2015 Camino

Which Camino to Do This Summer?

September 22, 2014
Camino del Norte

“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





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8 Comments

  • Reply Ignacio Sainz-Ezquerra Pellon February 16, 2015 at 08:10

    Hay cinco lugares Santos en el mundo.
    Jerusalén, Roma, Santiago, Santo Toribio de Liébana y Caravaca de la Cruz.
    Son santos porque los papas les han concedido ese estatus.
    Jerusalen y Roma ya sabemos porque.
    Santiago tiene la tumba de Santiago.
    Santo Toribio de Liébana por tener en mayor trozo de la cruz de Jesucristo.
    Caravaca de la Cruz por tener otro trozo de la Cruz.
    Santo Toribio de Liébana tiene también su año Santo que es cuando la festividad de Santo toribio coincide en domingo. Es en el año 2017.
    El Camino de Santo Toribio es más antiguo que el de Santiago.
    En Santo Toribio hubo un monje que se llamaba Beato de Liébana
    Beato de Liébana ya dijo, antes de que se descubriera la tumba de Santiago, que el apóstol Santiago estaba enterrado en Galicia.
    Este monasterio está en el centro de los Picos de Europa.
    En un lugar rodeado por montañas de más de 2.500 metros.
    Que hacen que sea una fortaleza natural.
    En esta fortaleza natural los arabes no pudierón entrar.
    Y por eso el trozo de la cruz fue traido desde Jerusalen para que no cayera en poder de los Árabes.
    Estamos hablando del año 700 aproximadamente.
    La tumba de Santiago se descubrió un poco después del 800.
    Pues este lugar está en mi tierra.
    Hay que desviarse del Camino del norte unos 40 km hacia el interior de las montañas.
    Y había peregrinos que desde allí se iban hacía el interior de la península para tomar el camino Francés en Mansilla de las Mulas, cerca de León.

  • Reply Ignacio Sainz-Ezquerra Pellon February 17, 2015 at 16:03

    En el año 711 los Árabes desembarcarón en la Península Iberica, En Tarifa. Invadieron rápidamente toda la península, pero quedarón unos pequeños reductos en el norte. Los Picos de Europa y algún otro en los Pirineos. Los Picos de Europa son una fortaleza inespugnable, en donde se refugiaron todos los cristianos. Desde allí comenzaron la reconquista de toda la Península. Durante un periodo de 800 años, poco a poco, fueron recuperando terreno frente a los Árabes. Los Árabes fueron expulsados de la península Ibérica en el mismo año en que Cristobal Colón descubrió América, en 1.492.

    La primera batalla importante se produce en Covadonga muy cerca de Santo Toribio de Liébana. Allí los Árabes son casi aniquilados por unos pocos cristianos. Que forman el reino y eligen como primer rey a Pelayo. A partir de esta derrota los Árabes no se vuelven a atrever a pasar las montañas que los separan del mar Cantábrico y cuando se descubre la Tumba de Santiago los peregrinos que vienen de toda Europa lo hacen por el camino del Norte.

    Cuando avanza la Reconquista y se recupera territorio hasta el límite con el rio Duero es cuando empiezan a llegar los peregrinos a través del camino Francés.

  • Reply Ignacio Sainz-Ezquerra Pellon February 19, 2015 at 14:22

    Hay otro camino que se llama el camino VADINIENSE que consiste en hacer el camino del Norte hasta San Vicente de la Barquera y desde ahí se dirige a Santo Toribio de Liébana y de Santo Toribio conecta con el Camino Frances en Mansilla de las Mulas, poco antes de León.
    Es decir se hace la mitad del Norte y la mitad del Francés.

  • Reply Ignacio Sainz-Ezquerra Pellon February 20, 2015 at 15:54

    En Asturias, pero también en los Picos de Europa, y a unos 40 kilómetros del Camino del Norte a su paso por Ribadesella, se encuentra el Santuario de Covadonga.
    No está muy lejos del de Santo Toribio de Liébana, pero para ir de uno al otro hay que dar un gran rodeo.
    El Santuario de Covadonga está en el lugar en el que se enfrentaron los Árabes y los Cristianos en la batalla de Covadonga.
    Los Árabes entraron en la Península Ibérica en el año 711 y la batalla de Covadonga se produjo en el año 722.
    Los españoles no valoran La trascendencia de esta batalla. En dos sitios de Europa se paró a los Árabes. En Covadonga y en Poitiers(Francia)
    Sin la Batalla de Covadonga Europa podría ser otra cosa hoy y los Estados Unidos también.
    Podrían ser del Islam.
    España fue la que descubrió America y una derrota en esta batalla podría haber cambiado el curso de la Historia de Europa y de América.
    A partir de esta batalla se comienza el periodo de la reconquista que durará 800 años hasta 1492, en que los Árabes son expulsados de la Península por los reyes Católicos.

  • Reply Ignacio Sainz-Ezquerra Pellon March 1, 2015 at 14:56

    WEATHER ON THE WAY NORTH IN SUMMER
    The maximum temperature in the day is 24-25 degrees celsius, about at four.
    Also if you walk near de sea, you will feel a fresh wind that come from Nord-East. The wind come above de water of the sea.
    The wind tahat come from Nord-East is very frecuent.
    If you don’t walk near the sea, the temperature can be more high, but never more high that in the way French.
    In the summer there are more cloudy days that on the way French, and more rainy days that in the way French.
    Is very good for walk when the day is cloudy.

    If you find a mistakes, I sorry. You can to correct it.

  • Reply Rui Portugal Ribeiro March 26, 2015 at 04:19

    Hi, Elissa!

    Let me congrat you for your amazing blog and experience of life and allow me to thank you the sharing!

    Both are real inspiring and, for a Camino lover such as I, reading your plans gives me the thrill of packing up my backpack and start walking to Santiago. You know what i mean…!!! 🙂

    About your plans, as you know, you’ll follow your insticts and your heart and we sincerelly hope that you come to Oviedo heading the Camino Primitivo towards Santiago. About the Primitivo, and after 10 Caminos, i realize that i didn’t felt in any other one such as i did, in this one. Maybe are the surrounding mountains, the fresh air, the amazing breathtaking landscapes, the difficulty, the kindness of the people, the sidra and the strong home made food, the matureness and greatness of the fellow Pilgrims, the Roman Ancient Roads, the fact of being the first one, or… I don’t know… What i know is remarcable!

    About the history of the Camino de Santiago it’s correct that the biggest number of Pilgrims came from the Northern Camino, but, they must pass through Oviedo to worship the image of the Salvador and the holly relics such as Jesus shroud that’s still held in Oviedo’s Cathedrall and then, pursue their path to Santiago, a town that was built in image to Oviedo, by the fact. And, as you know, when Pilgrims come from the South, would walk the Camino do Salvador, from León. And, they did it for safety reasons, too, avoiding the Mours and bandits that were more common in the easier pathes.

    And, this way, the Camino de Santiago changed not only the history of Europe, because, the river of life that was awaked changed entirely the course of the Humankind. Along with the Reconquer, with the help of the Clunny Religious Order, the Camino settled the population, cradle of the great amazing north Spanish towns, by the use of the Franchises, that fixed the foreign traders and increased the business and the knowledge sharing and improved the conditions of life.

    So, the Camino de Santiago is so much more than walking or worshiping or arriving to Santiago.

    Walking a Camino is being able to walk along History, making History and being part of History.

    Makes me feel part of something great, good and healthy and it makes me very proud of the legacy left from our ancestors.

    I guess that’s why something with 1.200 years old is still alive and growing.

    I hope you have a Buen Camino!

    Ultreia!

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