of the pilgrims on the CdN are camino veterans (i.e. this is their second or third camino), and they tend to be a wee bit more serious in general: the atmosphere in the albergues is far less festive, lots of folk are in bed by 9pm - although maybe I just missed the student-aged crowds over the summer!

So I guess it depends on what you're in the mood for: a beautiful walk next to the sea... or something more akin to what people have in mind when they picture the "camino experience"?

Thanks, very helpful. It is hard to know what I am in the mood for as I not sure of what to expect or how to define the camino experience.

The reason I think that i keep going back and forth, is that most of the people I talk to who has done the camino says that it is the people who they meet that makes the camino so speciel. Yes, the walking and the soul-searching is a big part of it, and I need to do a lot of soul searching in my life, but everybody mentions the speciel bonds that they create with other people as the real camino magic. And somehow I'm afraid that this magic only happens on the CF, or at least have a larger chance of happening on the CF.

The reason that I'm going against the CF is that I'm afraid of it just being a super-highway of "pilgrim-turists". I dont need a coffee-shop every 5km, a party every night, I really dont like the idea of the bed-race. I dont need everything to be build around the camino - normally I'm really not that fond of the mass-turism which I feel the CF is turning into (although slightly different). I like to walk and probably walks a bit faster than the average - and if all goes according to plan I will likely walk more km per day than the average person, which in turn will leave distance between me and other groups.

I know I will love the views/walks on the norte and primotivo, but that also means that I'm likely to go there another time/afterwards if I enjoy the camino-experience. I dont think I will ever do the CF if i dont do it on my first camino, because of the crowds.

Does all this make any sense at all:)
 

Jan_D

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
yeah it makes perfect sense... I haven't been on the CF in a while, but I have to say that, for me, most of my "soul searching" on the caminos has been through conversations with other people: I think that's why lots of people experience the CF as a kind of extended therapy session - you're walking with people from all over the world on a similar soul-searching mission, and it's a very supportive environment where people seem to have a lot of time and patience listening to your stories as you try and work things out, and you return the favour. There's a real spirit of sharing, generosity, and kindness. I think I learned more about myself through these intensive encounters with others on the CF than at any other time of my life.

I also think that the pilgrim-tourists you're referring to start from Sarria, not necessarily from SJPP. And even if you meet a number of "tourigrinos" starting in SJPP, there's something about walking 25 kms a day, continuously, that sends even the most hardened party animal to bed by 8pm. And honestly, there aren't many party animals who decide to walk a 800km pilgrimage... Whichever camino you choose, the "experience" is probably going to involve discomfort, possibly even suffering, and learning to deal with that is what makes the camino a spiritual path, for want of a better word. It just depends on whether you want to go through that experience surrounded by lots of others experiencing the same thing, and with a supportive infrastructure that facilitates that experience, so that the only thing you really have to worry about is walking/talking/thinking - which is what I think the CF offers a lot of people. Ironically, I have actually enjoyed more solitary walking on the CF than the CdN, as the increased volume of people means that it's easier to be "anonymous", if you know what I mean, whereas on the CdN you tend to stick with the same person or group the whole way.

Anyway I don't mean to make you more confused! The first time I walked the CdN, I was actually on my way to SJPP to do the CF, but when the train got to Bayonne and all the pilgrims got off something in me said "no!" so I just stayed on until Hendaye and started walking from there, and it was the best experience of my life... moral of the story: don't overthink it, trust your heart/gut/intuition! :)
 

MhaelK

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances: SJPdP -> Fisterra, (sep 26- oct 18, 2017)
yeah it makes perfect sense... I haven't been on the CF in a while, but I have to say that, for me, most of my "soul searching" on the caminos has been through conversations with other people: I think that's why lots of people experience the CF as a kind of extended therapy session - you're walking with people from all over the world on a similar soul-searching mission, and it's a very supportive environment where people seem to have a lot of time and patience listening to your stories as you try and work things out, and you return the favour. There's a real spirit of sharing, generosity, and kindness. I think I learned more about myself through these intensive encounters with others on the CF than at any other time of my life.

I also think that the pilgrim-tourists you're referring to start from Sarria, not necessarily from SJPP. And even if you meet a number of "tourigrinos" starting in SJPP, there's something about walking 25 kms a day, continuously, that sends even the most hardened party animal to bed by 8pm. And honestly, there aren't many party animals who decide to walk a 800km pilgrimage... Whichever camino you choose, the "experience" is probably going to involve discomfort, possibly even suffering, and learning to deal with that is what makes the camino a spiritual path, for want of a better word. It just depends on whether you want to go through that experience surrounded by lots of others experiencing the same thing, and with a supportive infrastructure that facilitates that experience, so that the only thing you really have to worry about is walking/talking/thinking - which is what I think the CF offers a lot of people. Ironically, I have actually enjoyed more solitary walking on the CF than the CdN, as the increased volume of people means that it's easier to be "anonymous", if you know what I mean, whereas on the CdN you tend to stick with the same person or group the whole way.

Anyway I don't mean to make you more confused! The first time I walked the CdN, I was actually on my way to SJPP to do the CF, but when the train got to Bayonne and all the pilgrims got off something in me said "no!" so I just stayed on until Hendaye and started walking from there, and it was the best experience of my life... moral of the story: don't overthink it, trust your heart/gut/intuition! :)

Hehe It is actually the current rapports about the big numbers on the CF these days that makes my heart/gut go “no”. I like how you changed your plan on the fly. And I figure, like you, I will know for sure when arriving in Bayonne tomorrow. Of course this means, no pre-booking. Exiting times ahead.

Thanks for all you help.
 
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Jan_D

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
Yay! That sounds very exciting indeed!! And definitely the best way to start your adventure! ;)
 

MKalcolm M

Solvitur ambulando - It is solved by walking
Year of past OR future Camino
north route spring 2013
When I researched which camino to walk, I read somewhere that the ratio 0f pilgrims on the CF to the Norte was seven to one, but that the fewer numbers meant that the rapport between pilgrims was stronger on the Norte. This certainly seemed to be the case, I formed a great camino family and have stayed in contact with several of them, both visiting them in their home countries and hosting them when they have come to Scotland. We certainly did our fair share of partying as well, and many a morning set off with a hangover to walk off. Overall it was a very sociable time, the camaraderie was one of the best parts of the camino for me.
 

Phoenix

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2014, CF: partial
2016, CF
2018, CF: partial
2019, CP
My adult son and I left the U.S. for the CF one year ago today; I have been quite nostalgic for most of the day. After weighing my options for several weeks, I decided just this morning to return in Sept/Oct 2018 to walk the CdN by myself all the way to Finisterre. Rather than walking the CF again, I have chosen to walk the CdN to gain a similar yet different experience (primarily to see/experience a different part of Spain).

Walking the CF in Sept/Oct was a great experience, especially with my son who had been away from home for five years. My Camino was about thanksgiving rather than soul-searching, but I did find the unexpected. The following is from a post I made a few months after returning home:

In our daily lives (at least in my experience in the U.S.), many of our interactions with others are wide but shallow in most instances. Everyone’s lives seem to be moving in a million different directions. Interactions on the Camino (CF) are narrower but deeper. There is something almost magical about being part a tribe of people all moving in the same direction toward a common destination for similar reasons. Since that bond is established by virtue of just being on the Camino together, it’s much easier to get past the superficial and share our humanity with each other. This has staying power in our lives after the Camino.

I hope this helps in some way. I believe that, whichever Camino you choose, it will be the best one for you.
 

poogeyejr

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Norte, May 2011
Norte, Sept 2013
Frances, 1wk, Jan 2017
I did the Norte in 2013 Sept 21- Oct 15 and we had 27-30 degree Celsius! LOVE LOVE LOVED it!!!
 

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