Category Archives: Camino/Chemin de St. Jacques

Camino del Norte – detailed days and lodging

Beyond the beautiful scenery, culture and food, the Camino del Norte requires some planning. Or to be more precise, I felt that we needed a plan. As they say:

You need a plan to deviate from.

Guidebook

The only guidebook that we could find was the Pilgrim Route: the Northern Caminos by Laura Perazzoli and Dave Whitson.

Using the daily stages in the book, I created a spreadsheet of day-by-day locations, distances and altitude gains. The book had 31 stages, i.e. 31 walking days to Santiago.

I wasn’t comfortable with some of their distances. Some days were over 24 miles; on other days, we would only walk 9 miles.

My feet – Camino 2017

Also I knew something might happen: a broken piece of equipment or an injury. So we added two extra days. But amazingly, nothing disastrous happened.

We were able to alter some destinations. We started walking a day earlier and shortened some days.

I kept track of all the lodging: albergues, hostels, pensions, hotels.

Here’s the list of towns and places we stayed in.

A few accommodations were so outstanding that I gave them a star (*). But it’s my version of outstanding. To me, it’s all about memorable people. I enjoy interacting the people who run the lodging.

Camino maps

Look at my stages, change it to suit you, and Buen Camino.

PS As I write this, I received the package that I mailed home from Santiago. It contained maps and literature for several other Caminos.

 

Camino del Norte – Finisterre, the end of the world

Beth and I had arrived in Santiago on the Camino del Norte. But our adventure wasn’t over. After a day of wandering around Santiago and going to the pilgrim’s mass, we got back on the trail heading to Finisterre (or Fisterra, in the Galician language), the end of the world as believed by the Romans. It was another 73 miles, which we did in five days. This time, we took our time.

Emigrant from Negreira

First stop was the town of Negreira, shut tight when we arrived on a Saturday afternoon.

But one sculpture, placed as we walked out of town, was worth a thousand words. The statue shows a man leaving his family in Galicia to find work in the new world. The boy tries to grab his dad to get him to stay.

Galicians have emigrated throughout the world, mostly in South America. Life was tough in the 19th and early 20th century here in Galicia, as land got divided up continuously. A statue with a similar sentiment is in the Finisterre as well.

Heartbreaking. You can’t eat scenery.

The walk to Finisterre can be done by going to Muxia first or to Finisterre first. We elected to leave Finisterre last – after all it is the end of the world. On this trek, we met a whole new set of people, including most who walked the Camino Frances and those who are just walking this loop.

Sign to Muxia

It’s all very clear. On a roundabout, we reached two sets of arrows and we took the right to Muxia.

Still past this sign, on the way to Muxia, I got lost for the first and only time on the Norte. At one point, I encountered three roads emanating from the one I was on and none had a sign.

I went back and forth for what seemed an hour. Finally, unlike the Robert Frost poem, I took the road most traveled.

This is where I had the most chance to find people and get back on the trail. It was the right decision, though I had wasted a lot of extra time on what was already a long, long day.

In Muxia

Muxia is a tourist spot in its own right.

After dinner, we walked to the point to catch the sunset.

Like most churches, the church facing the sea, the Virxe da Barca sanctuary, was closed. Close by stands a spectacular modern sculpture.

From Wikipedia, “A Ferida” by Alberto Bañuelos is a sculpture that symbolizes the wound that has been done to the sea by the spilling of 66,000 tons of oil when the Prestige tanker broke apart off the coast of Muxia on November 13, 2002. The sculpture is 11 meters high, and weights over 400 tons.

Finally, Finisterre, a lively town with many restaurants, shops, and boats. Most visitors are not hikers or pilgrims but come by bus or car. The beaches are spectacular and I even put my feet in the water at the town beach. My feet were in bad shape.

We planned a short hiking day because in the early evening, we walked from town to the lighthouse and the never-ending sea. See the photo on top. Contrary to rumors, you can’t burn anything on the spot. Yes, Cape Finisterre really did look like this.

On the bus the next morning back to Santiago. The end of our pilgrimage.

580.3 miles, 15.7 miles average, 37 hiking days

Camino del Norte – Finally Santiago

Mileage post

Getting over the bridge into Ribedeo in Galicia doesn’t mean that we were at the end of our walk.  We had 186.917 kilometers (over 112 miles).

Even though Beth and I can handle numbers, we were not be keeping track of the remaining mileage with three decimal place precision.

But the Norte in Galicia has these concrete posts consistently on the trail. Not all have the mileage but all have the all-important arrow.

Now I can be bribed with clear, accurate signage, which is why I decided that Galicia is the best section of the Camino del Norte.

Galician is also a regional language, connected to Portuguese. All official signs are in two languages – Spanish and Galician. The area isn’t wild; it has well-tended farms and fields and fields of kale. We found kale in everything. See the top photo.

The people seem friendlier, even though they don’t speak English any better than those on the rest of the trail. Maybe they’re more tuned into the Camino del Norte. Better signage, more water spouts…

I think I’ve lost it – language-wise. I meet an old man with a big “Buen Camino” smile. A water fountain is close to his house, so I say

Gracias pour this. My brain has Spanish, French, English indigestion.

Albergue Villa Martin

The first unforgettable hostel in Galicia was Albergue San Martin, in Miraz, an impeccable hostel run by volunteers of the Confraternity of St. James, a British group.

This is the start of the 100K (or 60 miles). To get your Compostella, your certificate, you have to prove that you’ve walked the 60 miles going into Santiago by getting two stamps a day in your pilgrim passport.

The volunteers at the “British Albergue” speak English. They also make you a nice cup of tea as you sign in. I’ve missed a proper cup of tea with real boiling water.

No one should miss staying at the Sobrado Monastery. The imposing monastery was founded in 952 CE, though the building is more recent.

If you’re lucky, Brother Lawrence, originally from London, will fill you in on the history of the monastery. He’s so intelligent, well-spoken, friendly and open – a character from the Camino that will stay with me for a long time.

And then, the Camino del Norte meets the Camino Frances for the last 24 miles.

What was a trickle of hikers have turned into a river.

Cafes are open at 8 am, more quirkiness on the trail, because there are more people on the trail. Art, graffiti, food, water fountains are plentiful. The trail is wide and on dirt.

A person who lives on the trail posted numerous pithy quotes, which he/she thinks pertains to pilgrims on the Frances.

Finally in Santiago.

In Santiago

People are giddy with their accomplishments – good for them. We pose for  the standard photo in front of the Cathedral.

But our hiking adventure isn’t over.