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Our Camino del Norte Journey

Discussion in 'El Camino del Norte' started by Cheri SLP, Aug 13, 2017 at 12:31 AM.

  1. Cheri SLP

    Cheri SLP New Member

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    Camino(s) past & future:
    Camino del Norte 2015
    We did the Camino del Norte starting on October 1, 2015. Before we started our hike, we were not aware of the forums, although I sure wish we would have known about it. Like many Americans, we were introduced to the Camino through the 2010 movie The Way. As soon as we saw it, we knew we had to do the walk. And five years later, we did just that!


    We of course made some mistakes. For whatever reason, we believed the Northern route started in San Sebastian instead of Irun! So that is where we started. We didn’t take nearly enough rest days. We should have at least taken one day a week off, maybe even a day every five or six days. We were worried that if we didn’t hurry, we would be facing albergues that were closed as we reached the end. We should have just started a few days earlier. Our intention was to continue on to Finisterre, but by the time we reached Santiago, we were broken!


    We chose the Camino del Norte because we wanted to walk along the coastline; and it was amazing. But, we knew that one of the big downsides of walking Norte was the amount of time walking on pavement. It was even more than we were prepared for, and it definitely contributed to breaking us.


    Despite all of this, we had a wonderful journey, and it is one of the best experiences in our lives!


    Anyway, we blogged about our journey, so hopefully this well help answer some questions that others may have, or simply provide some inspiration. We just did a post highlighting the why we chose Camino del Norte. I am hanging out in these forums because we are trying to figure out our next long walk. I am thinking that we may have to walk Camino Portugues next, although we do want to walk the Frances at some point.

    Buen Camino!

    http://randomcurrents.com/camino-del-norte/
     
  2. Kanga

    Kanga Moderator Staff Member Donating Member

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    Camino(s) past & future:
    Francés (2001, 2003, 2004, 2015 and 2016), Le Puy (2009, 2010), Arles (2011), Tours (2012), Norte (2015) VdlP (2017)
    Yes! Do walk the Camino Frances. In spite of walking many other paths, it is still my favourite.
     
  3. Peter1

    Peter1 New Member

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    Thanks for your lovely blog. Really great. I am aiming to walk the Norte next month. Did you find it essential to take a sleeping bag? Did you need an international youth hostel card to stay in the hostels ou mention?
     
  4. Pierre Julian

    Pierre Julian Member

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    Location:
    London
    Camino(s) past & future:
    St Jean - Finisterre (August 2014)
    Pamplona - Burgos (January 2015)
    Bilbao - Santander (May 2015)
    St Jean - Sahgún (2nd Sept - 20 Sept 2015)
    León - Sarria (26/12/2015 - 04/01/2016)
    Lisbon - Tomar (02/04/16 - 10/04/16)
    Pau - Pamplona (August 2016)
    I've given up taking a sleeping bag at this time of the year, saves on weight. I've walked Bilbao to Villaviciosa and the albergues have blankets, or, if none are evident you can ask and they usually have a spare sleeping bag or blanket. Credencial is all you need to sleep in the albergues.
     
  5. Pierre Julian

    Pierre Julian Member

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    Location:
    London
    Camino(s) past & future:
    St Jean - Finisterre (August 2014)
    Pamplona - Burgos (January 2015)
    Bilbao - Santander (May 2015)
    St Jean - Sahgún (2nd Sept - 20 Sept 2015)
    León - Sarria (26/12/2015 - 04/01/2016)
    Lisbon - Tomar (02/04/16 - 10/04/16)
    Pau - Pamplona (August 2016)

    Great lesson learned. In my opinion, the "albergue race" means that people don't enjoy the journey, they're constantly anxious about it, arrive too early in the next place and get bored, and spoil it for everyone else by getting up way to early. I'm not saying that you did any of those things, but plenty of people do. If I could create one rule for the Camino, it would be don't get up too early and don't rush, enjoy the walk. I have never missed out on a bed yet, and I often don't arrive at the next stop till after 7pm. There is way too much beauty to be enjoyed during the day walking.
     
  6. Peter1

    Peter1 New Member

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    Thanks for your reply!
     
  7. Angelika 76

    Angelika 76 New Member

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    Camino(s) past & future:
    I plan to walk the north camino along the coast in September
    Hi , I am going to walk the camino from Irun . I am really excited to do it eventhough a little bit nervous. I am leaving on the 12th of September from Irun. Is there anything to be concerned about , safetywise ? Did you find enough albergues along the way ?

    Thank you for your reply
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2017 at 6:30 PM
  8. Cheri SLP

    Cheri SLP New Member

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    We have heard that a lot! That is actually fantastic that you still feel that way about Frances!
     
  9. Cheri SLP

    Cheri SLP New Member

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    Camino(s) past & future:
    Camino del Norte 2015
    Thanks for reading!

    We started in October, and hardly used our bags. I just took a 40°F (5°C) quilt from enlightened equipment and I only used it a couple of times. My wife took a 20°F (-6°C) bag from feathered friends, and she ended up using my quilt way more than her bag, and way more than I did! Frequently light blankets were available, and I mostly used the sheets or extra clothing. I would probably only take a sleeping bag liner if I were starting now.

    We mostly stayed in the alburgues, and for the few hostels we stayed in, we did not need the hostel card.

    *We have no relationship with the sleeping bag folks, I just put the links for reference.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2017 at 6:24 PM
  10. Cheri SLP

    Cheri SLP New Member

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    I would think about spending an extra day in San Sebastian to enjoy the food!

    We never really felt unsafe, although a couple of people did raise the hairs on the back of our necks. Listen to your instincts. If you feel that something is off, do not be hesitant to separate yourself from them. If you are traveling solo, then be extra careful, and watch your drinks.

    We only had a couple of issues with finding a bed, and you are starting earlier than we did. Public transportation was generally able to fix those problems for us quickly!
     
  11. Cheri SLP

    Cheri SLP New Member

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    You are exactly right! Enjoy the wonderful walk, take your time. Cheri was more worried about the day to day bed issue, and I was more worried about seasonal issues, since November was looming. I wish we would have taken another 5-6 days on the Camino, for our bodies, as well as to enjoy the wonderful villages!
     
  12. Pierre Julian

    Pierre Julian Member

    Joined:
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    Messages:
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    Location:
    London
    Camino(s) past & future:
    St Jean - Finisterre (August 2014)
    Pamplona - Burgos (January 2015)
    Bilbao - Santander (May 2015)
    St Jean - Sahgún (2nd Sept - 20 Sept 2015)
    León - Sarria (26/12/2015 - 04/01/2016)
    Lisbon - Tomar (02/04/16 - 10/04/16)
    Pau - Pamplona (August 2016)
    I started from Bilbao, so don't know the first bit. I didn't have any safety issues. It all felt very safe. There is a good resource on here with lists of albergues on the Northern Camino. I've never had any trouble with finding albergues, but I haven't done it at the height of the season. Btw, don't let people tell you to take the train from Bilbao to the outskirts. I found that section really interesting. I walked along the right bank though, some people go the other way. Also, the albergue in Bilbao is miles off the camino uphill, there is a private albergue in town which is very good, but needs booking. I'm in a rush now, but can get you more information. If you check my posts, I wrote up an account of my experience of travelling from Bilbao to Santander.
     
  13. Pierre Julian

    Pierre Julian Member

    Joined:
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    Location:
    London
    Camino(s) past & future:
    St Jean - Finisterre (August 2014)
    Pamplona - Burgos (January 2015)
    Bilbao - Santander (May 2015)
    St Jean - Sahgún (2nd Sept - 20 Sept 2015)
    León - Sarria (26/12/2015 - 04/01/2016)
    Lisbon - Tomar (02/04/16 - 10/04/16)
    Pau - Pamplona (August 2016)

    Here it is, I wrote it two years ago, so things may have changed, also it is only about the section Bilbao to Santander. I have found the markers and everything much better after Santander during my two trips this year:

    I landed in Bilbao at the end of May having made a sudden decision to to have four days walking on the Camino, with a day either side for travelling. It was all the time I could take from work, the Camino was calling, and Bilbao was the cheapest airport to get to at that time from London.

    I wasn't even sure which route to take when I arrived, but in the morning, got chatting to another pilgrim, and decided to walk the Northern Camino - very spontaneous. I walked Bilbao to Santander in 4 days, in retrospect probably a bit rushed, and I took a couple of walking short cuts, and got quite lost at times, but still a wonderful taster of the Northern Camino.

    I've walked all the C de F, and one section of it twice. The section of the Northern Camino I did was very different. I think that to go expecting it to be just like the French Camino could lead to discouragement!
    Here are some things that I learnt:
    • Markers and signs on the C del N are not often or obvious. I often walked for hours without seeing a yellow arrow, and then there were suddenly 20 in quick succession.
    • Locals do not seem to be much aware of the Camino and when asked - do a lot of speaking and pointing, but it doesn't seem to help much. They are very friendly and kind though.
    • Be prepared to get lost several times as part of the adventure. There are many, many walking track options in each section, which can also add to the confusion, but also make it very varied.
    • There are not so many albergues and they tend to cost a bit more.
    • There are not so many pilgrims, and my friends and I were often walking alone. Not many pilgrim menus, and food can cost a bit more.
    • The German guide book seemed to be quite comprehensive. I had no guide book, (except the one I downloaded from the tourist office, which is quite basic). I would say, always take some kind of a guide book with maps - to save losing time, getting lost and confused!

    Here are some thoughts which may help if you are thinking of doing this section.

    • Bilbao airport - very easy to manage. Regular cheap bus service into Bilbao bus station with a few stops on the way.
    • Great albergue in Bilbao called Pil Pil Hostel, Av. Sabino Arana 14, Bilbao, 48014, Spain, Phone: +34944345544. Easy to book on line, or just turn up (out of season). Very close to bus station, centre of city, and Camino route. Staff very friendly and helpful. Very clean and comfortable albergue - type accommodation, good breakfast. Little expensive as Albergues go, but not too bad.
    • Bilbao is a beautiful city and certainly worth a good look around.
    Day 1 of walking: Bilbao to Pobeña.
    • Some people skip the route out of Bilbao by taking the underground to Portugalete. Don't do that because the old docks, river suburbs ruined industrial sights and warehouses are amazing. I walked past the Guggenheim, crossed the bridge and along the northern bank. A bit quicker and more picturesque than the route along the south (according to locals). Plus you get to cross the amazing Viskaya Bridge later on.
    • a few bars and shops along the way, plenty of photo opportunities.
    • Crossing the Viskaya Bridge into Portugalete is wonderful. Be careful after though, because directions are hard to find, I got very lost in this town, which was great, because it's a lovely town.
    • Watch out in the town of Gallarta, we spent about 2 hours walking in circles, and my friends headed off in a bus, because it was so difficult. Yellow arrows just seem to run out. Walk through the town and get to the N634: El Casal Auzoa. It crosses one of the red route cycle tracks. You need to follow the red route off to the left (once you get down there, you see the yellow arrow!), from there its a beautiful walk to the seaside.
    • Larena, incredible beach.
    • My first night was at Pobeña. It has a donativo hostel, which charges around 7 Euros according to my friends!!! I was running late because of getting lost and enjoying myself, my friends got there before me and got a bed. I arrived at 10pm just as they were closing, the volunteers had kindly waited for me, but wanted to take my gear and put me in bed straightaway! I was hungry so chose to go to the bar nearby, and slept in the bus shelter there. Quite comfortable and safe - but bring insect repellant, lots of mosquitoes!
    Day 2 of walking: Pobeña - Islares
    • Mixture of walking close to highways, and along coastal tracks.
    • Mioño has a wonderful beach, and worth a stay. Great bar with outdoor area looking accross bay, leading out of town, as with many bars on the Northern Camino, it was very expensive, but relaxing.
    • Castro Urdiales, lovely town and beach. We walked past an albergue there.
    • I stayed at the albergue at Islares. Small, clean, insufficient showers and toilets. Breakfast finished well before advertised time. The man in charge there was intent on telling everyone that the albergue in the next town was rubbish. In the end I was too tired to walk much further and stayed. They have tents out the back though, with mattresses. A great option, quiet, comfortable, cheaper and fun. Another lovely beach a little further down the main road with bars and pilgrims menus which were quite expensive, but good food and service.
    Day 3 of walking: Islares - Santoña
    • Another day with many walking track options. We chose to follow the section past Villanueva and the St Julian Hermitage - beautiful ruins.
    • The views of mountains and coast after St Julian's are splendid. Take time to leave the Camino to look at views. At the top of the high hills are marvellous views across Laredo. Climb to the higher rocks with the makeshift flag for great photos and views. At this stage yellow arrows seem to run out and we ended up having to cross farms and hop fences until we found a road into Laredo, which took us past the beautiful ancient church (which was closed - as usual) and down to the beach.
    • Laredo is idyllic. It's long sandy beach was marvellous to paddle along with back packs, and at the end is a wonderful boat crossing to Santoña. If I had had time I would have stayed a couple of days in Laredo.
    • We ate late lunch in Laredo at Bogeda la Casona in Calle Raimundo Revilla, which I wish I could eat at every day. It was packed full of locals, no tourists (but us)! Incredible 3 course meal with wine and extra salad. Great to do before walking the beach.
    • On the boat crossing we were given a flyer for Pension Miramar in Calle General Santiago 23. Phone 639 667 390. We weren't sure about it, but went there, phoned them and a woman came who showed us around. Very clean rooms, and bathrooms, so a bit of a treat. About the same price as an albergue especially as two of us shared. No cooking facilities, but a good little pension. Great town with plenty of bars, beach areas etc.
    Day 5 Santoña - Santander.
    • I realised my time was running out, and needed to get to Santander in order to get back to Bilbao for my flight next day. So I chose the shortest route, which was probably the least scenic, along the CA141 which went directly to Somo. Nevertheless I enjoyed it. Some great little towns and countryside.
    • Somo by the coast is wonderful, and I would go back there again easily.
    • Another boat crossing into Santander which was wonderful.
    • I didn't have much time in Santander once I realised the trains are very infrequent. So I got on one of the wonderful cheap Spanish buses and headed back to Bilbao and stayed my last night in Albergue Pil Pil.
     
  14. colossalsquids

    colossalsquids New Member

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    Camino(s) past & future:
    looking into summer 2017

    I started in Irun 8/10, and have almost every day been unable to get into an albergue because they are full. I know it is the busy season, but thought folks should know. I've been leaving very early and arriving in these towns around 12:00-14:00 each day and they are already full. The Camino "rush"is real - very frustrating. If anyone has tips for albergues that are off the path a bit or not advertised well, I'd appreciate it!
     
  15. Isca-camigo

    Isca-camigo Active Member

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    Various ones.
    It may be like that all the way until the turn off for the primitivo, many pilgrims head that way, but August is the crazy month so it could last all the way on the Norte. Have you thought about booking in advance, if you know where you are going then you can check to see what Albergues have advance bookings, this is what you could be experiencing other pilgrims booking ahead and places being full before you set off even 2-5 days in advance.

    Mike
     
  16. colossalsquids

    colossalsquids New Member

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    looking into summer 2017
    I have been able to book some in advance, but of course the municipales/donativos you cannot reserve, so it becomes a race to those! I believe I will try to stay in more rural areas between larger cities to avoid this.
     

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