Camino Del Norte 2017

June - July 2017
A 29-day adventure by Mick Read more
  • 30footprints
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  • 29days
  • 169photos
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  • 566kilometers
  • Day 1

    Camino Del Norte -Day One

    June 9, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ☁️ 20 °C

    Camino Del Norte - Day One
    Irun to San Sebastián
    Distance 26.5km
    Total Ascent 710m Descent 720m (And don't my legs know it!)

    First of all, thank you very much for supporting me in raising some money for the BIRD charity. See my just giving page for details.
    Today began with catching a 7.30am bus from Bilbao to Irun on the French/Spanish border. A great journey but made me realise how hilly this route is going to be. The bus wound it's way through the narrow valleys with villages, farms and industries all jostling for space. There were lots of low dark clouds hanging on top of the hills.
    Finally arrived at Irun station at 9.15am so after a quick cup of coffee and a croissant, off I went on my merry way trying to find the yellow arrows to begin the Camino Del Norte.
    It is only 860km to Santiago De Compostela. I must be off my head.
    I promptly got lost until a friendly alberque manager found me and put me on the path.
    The guide book makes it sound easy. It's not!
    It does say that the first day is probably the most spectacular. It offers incredible views from the high ridge and passes Neolithic dolmens, medieval towers and castle ruins.
    The only problem is that you have to get on the ridge. Almost 700m straight up.
    Thankfully, it was slightly overcast which kept the temperature at around 21c. I, however, was at gas mark 6 for most of the day.
    It was an amazing day with stunning views. A long climb out of Irun followed by a long descent into Pasal Donibane where I caught a small ferry (70 cents) across the harbour with some other perigrinos.
    The numbers of pilgrims are increasing on the Del Norte as the Camino France's appears to be getting busier. 368,000 walked the Camino France's last year.
    After crossing the harbour, it was another long slog up the other side for 700m. I dragged my sorry body up another ridge and back down the other side into the beautiful seaside town of San Sebastián/Donostia. I wound my way through the town trying to find the Albergue with no luck and finally decided that life was too short and I was too tired, so I have checked into a lovely hotel.
    Washed and admin done. I am about to go and find ANYTHING to eat.

    Don't expect future blogs to be so long.

    Do donate to my just giving page for B.I.R.D. It may encourage me to post more pictures etc. Thank you for your support and messages of encouragement. I have a feeling I am going to need them.....😎
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  • Day 2

    Camino Del Norte - Day 2

    June 10, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    Day 2 - Camino Del Norte
    San Sebastián to Getara
    Distance 25km
    Total ascent/descent 520m

    Another hot day 26C. I was gas mark 8 judging by the amount of water I drank today. 6 litres would be a good guess.
    I set off from my hotel in San Sebastián at 7am and walked along the promenade to be meet by the aftermath of the Spanish kids partying all night. They were still stood outside some of the now closed bars. .
    As usual, the yellow Camino arrows disappeared. Eventually got on the way to be met with a 500m ascent. Just the sort of thing you need first thing in the morning.
    Once on the ridge, I walked on minor undulating roads and through fantastically shaded woods. I met a few peregrinos and chatted briefly. I also walked briefly with two English ladies who decided to experience a short walk on the Camino. They seemed in awe of actually meeting a peregrinos. Just as well that they were stood upwind of me as they would not have enjoyed the essence of a pilgrim.
    Mainly views of the Bay of Biscay followed until after another long descent, I arrived in a lovely village called Orio (not the chocolate biscuit).
    I stopped for a brief lunch and followed the estuary to the sea. You've guessed it, another flipping steep incline. By the time, I got to the top I was absolutely knackered and the full heat of the day was beginning to take it's toll.
    I decided that this was far enough as I was outside a camp site recommended in my guidebook. Alas, flipping guide books lie. No places for peregrinos on the campsite.
    There was a stunning view from the campsite over Zarautz and onto Getaria around the other end of the bay.
    I followed the steep drop down onto the beach front and made my mind up to walk another 7km to Geteria. I already knew that all the albergues in Zarautz were full. The promenade was beautiful and the beach was packed out. I got a lot of funny looks and the Spanish have a habit of bumping into me. They generally lose particularly with my 10kg rucksack.
    I followed the coastal path to Geteria and got into this stunning town just as a triathlon was starting out. An amazing site and included in my photographs.
    I wound my now weary way through the town towards the albergue and you guessed it again....another steep incline.
    I arrived at 2.30pm after 7.5 hours of walking. The kind hospilado gave me a wonderful chilled slice of melon.
    Admin sorted. Clothes washed and hanging out to dry. Feet are okay. Small blister on each foot which I am not surprised at considering the amount of time on roads and cobbles.
    Planning my next section tomorrow. Should be around 25km passing a town called Deba. I will likely carry on a further 5Km to a hamlet called Ermita Del Calvario (great names).

    Weather is showing 26C again tomorrow and it is Sunday so food may be scare.

    Hasta luego.

    Again, thank you for supporting B.I.R.D

    If you haven't please think about it. Go to the just giving site under Mick Byrne and it explains why I am doing this.
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  • Day 3

    Camino Del Norte - Day 3

    June 11, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    Camino Del Norte - Day 3
    Distance 22km. Time taken 5.5 hours.
    Total ascent/descent 640m

    I walked around Getaria last night. It was a small bustling town. I enjoyed a few pinoxs and watching the basques playing handball in the square. A lovely atmosphere.
    I returned to the albergue to find the place packed with Spanish kids. Extra beds were put up and confusion reigned. Thankfully, I had all my admin completed.
    Eventually, everything settled down and I was in bed for 9.30pm. Walking in this heat is exhausting.
    If any of you have stayed in an albergue, you will remember that unique small of sweaty clothes and kit everywhere.
    It was a very warm night but I had a fitful sleep until someone's alarm went off at 5.30am. Someone else's alarm went off every 10 minutes. By 6am, I lost the will to stay in my bunk. I simply had a quick wash and was out the door into the dawn and fresh air.
    It was a beautiful day and I could feel the temperature rising.
    As usual, it was a case of struggling up and down hills all day.
    I have fallen into the usual perigrino routine, stopping for lots of water breaks and consuming my cheese and bread sat on a picnic table.
    Eventually, I arrived in a beautiful town called Zumaia and marvelled at the 15th century Church of San Pedro.
    I continued on my merry way and struck up a conversation for the next few kilometres with a German kid walking the Camino before starting nursing training. She was delighted to hear about my daughter path to nursing.
    As usual, the day involved walking with Italians , Spanish and even a fellow countryman.
    I finally arrived in Deba around noon and initially planned to carry on for another 5km to an albergue in the middle of nowhere. This involved another 60m ascent onto the ridge out of town. Everyone seemed to be in the same frame of thought. We all checked into the Albergue de Pergrinos for 5 euros.
    It is actually part of the train station and bang in the middle of town.
    A number of us shared a washing machine and dryer to get our kit cleaned. All admin done, I am off to explore Deba.
    Tomorrow, I will leave the coast for a time to make my way to Markina-Xemein. It is a remote part of the Camino with 930km over 23km with little or no facilities.
    In another three days, I will be in Bilbao.

    Thank you for your support and donations to B.I.R.D
    It means a lot to me and the small charity I am supporting.

    Buen Camino.

    Chris, a big thank you for your generous donation. 😎
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  • Day 4

    Camino Del Norte - Day 4

    June 12, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    Camino Del Norte - Day 4

    Deba - Markina Xemein
    Distance 23km
    Total ascent 915m
    Total descent 830km.

    I wandered around Deba which is a small basque provincial town. I had a wonderful squid and octopus salad followed by a hake dinner. (Note Jackie Crank - no beer)
    The town's beach was lovely. Lots of surfers but a very strong tidal way. Some of the pilgrims went for a swim. I paddled. Lovely on well worn feet.
    The Albergue was full last night but excellent facilities. All for 5 euros. They even turned away a large group of Spanish kids. I thought we were on a winner but it was very warm overnight. Someone beat even me in the snoring competition. I used my anti snoring device so was quiet as a church mouse. The other guy nearly got lynched.
    As a result of the snore fest, most of us in my room were up and out the door at 6.15am.
    We left the coast for a few days to walk inland.
    Unfortunately, it was lashing rain. It did have one advantage of feeling fresh and cool. I set off alone and straight away into a long steep ascent.
    The rain continued most of the day. So no pictures of the landscape as it was either raining heavily or I was in the cloud base.
    I stopped around 9am for a breakfast of bread, cheese and chorizo. There were no refreshments points on this entire section so all peregrinos were advised to stock up. There weren't many watering points either.
    I eventually ended up walking with my fellow Irishman again and chatting to peregrinos from Italy, USA, Holland and Spain.
    Sections of the path were steep and very muddy. My shoes have taken a battering. We eventually got into Markina Xemein around 1am. We sat and lay on our rucksacks across the road while we waited for the Albergue to open at 3pm.
    We all shared the remains of our food on a poncho. It was interesting finding out about other people's stories. Most peregrinos are walking sections because of time and work constraints. We have already picked out each other out who are aiming to walk the whole Camino.
    The hospilardos have been kind and really looked after us. This Albergue is by donation only and breakfast included. All my admin is completed.
    I have included photographs of Deba beach and tonight's stop in Markina Xemein.
    Tomorrow, we walk to Gernike. During the Spanish civil war, Franco used Hilter and Mussolini's airforces to destroy the town.
    Hopefully, the weather will improve. My feet are holding up well. One blister only but my shoes have taken a battering. Looking at the soles, they MIGHT get me to Santiago?

    Thank you for your generous support of B.I.R.D.
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  • Day 5

    Camino Del Norte - Day 5

    June 13, 2017 in Spain ⋅ 🌙 19 °C

    Camino Del Norte - Day 5

    Markina Xemein - Gernika

    Distance 25km (7hours)

    Total ascent 440m Descent 515m

    WiFi is limited with some locations. Today, I set off at 6.45am with the fellow Irishman and an American guy I have hooked up with. A fast pace was set even over some steep hills.
    The weather was ideal. It was cool and overcast. We stopped for a short time at a medieval monastery called Monasterio De Zenarruza. It was a stunning location. We sat in the porch way listening to the monks chanting prayers at mass. It was wonderful. A lot of Pergrinos joined us eating their breakfast and just smiling at the amazing chants.
    We carried on to a village called Munitibar where we stopped for morning coffee. I also had a leek cake which consisted of egg, garlic and leek. It was amazing. Photo attached.
    En route, we also saw a stage for holding competitions where a horse or ox drags a huge stone weight across a distance.
    The day warmed up and we hit a few very steep hills before descending into Gernika.
    The hospilardo in the youth hostel gave us a fantastic welcome. There are very strict hygiene rules here.
    A quick wash, I was out the door to visit Gerika museum which was dedicated to peace. It was a moving moving account of Franco destroying the town and the murder of innocents during the Spanish Civil war.
    A rushed tea followed and early to bed as I will leave at 6am tomorrow morning for Bilbao. Unfortunately, it is 35.5km away so it will be a LONG day.

    Thank you all for your generous donations to B.I.R.D
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  • Day 6

    Camino Del Norte - Day 6

    June 14, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    Camino Del Norte - Day 6

    Gernika to Bilbao
    Distance 35.5km (9 hours)
    Total ascent 835m descent 825m

    Our merry band of 3 set off at 06.30am this morning. I didn't sleep much overnight as I was disturbed by mosquitos buzzing around my head and a very loud thunder storm overnight. It did help to dampen down the noise of snoring.
    Thankfully, it was cool and the storm had passed. We walked through Gernika past a copy of Pecaso's famous work.
    We were joined by a young Dutch kid who couldn't pick up the Camino signs leaving the town. We got her to join us. We continued climbing a very steep hills through eucalyptus and pine trees.
    Facilities were very limited on the Camino. We meandered our way into a village called Larrabetzu. By this time, we were 17km into our long day and we were starving. Our refuge, a small cafe, was closed. We ended up sitting outside eating our fund rations from our pack. This was near a bus stop where several buses bound for Bilbao stopped. We all looked at each other daring the other to say that we should simply take the bus.
    We didn't and carried on another 3.5km to find a cafe in Lezama packed with peregrinos including a number we have got to know when I started this trip.
    We were now just over halfway through the day but the heat was building up. Suncream, glasses and sun hats applied.
    We carried on paved roads to Zamudio where we watched planes land at Bilbao airport. We then had a 400m hill to negotiate before catching our first panoramic view of the city.
    Spirits were raised as we slowly made our way into the city. We passed the Cathedral in the old city and appeared to attract a lot of attention as peregrinos. It really was a wise move staying away from us. We reeked after 9 hours of walking on the Camino.
    We parted company with our American friends Mickey. He checked into a pension and is spending a few days in Bilbao catching up with old friends and hopefully his host family from 1999. Hopefully he will rejoin me afte that. His knowledge of the Basques is fantastic. Each day, he has come out with nuggets of information.
    Three of us are staying in a basic Albergue near the train station in Bilbao. We are all very tired and footsore. We have made arrangements to have our clothes washed and dried which takes a lot of pressure off us.
    My feet are holding up well. My shoes, on the other hand, look worn out. The sloes are wearing away. Ah well, time will see.....

    Tomorrow should be an easier day but I may have stiff muscles. I walk to Pobena along the banks of the Rio Nervion.

    Thank you all again for your support. I am really grateful to supporting B.I.R.D. If you want to find out more about their amazing work, just look at my just givin
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  • Day 7

    Camino Del Norte - Day 7

    June 15, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    Camino Del Norte - Day 7
    Bilbao - Pobena
    Distance 28km
    Total ascent/descent 250m (6 hours)

    Today was a relaxed day. Shane and I set off from the Albergue at 8am. We walked along the river past the amazing Guggenheim museum.the day was very overcast with a light drizzle. We followed the river towards it's estuary and Puente Colgante in Portugalete. We crossed the river using a suspended carriage for pedestrians and vehicles.
    As any major city, the Camino ran alongside motorways and through industrial estates. Shane and talked about everything. We stopped for lunch on an old pier.
    One highlight for a foot sore peregrino was the street escalator system in Portugalete that took us up steep hills.
    Between Portugalete and Pobena, there were no facilities. It was still very boring until we finally returned to the coast.
    Pobena is a small Spanish town. The small Albergue is packed with a lot of pilgrims I have not seen before. I have joined a lady who has walked from Paris (5weeks so far) and a Japanese lady walking to Santiago.
    To date, I have walked 182km in seven days. I have a few blisters but overall I am in good form.
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  • Day 8

    Camino Del Norte - Day 8

    June 16, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    Camino Del Norte - Day 8

    Pobena to Islares
    Distance 25km (7 hours)
    Total ascent 300m

    An enjoyable peregrinos meal last night with pilgrims from Germany, La Reunion and Spain. Three courses and wine (not for me) for the princely sum of 10 euros.
    We were packed in like sardines last night in the Albergue. Thankfully, it was a cool night and no snorers.
    Shane and I were one of the first out the door at 6.15am onto the Del Norte. The path Initially followed an old iron ore railway line through tunnels and the cliff edge.
    As we got to Onton, we parted company as the Camino offered an inland choice or stay on the coastline. I stayed with the coast which meant walking close to a motorway for a couple of hours. Not pleasant but needs must.
    I eventually arrived in a stunning town called Castro-Urdales which is dominated by the Church of Santa Maria de la Asuncion and a castle. The church is one of the Norte's finest Gothic churches.
    I joined some locals for brunch in a small cloistered cafe before setting off over the hills towards Islares. I saw over 20 Griffin vultures floating on the thermals near the cliffs edges.
    Islares is a small village with not a lot to offer. I am staying in a metal hut for peregrinos. Basic but somewhere to put my had down. The Albergue is closed.
    Tomorrow, I will walk to Laredo and may go a little further to Santona. This will involve a short ferry across to Santona.

    Thank you all for your donations to B.I.R.D and your fantastic support and messages.

    Buen Camino.
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  • Day 8

    Islares - Mi Casa por esta noche

    June 16, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    Sharing with Tymon from Dortmund. All for the princely sum of 10 euros.

  • Day 9

    Camino Del Norte - Day 9

    June 17, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    Camino Del Norte - Day 9

    Islares to Najo
    Distance 36km
    Total ascent/descent 410m

    I set out this morning at 6.30am. The morning was beautiful and cool to start with. The main part of the morning was road walking which murders your feet. The best part was arriving at my planned destination at 9.30am. Not bad for 20ish kilometres. I stopped for breakfast and decided to carry on to where my feet carried me.
    The beach at Laredo is beautiful with hundreds of holiday makers walking along the surf line. I joined them in my smelly peregrinos kit walking in my bare feet.
    After three kilometres, I caught a small ferry across the estuary and just carried on.
    I had to cross two more stunning beaches before reaching a 200m hill that I had to go over. By now, breakfast had worn off so I sat on top of the cliff admiring the stunning views while I had some bread and chorizo.
    I arrived at my Albergue for the night at 2pm. I am knackered but pleased with the distance covered. My right foot is blistered which isn't good.
    There are a few faces, I recognise from other albergues, but they have got here by bus or taxi.
    Tomorrow, I plan a shortish 22km walking to a place called Somo where I will catch a ferry to Santander. I am planning to take a rest day there to rest up my feet and replace somethings I have lost.

    Thank you for your encouragement and donations to B.I.R.D.

    Hasta luego
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