This will be our third Camino. This route begins in Irun, northern Spain, and ends in Santiago de Compostela. It boasts amazing scenic views as it follows the coast for the better part of 620km (372 miles). There’s a possibility at Villaciosa to divert to the Camino Primitivo, but right now, the intent is to keep to the Norte. The total length of Camino del Norte is in the range of 825km, we will have ascended a total of 16,784 meters and descended 17,207 meters. To put latter’s total elevation gains/losses (33,991 meters) of Norte into perspective, a round trip to Mt Everest Summit from Base Camp is 6,972 meters! Of course, the thin air at Mt Everest is much more demanding on the human body!
We had not expected to undertake a third Camino after completing the Frances in 2019. But there were un-mistakeable signs, three of them actually, to consider another Camino. And so we did, and here we are.
We will be in London for a nephew’s wedding prior to this Camino (fattening up before the walk?). From London, we fly into Bilbao, after which we will catch local transport to Irun. Buses or trains are very convenient and cheap transportation modes within a country. The fact that the USD has strengthened significantly against the Euro over the past couple of months has helped (I did purchase some Euros earlier in the year, but given we will be on the Continent for two months, it will all be used!).
The preparation drill is per our other Camino blogs (Portugues and Frances). Hiking various trails and mountains, breaking in new shoes, getting some new gear, losing some pounds! One new preparatory element for this Camino is using GPX files which is read by Wikiloc on both my iPhone and Apple Watch. This allows us to divert from the yellow-arrowed routes into more coastline paths. Thus, it’s likely that we will end up walking more than the published mileage.
One thing we did learn from our preparatory hikes is the need to get some electrolytes. Joon had the misfortune to get heat stroke during a hike on the Skyline Ridge Trail in Mt Rainier National Park. Drinking water only in a dry environment just increases the amount of salt loss from the body!
We begin our walk on Wednesday Sept 28, 2022. There are guidebooks and Internet resources. One such plan for the Norte breaks this route up into 32 stages, with the idea that one can walk one stage per day. Stages generally run from 25km to 32km, with the highest stage being 38km (latter would have smaller elevation changes). Pilgrims do plan rest days in between, to rest the body and soul, and benefit from that particular stop’s attractions.
We find it best to begin the Camino with shorter distances to get into a walking mindset and condition the body. Thus, we will take 2 days to cover the first stage. This works well too as the end of stage 1 is San Sebastian, a town that has much to explore. Thus, by spending the night at Pasajes de San Juan at the end of Day 1, we will only need to walk three hours the next morning to reach San Sebastian on Day 2. This leaves most of Day 2 free in San Sebastian. Contrast walking from Irun to San Sebastian in one day, and arriving in the evening. That hardly leaves anytime in San Sebastian (unless one opts to spend two nights) before departing the following morning for Stage 2.
Of course, some pilgrims have a different strategy to have their stage towns different from what’s commonly published. The benefit is there is less competition for lodgings in those in-between stage towns/villages.
If you tend to plan every vacation to the detail, it can be worrisome to not have reserved your lodging every night. But many pilgrims do just that, they walk with their backpacks, and go as far as they are ‘moved to’ that day. And then search for lodgings. There’s a common saying among pilgrims, “The Camino Provides.” And in 99% of the times, it does. When all fails, pilgrims either walk on or take a cab to the nearest available lodging. In latter case, they then cab back the next morning, and resume their walk.
Finally, we are really looking forward to the simplicity and spirituality of the Camino life. To leave our worldly concerns behind and be immersed in the One who has blessed us so mightily.