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Reflections on the del Norte

Alan Pearce

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Invierno October 2022
I got home last Tueseday and have just had my first good nights sleep since then, as I work through the effects of Jet lag. Jet lag is a fact of life that we as Australians have to live with - it took me 42 hours to get from my home to Bayonne on the way over, and a bit less on the way back - if we are to travel to Europe.

Victor and I walked the del Norte from Hendaye [we caught a ferry across the river and by-passed Irun] to Compostela, beginning August 29th and finishing Sept 30th. We had lay days in Bilbao and in Gijon so we walked for 3i days. We were so lucky with the weather as we experienced only 2 days of rain in all that time, and while the south of Spain which was supposed to be dry and warm was having floods, we were wandering along the Atlantic coast in lovely weather.General reflecctions on out journey include the following.

The guide books do not tell you how much harder the del Norte is than the Frances. Last year I walked part of the Arles route to Somport and then the Aragones to Puenta la Reina before joining the Frances. The earlier days of this walk included some quite difficult sections but the del Norte, especially the first section from Irun to Bilbao, is difficult section followed by difficult section. After Santander it does flatten out some what, but Victor and I always felt, often with justification, that another steep climb or descent lay just over the brow of the hill we were currently climbing. Because most of the places you stay in are on the beach, the first part of each days walk is to climb up out of the town, on usually steep paths. To get into Bilbao, we took a lift to get from the suburbs into the old city. To get into Deba, we took two lifts! And to get out of Portugalette we rode an escalator that ran up the hill in the middle of the road. We struck a fair bit of mud in the first ten days and were so lucky that we missed the rain that would have made this part even harder.

More later


Be brave.Life is joyous
John Brierley 2023 Camino Guide
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Alan Pearce

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Invierno October 2022
More reflections.
One of the consequences of the steep going on the del Norte is that it takes much longer to cover a set distance. While 20 km on the Frances would probably mean an early lunch, on the del Norte you would probably not finish that distance until 2 hours later.
Most days when we walked we did not see any other pilgrims, and those we did see were in the distanve and not available for conversation. There are those who love this solitude and I would never criricise them for so doing. Equally I would expect them to accept that I missed the bustle, the energy and the cameraderie of life on the Frances.
Albergues are fewer in number, harder to find and often poorer in standard than on the Frances. There is a quantum leap in standard once you enter Galicia, where most of the albergues are fairly recently built [with some exceptions]. Navarre and Cantabria tourist offices are excellent and they publish super maps of the Camino that traces the path in their regions. Asturia is a black hole as far as maps go and the offices,while not rude, did not seem inclined to want to help the pilgrim. The offices in Galicia were great, but no maps. Generally the signing in Spanish towns directing visistors to the tourist offices was appalling.
Favourite albergues were at Guemes where as we entered the building after a long walk on a hot day we sat down and given glasses of cold water before the formalities took place.
The three of us [at that stage we had teamed up with an Englishman who spoke fluent French, German and Spanish and who had a superb guide book in Spanish - we stuck to him like leeches until he gave us the slip a couple of days later] were given a room with just 2 double bunks - bliss.
The albergue at Miraz was its equal, not least bacause of Maureen and Colin, the hospitaleros. They were very busy as they were full every night and more beds at Miraz are certainly needed. The albergue at Ribadeo is recently built, clean, has a good kitchen and is administered by the local police. We lay on the roof and watched the sun set over the river and the town. The 6 bed albergue [a triple bunks in each of 2 rooms] we stayed in at Palanco was beside a main road so was very noisy but became an enjoyable experience because the owner prepared a lovely dinner of omelette and salad and served it to us with delight. She also provided some cans of beer which we did not realise were 8% alcohol until too late.
More on our trip next time


Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances 2005
Ptgse 2007 Norte 2009 Ingles 2011
Vasco del 2013 Ourense to SdC 2016
Invierno? 2020
Hi Alan
Good to hear your reflections, I too am Australian and jet lag was a problem on returning home- took me 2 weeks to return to "normal". We did the norte in June 2009 -35 days and we also had only a couple of days rain. No wind!! absolutely brilliant weather. There were many more pilgrims in June.....a floating group of 10 - 15 so enough to form friendships and groups and also enough travelling at the same pace as us. So we had enough companions for the meals of the day. Everyone was quite polite in that there were no noisy early risers. The hills and roads were hard, and the marking is also a challenge and on some days time alot of energy and goes into making sure you are on the correct path!!. Galicia was wonderful!!! for the refugios and also the distance between each was pretty good. The Galician hills look really hard on paper, (altitude) but in reality then the hills are quite "easy", and the slopes were reasonably gentle.
It was really great to meet Spanish, german, italian and french walkers..each with their camino guides...and many nights spent comparing the guides for next days walk. On occasions we just followed the others..took a bit of a gamble!!!. The english csj guide was great though.
In all that time we met others who spoke English as a second language, but only one other where English was a first language.... So we now have friends from Spain, Germany, Poland and Quebec -Jill

Alan Pearce

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Invierno October 2022
Hi Jill
Good to hear of your journey as well. It also took me 2 weeks also to get over jet lag last year, not least because I returned home emotionally exhausted. This year I wound down in Ireland for 2 weeks after the walk and was basically over the jet lag in 5 days after getting home.
Some final reflections on the highlights of the camino.
The Guggenheim museum in Bilbao. Words can't do it justice. I can give it no higher praise than to say it is the equal of the Sydney Opera House, which has the added advantage of it's superb setting on Sydney Harbour. The Guggenheim is sited on a river wirh no natural features to enhance It's appearance, but it does not need them. Just astonishing.
Cudillero. A beautiful village set around a lovely natural harbour. Picture postcard stuff.
Santona. The albergue and the youth hostel were both full because the was a festiva in town, so we were offered a tent out the back of the youth hostel, Victor had his best sleep of the whole journey. We used the facilities of the hostel for washing and showering.
Llanes, where if the street sign said Tourist Office 150 m. and pointed to the right, it meant you had to walk 150 m. stright ahead, and then turn right! Very confusing. It took us forever to find it, and then it was shut until 5 PM. So what's new?
Ribadosello, where we stayed at the youth hostel. We opened up the shutters on our bedroom and were rewarded with a panoramic view of the beach, and we were lulled to sleep that night by the sound of the surf.
Sobrado, where we stayed in the Monastory. Others on this forum have not enjoyed it as much, but we loved it. A German music teacher with a spring heeled step and a maniacal laugh played his soprano saxaphone in the chapel. The acoustics were fabulous and it was a memorable experience.
The scenery. I must have been too tired to appreciate it at the time, but since I got back I have had prints made of my photos, and we really saw some wonderful things. My friends are much impressed with Spain!
That's it for me. My daughter gets married next October, we need a new kitchen, and my patient wife deserves some attention. It is unlikely that I will do another camino, but that thought does not make me sad. I have done 2 caminos which is 2 more than most people ever will. I have been blessed.

Alan Pearce

Be brave. Life is joyous.


Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
CF(2000), Puy (03), VDLP(04), Arles(05), Paris/London(06), Norte(07),Vezelay(09), Levante(10),Madrid(13),CF(15),CF(16)
You can feel peace of mind and a great sense of fulfillment in Alan's words....
This is what the Camino has given to all of us. We all have been blessed..
On different paths, the Camino continues...
Ultreya !!!
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New Member
Hello Alan
I have read with interest your comments and observations "Reflections on the del Norte",
I will be walking the "North Way" in 2010. :lol:
Not only are your writings interesting, but noting you are from Australia and that Cowra is my birth place, :shock: it seems natural that I make contact with you. A little coincidence is at play, maybe you would like to contact me :
PS I have lived in Denmark for many years.

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