The Camino Norte – Another Way to Santiago

Do you know the way to Santiago? Spain, that is, where the bones of St. James the Apostle are supposed to be buried? Are you a believer, a spiritual person, or someone who’s interested in Spanish culture? Or do you want to hike a long-distance trail?

Symbol of the Camino
Symbol of the Camino

The Camino Norte seems to be the “it” trail according to Mark Cobb, Chris Slater, and Tim Will, the three presenters at the WNC Camino meeting last week.

The Camino Norte runs from Irun to Santiago, about 825 Km, 495 miles. It might have been the original pilgrimage route.

According to Mark, it’s the third most popular route after the Frances and Portuguese trails. One of its many advantages is that the Norte isn’t as crowded as the Frances.

The three pilgrims started on May 16 of this year. Mark estimated that they saw about sixty people a day. About 15,800 people did the Norte in 2015. As for weather, it seemed ideal. They enjoyed temperatures of 60 to 75 and only five (partial) days of rain.

“The Norte is never far from the ocean, so it’s easy to navigate. Just keep the ocean to your right,” Mark said. Having said that, he claims that The Cicerone Pilgrim Route to the Northern Caminos guidebook isn’t as good as Brierley’s classic guide to the Frances. But just follow the trusty shell.

“The best guide to the Norte is in German, so make sure your informal walking group includes German pilgrims,” Mark advised. They collected a group of about ten pilgrims from various nationalities. The Camino is not a solitary experience.

Various Camino Routes
Various Camino Routes

The Norte is a little more physically challenging than the Frances. You hike up on bluffs, down again to the river, and back up again. This route has many river crossings, some on bridges, and some on ferries. At one point, they walked on a live railroad bridge. The German group, who followed their guide meticulously, went around and added a couple of extra miles to their walk.

You start in Basque country and follow the coast for about half the trip through a great shipbuilding and whaling area. Then the trail goes inland. They walked about 12 to 15 miles a day or 15 to 18 miles a day, depending on which presenter you listen to. But they agreed that they got in most days by early afternoon and spent the rest of the afternoon visiting the towns

This was Tim’s first Camino. His connection with the Camino is that he went to the same high school in Dayton as Martin Sheen, the actor who starred in The Way.

“Of course, I didn’t know Martin Sheen in High School, then known as Ramón Antonio Gerardo Estévez. He’s older than me.”

Tim is a believer. He used his five weeks to think and just figure things out. He didn’t elaborate on what things but he said the rosary a lot. When he arrived at Santiago, he hugged the statue of St. James.

The presenters described the classic Norte. At the next meeting, they’ll talk about variations of the trail.

The next meeting of the WNC Pilgrims is Monday October 3 at REI Asheville. You know the drill. You need to reserve your free seat.

Here’s the link. See you there!

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