The Walk of Life… (Dire Straits).

This is my last post of this Camino. Today we began the long arduous journey home; train to Santander;  bus to Bilbao;  different bus to San Sebastian;  overnight in the gloriously extravagant Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra; morning flight to Madrid-> Dubai-> Singapore-> Home. So this morning we took one more walk around the coastline of Llanes, for old time sake.

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A different symbol to follow on this mornings walk.

As we spend the next six hours travelling on public transport back over the route that took us twelve days to walk, I give you my thoughts on the Norte.

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The first few days are the hardest. That is of course if you are starting from Irun. I suppose with all walks, it does take a while to build up your strength and get into a rhythm. That being said, that first climb on the alpine route out of Irun was a killer. Great views, of course, but murder on the thighs. Also the steep descents into San Pedro and into Deba can also be a bit harrowing.

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Don’t always believe the guide book. We used the popular (and latest edition) Pilgrim Route- The Northern Caminos by Laura Perazzoli and Dave Whitson. Most English speaking walkers would flip out this book and scratch their heads at some of the directions.  Our French-speaking Canadian friends had their own easy flip guide including the elevation diagrams which they seemed to like and the Germans seemed to be happy with their slightly different version.  Sometimes ours would give detailed descriptions then at the end of the paragraph say “but only when…”.

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You can mostly trust the yellow arrows. I know this may sound a bit wishy washy but on rare occasions, the arrows would be tampered with; some painted over in blue; some leading down to the local shops, etc. In Cantabria,  the local government has addressed this confusion by cementing in official plaques with arrows so that you know for sure the way through this region. It also gets tricky when there are different Caminos who have different coloured arrows to follow. The Camino Lebaniego follows a red arrow from San Vicente de la Barquera to Santo Toribio de Liebana.  If doing the Norte or Coastal route, always follow the yellow arrow. The shells also guide your way through Asturias where the apex of the shell points in the direction of travel. Apparently this is reversed in Galicia. Again, number one rule- follow the yellow arrows.

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Buen Camino greetings are said more between pilgrims than with locals. The Spanish people are very friendly and if you smile and say “Hola” or ” Buenos dias” to them as you pass, they will always return the greeting. The biggest reaction I got was when I learnt the Basque thankyou- Eskerrik Asko. Even when I stumbled over the pronunciation,  the Basque always beamed with pride over their language being shared.

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The early morning walkers always had a smile and a greeting.

I wish I knew more of the language. Knowing just the basics can help a lot in the northern regions. A few of the hostelerios only spoke Spanish which made it hard for us and frustrating for them. That being said, I found that there were far more Spanish pilgrims on this Camino than on the Frances. There were also a lot of pilgrims who didn’t want to socialize or interact with other pilgrims.  In fact they chose this Camino as they knew there would be less people on The Way, leaving them with their own thoughts and personal demons.  Always respect other pilgrims privacy.

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The towns in the North will survive without The Way. I noticed last year that there were some towns on the Camino Frances that solely survive on the Camino tourist dollar.  This isn’t the case for the Norte. Yes there are little yellow arrows everywhere, but the locals don’t seem to notice that we are here. They are still farming or working in the larger towns; raising families;  exercising along the same pathways that we walk. I didn’t see any Camino shell bracelet or any tourist shop item dedicated to the Camino. It isn’t a business here, it is a way of life. 

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Training in the shoes that you will walk in is imperative. On day eight, Michael received the best compliment about his pristine feet and he was justifiably proud. You see he trained for months in his Camino shoes even when he got two blisters from a 30km hike. He learnt that it was best to tape up his heels with leukopore to prevent any problems developing as well as wearing two pairs of socks. Of course even with all this preparation, you could still develop some nasty blisters (just like poor Tania did last year).  We met so many people who’s feet were a mangled mess, including the serious Quebec-ites, with all the bells and whistles, they were still affected by blisters. The debate continues whether to take boots or trainers. We managed fine on our trainers, although my tread is seriously depleted now. By the way, I too was blister free, again. I must just have tough feet.

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Blister free feet.

So that is all for now. Thankyou all for your kind words of encouragement and praise. On the tough days, it was always lovely to read your comments. I leave you with one last photo from our hotel room.
Cheers!

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San Sebastian

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14 thoughts on “The Walk of Life… (Dire Straits).

  1. Well you have done it again! Well done! Can’t wait to have you back home safe and sound and hear even more about your adventure. Great job again on the blog and I agree with the others who have suggested a book. This should definitely be your next challenge. Safe travels home. See you soon xxoo

    • Can’t wait to see a movie with you as well😊 What are you doing Tuesday?
      I’ll let the professionals write the books. It is not my thing. I like reading rather than writing.
      See you soon 😊

  2. Congratulations to you both – unbelievable what you have achieved once again. Really looking forward to hearing all about your ‘walk’. Well done!!!!!! Stay safe.
    Luv Di, Greg and Mick xxx

  3. Big congrats to you two….what an achievement Chelle-this time your anniversary OS😊. Makes me wonder what you’ll celebrate next time.
    Safe travels…
    Loved reading every word-is a different feeling being on the reading end back is OZ, & not the writing end 😃
    Xxxx

  4. I look forward to reading more about your Camino, especially since you say it is less commercial or tied to the Camino for it’s financial survival. Also thanks for stopping by my blog. Best wishes. Brick

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