In May and June 2023, a group of friends set out to walk across Spain. This is their story. Following a stop start flight we all joined up in Madrid for a few days. We walked around Madrid and saw the cathedral, the palace, the Prado and walked the main squares (Mayor and Sol). We stayed in the Mola Suites on Calle de Atocha. This was close to both plazas..
Early on we caught the train to Irun from Charmartin. From here the trip was 5 hours. From Atotcha it was 7 plus hours. Along the way we passed through a number of towns and stopped at
Miranda de Ebro
Vitoria Gasteiz--- lot of backpackers got off
The Norte and Primitivo are two of the main caminos that head west across Spain and finish in Santiago de Compostela. The following is how we walked two of the most amazing walks in the Camino family.
Walking the Norte: The Norte started in the Basque province in Irun and moves west through Cantabria after leaving Bilbao. Then from Unquera the path moves to Austurias through Colombres. When Vilavicosa is reached you can choose to continue the Norte or turn left to walk down to Oviedo through El Berron. The Norte passed through some notable cities and towns including San Sebastian, Gernika, Bilbao, Noja, Santander, Llanes, Ribadesella, La Isla and finally our point of departure, Vilavicosa. We walked the 467kms over 21 days which included rest days in Bilbao and Llanes.
The following are some main points:
There is a lot of road walking in a number of sections
There are many beach side towns and some remarkable beaches. As a surfer from Australia, the surf beaches in Spain are up there with the best, although I did not see another Kirra, Angourie or Bells Beach; but then the surf was quite flat with the weather playing a big part. Places like Castro Urdiales, Laredo, Somo, Noja, San Vincent and Llanes were lovely to name a few.
On the first part of the Norte, the tourists and surfers play a more important role than pilgrims. You don't get that feeling like the first few days on the Frances. In fact until you head inland, that pilgrim feeling is quite remote.
We started in Irun, the first town west of the Rio Bidasoa ( the river border with France). It is also the first Basque city.
San Sebastian is one of the most popular cities on this part of the coast and is the capital of the Basque province.
Clearly a lot of the overnight stops are either on the coast or on a river, so you are never far from the water.
Later in the walk, the signage was a bit lacking and especially when road walking.
Walking the Primitivo The Primitivo starts in Oviedo in Asturias and heads south west through Grado, Salas, Tineo, Pola de Allende, Embalse de Salime A Fonsagrada, Baleira, Lugo and Burgo de Negras before joining up with the Frances at Melide. At that point, it was to Arzua, O Pedrouza and then on to Santiago. We walked the 378kms to Santiago in 18 days.which included a rest day in Oviedo and Lugo. The following are some main points
The Primitivo is the first camino, the one that started it all. (to quote Efren Gonzalas- see YouTube)
Its relative lack of popularity means less services and you need to carry more water and food on a number of days. For us it was warm and wet, so one or two liters was usually fine.
The Primitivo (and the Norte) is hilly. In one section, we ascended and descended 3,000m over three consecutive 25 plus kms days.
The walk passes through Asturias and Galicia provinces.
Lugo the capital is the 100kms point (Similar to Sarria).
it is amazing countryside and there is more walking on dirt roads, paths etc.
The signage here was excellent.
Both the Norte and the Primitivo have a number of alternate paths and detours. A good guidebook or app will help you choose which to take. For us we deferred to the Wise Pilgrim book and kept to the blue official path.
The following table are some more statistics.
We three all carried our own packs which ranged from 10kgs to 12 kgs without adding water and food.
Our ages were from 68 to 71.
We averaged 24 kms per day with some shorter and our longest day was 33.5kms. The hardest days were two consecutive 30 plus kms with both 1000m plus ascents
The Norte was more busy with tourists; and food and water was easy to acquire. Our type of accommodation was relatively easy to acquire, but we did hear that Albergues were more difficult.
The Primitivo was quiet, with no more than 20 or so pilgrims coming into our environment. We also had to carry more water and food as several of the walks did not have commercial outlets. And a good number of the churches were closed and most did not have fresh drinking water available.
We used Booking.com mostly for our accommodation. But there has been a shift in the product. Apartments are now being sourced. While this is fine, they often come without a reception. So you will need mobile communication as you will be sent the code to open the key box. This is often during the day you are walking to it. So be careful when searching for accommodation.
We stayed in apartments apart from Hotels, Hostels and Pensions. But not multiple (bunks) sleeping areas. See details below.
And while this only happened once, there are several towns in Spain with the same name. Make sure the one you are booking is where you think it is. For us it was in the town of Arua.
So overall, we walked 39 Days and 846 kms. This included 4 rest days in Bilbao, Llanes, Oviedo and Lugo
Total walking including rest days was 925 kms
From Santiago, we then visited Finisterre and Muxia by bus, then Porto by train and Lisbon before returning back to Madrid by bus.
Our accommodation stays were : By the Norte and then the Primitivo
Day 1 Irun to San Sebastian. 6th May 22.7 kms, 647m elevation, 6.5 hours walking Quiet night in the Pension hostel, a few Pinchos and red wine to end the day. We slept well and the room was pretty quiet as no trains run after 12 and we were right next to the train line.. Our first day beckoned. We dressed and went down to the kitchen for breakfast.
Here we met Alphonse and Tomn, two Dutchmen who had walked from their homes some 2000kms away and over 66 days arrived in Irun. They did not know each other (even though they both lived 50kms apart) until they hit France when Tomn approached Alphonse for a translation as he did not speak French. They now walk around 40kms a day.
Then an American guy asked us for directions just outside San Sebastian. He could not pick our accents so he asked where we came from. We said Irun, he thought we said Iran. He was most confused.
The walk was a challenge with a high number of steps. And it is a quick heads up for the days ahead.
The other point was that my two companions took the higher ridge walk and I took the lower western side. We met up at Pasajes de San Juan. This left a lesser climb before we walked down to Zurriola, over the bridge and on to the Cathedral. From then we backtracked to the river and crossed to the eastern side.
We then found our accommodation. So 27 kms of walking from room to room, but I have added my Relive video which recorded 22. from outside Irun to the San Sebastian church. We are all pretty tired, but the room is well stocked and we were happy to use it.
Day 2 San Sebastian to Zarautz . 7th May 21.8 kms, 531m elevation, 6 hours walking. Today we walked from San Sebastian to Zarautz. 23.8 kms from door to door, but 21.8 by the Camino. It is pretty quiet and although we have seen plenty of folk, I would not count more than 30 all up of pilgrims walking. There are more day trippers and holiday makers. And of course we walked into San Sebastian on Saturday and Sunday into Zarautz. The walk out of San Sebastian is great. The bay is alive with folk walking on the beach and the esplanade. On the western edge you leave this and climb up for the first of two ascents. One before Orio and the main ascent and then a lesser climb up and down before we reached Zarautz..
Day 3 Zarautz .to Deba 8th May 19.4 kms, 608m elevation, 5.5 hours walking.
After an easy walk to Getaria for breakfast, it was then uphill and down hill and uphill.....fortunately none of the peaks were higher than 250m but there were over 5 peaks in this stretch. Points for today 1. We have settled into a largish group all walking separately or together , so around 15 folk we see when we stop. Some then leave and some arrive as we leave. 2 We were menaced by a large flock of sheep. A great border collie was bringing up the rear. 3. Horses have "cow bells". As do burros. And of course the cows do as well. 4. My legs are coming good and the hills are not as tough, or maybe it was because we dropped under 20 kms, with only a 600m gain. We also met one lady who was not interested in our tales of the day. there was also a vendor selling cold drinks and some food, which was very welcolme. Tomorrow is higher and 26 kms.
Day 4 Deba to Markina-Xemein 9th May 30.5kms and 905 net elevation over 9 hours Big day. And it rained. We hit Markina around 4pm.then 1km to our hotel. After an hour or so I asked Nick how far to go. He said 800m. But the hotel is nice for two reasons.
I am in a separate room so Jason can get some sleep
The shower was fantastic. It had a waterfall top and jets that hit your chest and legs from the side. I may go back and have another one.
The hotel is quite amazing, it is a bit out of town, but very quaint. You do need a bit of unexpended energy as it is around 3kms out of town along the long and winding road.
The 15 pilgrims from the previous days are gone.... no site of them today, but we talked to two Dover women doing a 2 week walk. And a few new pilgrims that we caught up to. The countryside is green as Ireland and brought back fond memories. The day however was long, wet, and up and down. But we made it. The day started with a walk over the Rio Deba. It was then a climb and continued up 300m and then dropped down for a spell. We then ascended to the main peak at 500m at Collado de Arno. We also left the coast and headed inland. The other thing and apart from Olatz around 10kms from Deba, The rest is walking and climbing without substantial services.
There is some water.
The walk was also a combination of road and path walking, but walking through the rolling hills were very welcolme after the coast.
Day 5 Markina-Xemein to Gernika 10th May 27.7 kms, 699 net elevation and 8 hours As mentioned in yesterdays post, we were staying a bit out of town in this "resort" hotel. It was terrific and the shower was amazing for tired bodies. As we were leaving though, our hosts showed us a path that followed the river back into town and near the camino exit It was a lot shorter than the road out the previous evening..
Today was plenty of up and downs in fact if you weren't climbing up you were climbing down, no flat, heavy rain in places but managed to shelter in the monastery, Monasterio de Zenarruza, as the heaviest part passed. Quite a few of the pilgrims were also sheltering. The monk there was able to give us a stamp. And no, we were unable to find any traces of the legendary eagle which brought a skull from the Gerrikaitz ossuary. The monastery was built on the site. The roads were ok to walk on but the forest paths were boggy in low places. We kept pace with a few folk including the English ladies who were able to keep Nick up to date with the latest news from London. Had our first patatas frittate with a cold coke at one of the only places open in Olabe. Note, it was still early in the season and it was clear that a number of commercial venues were still closed. Particularly as we moved further away from San Sebastian and the tourist spots. We are still in the rolling hills away from the coast.
Day 6 Gernika to Lezama/ Zamudio 11th May 24.4 kms, 645m net elevation and 7 hours Left a bit late after having breakfast in Gernika - Croissant, orange juice and a latte. We went past the Picasso wall that is dedicated to the destruction of Gernika by the Germans under advisement from Franco. Then it was raining, hard in places. this stage is in two parts:
You can warm up with the first climb to 300m in the first 5kms. Then it is up and down along the ridge before the last climb past Eskerika and 350m. After that it is down hill.
Then as we head to Lezame, it was a long straight stretch of highway to Lezame and then to Zamudia.
We walked on roads, country dirt roads and forest tracks. The mud was epic. We climbed up for most of the morning and then came down to Lezama. But we went further to our hotel in Zamudia. We had lunch at the top of the 2nd major climb, near a logging area. We had purchased bread, jamon, queso and fruit. The trucks had sure made a mess of the roads. I figure I had 2kgs of mud sticking to my boots. Going down, it was slippery, wet and did I mention the mud. We walked a little way with Clara, who was a tour guide from Prague. We also saw some new folk as well. Now for all those who know me, I get hot when I walk, so I walk in shorts and a solar surf shirt top. Even if it rains, it does not bother me as it is meant to get wet. My companions all wore warm clothes and ponchos in the wet. That was until Jason tore through three of them. He then bought a rain jacket which served him well until the end.
While my attire is fine , the rain that hit us before Lezama was hard, dropped the temperature by 10 degrees and was really cold. I was very glad to arrive at yet another unattended hotel near Zamudio. Finally we were able to collect our keys and enter our rooms. We all had a hot shower, dressed In dry clothes and went to dinner in a restaurant around 500m from the hotel. Dinner was pretty basic with cold tapas, which we asked to be heated. And it rained again as we left so we sheltered outside the mercado where we purchased a few beers for later on.
Tomorrow we will walk into Bilbao and have a rest day.
Day 7 Zamudio to Bilbao/ Barakaldo 12th May 23.1 kms, 737m net elevation and 7 hours. It was meant to be( so easy), 7kms into Bilbao, then lunch then 6 kms to our flat Instead of using Google Maps and following the river out on a flat terrain, we said it was on the Camino leaving Bilbao. So we could bus back tomorrow on our rest day and then have a head start. 24 kms later after climbing every hill around Bilbao and arriving 5:30 not 3pm.
Oh and it rained and rained and rained, but little mud thank the heavens. We sheltered in the cathedral in Bilbao with about 30 other folk all looking out as the rain pelted down.
We also had a great lunch in Bilbao suburbs. We were always having this same discussion. If we were walking in a town or past a cafe e etc around 2pm and the walk was still a couple of hours, would we have the menu de la dia or just a snack and save the big meal for dinner. In this case, we passed this cafe which was open and we went inside, all wet and bedraggled. We were a few minutes early for the menu so we settled down, took off our packs and wet gear and had a beer while we waited 1. Asparagus and mushroom soupa 2. Grilled Mackerel with chips. This was just great, albeit with a few bones to negotiate. 3. Profiteroles - all for just 11 euros. We then walked so far that our next planned walking day destination after the rest day is only 5kms down the road. And we have done three days of washing.
Day 8 Bilbao rest day 13th May We are staying in this apartment in Barakaldo. It is great and quite new. We had provisioned from the mercado, cereal, milk, bread, eggs ,orange juice and tea. So we made breakfast then caught the bus into town The Guggenheim Museum to me is really an Art Gallery. But we spent a few hours looking at paintings from artists that were new to me, some were good others.... You be the judge with my selection of photos. After a small shop we caught the bus back. No video today. And it only rained a small bit late in the day.
Day 9 Barakaldo to Castro Urdiales 14th May 30.5 kms, 500m net elevation and 7.5 hours It was a long walk, but not too many hills, a bit of board walk, a part on the beach and a finish on some major roads and a long tunnel. The rain, thankfully, held off after a cold wet start. It was even cold enough to wear my skins and myrain jacket. The coastal wind was howling in places, but all up an easier day. This is also one of the many stages where you can take one of the two walking options, the coastal path or the longer inlandish path The final walk into Castro is along the beach if you take the coastal option. Again, it is a bit of road walking, a bit of beach walking and some cool tunnels etc. Castro is a long inhabited area going back to 12000BC. The last photo is my inner liner in my boots wearing through after 200kms
Day 10 Castro Urdiales to Laredo 15th May 33.3 kms, 627m net elevation and 8.5 hours We learnt three things today.
Castro Urdiales does not serve dinner on Sundays.
On the way into Laredo, there was a half way place called Rioseco, which is closed on Mondays ( including the bar and the Mercado)
Apartments are coming up on Booking.com that have bunks. Useless for three adults
A lady from Germany, Vika, joined us for most of the day, she was looking for an easy day as she was only walking from Bilbao to Santanda. We left her around 10 kms to go.
But first, I forgot, we were climbing up another massive hill when it started to rain. It steadily got heavier, so in the distance we saw an old church. We figured it would have undercover seating to wait the storm out. It did. A small area about 10 ft wide and 30 ft long, with one entrance. So there we were when two horseback riders came into view. Walked over to where we were sitting, dismounted and brought the two horses and themselves into the undercover area. Now it is pretty close in there, when the biggest horse does a number 2. The smell was intoxicating..
The coastal walk was great. Met some new folk and two New Zealanders .It was a great day, until 9kms became 22kms Laredo looks good for dinner. And we have reached 250kms. Dinner 1 fish soup( enough for two) 2. Sirloin steak, like nothing in Australia, medallions( enough for two) 3.Sierra Cantabria Crianza for Nick and I. It was fantastic. And after 34 kms, we'll deserved.
Day 11 Laredo to Noja 16th May 14.5 kms, 90m net elevation and 4 hours 15 kms was a nice stroll. First up we had a nice walk down to the beach from our apartment, then a crescent shaped beach and then around the point to the ferry. which took us across to Santona. Once through the town and past the long prison wall, we walked down again to the beach. We met Cara and her friend again. Her friend was swimming.. But.....we had to climb up over this headland - Punta del Brusco.. It was steep, difficult and tough on the knees but not long. There was a warning in our book that this climb was not for the weak hearted and to walk around it if concerned.. you might also consider this if you dont like heights. But once over it was another walk on the beach to our hotel. We got there around 3pm, so it was a shower, a quick beer and patata frittata then back upstairs for a quick nap. Then a walk on the beach, a foot dip in the freezing surf and another beer. Later we were joined by Vicka for dinner in the hotel. Seafood Paella with a nice local white. Which I enjoyed until the waiter knocked my glass over me. Later Nick knocked a glass onto the floor which sent glass everywhere. But the seafood paella was excellent. Santander tomorrow.
Day 12 Noja to Santander 17th May 33.5 kms, 351m net elevation and 7.75 hours 34 kms, a boat ride and back into a Pension Real accommodation. . Anyway, today was ok. Just a little long and the signage into Somo was not good.. We had a good climb today before we headed back to the beach. but before we got to the sand, we walked along the cliff edge for some kilometers before we got to Somo and the ferry which would take us across the bay to Santander.
Now just a short plug for Spanish beer. it is always cold and welcome..
Day 13 Santander to Mogro 18th May 17.5 kms, 227m net elevation and 4.5 hours Firstly I forgot, Pension Real, you are always on the 4th floor of a building with no lifts. This is particularly important when you have walked 34kms with your 12 kg backpack. But I digress, we had breakfast in Santander before we headed out around 8:30 and we stuck to 4kms per hour as the villages came and went. Unlike the Francais, these villages don't seem to have cafes etc, so it was in and out. We did stop in one town, Mompia when we spotted a Cafe open. A fresh squeezed zumo was great as the sun was out and it was warming up nicely. We then looked at the guide book after a chance meeting with a German lady who said she was taking the train from Boo to Mogro. This effectively cut 10kms off our day. After a bit of thought, 5 seconds, we chose to take the train as well. This would give us a feel of the hardy pilgrims that braved the train bridge( this has been discouraged for some years by the local constabulary). It would also cut that 10kms. After the train ride (which was free as we could not work out how to buy a ticket.), it was lunch at the Cafe near the station, white bean soup (note, soup always comes in a tub that could serve 6 people. After three helpings of white bean and chorizo soup I was already full) and then chicken with chips, a bottle of red and coffee. 15 euro each. We are now staying out of Mogro in a golf hotel, without a golf course. I am about to have a spar. After the spa, I wandered down to the bar and was able to order a cognac. This looked to me like it was at least a triple but still only 4 euros. Then a walk down to the beach about 50ms away.
Day 14 Mogro to Santillanna del Mar 19th May 19.5 kms, 496m net elevation and 5.4 hours A lot of road walking and we left the hotel around 8:30 before breakfast was being served. But it rained on us after those few days of sun. Then it was off until we found a Cafe open. I had the patata cake with Jason and Nick had a tortilla. A zumo (juice) and coffee. But the cake had fish in it as I found a few bones and I think it was eel. It was fine. On we walked and the rain stopped. We got into Santillana around 1:30 If we thought the golf hotel was great, our hotel here is amazing built in the 1700s. The whole place here is a walk in the past. Then into town for lunch, bean soup, chicken, flan and a bottle of vino tinto. Just great. As an aside, the book claims that Santillana is one of the most beautifully cities in Spain. Having seen quite a few it is easy to believe this. We even visited the Museum, but no statue of St James.
Day 15 Santillana del Mar to Comillas 20th May 19.5 kms, 496m net elevation and 5.4 hours Had a lovely breakfast in our Hotel Museo consisting of zumo, jamon,, scrambled eggs and banana, kiwi fruit and a boiled egg for lunch. The day was mainly walking back roads. But we finally found a church open, the Iglesia de Ciguenza was open. Pack off, hat off and in, but wait, the Priest was saying no.....Then I saw the flowers, the music behind me and it dawned on all of us, a wedding was coming up, so no visit. A photo was quickly taken and it was off again. Today was up and down with views of the ocean. We stopped for lunch then coffee at a surf bar then on to our digs for the night. Joseph a retired German gentleman is walking and we have seen him at some spots. He asked to join us today as he was staying in the same spot. A suite of apartment building comprising a hotel and private apartments. Joseph was in the hotel and we were in the apartments but we were both served by the desk clerks. Before we left them, we enquired about the food timetable. It was going to be close, but we could catch the last of the lunch session So without a shower, we dropped our packs off and headed down for a late lunch and beat the kitchen which closed at 4pm, by 30minutes. Lunch was seafood soup and veal with chips. Again the soup was enough for two or three people. Two bottles of vino blanko and then back to our lodgings for a shower and early night.
Day 16 Comillas to Unquera 21st May 26.7 kms, 435m net elevation and 6 hours
Today was a bit more of the same 1. The churches were not open. Although we did hear the bells of one quite away from the path, and given it was Sunday.... 2. The way was mainly on roads 3. The forecast was for a cloudy day, but the sky cleared and the promised 18 degree Max, was eclipsed 4. Only a few pilgrims out and about But we left late today after a Skype session with folk back in Australia and breakfast in the apartment. The walk was OK and the warmth of the day was nice. We crossed another river delta via the bridge just past La Brana Now in Unquera. Tomorrow we also cross the Rio Deva and in doing so move from Cantabria to Asturias. We also cross 400kms. It is a hard walk and without the churches, gives it a touristy walk. But as we head west, it gets less so. Off for some dinner as we skipped lunch today. So we are in this bar and first a fellow pilgrim joined us for dinner and a chat. Then this couple came in and first up he was wearing my jacket (same brand and color) so we immediately started a conversation. They were from Canberra. It was a good night but quite cold as we walked back to the accommodation.
Day 17 Unquera to Llanes 22nd May 27.9 kms, 519m net elevation and 7 hours As mentioned, last night it was cold before and after coming back from the restaurant. We saw why this morning when we crossed the bridge. There was snow still on the far mountain. Today was great, walking on dirt roads, cow tracks and making your own way across fields and beaches (with a few interesting caves) and chatting with cows, horses and goats . There was one point when crossing the train track that was a bit confusing but else, quite clear. We had a few with us today. Tracey and Roger (who had my jacket) from the restaurant and when we got to this mercado for a bocadilla. As I said, they were from Canberra. We had also met Sarah from Canberra and passed each other many times during the day. We introduced her to Roger and Tracey. Roger then burst into song with "we are, you are , we are Australians". Delivered in his deep loud Spanish, Australian accent. There were also a few Americans who we chatted to over the day. And of course our three Dutch ladies who we say hi to whenever we have seen them over the past 5 days. So all up, the promised rain held off, the sun came out and we all had a good day. We are having a rest day here as well.
Day 18 Llanes 23rd May Rest Day. Woke up for breakfast in the Hotel Miraolas. Nice place near the water and town. Then did our washing. While there we spied a train waiting at the adjoining station. The "Costa Verde Express" to Santander.. The folk we could see were having a silver service for breakfast. The carriages were spot on. After that we went for a walk to the beach, the very stable breakwater ( where it started to rain) and then to lunch. The Menu de la Dia. Paella, then Lomo (pork) and chips and finally the Flan. A bottle of local red and bread (pan) I could not finish the pork. There was also a market along the river which was just coping with the intermittent showers. Fortunately we were carrying our packs, so had no intention or temptation to getting anything that would add to our weight in our packs. After lunch we walked south of the river and down to the beach were we saw caves (where you could see the foundations of the houses above.) and little coves. After that we got serious about doing the Primitivo v continuing the Norte. Booking.com is not too useful on the Primitivo. So we may use the guide book recommendations. Then a quiet evening. We hit the half way point tomorrow.
Day 19 Llanes to Camangu 24th May 25.9 kms, 359m net elevation and 6 hours It was a nice walk from the start, but the churches were still closed. We even climbed to the top of a hill to the monastery, but still closed. We had a bit of rain after a couple of hours and it got heavy as we stopped to have lunch, Tortilla and coffee. There are a few more new faces and pilgrims now. We also crossed the railway lines a few times and at one, the bells started and the train roared past. Pilgrims stopped on the other side, but we got through in time. The views of the mountains that we will soon encounter look ominous. But tonight our host will drive us to dinner and pick us up. It is an old world hotel as there is no restaurant in this small hamlet. On that note, I will post the accommodation we stayed in. Only one received a no thanks. And I will leave that out.. It is now seeming unlikely that I will dip my bod in the Bay of Biscay. As the weather has kept things cool (read icy). I may have to wait until Muxia as we only have two more opportunities before we head inland to Oveido and beyond. One final note, yesterday, on our rest day yesterday we bumped into Joseph, our German friend. He was just arriving and he looked a bit spent. He has booked the whole way through a travel agent. I sometimes think that is not a good idea, as so many factors come into play when you are walking.
But dinner to a place recommended by our host.... 1. We shared anchovies and garlic chicken pieces 2. I had scallops, Jason had the veal and Nick had the mixed seafood plate 3 . I finished with ice cream cake (it was remarkable) 4. We washed it down with the house white wine. Then we had a glass of cider, poured from a great height ( an Asturias thing), not my cup of tea but great theatrics. Then right on time our host was there to drive us back for one last beer before we settled for the night.
Anyway, tomorrow we are off to La Isla.
Day 20 Camangu to La Isla 25th May 23.7 kms, 368m net elevation and 6hours The day started fine and kept that way. The Hotel Camangu was just great. Near the Camino and the rooms were comfortable and clean. Breakfast was included and as I mentioned yesterday, our host drove us to dinner and picked us up. As for dinner last night, we sampled the high pour of cider. However the taste was not to my preference. But the pouring skill was top. After breakfast we walked into Ribadesella. As we had a bit of time today, I stripped off on the beach, donned my togs and went for a swim. It was very cold. I had picked a spot where I could then have a shower but there were plenty of smooth rocks on the beach. I make this point as I entered the water with warm feet over the smooth rocks. Coming out I could hardly feel my feet until the rocks and it was like a thousand pins. The shower was also freezing. After that we headed off. The path was ok, with a bit of off road, a bit of on road and a bit of beach walking. We read that La Peres had thee bars and was 1.8kms from La Isla. So still with time to burn, we said we would take a long lunch there. Bar 1, closed, Bar 2 closed, Bar 3... wait I saw someone moving inside, it may be open. It was. A few beers, a pulled pork bun and we killed an hour. Then it was off the Hotel Isla. Just off the Camino and quite nice. As a surfer, the beaches we have passed, walked on are tops. Surfing is going off in Spain. Big learner groups and surfers on most breaks. Had a small dinner at the hotel.
Day 21 La Isla to Vilaviciosa 26th May 21.3 kms, 369m net elevation and 4.8hours What a day. We had breakfast in Colunga. Zumo( OJ) tortilla and Cafe con leche Then off for our last walk on the Norte. We reached Vilaviciosa around 1:30pm and were fortunate to check in straight away. A quick shower, a change of clothes than off to a Cafe recommended for the Menu de la Dia. Now this one was different. First up, the Soup. I had seafood and the others had chicken. Then they brought out a large platter of peas with chunks of jamon. Finally, they brought out a platter of crumbed pork( lomo) and chips in this white sauce A bottle of red And lastly ...... the Flan. Over the past few days, I was trying to find somewhere to buy a belt. Today we passed this simple leather shop. Goodo.
Then to catch a beer as the sun left us behind the buildings. It is 9pm and the light outside is still strong. We then booked a few places on the Primitivo for tomorrow on. Today we passed 500kms.
Day 22 Vilaviciosa to El Berron 27th May 32.5 kms, 710m net elevation and 8.5 hours. The day was good. We knew it would be long as the search for accommodation is not always easy, so we went a bit further than planned to find a hotel. But I digress, this morning we had breakfast in our hotel. OJ( 2 glasses from a jug), toast, jamon and queso. Cornflakes, 2 cups of coffee with a sweet bun. Just great for 5 euros. On the path we left Vilavicosa and headed out . About three kilometers out of town, the path split. Gijon for the Norte continuations and left for the trip to Oviedo and the Primitivo. About three kilometers down the road we saw a pilgrim coming our way. Sure enough it was our German friend Joseph. He had missed the turn and was walking back to complete his Norte. We shook hands and said see you in Santiago. So off we then went and spent the day walking up into the hills. We crossed the Alto del Campo after visiting San Salvadore de Valdedious where Carmelite Nuns manage the alberge. The church however was closed. On we walked and up, and up. As we neared Vega, a storm was brewing and thunder was loud and clear. So on we walked. We said hi to a lady gardening who said in a clear voice "You had better hurry" obviously thinking of the storm heading our way. But nada, it fizzled away. So on we walked to our hotel in El Berron or just out of it. It is a truck stop, a car wash and a hotel for truckers.... The food was good, the shower hot and the beds firm. Who could ask for anything more. Tomorrow to Oveido and hopefully a pilgrim mass. It is just a 15km stroll down the valley. We are also having a rest day there.
Day 23 El Berron to Oviedo 28th May 16.7 kms, 189m net elevation and 3.8 hours. The place we stayed in El Berron was a truck stop, car wash and motel with a lot of outside smokers. We had breakfast (oj, croissant and coffee ) and for that matter that was dinner last night. So off we went and we got to this church that had tables and benches in the shade where we stopped for a drink and to eat our apples. As we sat, the church bells rang and folk ( a lot of) arrived for the service. We chose not to enter as it seemed to be a very collegial congregation. We walked into the city along the Camino as we knew it would go to the cathedral. Along the way we walked past a laundromat so we spent an hour washing the clothes and having a coffee in the cafe next door. Then off to the cathedral. The signs from the Farmacia digital crosses were saying the temp was anything from 27 to 35 degrees. At the Cathedral, it was going off, the mass had started, the outside band was playing, the outdoor cafes were filled with folk having a leisurely Sunday afternoon. We took note and then headed to the apartment. It is great. Three bedrooms, a lounge , a kitchen and two bathrooms. We were able assisted by a couple who told us where the actual apartment was in this apartment block. We then had lunch. One the way back we supplied the flat with breakfast supplies, some beer and a nice red. Jason joined me then to walk back to the cathedral to see a long queue, so we decided to come back tomorrow. So all in all this place is amazing and so glad we came this way. We will visit the old town tomorrow.
Day 24 Oviedo 29th May Rest Day Well we visited the Cathedral and I have posted a couple of photos. The cathedral is amazing. It is also the starting point for the Primitivo. I now have a new Camino passport. Finding the right path out seems to be a bit of confusion as one track goes back to the Norte, one goes off to Burgos. We will tackle that tomorrow, although we did manage to follow points 1,2 and 3 of a 5 point list in the Wise Pilgrim book.
Day 25 Oviedo to Grado 30th May 28.4 kms, 542m net elevation and 7 hours. The day started with breakfast at the flat. OJ, cornflakes and scrambled eggs on toast. After that we headed off into the hills and mountains. After a while we spotted our first deer, then some poppies and then we watched a hawk making lazy circles in the sky. We know we belong to the land, and the land we belong to is grand.....
And that reminds me, the other day, I mentioned we passed our friend Joseph returning to the Norte. Well we also met a couple from Oklahoma who apparently were the ones who told him he was on the Primitivo.
Then as we walked on we met around 10 other walkers today. We were three k.s out when we spied this Cafe. It was getting late so the menu a la dia was off. We settled on the fabada ( white bean soup and black pudding and sausage. ) it was great. Today we also spent a fair bit of walking on paths and tracks under cover which was nice as the sun is getting hot. We also walked along a large river, the Rio Nalon. The hotel was (you could guess) right on the other side of town but on the Camino. On that note, a final point, the Primitivo signing is great. Very little confusion.
Day 26 Grado to Salas 31st May 22.9 kms, 665m net elevation and 5.5 hours. 23 kms with a taste of climbing. The day was forecast to be a bit cooler with a max of 20. The promised showers from the last three days did not occur. But slowly the day got a bit hotter. We stopped for a quick lunch at Cornellana which is on the conjunction of two rivers, the Rio Narcea and the Rio Nonaya. A monastery has stood here for nearly 1,000 years. As we neared Salas it got a lot hotter, so the Hotel Sueneo was welcome and was a hotel combined with an Albergue. It was quite new as well. it was on the way out of town. So we're are now 250kms away from Santiago with a few hills and mountain between us.
Day 27 Salas to Tineo 1st June 21.1 kms, 871m net elevation and 5.5 hours. Today we climbed early to a peak of 850m. but first, breakfast in the Hotel Suena was great. 1. Refillable OJ 2. Muesli with yoghurt 3. Toast with Ham and cheese 4. Coffee. Then we started without Nick who was still talking to Australia. So Jee Sik and I headed off. The path was ok, without being steep and, or so we thought, no diversions from the path. We eventually found a local church which was open. I thanked them in the book, stamped our passports and said a small prayer for friends back home. Later on we found another church, also open. It was good to see. Once at the top we walked pretty much along the saddle.
The Camino path today then went into the woods and bypassed all the small towns. This meant that lunch was missed until we got real close to our destination. And we were still waiting for Nick to catch up. After a bite and a coffee, we decided to walk the remaining 2 or 3 kms to our hotel. The hotel is the Palacio de Meras. Very nice indeed. Tineo was built on the side of a steep valley and everywhere you walk feels like a climb . We have a couple of easy days ahead with a bit of climbing. .
Day 28 Tineo to Campiello 2nd June 13 kms, 310m net elevation and 3 hours Oh my goodness. What just happened. Only 13kms today, and it seems like a rest day. But, the countryside is amazing. So fertile. We walked out of Tineo into an almost full climb, but we powered up and the views were breathtaking, or that may have been the climb. But given the short distance we stopped for fruit and water twice. The peachs brought in Tineo were juicy and flavorsome.. We passed a collection of trees that were cut like pencils. Not sure it was for pilgrim torture or a new fence and looking at the current fence I would go with the latter. We are now in this Hotel, Mercado, Albeurge - Casa Herminia. All in one building. the hosts were just lovely and dinner was pretty good.. Tomorrow we continue the climb. .
Day 29 Campiello to Pola de Allande 3rd June 15.8 kms, 396m net elevation and 4 hours. We were joined today by a lady Manette, a Phillipino/ American lady. She kept us company as we walked to Pola. The walk was fine and true to the book, we found this bar in San Roque around 10kms out for a bocadillo and a coke and a sello. After that we climbed up and then dropped down to the valley and Pola. Now it is worth noting that after Borres, the Camino splits into two different routes. To the left is Pola. To the right is the shorter and more scenic route past the ruins of two pilgrim hostels. But either way, the two paths meet up and continue up to Alto de Palo at 1145m. Then it is down to Montefurado before continuing down to the Dam. Here we saw the effects of the forest fire that occurred before we left. It came right down to the pilgrim path.
Had the pilgrims lunch at our hotel so don't need dinner. But it was vegetable soup, and a beef dish that was wrapped in cabbage. The wine was nice and finished with the flan. So an early night, with an early start.
Tomorrow we not only climb up to the Alto de Palo at 1145m, but overall our day is for 30 plus kms to our next accommodation in Embalse de Salime. It will be our biggest day so far.
Day 30 Pola de Allande to Embalse de Salime 4th June 32.8 kms, 1191m net elevation and 8.5 hours. The day started early as we had a climb and an over 30kms day. So we had a quick breakfast, OJ, Coffee and a croissant. Sound familiar. So about 3 to 4 kms out of town, we began to climb 600m in 5kms. We missed the Camino turnoff and kept to the road until, we knew the Camino crossed the road for the last 250m of steep, rocky and typical camino, so off we went to the top, the Alto de Palo 1145m. All this was good, but the descent went on and on and on. Then we went up and down until we had a bite and a drink at Berducedo. We said goodbye to Mannete, who was staying there. The storms were around us , the thunder was rolling all around. We saw the wind turbines on the top of the hill outside town, and yes, the Camino went up and past the turbines until we began the descent to the dam wall and our hotel. It started steep, and stayed that way. Half way down the hill, my knees shouted out to me, stop this madness. I did not have the heart to tell them we were only half way. Then the storm had knocked a tree down over the track, which we had to climb over, around etc. It was endless.... But wait, the rolling storms finally caught us on the descent and the rain kept getting heavier as we descended. 2 and a half hours later we crossed the dam wall. We arrived wet , but a hot shower, a Cognac in the lounge and I started to feel normal again. Overall we climbed over 1100m and did 30 plus kms.
Day 31 Embalse de Salime to A Fonsagrado 5th June 31.7 kms, 1136m net elevation and 8.5 hours. So a big day without that killer descent of yesterday. A bit of a miscalculation though, we thought this walk was 25kms. So we left the hotel without breakfast as we thought that Grandas de Salime would be ok. We saw our first Cafe, closed on Monday as was the second Cafe. So we visited the church and then saw some local boys, who when asked, directed us to the only Cafe open on Monday. So we entered to talk to our bar tender "can we get breakfast?" He said yes, but he only had Santiago cake . So a bottle of juice, a coffee and cake and off we went. Since Embalse, it was a steady climb to Grandes and then climbing up to again 1145m. But we soon passed a few cafes, but it was too soon for lunch. It was now getting quite hot. Later we passed a church that said aqua. We climbed the stairs and saw the fountain. We filled our bottles and also had a drink. The water was sweet, freezing cold and really welcome. I forgot to mention when we left Embalse there was a heavy fog, which kept it cool as we climbed. But later, the sun came out and it got hot as we climbed to the top. This represented the border between Asturias and Galicia.. So we passed over into our final area since we left Irun. The markers said we had 166kms to go and this was down to 155 when we arrived. So we are here before the expected storm. We are sitting now in the bar. The food, we just missed and the restaurant is open at 7pm. We have not had anything since breakfast except a banana, a peach and an orange. We had expected a bar/road stop to be open around 10kms before our destination. It was open, but was fully booked out with a wedding of sorts.
Off we went and continued to climb and we were recovering after a short but steep section and having a drink, when we heard this clunking sound. It was determined that there was a repairman inside the wind turbines above us. We could not see him but he had the back door open. There was hardly a breath of wind and all the turbines were still. The jobs we do. This brings me to a Camino Rule. Whenever you see Wind Turbines on a hill, that is where the camino path will take you.
Dinner was a roudy affair with one of the few restaurants in town that were open and we were lucky to get a spare table. this was just as well as we were champing at the bit. There were a number of locals and a number of pilgrims we had encountered over the past week, in this upstairs area. We had the soup, the pulpo and the flan..... oh and a bottle of Vino tinto.
Day 32 A Fonsagrado to O Cadavo Baleira 6th June 26 kms, 704m net elevation and 6.5 hours. And over the past three days, we have climbed and descended 3,000m. We had breakfast before heading off. Whilst it was a 25kms day, it was ladled in our book as the hardest day and a real leg killer. But it was up and down. We crossed another (our 4th) 1000m pass. But the day was not as hot, the clouds in the valleys were full and covered the whole valley. We stopped for a sandwich and a beer with a few folk who were walking around us. Last night in the restaurant, there were around 15 folk who we have chatted with since the Norte. The only mistake we made was to have the vino tinto with the pulpo. Not the best match.
Anyway, regarding the path today, there was a warning about the mud, the descents etc. As it was, the walk was tough but not a hard as the previous days. As we neared our destination, we were adopted by a lovely dog who kept us company until Cadavo.
After a quick shower we headed to the bar and a promise that we did not have to wait until 8pm for something to eat. We had fish and chips and salad. The Camino markers tell us that we have 130kms to go to Santiago, and the next days are nowhere as tough as what we have experienced since joining the Primitivo.
We intend to join the Francais in Melide in a few days. So all up, we have passed 700kms so far.
Day 33 O Cadavo Baleira to Lugo 7th June 30.4 kms, 470m net elevation and 7 hours. We woke up to rain and the weather report said it would rain to 11am, then stop until 3pm , then start again. So after breakfast , off we went. The light rain was not unpleasant and the walk to Castroverde was ok although once again as we left town, we started to climb and we got to near 1000m and a climb of about 500m. In Castroverde, we decided to go to the Mercado and buy some lunch as there was not much to buy on this leg. So we got, buns, pork slices, cheese slices, apricots, cherries and apples. After that it was pretty much all down for the day. So as we walked the idea was to stop at a church and sit under cover. Best laid plan. We did spy a Cafe open in this small hamlet so we did stop for a coffee. As we did (and we had to find our host) another three pilgrims who we were walking ahead of and behind depending on who stopped for a rest, also came in. As we were walking 11am came around and the rain stopped, so although we could not find a church that had an undercover verandah, we did find some tables and chairs in this field across for an albergue that was closed. We thought they would not mind so we ate our lunch. Then on we went until 3pm approached. Sure enough, we were 5 kms out of Lugo and we were hit by this storm, probably the heaviest so far. It stopped around 1km to go. We found our apartment and as we have a rest day here, we bought some breakfast things, did our washing etc Tomorrow, it promises to be fine until 11am again. We plan to find the Roman walls that you can walk on around the old city.
Day 34 Lugo 8th June, Rest Day Day 34, The Roman wall and the church. Lugo is the capital of the Province of Lugo and one of the main cities in galicia We woke to a blue sky and set our sights on walking around the Roman wall. It was constructed in the 3rd century by the romans, is as tall as 15m in parts and is 2kms long with 71 towers and counts 10 gates. Then a visit to the church, which also was amazing. The city was still pretty busy for a Wednesday and all the restaurants were going off. We then spent some time organising our accommodation for the next few days. Whilst it did not rain at 11am, it did storm at 4pm. Thunder, hail and heavy rain. We are on the 6th floor and have a great view of it. All up, a good day in Lugo.
Day 35 Lugo to O Cruce do Burgo 9th June 30.4 kms, 470m net elevation and 7 hours. The day started with the promise of rain all day, but we had breakfast( cereal, orange juice, scrambled eggs and tea) and then headed off. We crossed the Minho River and kept a steady climb for most of the morning. There was not much in terms of water stops, places to stop for a break or anything for that matter until about 5kms out of Burgo. But that was coffee and we purchased 3 sweet rolls in a packet for 1 euro. That at least kept us going. We arrived at O Burgo at the end of a descent that was nowhere near the terror of the dam descent. But it did rain, then stop, then started, then stopped etc for most of the afternoon. We then came across our hotel for the night almost unexpectedly. Before we checked in, we had the menu of the day. It was delicious, but as always, way to much After that we checked in then went for a welcome swim in their indoor pool.. When Linda and I did the Frances in 2014, we came to this hotel/ Albergue with a magnificent outdoor pool, but our feet were in such a mess we decided to give it a miss despite being hot as. So I was determined to go in and I felt it could not be as cold as my swim in Santander. Fortunately it was not. Now showered and changed, well fed, it will be a few quiet drinks then bed. Tomorrow, we join the Francais in Melide. the few quiet drinks included a few beers and 4 double shots of brandy. (Nick had 5) We were joined by two Texan ladies, Christina and Lina (who could speak amazing spanish) and who we have seen over the past few days. They arrived when we were on our 2nd brandy and now needed to have something to eat. Christina was first and ordered this dish which would have fed the whole table. I thought it was for them both at least. but no, when Lina came out of the building she had a similar plate. Camino rule - a pilgrim can get pretty hungry and always more than you could imagine.
Day 36 O Cruce do Burgo to Melide 10th June 24.8 kms, 486m net elevation and 6 hours. And 800kms reached The place we stayed at last night was just terrific. The food was great, the service was friendly, the pool was just inviting after all our walking, and we were joined for dinner by two Texan ladies, We woke to rain and had a breakfast at our hotel, which was lucky as there was nothing until we were about 5kms from our destination. So we set off and after a while the rain stopped, the sun came out, then the rain started (repeat for seven times) On the climb up, we met an Australian couple, Patric and Rhiannon who hail from Canberra but now in Perth. He was sitting on a post when i arrived and said Hi. He immediately pegged me for an Aussie and began to talk. They accompanied us for most of the rest of the day, which was pretty good despite the rain.
Around lunch we came across this eating area with these amazing tabletops. so we broke out our provisions and decided to eat them. While we did this we were joined by a clutch of chooks and with them was this black rooster. Now when I say black, there was not one bit of other colour on him. his comb, his eyes, his legs etc were all black. It was a bit unnerving.
But we pushed on without incident and we are now safely in El Molino, a Pension hotel.
Day 37 Melide to Azua 11th June 16.5 kms, 300m net elevation and 3.5 hours. Well back on the Francais/ Primitivo. Today after breakfast, we visited the church to see the floral arrangements for Corpus Christi. Then off we went. I should also say we left Melide after 10am, so the flock of pilgrims had likely already left. Despite this there were a quite a few more pilgrims sitting in and around the cafes, walking etc. Over the Primitivo, maybe 15 to 20 pilgrims were around us. Despite leaving after 10 am we arrived in Azua at 1:30pm and settled into the Hotel Suiza. As we entered the town the bird cannons were going off like a thousand shotguns for the sacred day for Corpus Christi. Folk were everywhere. Had a great dinner and will head off to Arua tomorrow.
Ps, I was last here with Linda in 2014. Much has changed and much has stayed the same. I am looking forward to tomorrow and the day after.
Day 38 Azua to O Pedrouza 12th June 21.8 kms, 646m net elevation and 6.8 hours. The day started well. The forecast was for rain, which did not happen. The breakfast kitchen was alive with noise as we were joined by around 50 young Irish girls who were doing a bit of walking but also a bit of bussing, but mostly a bit of talking. Then we headed off. Straight away, the numbers were evident, if not walking , every Cafe was full with pilgrims taking a break and talking. We eventually found a not so busy Cafe and had a coffee. We chatted to a couple, George and his missus who were walking from Sarria. Then it was off, I emptied my water bottle when I saw a fountain, but the tap was turned off. So I dipped into my spare bottle. Then it was off to Arua and our lodgings for the night. But no, we had booked a hotel in another Arua around 250kms away. So we quickly cancelled and booked a Pension 9 Abril in O Pedrouzo which was only a couple of kms up the road. One of the hardest things on the Camino is when you find your chosen accommodation is not available and you need to walk on to an alternative. When we arrived it was fine although the booking .com system in the Pension was down. But eventually we got to our rooms, dropped our bags and headed to the bar next door for the menu of the day. It was pretty good and there were folk everywhere. So I have had my shower and will go down to the bar for a last cervaza. SANTIAGO tomorrow,19kms to go .
Day 39 O Pedrouza to Santiago de Compostela 13th June 20.7 kms, 336m net elevation and 4.5 hours. The day started excellently. For the first time, orange juice, bacon and eggs and coffee, just great. The promise of rain did not eventuate, so we headed off. The walk was OK, but everything had changed since I last walked this path with Linda in 2014. The first cafes were full so we walked on until the clouds came in hard and heavy. We settled into this "Cafe 12 kms to go" Cafe. Had a coffee and then left. It started to spit and as we walked it got heavier and heavier We saw the airport runway though( which we missed last time in the torrential rain) and a Ryan Air plane that came over our heads to land . After a while we came to this Cafe which was empty. We asked if they were open and yes they were. So a bocadilla each and a glass of Con Ruis( lemon water). As we were eating a couple came in. We started to talk as they were Irish and Nick engaged them. He mentioned he was a Jethro Tull fan and showed us a magazine he was carrying about the band. I lifted my head and said " Really don't mind if you sit this one out..." He looked at me to see the eyes of another JT fan, we were instant friends. They were walking back to Lugo from Santiago and that did not surprise us one bit..
After a while the rain showed no intention of easing and as I was meeting Tania and Gregor at 4pm in the square, we decided to head off. It continued all the way to Santiago. A lot has changed, the tent city was there after Mont de Gozo (which was missing the statue commemorating Pope John Paul II) , but it was accompanied by a large number of permanent/demountable houses. The Lookout was overgrown with grass etc.
In any case, we found the Plaza de Obradoiro in the rain and took some photos. Then found our hotel, just a short walk down the Rua de San Francisco to our lodgings in the Oxford Apartments. A quick shower,a change of clothes and back out to see Tania and Gregor. We had a great chat over a few bottles of red. They were heading off tomorrow to walk to Muxia after walking the Portuguese. Not me though, a day in Santiago tomorrow, without my backpack.
Santiago de Compostela - a few days First point, the obtaining of the Compostela is now started by on line registration. This gets you into the building and a number, then you wait to be called.
14 June, the day after. Woke up around 7am and as the pilgrim office was open at 8am, we thought we would walk down to secure my third and last Compostela. Well, the office did not open until 9am, so we had a quick breakfast, then got in the line and quick as entered the building to be given a number after you showed them your scanned application reply. After that it was a quick interview, pay the piper and out to the 9:30 mass in the cathedral. Not sure how or why, but we went to the 9:30am mass at the cathedral and they used the Botafumeiro. This is a famous thurible used at the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral. This was my third time in Santiago and in every visit to the mass, I was lucky. Finally, I let a candle in the Church of San Francisco. After that we had a walk down to the station and around the old town. It was good to see Nick back in a church service after his lengthy absence. The sun is shining.
One more thing to do. I dedicate this Camino to my Mum and Dad, Lorna and Ron and my sister Fay. Thank you for bringing me into this wonderful world, for giving me a sense of travel and the love of camping, and the joy of family. I have lighted candles for you both as you are strong in my memory and I miss you both even though the years are many. For my sister Fay, who has now passed, 21 July 2023. I will remember you through those wonderful days on the farm. The church of San Francisco holds a soft part in my heart, and I have left there contented. I hope you are proud of me and what I have done with my life. My only sadness is that you both were taken way too soon to see your granddaughters grow up. They are fine women and you now have two fine great grandchildren and another one to arrive shortly. Amen.