“One of the most important things that I have learned in my 57 years is that life is all about choices. On every journey you take, you face choices. At every fork in the road, you make a choice. And it is those decisions that shape our lives.” ― Mike DeWine
Mere days after completing the Camino Francés from St. Jean to Santiago in July, I began thinking about a 2015 Camino. On August 13th, less than two weeks after leaving Spain, I posted a map of the Camino del Norte or “Northern Way” on my Facebook page and basically wrote, “Who’s in?” There were a number of takers; friends who had also just returned from their first Camino! By August 22, I was looking into flights to Madrid next June. (Many call this obsession, “Camino Addiction.” I refer to it as “The Call of the Camino“.)
|Cérdigo, Cantabrias, Spain (Camino del Norte) Photo Credit: José Antonio Gil Martínez|
Then I began investigating the Camino del Norte in earnest and learned many interesting things. Or at least, I think I learned many things. (I’ve found it difficult to find definitive sourced facts, even about its history). I’ve read in some places that the northern route is the oldest route to Santiago and that it was established in the Middle Ages when Muslims controlled much of the Iberian Peninsula. (As an aside, I am fascinated by this period of Iberia’s history.)
|Camino del Norte Photo Credit: José Antonio Gil Martínez|
Based on what I have read online, my impression is that the Norte is much more physically demanding than the Francés, for although the mountains aren’t as high, there are many more ascents and descents, many of them quite steep, and very little flat terrain. Some claim that between 80 and 90% of the Norte is on pavement while others write that there is no more pavement walking on the Norte than there is on the Francés. And since albergues are fewer and farther between on the northern route, there isn’t as much choice for how far to go and where to stop each day (there are two 25-mile days…ugh, although some of my friends have talked about taking tents, which would provide more options). The distance between Irún and Santiago is approximately 825 kilometers compared to 775 between St. Jean and Santiago on the Francés.
Approximately two thirds of the Norte parallel the northern coast of Spain and while the route isn’t consistently right on the ocean, there are a number of days when beautiful ocean vistas are the norm. Toward the end of the route, there is the option to veer off and do the Primitivo, which is apparently lovely, or if one has time (and I’m planning to spend 50-60 days in Spain) an amazing option could be to walk the Norte in its entirety to Santiago then walk the Primitivo backward from Santiago to Oviedo.
Which route would you do? Would you go back to the Francés or venture forth into the unknown by doing the Norte?
“I did not direct my life. I didn’t design it. I never made decisions. Things always came up and made them for me. That’s what life is.” ― B.F. Skinner