2 days away from heading out on our second Camino. \240Trying out the Norte and Primitivo routes this year. \240Less traveled, more scenic and, yes, more hills!

Training and prep has been spotty so it’s going to be a tough first week. \240We hit the trail on May 12 with a hilly coastal 15 Miles. \240Yikes!

Thanks for joining our trek!

Spring time in Seattle makes the long training walks more bearable!

Getting into the right mindset with 10 Commandments of a Great Camino

I. Thou Shalt Do Your Own Camino: This is a personal journey and you walk, ride, crawl for your own reasons. Walk 5k or 20k or 40k per day. There is no right or wrong. Follow your heart and soul.

II. Thou Shalt Not Judge Others: Just as this is your Camino, theirs is theirs. Big pack or no pack, 30 days or 1 day, 3000k or 10k. One man’s 40k day may be another’s 5k as there are many people on The Camino with health and other issues.

III. Thou Shalt Be Humble:Lose your ego. For many this is a life changing journey. For others a bucket list item or just a fun walk. The Camino has a Spirit and she loves humbleness and gratitude. Look for ways to be of service to other pilgrims and anyone else in need.

IV. Thou Shalt Not Overplan Your Camino: She will communicate with you via signs, people, animals, music, etc.. There are no coincidences on The Camino. Be alert. Anything and everything is possible on The Camino. So be ready to veer from your plan because The Camino will provide what you need.

V. Thou Shalt Open Up to Fellow Pilgrims: Of course if a Camino of solitude is your choice it is your Camino after all. However, the Camino is a special place and a key part of it’s magic are your fellow pilgrims. You will find that you keep seeing the same people and very likely The Camino wants you to connect. Get out of your comfort zone and just go introduce yourself to anyone who you have a feeling about or see more than once. By following this Commandment you will make lifelong friendships or more.

VI. Thou Shalt Start and End Wherever One Chooses:Many do The Camino in stages perhaps a week or two at a time and take years to complete it. Many start from St. Jean Pied de Port, others from Pamplona or Le Puy En Velay or Seville. Some Europeans start at their own homes. While many end at Santiago, some go on to Finisterre or Muxia at the edge of the world. Again there is no right or wrong.

VII. Thou Shalt Travel Light:While it is your choice the lighter your burden the easier it will be on you both physically and mentally. There are many writings on what to bring and not to bring.

VIII. Thou Shalt Stay Wherever Thy Chooses. From a tent, to a municipal auberge, to a 5 star Hotel. Remember it is your Camino.

IX. Thou Shalt Not Obsess About Blisters: If you read any of the books various former Pilgrims have written, many mention suffering with blisters. Wear shoes or boots that YOU are comfortable with.

X. Thou Shalt Have Fun on The Camino: Perhaps for some the walk is long and arduous but for others it is pure joy.. After a long hard day, if a waiter places a whole bottle of vino tinto in front of you, drink and enjoy the company of and conversation with fellow pilgrims. Don't take yourself too seriously or these Ten Commandments. The Camino shows you how precious the gift of life is. \240Make the most of it!

Buen Camino!

Our Camino Routes this year take us along the Northern Coast of Spain along the Del Norte route. \240We’ll take 35 days - stay in 30 different villages and walk 425 miles from the French border town of Irun to the Roman city of Lugo where we end this Camino. \240Hope you follow this blog and join us for this trek!

While it’s less traveled than some Caminos, it’s the main route for foodies with the top 10 cities with the highest number of Michelin stars in Europe - including San Sebastián, Bilbao, Santander and Gijon. 😜

Good food is necessary there are plenty of steep mountains and hill to climb.

Our route takes us off the Norte at Gijon as we connect with the Primitivo route - the oldest and most physically challenging of the Caminos crossing through the mountains of Galicia.

If you’re interested in the intinerary and distances:

Made it to San Sebastián Spain after a mad dash thru the Madrid airport last night to catch our flight. \240

So far San Sebastián is ‘da bomb’ - awesome beach view from our hotel room. \240The town is full of great shops and tapas bars. \240

Love this seaside town!

Hard to decide what to choose!

Carbo loading for tomorrow’s first Camino stage - 16 hilly miles on what could be a rainy day. 😳

Start of stage 1 today - Irun to San Sebastián- 16 Miles of rolling to steep hills.

Early start 7am with taxi to Irun- taxi driver overslept and we arrived in Irun in time for the showers which quickly turned into 5 hours of steady to hard rain.

First Camino sign of the trip

Walking out of Irun and still dry...

Mountainside is still waking up.

St Guadeloupe church provides a spot to put on full rain gear and to make the decision to take a lower elevation route to San Sebastián.

Arne doing the rain slog..

Forced smiles and a ‘salute’ after 10 Miles and 5 hours of hard rain & wind.

First cafe - hearty lobster stew and beer was just what we needed. \240Group decision to taxi back for remaining 6 Miles. \240Rain won today but we all live to walk another day! \240Buen Camino!!

Stage 2 - San Sebastián to Getaria

17 Miles - 7 hours - hills, mud and coastline

We left wonderful San Sebastián behind to continue our trek along the coast. \240We also left great iconic beachside hotel behind. \240It’s downhill on lodging and uphill on trail from here - probably the wrong way to do it but here we are...

Camino goes straight up hill - tough muddy climb but worth it and all the animals came out to cheer us on!

Trail got really steep and muddy which meant it was slow going and for Arne too much time between beers 😜.

All the climbing was rewarded by amazing views of the ocean

What goes up must eventually come down and down we went to finish with a final 3 mile walk along a coastal wall into our rest for the night in the old Roman seaside village of Getaria.

And our beer with a view!! \240Hard but rewarding day! \240

Stage 3 - Getaria to Deba

12 Miles - Steep coastal hills

Today was supposed to be our short ‘easy’ day. \240That was until someone told us about an alternative seaside route that was strenuous but scenic. \240We absorbed the scenic part and dismissed the strenuous part. \240The result was a BEAUTIFUL day of kicking our own asses!

Day started with tough uphills which where made easier by the beautiful Basque countryside

Idyllic Basque countryside

Great Camino ‘message’

Not sure if Arne looks happy 😆

Ponies are everywhere in Basque Country

The ocean views are the reward for the uphill climbs

Even Arne takes a coffee break!

At coffe break we hear about the ‘scenic but strenuous’ route and decide to go for it. \240I mean how hard can it be?? \240Answer is ‘really hard dumbass’ don’t you know what strenuous means?!?

After a hot shower, 2 \240beers, a bottle of red wine and a double serving of custard for dessert, \240I can now say it was worth it. \240Actually it was more than worth it as it’s an amazing coastline.

Wild and wonderful North Atlantic coast

I think this is where Arne is ‘thanking’ me for taking this route 😜

Dramatic cliffs

Steep hills

And Arne still ‘thanking’ me for taking this route...

This is what a break looks like after walking the scenic route. \240Our friend Janicke was carrying a 20lb pack so today was really ‘scenic’ for her!!

But we managed to make it to Deba and order a victory beer. \240Buen Camino!!

Stage 4 - Deba to Markina-Xepemim

17 Miles - 7 hours - Hills and Mist

Last night was lodging at a farmer’s house and farm food - which was rabbit (actually hare) for dinner and eggs with tuna for breakfast. 😳😳

All the farmer’s guests left the tuna & egg breakfast on the table uneaten and instead opted for cappuccino and sweet rolls in the village- huge improvement!

Today we leave the seaside for the next 50 Miles and head into the misty \240Basque mountains.

Trail is an immediate steep muddy climb but the views make it enjoyable.

And we have plenty of friends staring (or maybe laughing) at us along the way.

The Basque hills are filled with \240small ponies with plenty of attitude.

Climb starts to get steep and we should have taken a clue from these two that we had an exhausting day ahead. \240

Camino Norte is spectacular scenery but it’s also a spectacular reminder of all the ways you can kick your own ass! \240For example:

* \240training walks of 10-15 urban Starbucks to Starbucks does NOT simulate 15 Miles in the damn mountains!

* \240buying poles but not training with them is a really dumb move - 7 hours of using poles to make sure you don’t fall in the mud is one hell of an arm & shoulder workout. \240When your arms are as sore as your legs that’s really something to ponder

* \240not training on mountain trails in Seattle because they were too muddy seems like a really mean joke when we’re spending half our day \240trekking thru the mud - way to go, dumb ass!

Lunch break after a long climb

Thank God the bakery in Deba was open so we could buy bred, cheese and meat as there were NO cafes on todays route 😳

Who knew we were on the way to Arno town??

6 hours of ‘when does this damn mountain end’ was punctuated by some great views when we remembered to lift our heads to look.

Finally we arrive in town and our next \240country lodge agrees to pick us up so we don’t have to walk an extra 2 Miles (thank you Jesus!)

And there’s a bottle of white Rioja waiting to erase the trials of the day!

Buen Camino!!

Stage 5 - Markina-Xemin to Gernika

16 Miles - 6 hrs - Hills & Farmland

Yesterday was a mental slog that required plenty of Spanish wine and an early to bed as recovery. \240It worked and we woke up refreshed and ready to take on today’s challenge. \240Also helped the sun was shining.

We’re 5 stages in (100 kilometers) and no serious issues - no blisters and my leg isn’t complaining. \240So it’s just sore muscles and those can be ignored - with enough Advil. 😜

We’re still deep in Basque Country and trekking thru the hillsides of the Hemingway novel ‘For Whom the Bells Toll’. \240Today’s desitination is Gernika - a town made famous by a devastating Nazi air raid in 1937 and a Picasso painting depicting the raid.

Along the way we pass thru small villages

More hill top climbs and rest stops with new pilgrim friends made along the way

As well as an active Sistine Monestary with a serene courtyard and impressive chapel

Farm houses old...

And newer

And the animals greeting us along the way..

Until we arrive sweaty and tired in Garnika

And have a Norway National Day toast with Janicke - our Norwegian travel companion. \240😎😎

Buen Camino and Hail to Norway!!

Stage 6 - Gernika to Lazema

16 Miles - 6.5 hours - hills & mud

Today is the last long day in the Basque mountains as we head into Bilbao tomorrow- have a rest day on Sunday and the follow the coast line for 10 days. \240Yippee!

The Basque hills are picturesque but you have to earn the view. \240

We had some deep sticky mud today that almost took your boots off. \240At this point, we’ve gone thru the 3 stages of mud hiking:

* Stage 1 - tiptoe around the mud puddles by going off the trail to keep your boots as clean as possible. \240Each night carefully wash your boots clean of all mud.

* Stage 2 - look for rocks or logs in the mud and jump across on them to stay as clean as possible. \240Clean the bottom of your boots but screw the tops.

* Stage 3 - as long as you don’t have to swim it, tramp straight thru the damn puddle and who cares if your boots are dirty!!

Gernika and the area we travelled today where key resistance areas against Franco and are hot beds of the Basque separatist group ELA. \240There are reminders of both in most towns.

Political signs appear all along the Camino in this area

Well deserved rest and lunch break

This farmer was creative and got all the pilgrims attention to be sure to close his gate. 😎

As in prior days, \240we manage to arrive at our lodging with everyone in tact and once we’ve relaxed and had a few drinks to the challenges of the trail seem to melt away... as always, the Camino provides!

Buen Camino!!

Stage 6 - Lazema to Bilbao

7.5 Miles - straight UP and straight DOWN - sunny

Today is a short mileage day for our walk into Bilbao. While the mileage is short (7.5), \240it’s 3 Miles straight up and then 3 miles straight down so the knees are screaming as you hobble into Bilbao.

Getting an early morning start

All goats today and no cows - probably due to the landscape.

Taking a break for the knees with Bilbao in the background

Bilbao is a city of many cathedrals - this is the Bacilica of Begoña - very beautiful inside.. Mass was underway so no pictures.

Yep... more steps

And archways...

Until we finally reach Old Town Bilbao

Lovely vibrate Old Town Bilbao

We arrived in time to put our feet up in our room and watch the Royal Wedding (OK Arne didn’t watch it but I did)

And to enjoy some of the creative shop signs near our hotel

Tomorrow is a rest day (no hiking) and the plan is to explore the city - including the Guggenheim musuem. \240This evening is for sitting outside at a plaza bar and watching this fireball fuzzball attack his toy... Life is good - Buen Camino!!

Rest Day - Bilbao

We are one week and 95.5 miles into the Norte Camino and it’s a great time for a rest day in Bilbao. Bilbao is the commercial and artistic capital of the Basque region

We wake up to a beautiful sunny Sunday. \240Seems there’s a big Basque Folk Dance Festival and people from many villages have come to the city to show off their village colors and traditional dance..

Fun mix of urban sidewalk and folk dress as they are headed to the festival

Bus loads of Basque villages are here to celebrate their traditional dress and dance

All ages and interest levels are present

Each village has its own dress

And some villages are quite elaborate

After mixing with the throngs of dancers, we made our way to the second highlight of the day - the Guggenheim Musuem with its spectacular modern art and unique architecture

The famous Flower Dog greats you as you arrive to the museum

what an impressive blooming work of art

The views and public art are stunning along side the museum

Especially this metal ball installation from a Bombay India artist - probably my favorite

The waterfront beyond the Museum is filled with public art to enjoy

Stunning views everywhere!

After a long day of folk dance and art, \240it’s time to head back to Old Town for a late Sunday lunch on the Plaza. \240Duck breast, \240grilled fois gras and strawberries makes a delicious dish!

Finishing off with Black Iberian Ham and Basque cheeses makes it a perfect dish!!

It’s an early night with time to wash clothes and catch up on emails as we prepare for our next week!

Buen Camino!!

Bilbao to Portugalete

14k - 3.5 hours - sunny

Today is a short day to a river/bay town near the ocean called Portugalete. \240The walk is short as we chose the route along the river rather than the traditional Camino route that is described as an unattractive urban slog.

Best part of today’s walk is heading out today town by the Guggenheim and seeing the museum in the early morning before the crowds.

Much of the trail is along side the river with river front parks. \240Bilbao is a very livible city

Murals and public art are all along the river

Northern Spain is renowned for ship building and once again we pass thru active shipyards

Majestic cranes dot the riverside

Today’s destination is the port city of Portugalete. \240Once a rival city to Bilbao but now a quiet waterfront town.

Beautiful old town Portugalete

Walking into the city and approaching the famous Vizcaya Bridge

The car ferry is suspended from a frame by wires attached to wheels on tracks above the cabin and moves from one side of the River Nervión to the other.

Different approach as a combo bridge and car ferry

The bridge was declared a World Heritage site in 2006.

Our hotel is right on the river with a nice view of the bridge

The town has steep narrow hillsides which made it tough to search for a lunch place open on both a Monday and Whit Monday holiday.

We find a small local place with this hand written menu. \240Our Google Translator has funky translations like a dish of ‘chin straps’ and one of ‘peas’. \240We were hungry so we took the risk. \240Turns our the peas were pork ribs and the chin straps were stewed pork jowls so all was not lost!!

Successful meal toast as we plan for tomorrow which is the first of two long back to back days - 19 miles each!

Buen Camino!

Stage 9 - Portugalete to Castro Urdalies

18 Miles - 8 hrs - coastal hills

Today we left Portugalete which is really a suburb of Bilbao and headed back to the coast and more authentic Camino travel in the countryside.

One last look at the container bridge

Back into the Basque countryside and a more relaxing Camino path..

Pretty impressive graffiti in the middle of no where on the Camino

Kinda crazy to come out of the farmland and forest to find yourself on the beach with surfers. \240Love how the Camino provides 😜

We paid for it with the hills but today had a long stretch of Camino on the hillside of the wild Atlantic Ocean. \240One amazing view after another.

We left Basque Country today and entered into the province of Cantebaria.

This Spaniard has walked 10 Caminos and stopped to tell us about a route that was more scenic and 2 hrs shorter which was great as we already had an 8 Hour day - the Camino continues to provide!

After a long hot day, we arrive at our destination- Castro Urdalies. \240A very beautiful port town with great parks and cafes. \240Time wash our clothes, buy some provisions and eat a good meal before another long day tomorrow. \240Buen Camino!!

Stage 10 - Castro Urdalies to Larardo

17 Miles - 7.5 hrs - sun & clouds

Sadly we left the beautiful seaside town of Castro Urdalies and headed for our next seaside town of Larado.

Walking thru the town in the early morning is a great way to see shopkeepers like the fish monger display their goods.

We head into farmland and walk by everyone getting their breakfast

Or looking for a handout... this guy got a piece of my donut because he was so beautiful 😎

This guy didn’t get anything because he decided to yap and attack us instead. \240

Today’s walk is long and has 3 possible routes. \240One person in our group was exhausted from yesterday’s trek and decided to take the bus so we were down to 3. \240Early in the day we picked up a new piligrim (Will from Arizona) so we were back to 4 piligrims.

With a long day to complete, \240our cafe breaks were also the chance to confer with othe piligrims on just the right route - is it marked? \240Is it too steep? \240Is it shorter? \240All this discussion in a combo of English, German, Spanish, French and Italian. \240It’s amazing how universal the language of suffering on a hike can be.

Even with all this discussion, we still found it hard at times to make sure we were on the right track.

Planning paid off as we had another coastal trek with broad vistas

Hard to get tired of this view

And beaches around most turns

As well as monuments to Camino Piligrims

Houses in the Cantabria region are distinctly beautiful

Winding down to our destination at the end of a long hot day

Nothing wraps up a long day better than a beer and rice pudding!

Sunset and Buen Camino!!

Stage 11 - Larado to Naja

9 Miles - hills and beautiful beach - 5 hours

Awesome coastal day - starting with 4 Mile walk along the shore to catch a piligrim ferry

Not your typical Camino view...

Piligrim traffic jam waiting for the ferry

Walking the gang plank

Arne says this is the way he likes doing the Camino 😜

After the ferry was arrive in the seaside town of Santona - where fishing & canning is a big industry

Santona monument to the sea

Piligrim ferry heading back for the next group.

Beautiful church in Santona that was open to Piligrims - unlike the French Way most churches on the Norte are not open

Amazing panels in the Santona Church

Today’s challenge is to take the coastal route which is beautiful but not recommended as it’s also steep and on the side of a mountain. \240 We decide to do it and it was worth the risk!

Tough steep climbs but amazing views

Love the beaches here...

Celebrating being at the top

Looking at our next path of beach to tackle

Beautiful rock beach

We have 5 miles to walk in the sand so let’s get started! After 2 days more walking on concrete than we like, it’s nice to be in the sand’

Town of Noja is our destination and it was cool to arrive there by beach

For these two German Piligrims (and probably others) walking in the salt water is great for the blisters. \240We’re lucky as almost 2 weeks in and no blisters!

The Yak is saying ‘someone order me a damn beer!’

It’s a good day when you end up having a nice meal to wash down the dust of the trail.

These mussels were the best!!

Buen Camino from Noja Spain!

Stage 12 - Naja to Santander

10 Miles - longer day cut short due to rain

Last night was pretty stormy with lots of lightning and thunder. \240So we had a morning of big decisions as the forecast was for more storms. \240Fortunately, \240the rain stopped and we decided to make a go for it to see how far we could make it and call a taxi if we needed.

Our Pasada (country inn) was in a cute village I’d Escalate which is famous for its old Roman era church

Village streets have the classic Spanish style

Very colorful and classic

You know it’s an early start to the day when you have to share the path with ‘the Girls’ heading out to pasture after milking

See the Camino Yellow Arrow on the concrete post - even the Girls follow the Camino.

This Cantabaria province of Spain has beautiful churches

And lovely countryside - even on a stormy day

Lush fields with happy cows

Traditional cafe/restaurant is a great place to stop for an early lunch

We never get tired of Iberian ham & cheese sandwiches - and it’s one of the few things we know how to order 😜

Sunny lunch break with Janicke

Flowers are in full bloom everywhere- the country side is filled with Calla Lilies

While having lunch, \240this horse walks by with what looks like a wrapped up death body on his back... mystery was never solved.

Another Cantabria Church - unlike on the French Way Camino last year- most of the churches aren’t open so you look inside. The rain starts after 10 Miles - we’re not in the mood to get soaked so we have a cafe call for a taxi and we ride into Santander.

Santander is one of the larger towns on the coast and is also known for great food. \240We get a good recommendation and enjoy one of our best meals in Santander. \240

It’s also the last dinner for the gang as Janicke is heading home to Norway tomorrow and Gloria has decided the Norte is not the best Camino route for her so she’s also starting to return home to Arizona

Arne is drinking beer in a wine restaurant so he has to go with the flow. \240Buen Camino!!

Stage 13 - Santander to Arce

12.5 miles - 4.5 hrs - Sun & Storms

Yesterday’s last dinner together with Janicke and Gloria ran into our last drinks with them which made it a long evening of Spanish wines and beers.

Today it’s just Arne and I for the next week until our other friends from last year’s Camino join us to walk the Primitivo Route.

Walking out of Santander early on Saturday morning takes us thru the Market

The seafood is abundant as this is a coastal town

Fresh seafood everywhere

After a few miles of urban Santander, we reach the farmland again and a path where the grass is almost as tall as me.

Storms on the horizon but the views are still great.

Even though we’re dodging the storm clouds, we take the time to have some fun with Camino signs

I think Arne is optimistic here but it’s hard to tell..

More churches as every town has one (or more)

And there’s also the impressive cemetery to take a peek into

Time for a good stretch and toe wiggle after 3 hours of trying to get ahead of the rain.

Gotta love having Chocolate Croissant and Apple tart for lunch 😜

We literally just beat the rain and arrive at our stop for the night in a lovely Posada Inn on a hill side

Beers with a view along with fresh goat cheese. \240The Camino provides...

Stage 14 - Arce to Santillana Del Mar

10 Miles - 4 hours - grey skies

Our Inn in Arce didn’t provide dinner but no worries as they drove us to a local restaurant so have dinner while the locals cheered in the bar for Real Madrid. \240Fun evening for sure - especially when the countryside came alive with fireworks later in the night to celebrate Madrid’s win.

Breakfast of champions to get us started for the day!

Northern Spain is so green this time of year. \240Walking early on a grey Sunday morning after a big football match means it’s really quite and we feel like we have the place to ourselves.

And the green shades continue...

For the past 2 weeks, \240we’ve had horses run up to the fence to meet us and they would follow us as well. \240We’ve been thinking they loved Periginos but today we learned what they really love. \240We say a villager walk out of his house with a bucket. \240He goes down the lane to the horses in the field. \240They run up and he feeds them his day old bread. \240So it seems the horses aren’t really that interested in us - rather they are expecting us to have bread for them. \240Who knew???

The Yak is hanging in there and I make sure he stays limber so he can carry our heavy pack. 😜

Today Camino path took us through lots of farm land and when you’re moving at a walk nearby their fields the animals really check you out. \240This calf acted like we were the first 2 legged things he’d seen.

And this big guy just gave us the long hard stare saying ‘you want some of this - then bring it!’

This time of year is great for all the new borns like this foal who also spent a lot of time checking us out.

All Spanish countryside comes with the local churches - some used and many in disrepair

The skies stayed grey today and the mountains weren’t in view but the fields didn’t disappoint with the emerald hue.

Today’s destination - Santillana Del Mar - is an old Medieval town that is said to be the prettiest village in Spain. \240I’m not sure if that’s the case as there are many beautiful villages but this one is certainly nice.

Cobblestone streets and historic old houses and palaces make the town fun to explore - even in the rain.

Nice to be out of REI hiking pants!

As usual the day \240is finally complete when Arne has his well deserved Camino beer! \240 Buen Camino!

Stage 15 - Santillana Del Mar to Comillas

14 Miles- 6.5 hours - RAIN

Today the weather gods caught up with us and we got caught in the rain we’ve been dogging for 3 days. \240Fortunately, it was a long slow drizzle rather than the downpour of our Day 1.

Today called for plenty of coffee stopso

and if you can’t figure out how to put your damn poncho on!

Forced smile and a poncho that required tape (foot tape) because someone ripped it 😳

Today the Camino really provides as just when we were getting really wet and needed a dry place to put our rain pants on we came across a huge church in the middle of a field. \240Most churches on this route are closed but somehow on a Monday morning at 10am this church was open and a man let us in the change. \240While there he also served us a hot tea for wet pilgrims - the Camino provided today!

The countryside was beautiful even in the rain

This cow was really curious why we were out on such \240a wet day

Today called for plenty of coffee stop

This area has more local churches than we’ve seen before and they are all picture worthy

Getting a blister sucks but getting one and dealing with it in the rain really sucks

This beautiful structure was empty and sadly in disrepair

Even in the rain it’s good to have a sense of humor

Another huge church with a wall of daisy blooms that stretched for blocks

This is the very small hamlet of El Iglesias with beautiful murals

Our destination for the next 2 days (rest day!!) is Comillas- home of this huge hill top Seminary founded in 1890. \240The town is know for its Art Nouveau architecture. \240Its also a beach town and the sun should shine tomorrow!

End of day Drinks with the Americans from Phoenix and Asheville

And as usual Arne ends a long day with his well deserved cerveza! \240Buen Camino!

Rest Day - Comillas

Today is our second rest day of the Camino. \240 We’re almost half way - 2 1/2 weeks and 210 Miles into our Camino Del Norte. \240

Comillas is a coastal village made famous by a power Marquis from Barcelona which chose to spend summers here so all the nobility and wealthy merchants of Barcelona build big summer homes in this remote village.

This is the view from our Posada Inn. \240The big structure on the hill is a seminary built in the 1600’s that has been empty for a century or more. \240Huge and impressive structure.

Town square is busy with restaurants and cafes

Rest day on the Camino means laundry day as we’ve been wearing the same hiking pants for a week (or more). \240Fortunately the laundromat was at the beach but it was all in Spanish so even the Yak was a bit confused 😜

But he managed by copying the other ladies and we managed to get some clean clothes in the end.

After laundry, we could explore the town. \240One of the most famous aspects is El Capricho which was the first house built by Gaudi. \240And in typical Gaudi style, it’s pretty eccentric and unique.

It’s built with a Gothic & Moorish flair

Here’s Arne getting into his inner Gaudi. \240There’s plenty actually some good resemblance 😜

Lovely fountain in one of the many town squares

Another view of the empty Seminary which is really a shame to waste such a beautiful (and huge) building.

End of another great day in Northern Spain. \240Blisters and bruised toes got a rest which they need as we start a 5 day stretch of 15-18 Miles a day!

Buen Camino!!

Stage 16 - Comillas to Unquera

17 Miles - 6.5 hours \240 Overcast and Dry!

After a rest day, we wake up ready to tackle our long stage for today. \240But not without a comical event at our Posada lodging. \240Last night after having wine & cheese on our balcony for dinner, Arne gave the inn keeper our garbage to throw out. \240This morning as we are leaving, the innkeeper runs after us and motions that we forgot something. \240We go back and he takes the bag of garbage out of the refrigerator. \240The kind man thought Arne asked him to keep some food cold. \240Meanwhile our empty beer cans and cheese wrappers had a nice cool night in the fridge. 😎

Walking out of town we soon get to the ocean again. \240It’s a very low tide.

Arne thought he might use his hiking poles to try out a hole or two. \240Didn’t work!

The skies are grey but ocean is blue and the cliffs are dramatic.

It’s hard to get tired of this view - even after a long uphill walk to get it.

Today we picked up two more Americans (Allison & John from Dallas). \240So with Will from Phoenix we’re now a band of 5 Gringos. \240Also learned today that Will & I DEFINITELY cancel out each other’s votes at the ballot. \240We have another 200 Miles to discuss/debate issues. 😜😜

These guys are like ‘where’s the damn Bull Ring!’ \240Impressive dudes!

Still smiling - although a couple hours after this pic and about 15 Miles into a 17 Mile day everyone got tired and not many smiles to be found. \240Our feet were beat and sore. \240I also have 2 blisters on one toe that are starting to talk to me. \240Extra wrapping needed for tomorrow’s 17 mile day.

Plenty of surfers today. \240It’s surprising how many Spaniards come to the beaches to surf.

One of a few coastal villages we traveled through today

Bolo Palma is a big sport in the Cantabria region where we are right now. \240It dates back to 16th century and is a form of lawn bowling.

Typical Camino signs and offering put out by locals. \240

Where’s the next town? \240My feet hurt!

End of day beers with the other Gringos.

Tonight we’re in this crappy industrial village in no where Spain and we happened across this amazing beef dinner.. \240where they served us each half the cow! \240who knew??

And the beer taps are pretty spectacular! \240Buen Camino!

Stage 17 - Unquera to Llames

19 Miles - 7 hours - Overcast & 68 degrees

Today is by far the most beautiful day of hiking we’ve ever done - all 19 Miles of it! 😳

Morning started out dreary so it was poncho wearing right at the start and moods were dim with the prospect of 19 Miles in th mist & rain.

Clouds were so low that it felt like we were walking into them.

Everything hung in the mist - even the statuesque homes of the villages. \240Today we leave the province of Cantabria and move into the province of Asturias which is known for its rugged coast & mountains as well as its Medieval architecture.

As we pass into the Asturias, we find creative Camino markers

More beautiful way markers

And white eyed Donkeys wondering why we are walking by in ponchos

Everything even the snail moves forward on the Camino

We walk out of the misty highlands and make our way to the rugged coast - passing through cow pasture right on the coastal cliffs.

The mist clears and the spectacular Asturias coast appears. Today was a beautiful (and long) amble along the cliffs.

Sometimes the path was too close to the edge for comfort but it was worth it for the view

The map says we’re in Spain but the coast line reminds us of Ireland and England.

Arne picking his way along the path.

As we were ‘invading’ their territory, \240we had plenty of times where we had to pass through herds of rearing cows. \240

More of the dramatic scenery

Still more - this went on for 10 miles

This is what a call a perfect lunch break on the Camino Norte - fresh ham & cheese sandwich from a village bakery, great view of the ocean and toes relaxing out of their boots!

Out destination for the day ( Llames) seems close but is a painful 3 Miles of rolling hills away. \240After walking for 16 miles, the last three miles are mentally tough!

Getting closer...

And finally we arrive in Llames for th night

And a well deserved Ice Cream Sundae reward

Followed by the end of day Camino beers. \240Buen Camino!!

Stage 18 - Llames to Ribadedeva

22 Miles - 9 hours - Grey but DRY

Today was a long day under the threat of rain. \240Started out with a walk out of Llames past some of the stately old homes.

Beautiful old homes line the streets of Llames. \240Which were a beautiful view until 1 1/2 Miles out of town when Will (our walking companion these days) realizes he doesn’t have his phone. \240Yikes! \240Must have left it back at the bakery in town. \240Our initial response was ‘that sucks hope you find it and see you at the hotel tonight’ but then we realized he didn’t have a way to contact anyone and we reluctantly turned around and headed back to town to make sure he found his phone. \240Fortunately, he did as it was safe and sound with the lady of the bakery but unfortunately it added 2 miles to our 20 mile day. \240Sucked!!

Fortunately the countryside was beautiful and the rain held off.

This mural in the village of Poo was picture worthy for sure.

Today’s stage is mainly along the coast and the views help to distract from the thought of 20 (+the extra 2) miles...

Scenery continues to be spectacular

These cows have a view that most people pay a lot of money for!

It’s coastal but that doesn’t mean it’s flat 😳

Surfers are present ar most of the beaches including this group of students learning to surf.

Again we find the Camino heading out onto the sand and we’re grateful for the softness on our tired feet.

Another photo op in the sand.

Low time around this church

We leave the coast and head back into countryside with flowers lining the pathway

Since it’s a long day (made even longer with the lost phone incident) we decide not to stop for lunch and to eat a bag of chocolate chip cookies as we walk. \240This was a good idea for about an hour until we bonked from the sugar rush and had to stop for a sandwich anyway.

And we didn’t manage to beat the rain - or more like heavy mist. \240Just enough to put on your damn poncho but not really enough to make anything wet.

We’re 15 Miles in at this point and just looking for ways to laugh and keep our spirits up.

Another 3 miles down the Camino and someone has taken the time to paint a beautiful Camino wall. \240It seems small but these are the things that are so strategically placed to lift your mood on a tough day and they are really important. The Camino continues to provide....

Some houses are just ablaze in flowers like this one.

This chicken is wondering why we are walking by in the rain

At 18 miles, the Yak is starting to crack. \240A bothersome toe is now a painful toe and our next village is still over an hour away...

9 hours and 22 miles later - the Yak arrives at our next destination and he’s tired & sore. \240In fact, we’re all tired and sore. \240Walking more than 20 Miles in one day on legs (and \240toes) that have been walking for 3 weeks is TOUGH!

Arne manages to recover with his post walk cerveza

And a hot fish & crab soup as we’re staying in a seaside town.

Some great Iberian ham...

And Arne is recovered and ready for another day on the Camino. \240Buen Camino!!

Stage 19 - Ribadedeva to Colunga

13 Miles - 4 1/2 hours - Clouds & Sun

After yesterday’s hard day, it was great to wake up to a bit of blue sky and legs that felt like they could make it again- especially as it’s a ‘short’ 13 mile day.

These huge beach homes in these small coast towns are impressive and a remnant of when wealthy families from Barcelona spent their summers here. \240Some are still used and in good repair like this one and some are crumbling.

Boardwalk photo op!

Blue sky and beautiful countryside is a great combo - even if the sun is only out for a bit (as it was).

Today was a combo of quaint village lanes like this one and coast paths.

We’re now in a province (Asturias) where the old grain huts called horreos are at many homes.

This house was amazing as each wall was painted with this museum quality murals. \240Love the creativity!!

Now this is a seafood restaurant that sadly was still closed for the day as we really wanted to try the fish. 😳

Time to head out of the village and on to the coastal paths again.

Pilgrim traffic jam as we reached a spot which required you to crawl between two strands of barbed wine and leap over an electric fence only 2 ft away. \240Backpack gymnastics is not very easy when you’re twisting between barbed wire and hot wire! \240But we managed without any injury or ripped pants. 😜

Lots of options and information 😎. Santiago is 356k to go unless you prefer to turn around and head to Paris which is only 1136k. \240Yikes!

Even when we’re tired, we never fatigue of these views. \240 The Coast of Northern Spain is wild and beautiful.

And hilly....

Still smiling and still climbing...

Our destination- Colunga - is still off in the distance. \240Even on a ‘short’ 13 mile day, \240you hate to see your destination so far off in the distance.

Like other towns, Colunga has a number of beautiful and impressive homes.

And a church to pass as we head to our hotel for a beer, shower and meal - in that order!!

Stage 20 - Colunga to Villaviciosa

11 Miles - 4.5 hours- grey but dry

‘Short’ 11 miler today so we start a bit later than normal and have time for photos with some of the old grain bins (horreos) that are prevalent in this region - this one is 200 yrs old.

Colunga’s Church is quiet on this Sunday morning

It’s grey and cool but we’re dry so we start out with smiles

Typical countryside view today

Today was a struggle with the on and off again ponchos as it would drizzle enough to put them on then it would stop. \240The damn ponchos are like being in a sauna if it’s not really raining so then you have to stop and strip down to take them off. \240At this point we HATE our ponchos!

Love the creativity of the Camino arrow and the cattle graffiti.

More of the amazing old grain bins

Walking thru Spain on May/June means you get to see a lot of new borns. \240This calf looks like he’s only a day or two old. \240We’re probably one of the first pilgrims he’s seen so he’s really interested.

Not my best pic but today was tough even though it was ‘short’ - too many hills I didn’t anticipate so it was a mental ‘red zone’ day for me.

Typical door in a village that caught my eye.

Our destination for the evening in the distance. \240This region is famous for its cider which we didn’t try 😞

This way is the Camino!

A hearty Asturias stew for dinner

And the obligatory end of day beer

Buen Camino!!

Stage 21 - Villaviciosa to Gijon

18.5 Miles - 7.5 hours - Clouds, Sun, Rain

It rained all night and was a constant reminder of the forecast for the morning. \240I’m trying to catch a cold so if it’s raining when we wake up then plan is to take a taxi to Gijon rather than walk 18 Miles in rain and get really sick.

For better or worse, the rain stops in the morning and we decide to set out for Gijon. \240Villaviciosa is the center of the Cider region and there are stately homes like this in the town.

The day starts grey but dry. \240That said, we have rain coats, ponchos and rain pants ready to go. \240

Example of a local village offering water to pilgrims.

This is a donativo stand offering food and fruit if you need it for whatever you want to donate. \240Breakfast was coffee and one slice of bread so we grateful for the change to pick up some food for the walk.

About 3 miles outside Villaviciosa we come to the split between the Primitivo and Norte routes. \240Time to switch gears to the Primitivo but not before one last grueling 2,700 \240ft of elevation day (in the mud) on the Norte.

Love these old walls and doors that you see everywhere

Green valleys and ominous clouds are the setting for the day.

This is cider country and the barrels are HUGE!

More cider storage

Today was a tough hilly walk with lots of mud & rocks. \240Very few villages and no cafes until about 12 miles into the walk. \240We stumble upon a dark cafe we think is closed but turns out to be open and run by 3 ancient people who speak zero English. \240We debate whether to stop and decide we should. \2405 mins later as we’re eating a sandwich the heavens unload in a downpour. \240The Camino provides....

More fun signs today

The expansiveness of Catholic buildings is amazing. \240There are huge monasteries, Seminaries, cathedrals everywhere. \240Some are still being used and others are empty.

Not sure what this homeowner is projecting with this stonework but thought it was interesting.

About mile 15, all I can think and talk about is an ice cream. \240I said to Arne that one will be around the corner. \240We turn the corner and there’s a shop selling ice cream. \240The Camino provides again... 😎

18 Miles of mud

The day ends on the beach promade of Gijon. \240The beach was lovely but after reaching it we realized we walked a mile past our hotel so we cursed the beach!

Evening drinks with fellow pilgrims- James from NC and Will from Phoenix.

And then we continue the evening at a Sideria (cider house) where you pour your cider about 3 feet above your glass. \240I’m note sure why but it’s fun to do.

Buen Camino after a long muddy day and plenty of cider!

Rest Days! \240 Oviedo

The past two days are our last rest days of the Camino and also our jumping off point for the Primitivo Route. \240

We’re in Oviedo which is the capital of Asturias as well as home to one of the most prestigious universities in Spain. \240It’s also the oldest Christian town in Spain so it has this blended combo of old and new.

Lots of great public art in the squares

And in the consistent theme of Spain - there are churches & cathedrals everywhere. \240Unlike other cities, most of these are open but you have to run the gauntlet of beggars at the door - which is sad.

Rest days mean wandering thru the town and watching the locals. \240Oviedo is a hit with us as they have a Starbucks. \240 First one in 2 weeks so we’re happy!!

Another gothic style church/cathedral in \240Oviedo.

Wandering thru the Mercado or public market is always a a fun excursion.

Check out the HUGE knife being used to fillet this fish. \240We watched mesmerized as the fish mongers all used this big knives for delicate tasks. \240Amazing how these traditions start & endure.

Beautiful architecture in Oviedo

And another impressive cathedral

Flower markets in the street

Outdoor cafes and bars

Rest days are days where you get a chance to access the state of your body after 3 weeks and 275 Miles of walking. \240 My feet are holding up but something bit the heck out of me so it’s off to the Pharmacy (again) for some medicine. No idea what bit me or when but the itching finally stopped so that’s a good thing.

Rest day also means it’s time for the Yak to get a haircut and beard trim. So after much cajoling got him to a Spanish barber. \240

Old time ‘gentleman’s’ barber spent an hour trimming, straight razoring and buzz cutting the Yak. \240Every 10 mins he has me come over to take a look and give my approval. \240Definite language barrier so the Yak was 'terrified' but results were great! \240

I can take the Yak in public again!!! \240The Camino provides... 😜

We have \240to boot up again tomorrow- 135 miles left to do in 9 days of HILLS! \240 \240Buen Camino!!

Stage 22 - Oviedo to Grado

16.5 Miles - 6.5 hours - SUNSHINE and clouds

Today is officially the first day on the Primitivo Route. \240It’s one of the original routes and is known for being hilly & difficult.

Oviedo has the first Starbucks since Bilbao (3 weeks ago) and it’s great to start with a latte! \240Especially as my feet were shocked to be back in boots after yesterday’s pedicure. \240They were like ‘ What’s up?? \240You just gave us a pedicure and now you’re sticking us back into boots???’

Not sure why Oviedo has a Woody Allen statue but it’s a good photo op!

Crazy apartment architecture as we walk out of town.

And more of the very artistic murals - so talented!

These are the traditional Asturias horses which you see in many fields. \240If you look close, you’ll see foals lying on the ground as it’s definitely foaling season. \240All very bucolic and picturesque until at dinner tonight we learned from a local that many of these horses are farmed for horse meat which is a local delicacy. 😞😞

The Yak is ready to tackle the day!

Today is the easiest of our Primitivo days. \240The beautiful green hills are deceiving as there are plenty of steep climbs- even on the ‘easy’ day.

The Primitivo cows are very ‘stylish’. \240This cow couldn’t understand why we were laughing like crazy at her grass ‘bonnet’. 😜

It’s always comforting to see the Camino signs to confirm you are on track.

This small village chapel was well loved with fresh flowers tied to the door.

Camino route marker being taken over by snails. Probably a good reminder to move at your own pace...

Continue to love the random public art in the middle of no where. \240The Camino provides...

Arne is getting pretty skilled at keeping his feet dry.

‘Lunch’ of Coke and chocolate donuts is not probably advised but it’s what was available at the only small store we encountered.

‘Lunch’ break!

Today’s trail had plenty of beautiful tracks through the green countryside.

Another traditional Asturian house

The Primitivo Route is not heavily traveled so it attracted some colorful pilgrims like this guy.

View from the window in our country house B&B lodging for the night.

Wonderful dinner of homemade chorizo, tortilla and fresh salad with local cheese. \240Wash it down with a great Spanish wine and it’s a great end to an awesome day! \240Buen Camino!!

Stage 23 - Grado to Sallas

16.5 Miles - RAIN and 60 degrees

After a wonderful evening in a rural B&B with an innkeeper who is Asturian and loves to share the history of the land, we woke up to a dreary day and the promise of rain.

As usual we start out optimistic and are able to enjoy the early morning views of the countryside and its livestock- like this foal.

Or this guy who is staring down at us with a look like ‘what are you guys doing?’ \240Same question we are asking ourselves as today is a long day with hills and we know we’re going to get wet - probably really wet.

No rain yet but we have our ponchos in the ‘ready’ position. \240On days like today, we find ourselves taking the damn ponchos on & off as once the rain stops it’s like a sauna under the damn things. \240At this point, we’re pretty skilled in the twists and turns needed to put a poncho on and off by oneself and over your backpack!!

The valleys are beautiful and the rain clouds are visible

Example of another local village grain bin (horreos) and the corn hanging from it.

Alas the serious rain starts and we have a 10 mile slog in the rain & mud. \240Fortunately, it’s not cold or windy so our misery is manageable. \240Barely...

Even the horses are lying down in ththere damn mud as it’s EVERYWHERE!

When we manage to lift our heads from the muddy & rocky \240paths we’re trying to navigate without breaking an ankle, we see great sites like this old abandoned monastery.

We’re 6 hours in and the Yak is starting to crack again. \240 He’s really not a mud guy.

Even with the rain, \240there are animals to greet and noses to rub...

Thankfully, \240after a LONG WET and MUDDY day, we arrive at a quaint Inn with a courtyard and...

Space heaters so we can dry our boots and shirts and socks and pants and everything else! \240The Camino Provides!! \240Buen Camino

Stage 28 - Grande de Samilas to O Faandeso

16 Miles - SUN and clouds

We have two days of walking before reaching Lugo which is our final destination. \240We’re in our 5th week of walking 12-20 miles a day and it’s hard to believe it’s nearly over - but we’re also ready for the adventure to end.

I haven’t posted much in the past week due to a combination of long, wet days and spotty wi-fi. So here’s an attempt to catch up on the week. 😜

Somehow we finally got some sunshine and we’re able to take in the beauty of the vistas along the Camino. \240Oh Happy Day!

Love this pole of Iberian ham at a shop in a small local village

Sunny day pic! \240Actual blue sky!

Arne has a foot with some pretty bruised toes so good to take off his boot once in a while and give them a wiggle!

Part of the daily routine is to get to your hotel room - wash your muddy clothes and hang them on the window ledge to hope your they can dry. \240Arne’s shirt blew off the ledge on to the top of a car. \240Fortunately, he was able to run down to retrieve the shirt before the car drove off. \240The Camino provides...

Regardless of the conditions of the day, \240it’s fun to sync with our fellow travelers at days end for dinner & drinks.

Many days the trail looks more like a creek than a trail. \240No waterproof boots are that waterproof after hours of slogging thru water & mud.

These ancient grain houses are still being used and are quite beautiful as well.

Humor is good on long wet days. \240Poncho is on my side in the ‘ready’ position. \240Most days we are putting on and taking off our ponchos a lot as they are needed in the rain but quickly become a sauna.

Jose Ramon is one cool dude who has a roadside Camino bar that is totally tricked out with lights and flags and whatever. \240At the end of a long wet day, it was a big mood enhancer. \240Thanks Jose! \240The Camino Provides...

The ‘Gang’ - Jay & Shirley from Vancouver Island BC and Will from Arizona

Getting ready for our big climb day - biggest ascent of the Primitivo Route

We made it to the top with enough energy to ham it up

The whole Gang made it to the top

Smiles at the end of a long 5 days of tackling the main hills (and mud) of the Primitivo

I’m starting to like my victory beer at days end

Just when we got used to some sunshine, \240the wet weather returned for our walk out of Berocesdo. \240Funny how there clothes out to ‘dry’ as we walk by in our ponchos

Rain pants are great until you get to your coffee stop and realize your $$ is in pockets that are 2 layers in... 😜

Looks really wet but this is a typical heavy fog day in the Asturian mountains

Backpacks with a view over the Salime Dam.

Arne & Jay pondering their next drink or maybe thinking how they can get out of walking tomorrow

Great Albergue stop in the Galician hillside. \240Kind of place you want to stay and hangout except you still have 12 miles to walk for the day.

Great sign graffiti for the Camino and also for life!

The Yak is happy he’s down to 2 DAYS! \240Buen Camino!!