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Norte or Frances in September? (For a woman, given fewer pilgrims in 2021)

elizabeth11

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
Hi all - I am walking the Camino for the first time starting first week of September. In a normal year, I'd choose Norte because of the scenery, physical challenge, and fewer people. However, I am a young-ish woman planning to walk alone, and I am worried that there may be too few people around to be safe.

Does anyone have any advice? Is anyone (women or men) on Norte now who can speak to your experience? How often you see people / have someone who knows where you are?

Thank you!
 
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Donny Camino

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2016
My wife and I will start Norte August 15...I'll post after that. It's our third Camino and we consider them safe; however, we wish you'd find a partner :)
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
I think it is really important to keep the real risks in mind. Every time one of these conversations comes up, I think of a good friend who was so afraid her child would be kidnapped that she adopted ridiculous (in my view) parenting techniques. This in spite of the fact that the number of child kidnappings in the US is about 350 per year, in a country with about 55 million school aged children.

I am not trying to trivialize or minimize the fact that bad things happen on the camino just like anywhere else, but the numbers are ridiculously low. I am much more at risk walking across the college campus in my town than I am walking alone on a Camino.

We ought to be telling @elizabeth111 that she should stay out of a car until she leaves for the camino, or to do none of the many other things she will do before departure with much higher risks than walking alone in Spain.

There have been lots of discussions about this topic over the years, with both sides offering very strong opinions. Whatever you think, though, I would say that if you are going to be nervous or anxious if you walk alone, you just shouldn’t do it. That’s a sure way to wind up in a bad emotional place, it seems to me.

But if you can get past the concerns, I know I speak for many women who walk alone when I say it is one of the most freeing and exhilirating experiences of my life, which is one of the reasons why I keep going back!

Buen camino, Laurie
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
If you think that there are other Caminos in your future I would suggest the Francés, and save the Norte for another year when things have become more normal. The infrastructure is so much better on the Francés, especially this year with many municipal albergues closed on the Norte.
 
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Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
I walked the Norte/Primitivo combination in the spring of 2016 with my son. We rarely saw other walkers/pilgrims during the day, although the albergues seemed fairly full at night. I would think it will be a more lonely road in 2021, and with even less infrastructure. I would choose the Frances...it definitely has its own type of beauty!
 

zenofmatthew

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
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My thoughts on this, as I feel far more drawn to the Norte - I'd love to start in France. I'm a Big Basque Country lover. Bayonne to Bilbao. I could still be lured away, but I am choosing the Frances in October for the following reasons:
  1. Along the coast, it is likely to be rainy and cold. In my experience, 10 below in Minneapolis is cold, 10 below in Chicago is excruciating.
  2. What is open? I believe more pilgrims, more open; less pilgrims, less open. Becomes a bit of a self fulfilling prophecy, but I don't want to be a victim of item 1, rural Spain version when the sun goes down.
  3. I want to meet some folks. The solitude is exciting, and so is meeting people. If places are open, then I have a better chance of meeting some people.
If this was 2019, or maybe 2022-2023, I'd be on the Norte. It is 2021, the world is a little topsy turvy. So am I. Either way, it'll be a good experience, I'm sure of it.
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
I'm (female) currently on the Norte. Walking with my partner (male). Saw one other male pilgrim yesterday en route to Markina-Xemein. I feel safe. Lots of local day hikers around, not too many pilgrims.
It's Summer time now, when the Norte is the busiest with many on holiday...youth, families, hikers, and beach peeps. I would not suggest a woman walk alone in other seasons, especially in 2021, especially the point Laurie has mentioned earlier; if any inner emotional turmoil is felt as it would probably squelch much of the hoped for enjoyment.
 
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elizabeth11

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
If you think that there are other Caminos in your future I would suggest the Francés, and save the Norte for another year when things have become more normal. The infrastructure is so much better on the Francés, especially this year with many municipal albergues closed on the Norte.
Thank you!
 
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elizabeth11

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
I walked the Norte/Primitivo combination in the spring of 2016 with my son. We rarely saw other walkers/pilgrims during the day, although the albergues seemed fairly full at night. I would think it will be a more lonely road in 2021, and with even less infrastructure. I would choose the Frances...it definitely has its own type of beauty!
Thank you! This is very useful context, and I plan to follow your suggestion
 

elizabeth11

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
My thoughts on this, as I feel far more drawn to the Norte - I'd love to start in France. I'm a Big Basque Country lover. Bayonne to Bilbao. I could still be lured away, but I am choosing the Frances in October for the following reasons:
  1. Along the coast, it is likely to be rainy and cold. In my experience, 10 below in Minneapolis is cold, 10 below in Chicago is excruciating.
  2. What is open? I believe more pilgrims, more open; less pilgrims, less open. Becomes a bit of a self fulfilling prophecy, but I don't want to be a victim of item 1, rural Spain version when the sun goes down.
  3. I want to meet some folks. The solitude is exciting, and so is meeting people. If places are open, then I have a better chance of meeting some people.
If this was 2019, or maybe 2022-2023, I'd be on the Norte. It is 2021, the world is a little topsy turvy. So am I. Either way, it'll be a good experience, I'm sure of it.
Thank you - I feel similarly and appreciate you laying out your reasoning
 

elizabeth11

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
It's Summer time now, when the Norte is the busiest with many on holiday...youth, families, hikers, and beach peeps. I would not suggest a woman walk alone in other seasons, especially in 2021, especially the point Laurie has mentioned earlier; if any inner emotional turmoil is felt as it would probably squelch much of the hoped for enjoyment.
Thank you :)
 

DonnaM

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
Hi all - I am walking the Camino for the first time starting first week of September. In a normal year, I'd choose Norte because of the scenery, physical challenge, and fewer people. However, I am a young-ish woman planning to walk alone, and I am worried that there may be too few people around to be safe.

Does anyone have any advice? Is anyone (women or men) on Norte now who can speak to your experience? How often you see people / have someone who knows where you are?

Thank you!
Hi, I'm walking the Norte alone in September, I agree with Laurie, having walked the Frances alone in 2019, it is a wonderful, freeing experience. I really feel you can walk the Camino without fear as realistically anything can happen to anyone, anywhere. But also agree that if you have any reservations you should listen to the advice of others who feel the Frances will be busier and perhaps more reassuring for you, it will be best for you to start with a fearless heart. Buen Camino...
 

FourSeasons

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
CF Sept/Oct 2013
CF April/May 2016
del Norte (July/August 2019)
Hi all - I am walking the Camino for the first time starting first week of September. In a normal year, I'd choose Norte because of the scenery, physical challenge, and fewer people. However, I am a young-ish woman planning to walk alone, and I am worried that there may be too few people around to be safe.

Does anyone have any advice? Is anyone (women or men) on Norte now who can speak to your experience? How often you see people / have someone who knows where you are?

Thank you!
Hi, I've walked three Camino's solo (female mid 50's) two Camino Frances (CF) with del Norte being my third. Here are the differences between the Norte and the Frances, in my experiences.

* The CF caters more towards pilgrims, the Norte towards tourists. My cost was less on the CF.
* It's easier to become part of a Camino family, tag along, create life long friendships on the CF than the Norte.
* On the CF there is cafe con leche to be had within a few hours of walking, on the Norte you may not get the chance all day to come upon anything or anyone. Start out with more provisions then you would on CF.
* The CF has less road walking than the Norte.
* CF is dry, del Norte is humid, really humid.
* Not once on the CF did I feel anxious when walking through any area even when I started walking in the early morning darkness. Don't get me wrong, I was still very aware of my surroundings but never felt afraid. On the Norte there were several places I felt anxious and had to walk with a purpose and be alert and aware of everything around me.
* There are challenges on the CF and beauty all around. There is beauty on the Norte and the challenges are more physical it seemed, accommodation was harder to come by making the walking day longer. Locals less hospitable.

I want to add, I didn't finish the Norte, not because of the walking challenges but more so the hospitality of the people. My body held up well however I did take more rest days because some of the days were pretty brutal with a lot of kilometers. I didn't quit though, I was able to get to Santander, hop on a train to the CF to Fromista to keep walking. I was met with challenges there too but it wouldn't be a proper Camino without the challenges. Please visit caminojunkie on instagram where you can see my journey in more detail and learn more about both CF and del Norte.

Looking forward to see which path you choose. :)
Buen Camino!
 
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CalgaryLynn

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
Hi all - I am walking the Camino for the first time starting first week of September. In a normal year, I'd choose Norte because of the scenery, physical challenge, and fewer people. However, I am a young-ish woman planning to walk alone, and I am worried that there may be too few people around to be safe.

Does anyone have any advice? Is anyone (women or men) on Norte now who can speak to your experience? How often you see people / have someone who knows where you are?

Thank you!
Whenever I see these kinds of questions, my small insignificant piece of advice is to listen to other solo travelling women. I find that many men of couples advise going with a group. That is from their perspective of always travelling with their spouse. I have travelled all my life on my own to countries others would be nervous to go to.

I really believe that most women who travel on their own are very, very vigilant about their safety and in fact are probably more safe than women who travel with their unprepared husbands. To prove my point, I was crossing the border from Jordan to Israel and encountered a women who was beside herself because their tour bus wasn't there to pick them up. Her husband was a mess and she wanted to use my cell phone to call the company. I ended up letting them use my cell phone (with no luck) and driving them (in my rental car) to the nearest city to get them a hotel so they could rest and replan for the rest of their trip.

If you book ahead to reserve places to stay, they will be waiting for your arrival. Always stay in touch with family back home. I send texts on a daily basis to tell people where I am. Be sensible and always think of safety first, politeness second. Don't drink far from the place you are staying. If you want a drink, go next door. Listen to your intuition always, if something or someone makes you uneasy. Leave immediately.

Don't let your uneasiness stop you from a journey you really want to make. If you are prepared, there is no reason to be fearful.
 

Faye Walker

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
CF 2014, CF 2018, CP 2019 from Coimbra
Two things you can do for your safety:

1) download to your phone the app "what3words" -- it can help emergency personnel to find if you if you ever need it.

2) activate your own location sharing options from whatever phone you have. On iOS you can use "find my friends" and I think Android phones use something called 360 degrees (something like that). Maybe the android people can chime in here. Such tracking has allowed my family to see that I am moving along as predicted, and keeps them out of my hair unless I'm really needed. They never wonder where I am. We joke mordantly that if the little red dot does not move for 4 days that is where they will find my remains, but basically it just means that unless I've been out of contact AND not moved for a long period of time, they are not be worried about me.

I do not think that either route presents different dangers from anything you would encounter at home, only unfamiliar places that might distract you from being attentive to your own safety.

By and large, locals are lovely. Overwhelmingly so in my experience. In fact, I've only ever been bothered by *other pilgrims*. And of the many many hundreds, only by 2... I just put distance between us ASAP and was firm about my boundaries.

I've learned that random Spanish people will walk up to me and talk at me at length, but I have politely declined any "invitations" to go with them to their friends' places for a meal. Maybe I'm missing out, but maybe it's also just not prudent to go with the random man who's bee blathering on in rapidly spoken rural Spanish that I cannot understand. When such things occur I've either slowed down to allow pilgrims behind me to catch up, or I've walked rather quickly to come closer to the one walking ahead of me.

In inclement weather -- too hot or too wet -- I've always kept a pilgrim in visual range. I've given water to an over-heated pilgrim on the way into Hospital de Orbigo... and made her stuff her head in the cold water fountain about 2 K before town.

Sounds like you are young and hale, and can simply choose your own adventure. The norte might be rather more blustery and wet in the fall, but if you don't mind that, I see no reason to avoid it. The CF can remain blistering hot to the end of September. Choose your poison, I think.

BC
Faye
 
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