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Santiago in two days

AJGuillaume

Pèlerin du monde
Camino(s) past & future
Via Gebennensis (2018)
Via Podiensis (2018)
Voie Nive Bidassoa (2018)
Camino Del Norte (2018)
It's raining and cold in Arzúa, and we're comfortably ensconced in our room, so I have time to reflect on the last two months.
After leaving Switzerland on 9 June, and walking the Via Gebennensis, the Via Podiensis, the Voie Nive Bidassoa, we started the Norte from Hendaye on 3 September. We aimed at doing an average of 15 to 16 km per day, so that my better half, Rachel, could enjoy the Camino.
Overall, we're very happy with our experience. Walking in France previously gave us a lot of training for the ups and downs of the Norte.
We followed the advice of many experienced pilgrims on this forum, and took coastal alternatives every time we could.
We also avoided Gijón, and went down to Oviedo. After all, we were also following the Spanish saying: "Quien va a Santiago y no al Salvador, visita al criado y no al Señor".
We had been warned that there would be a lot of walking along main roads, with cars whizzing past. We didn't have any issues with that:
a) as mentioned before, we took a lot of coastal alternatives
b) using Wise Pilgrim's app as well as the Buen Camino app, we could see on the map smaller and quieter roads which went parallel to the main roads. We didn't blindly follow the Camino markings
c) on advice from this forum, we bought hi-vis vests (the fluoro type) and put those over our backpacks. The effect was that all trucks and cars, without exception, gave us a wide berth.
d) we put reflective red and white tape on our poles to enhance the visibility, and when walking along main roads, l would hold my walking poles horizontally, the pointy bit sticking out on the road. Together with our hi-vis vests, this had a great effect: no cars came anywhere close to us. All those BMWs, Audi's, Porsche's drivers didn't want stripes along the side of their cars.
We had heard of 'Camino families' on the Frances, and we knew we weren't going to experience something similar on the Norte. Often we would be walking just the two of us for a whole day, but we would meet other pilgrims in the evening. As our stages were shorter than most, we would not necessarily see these pilgrims again, but every encounter was enriching, and we met fantastic friendly people from many places.
We would share our experience of our epic walk, and receive encouragement, but we also met other pilgrims who were walking from even further than us, from Belgium and Austria.
We had no major issues with our feet and legs, although I had had problems with shin splints two weeks after leaving Switzerland. Help from this forum helped me overcome the pain. Understandably, we do have weary feet at the end of the day, and sometimes we came close to plantar fasciitis, but one would expect this after walking 2000km over 131 days. The great news is that we never had blisters!
We stopped for rest days in Bilbao, in Santander (to see the El Castillo caves), in Santillana del Mar (to see Altamira), and in Oviedo. In hindsight, I wish we had spent an extra day in San Sebastian, Castro Urdiales, and a few other places. We had pre-planned all our stages to ensure we were never in a position where we would have to keep walking at the end of the day. The negative side of this was less flexibility, but the positive side outweighed the negative: no stress. Most pilgrims we met planned on a day by day basis, but we could not do that: personal health circumstances meant we needed certainty. When we mentioned this to those we met, we never received a negative comment or judgement.
In two days, we will be in Santiago. I would like to personally thank a few people on this forum for their help in making this an incredibly wonderful experience:
@peregrina2000 for her in depth knowledge of the Norte. Thank you Laurie!
@Dave and @Kosmos for sharing their alternative coastal routes: absolutely awesome!
@davebugg for helping me get over my shin splints: there's a place in heaven for you!
@t2andreo for helping us with great advice when we couldn't fold our BD Z poles: they fold now!
For all of you thinking about doing the Norte: just do it! We're not old but we're definitely not young (in our 60's), and if we can do it, anyone can. The Norte is fantastic, and all the negatives I read about this Camino are just a question of expectations and mindset. Walk the Norte with an open mind and you'll love it!
We kept a blog, which you're welcome to read. Please be patient, there's hundreds of photos, as it includes our whole journey from home in Australia, and it takes a while to load: www.polarsteps.com/AndrewGuillaume
By no means are we experts on the Norte, there are others on this forum who have walked it more than once, but we're happy to share our views and experience.
Buen Camino!
Andrew and Rachel
 
Camino(s) past & future
2016
1st Primitivo 2018
Fantastic, really great encouragement Your trip sounds amazing I loved reading your updates Congrats on no blisters. I’m clinging to every bit of news and updates from this route as I’m hoping to try Primitivo in a week and you’ve given me renewed hope Thanks Enjoy the rest of your way
 

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