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Norte trip report fall and spring 2015 - assorted facts

backpack45scb

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2001 CF, 04-6 LP, 07 Port, 08-10 Arles, 11 Mozá,12-13 Gen-LP. 00-10 PCT, 15 Norte, 16 Primi
#1
In May June we walked from Irun to Bilbao, and in Sept-Oct from Bilbao to Vilalba. I did a long blog post on the trip, and am summarizing here.

First, we were hiking with injuries, so about 23 km was about our limit for a stage, and less was much better. We are quite experienced with Camino paths - some 4000 km now. I think this is the most difficult Camino that we have done, and because of the terrain, not injuries. We met a couple of people doing this as their first Camino, and I think this is a big mistake. The Norte is beautiful, but it doesn't convey the sense of history that you find on the Camino Francís. The towns you walk through did not grow up around the pilgrimage trails, they grew up around whaling and fishing. This is a very old pilgrimage route, and sometimes you find traces of that. There is the community of pilgrims if you stay in the albergues, but I think it is a different and lesser experience for a first timer than the traditional route.

We flew into Bilbao for the fall part of our trip, and had to check our hiking poles, swiss army knifes and tent stakes. The checked bag did not make it to Bilbao, and has never turned up since. Susan has injuries mandating use of poles. Fortunately we found a wonderful store in Bilbao, thanks to someone on this forum. Decathlon Capital is a full service outdoor sports store with the exact poles we had lost, and the Swiss Army knives. I found a good hiking stick about ten days into our trip.

We used Perazzoli and Whitson's Northern Caminos as our guide, though sometimes looked at the Wise Pilgrim Norte app, and also gronze.com, and the Camino app. We had two devices, an android phone and an iPad mini. We tried not to use either for navigation - just relied on the book. At least once was so far off course that we had to use Google Maps to get back. (on the way to Tol, around Porcia we missed the turn due to heavy waymarking to Tapia de Casariego on the coastal variant.)

Not a lot of pilgrims, but on Saturdays hunters filled up the little pensións. We used booking.com when we could, rather than stay in the albergues - more on that in the blog post. Probably could have just walked into town and found something on weekdays.

Eighty to ninety percent of the time we were walking on hard surfaces, but after a while we got used to them. The rocky dirt paths were hard to walk on, and sometimes the sight of a road was welcome.

If you have an electronic device, peter robins geolocate is extremely useful. Select IGN and pilgrim routes when given the choice and it will give you a topographic map with the route, centered on your location. http://maps.peterrobins.co.uk/geolocate.html

Language: If you are stuck, try Google Translate in microphone mode. Talk in short simple sentences. It both translates to text and speaks, listening to both sides of the conversation.

When we finally had to get off the trail, blablacar.com was very helpful in getting us from Lugo to Madrid.
 
A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
#2
Thank you for this post. Agree with so much of it.

Norte is not about Santiago like the CF is in it's architecture, it is a walk, a long walk. Noone looking for ko shop or Camino Magic. A put carrying you backpack on board and hoping the little items will make it, in my book you are taking a chance. Might as well put the back pack through with all the pointies on board. It's a big bad, not a silly looking package that will easily go un noticed when it falls off the baggage trolley. And yes, the road can feel much better than the tractor tracks.
 
#3
One of the great attractions of the Norte is how few other pilgrims are walking (and it does mean that you can spend time talking to all that you do meet)

As well as the Northern Caminos guide book (I do like their clear maps apart from not having marked bits of the E8 motorway that are still under construction), I carried the books from the CSJ here in England - these have no maps but instead have a line-by-line guide to turnings along the route (which gives you a short-term preview of what to expect next) plus information on albergues - I don't carry any other information apart from pre-printed locations of supermercados within towns from Google maps

But do also appreciate that very few shops will be open on Sundays, even in the big towns - in fact, your best bet might be petrol stations on the highway
 

zzotte

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2012 Camino Frances, 2014 Lourdes to SDC, 2016 Camino del Norte
#4
Do you think I need a GPS or hiking maps like topo? Not that I easily get lost not me ;) I can usually find my way out of a paper bag with no problem well.... Almost haha

Zzotte
 
#5
Do you think I need a GPS or hiking maps like topo? Not that I easily get lost not me ;) I can usually find my way out of a paper bag with no problem well.... Almost haha

Zzotte
No, not all all - the waymarking is pretty accurate - towns are probably the most difficult - (just remember to be on high alert when you haven't seen a yellow arrow for a few minutes)
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata.
#6
@zzotte we relied on The Northern Caminos guidebook for the main, but a couple of times we were grateful for the GPS in my smartphone - I downloaded the MapsMe App (with Spain for use offline) and the camino trails, including the GR10. If nothing else it is reassuring.
 

zzotte

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2012 Camino Frances, 2014 Lourdes to SDC, 2016 Camino del Norte
#7
Thanks for the tips, I'm kind of traumatized about getting lost in the woods :) following the red and white painted marks out of Lourdes
I follow the wrong red and white marks (from a bike race sometime before) only to walk in dark for miles and no one around not a good feeling :(

Zzotte
 

oursonpolaire

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002, Toulouse/Aragon 2005, Cami S Jaume/Aragon 2007/9, Mont Saint Michel/Norte/Vadiniense 2011, Norte/Primitivo 2013, Norte/Primitivo 2014. Norte 2015, Cami S Jaume/Castellano-Aragonese 2016
#8
Thanks for the tips, I'm kind of traumatized about getting lost in the woods :) following the red and white painted marks out of Lourdes
I follow the wrong red and white marks (from a bike race sometime before) only to walk in dark for miles and no one around not a good feeling :(

Zzotte
I've done the del Norte 2 and a half times and there are very few spots which could be a problem. Almost all the way you can see mountains to the left and the sea to the right, and are rarely far from a village or a household where you can ask directions. I have been on GRs in France and quite understand the situation which concerns you, but you should not face such problems on the del Norte.
 

zzotte

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2012 Camino Frances, 2014 Lourdes to SDC, 2016 Camino del Norte
#9
Thanks Ourson it a great relieve

Zzotte
 

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