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The Ten Worst Things About The Camino Del Norte

Discussion in 'Camino del Norte' started by WorldTrekker, Jan 26, 2016.

  1. WorldTrekker

    WorldTrekker Member

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    10 Language: it would be wise to have some Basque (Aupa) and Spanish (Hola) in your repertoire of Camino phrases. In addition, you will find that there are not many people on the route who speak English as a first language. For my trek, one Irish and one American. Of course, some may find this a good thing ;)
    9 Cost: in some areas mainly the more touristy spots the prices were quite a bit higher. Overall, I found the Camino cost comparable to the France's.
    8 Connects to Frances: two words "culture shock"! :eek:
    7 Way marking: the arrows and shells are not as abundant as other routes. Although the route is generally well marked some places remain confusing and not well posted. I guess it's enough but at times it can be lacking and cause some consternation.
    6 Albergues: not as many as the other Camino's I've walked and not a lot of beds in them.
    5 Seasonal: some albergues operate only in summer.
    4 English guidebooks: from what I experienced the best guides were written in German and French. Not coincidentally, those were the majority of hikers on the Norte.
    3 Barking dogs: Not kidding here. There are lots of angry dogs on this trail. They are usually the ones chained up or fenced off. The ones that are not, usually don't have much to say. Once I got into Galicia it did quiet down.
    2 Difficulty: When calculating the terrain and distance, it was the hardest of all my Camino's. If you found the France's routing difficult this "way" will test your limits. For instance, I seen a lot of pilgrims skip ahead or quit. On other Camino's I felt little respect for hikers who did such things. On this Camino I had empathy for them. For myself, I prefer the challenge and enjoyed the demands this hike made on me. Lastly, out of the pilgrims I met who started in Hendaye/Irun, I would guess that about twenty percent walked every step (+3 boats rides) to Santiago de Compostela.
    1 Routing: To say the routing is suspect is to be kind. Not one person I met walked the route as it is set up. Often, you hiked into ambiguity. I walked and talked with some knowledgeable local people. Seems like a lot of politics (surprise) came into play on this routing. For example, towns that were once frequented on the northern route have been bypassed to other towns that have stronger political influence. Most pilgrims opt for the GR/E9 routes whenever available. This is a great idea and it provided some of my most memorable moments. In the guidebooks you will have numerous scenarios on how to reach a destination. Lastly, I cannot tell you how many times I was turned off the trail to make an unnecessary u-shape that would lead right back to where I was walking only a few meters forward. ARGH! :mad:

    In conclusion, these really are just small things that can be overcome. This Camino is worth every ounce of energy I used to walk it. This is not intended to offend anyone and I plan on doing a follow up of my 10 Best.
     
  2. calowie

    calowie Member

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    Last May-June we walked the Camino del norte and then el primitivo. So, in response to your comments on your worst 10:

    10 Language- we speak South American spanish and never had a problem. We had to talk with lots of people to help us out when we got lost....but that was fun!
    9 Cost. As our first camino- it was normal! But we paid 6-8 euros/night in albergues and 10-15 in private pensiones
    8 Connect to Frances: Our culture shock was joining the Norte from the primitivo. Our daily view of 10-12 people on el primitivo became 40-50 at Sobrado Los Monxes, and then again once we met the French at Santa Irene. It became a highway.
    7) Way markings- we never had a problem except leaving Deba because some local guy was going out and erasing all the arrows. Others we missed because of us- not hem! They were there, we were not alert!
    6) Albergues- we never had a problem- but on two occasions the public albergue ( 6 beds and 12 beds) was full and we stayed in a private one down the block. Otherwise we never considered problems!
    5) Seasonal- only once (San Sebastian) did we have problems
    4) Guidebooks. Yes, in my blog we talk about the great, precise German guidebooks. Our meandering English guide helped us require conversations and discussions with locals, which enhanced the experience!
    3) Dogs- everywhere. Get used to it-. One followed us for 5 days across the hospitales- left him in Lugo wth the association that cares for lost animals.
    2 Difficulty. It was the only camino we knew! But others we walked with said it was harder than the French. And the person who gave us the compostela in Santiago said that these were the two hardest caminos. All I can say is that we absolutely loved it! The ups and downs, the views of mountains, ocean, fields, quiet time to reflect was tremendous!
    1) Routing- we followed the "official" routes some days, got lost and did extra Km others- we ended up where we wanted to be and thoroughly enjoyed the journey!

    Now for the best things:

    1) Geography- tremendous trails, up, up, up to tops of mountains, down, down, down the coast. Fields, animals- absolutely tremendous.
    2) People - the residents of Spain treated us so well- stopping us and asking questions, pointing out the fact that we were not on the route, helping with questions, offering help...
    3) fellow peregrinos- we ended up with a core of people we sort of walked with - some days they got lost, or we did- sometimes we were at the same albergue , sometimes not- but overall a solid group that carried along the slower injured ones when they were lagging. Great morale boosting.
    4) Albergue workers- tremendous support and knowledge- some cooked, others just gave sage advice- but all helped us along the journey. Great discussions especially in Guemes.
    5) The time, opportunity and means to take time off from our daily grind and commitments to walk 850 Km in 30 days. When we look at the chaos we see around us in the world, we really are fortunate. We still give each other a hug and simply state... we are so lucky! Count your blessings all who have had the chance to spend time on the Camino!
     
  3. Edmund McCullough

    Edmund McCullough New Member

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  4. Edmund McCullough

    Edmund McCullough New Member

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    There is no doubt about it Camino Del Norte is a different ball game altogether ! Last August I walked from Irun to Ribadeo. August is not a good time to take on Camino Del Norte.You will find that almost all of The Albergues are booked up in advance. Hundreds if not thousands of holiday makers are in the mix for what limited affordable accommodation is available. Don't be at all surprised to see a sign saying " ALBERGUE COMPLETO " This translates as " GO AWAY WE HAVE NO BEDS ! "
    Camino Del Norte Albergues are a mixed bag, they can either be very good or on the other side of the spectrum they can be simply atrocious. The Albergue in Playa de Poo in the Llanes district is simply to be avoided at all costs. I was charged extra for breakfast however the next morning the person in charge could not be wakened from his sleep and all the pilgrims had to leave without the breakfast. I am fairly confident I can identify the smell of dope !
    Another nightmare unfolded in The Albergue in El Franco, the man in charge got drunk in the middle of the afternoon, he collapsed in a heap and fell into one of the bunks and remained there comatose for the next four hours. This was before he threatened to shoot any pilgrims he caught snoring in his Albergue. It was something akin to a spaghetti western without the spaghetti ! all that was missing was the music !
    All in all be careful about The Albergues on Camino Del Norte in the month of August, that is if you are lucky enough ton get into one
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 16, 2016
  5. RJS

    RJS Well-Known Member

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    Photo of the wonderful Refugio at Calzada with all our fellow Peregrino’s sitting outside



    I split my own Camino Norte into two sections, the first from Irun to Santander which I walked in August and September and the second from Santander to Santiago de Compostela which I walked in May and June.



    I have to say my own experiences were completely different from these written above, I stayed in the Refugio in Irun (Friendly but crowded) the Refugio in San Sebastian (Very friendly and very nice) The Refugio in Zarauz, (New friendly and very nice)The overflow part of the Refugio in Deva (Not ideal but adequate) The Refugio at Marquina-Jemein (Wonderful) The Albergue in Guernica (Albergue Municipal not a Refugio de Peregrino - Nice Refugio but a bit of a bedbug problem when we stayed) The Refugio in Lezama (Wonderful) The Refugio de Peregrino in Bilbao (Excellent) The Refugio in Castro Urdiales (Very Good)

    More details can be found on the above Refugio’s as well as the small hotels that I stayed on http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/50192/42d90/3/

    I stayed in the above between the 24th August and 8th September and reading the above post, you would think I was on a different Camino !



    My second leg was in May and June, I again stayed at lots of Refugio’s and always received a warm and friendly welcome – More details can be found on http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/50192/bc/3/
     
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  6. Magwood

    Magwood Super Moderator Donating Member

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    @calowie can you provide a link to your blog please?
     
  7. calowie

    calowie Member

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    Our Camino del norte and primitivo were absolutely tremendous. Few problems in albergues except for the snoring and some people using phones for alarms and as flashlights. No complaints at all! Our blog is:
    https://carlosandmick.wordpress.com/
    Let us know if you have detailed questions!
     
  8. WorldTrekker

    WorldTrekker Member

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    Edmund, that sounds horrific. August is a month I stay out of all of Europe. When I get an opportunity, I will list the places I stayed and critique them. I travelled in April of last year and enjoyed almost all my stays.
     
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  9. Dinah

    Dinah Member

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  10. Dinah

    Dinah Member

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    Agreed. One should never go to Europe in August!
     
  11. El Condor 2014

    El Condor 2014 Active Member Donating Member

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    No , it translate to " ALbergue Full " just like in any accommodation in the world !
     
  12. Wily

    Wily Camino Francés 2016; Camino Portugués 2017

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    Hey Condor - I'm pretty sure Edmund was just being sarcastic or using a little tongue-in-cheek humor regarding the word completo. Of course, it might be how one feels after walking 30 km. only to find there's no room in the inn. I don't think he meant any offense by the translation.
     
  13. El Condor 2014

    El Condor 2014 Active Member Donating Member

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    Thanks @Wily , point taken ! , Just wanted to clarify the translation for future first time pilgrims Forum readers !
     
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