Day 1, Camino del Norte – Irun to San Sebastián 25.5km

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Distance 25.5 km
Accumulated elevation uphill 737m
Accumulated elevation downhill 755m

Well, they said it would be hard and they weren’t kidding. Did you see that elevation profile? It was an absolute killer, although to be honest the second half seemed just as difficult although it pales to insignificance when viewed as above.

I have only myself to blame because there were many options on this stage where I could have chosen a less trying route. But I went for the ‘alpinista’ track first of all, and then opted to stick with the GR121 trail which is a little longer and harder, but hugs the coastline. The image above shows just 23.3 kms, but I forgot to turn on the GPS until I thought about how impressed you would all be when you saw it, and by that time I had already walked for 3 km.

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There were a lot of Shetland type ponies around, some with very newborn foals who were still working out how to use their legs.

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It was certainly hard, but absolutely beautiful, walking through woodland, heathland and rocky tracks. In fact the vast majority of this stage was over rocky tracks which are quite hard on the feet, metaphorically and literally.

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As you can see from the elevation profile I dropped back down to sea level at Pasajes de San Juan. It seems to be a busy working port. Two huge container ships motored past as I walked through, one with the legend ‘Airbus on board’.

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I stopped for a beer and looked at the menu, but the menu del dia was 12.90 euros so I didn’t bother to eat. A small beer was 2.30 euros – outrageous. I then had to cross the estuary by ferry (0.70 euros) together with some giggling schoolgirls and the postman complete with his letter buggy. I walked to the other side of the inlet and stopped to eat some cheese and jamon that I had bought last night and then continued on my way, having to climb a ridiculous amount of very steep steps that seemed to go on forever.

I have seen some flowers today that are new to me – the pretty yellow trumpet is very low growing on heathland, the pink stag horn was in a hedgerow and the white flower was quite small with leaves like a peony.

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But the weather was kind to me. It was dull, and cloudy, but it did not rain. After studying the forecasts for the last few days I was convinced I would be walking through a storm. This stage would have been dangerous in wet weather. The smooth rock that I was walking over most of the day would have been very slippery if wet. But all was well and here I am in San Sebastián.

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I opted to stay at a hostal as the albergue is quite a way out of the city and I wanted to have a mooch around this lovely place. I was a bit miffed when I arrived at the Urban House hostal (22.40 euros) when I was told that I would be staying in another property a block away (a good five minute walk) as there is a large group staying at the main place. But it has turned out well because so far I am the only person here, although another woman is due to arrive at some point. I am in a nice four bed room with balcony overlooking a pretty square and bars on either side.

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Tomorrow is forecast to rain all day – oh well, let’s hope they got it wrong again!

About magwood

Trepidatious Traveller - camino blog is about preparing for and walking the Camino de Santiago. Many future pilgrims have found the blog useful and inspiring, and many who have no plans to walk the camino have simply enjoyed the dialogue http://www.magwood.me
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78 Responses to Day 1, Camino del Norte – Irun to San Sebastián 25.5km

  1. Janice Tyler says:

    Wonderful photos and deep respect for doing such a hard first stage x

    Like

  2. Jeannette Burgos-Rigó says:

    I love your post! I’ll keep paying attention to this one because is in my bucket list.
    Buen Camino!!!!

    Like

  3. Colleen says:

    Bravo… I love your blog! The Norte is on my wish list too…. maybe 2018?!

    Like

  4. Beautiful photos Maggie. I remember that first day!

    Like

  5. ingridfolkers says:

    Hi Maggie, Ingrid here… looking forward to your journey… especially since I am not walking any Caminos this year. Next year… looking at part of the Norte with a side adventure into the Picos de Europa… and then finishing on the Primitivo… keeping a close eye on you.

    Buen Camino, Light and Love…

    Like

  6. David Wolfe says:

    Having lived with your planning and preparation for the last few months it still seemed odd when I dropped you off at the airport yesterday lunch time and having to say goodbye for 6 weeks.
    I’m glad that the weather was kind to you today even if the gradient wasn’t. Super pictures as always. I hope that you have the opportunity to enjoy the surroundings whilst climbing steep gradients. Have a nice supper you deserve it. Sleep well,” Buen Camino ” L. David x

    Like

  7. George Gosling says:

    From “Poor George”
    Go Maggie go!

    Like

  8. Bonnie says:

    Hi Maggie, Your posts always give me so much pleasure, and as my Camino for this year has gone sideways, I will be eagerly looking forward to your updates.
    Stay safe, enjoy,
    Bonnie

    Like

  9. Vjr says:

    I love your posts with your honesty and direct comments. Until you I thought I was the only one who gets nervous before starting out. And your descriptions and photos are always evocative.
    Buen Camino. Val

    Like

  10. I remember that day well. I got so lost in Irún I nearly gave up on the whole thing. Glad you had a good first day on the Camino. Bueno Camino and enjoy Orio for me. (My profile pic is from that second day near Orio 🙂 )

    Like

  11. Spartacusbund says:

    Wow, That elevation looks like a killer indeed, I thought the climb to Orrisson was tough, but this is in another league completly. Well done on mastering it. Ultrea!

    Like

  12. Impressive start to your journey. As always great story telling and wonderful photos. I am feeling exhausted can we go for a more gentler elevation tomorrow? xx

    Like

  13. Christine says:

    Best wishes to you! I admire your strength and perseverance! An impressive first day, indeed.

    Like

  14. rba says:

    So glad I found your web site! I recently finished the Camino Del Norte and look forward to reliving it through your posts. You discription was very accurate!

    Buen Camino!
    rba

    Like

  15. Edina says:

    🙂

    Like

  16. Marilyn van Graan says:

    Shame – how the rain sucks when all we want to do is enjoy the paths with good soothing sun – hope you have a great day and stay safe. Today we are in Córdoba and will be setting off soon – millions of people here for some festival – lovely photos thanks 😃🌞🌻😘

    Like

    • magwood says:

      It’s the patio festival. I’ve always wanted to go, but am on Camino every year. Can’t believe the progress you’re making. It seems you are covering the ground faster than we did last year xxx

      Like

  17. Jenny Heesh says:

    Hooley Dooley Maggie! That elevation profile! How were your knees and calves!!! It sounds as though you had a wonderful first day though – such beautiful photos – I particularly loved the ones of the ponies and the butterfly.
    I hope that you had a restful night’s sleep and that the weather for today will be kind, and not as forecast.
    Take joy in every step –
    Camino hugs –
    Jenny xxx

    Like

    • magwood says:

      Knees and calves were OK, but the lungs were completely buggered! Ankles are a bit wobbly though – glad I’m wearing solid boots. xx

      Like

      • Jenny Heesh says:

        I’m not surprised that your lungs were buggered Maggie! I think perhaps you need to have a very small, lightweight flask of a suitable adult beverage in your pack – so restorative to the lungs when sipped slowly as needed!
        Take joy in every step –
        Jenny xxx

        Like

      • magwood says:

        I’v never tried that one Jenny…now could I manage the extra weight??

        Liked by 1 person

  18. Sandie says:

    Hopefully, your hard first day will make the rest seem easy! Many pilgrims walking alongside?

    Like

  19. mary lynch says:

    Maggie, as usual I am in awe of you. Well done on a wonderful first day. Beautiful photos and I’m delighted the rain held off. Buen Camino xx

    Like

  20. keith889 says:

    Wonderful photos Maggie. I wish I was as fit as you. Good luck with this trip. I shall be following you every day xx

    Like

  21. graniteln says:

    Hi! I will be starting on this route from San Sebastian in May…hope to make use of all of your information! Thank you.

    Like

  22. Tanya says:

    This is awesome thank you so much for sharing ; this may be my next Camino and very little Info out there. Please continue and Buen Camino

    Like

    • magwood says:

      Are you a member of the Camino forum? You can find loads of info. Take a look at my resources page if you don’t know about it – there is a link.

      Like

  23. Hi Maggie, I’ll be following you as you post. In comparison to the first day on the Frances, how does that first climb rate? Tougher? I hope you get good weather after Ribedeo as I would love to see how you get on during your walk to Ferrol!
    David

    Like

    • magwood says:

      A tougher ascent than the Napolean, but oh so much shorter. I just had to stop every few paces and catch my breath and turn around and enjoy the view. I hope I can giv you some useful info re Ribadeo to Ferrol – Vamos a ver!

      Like

  24. Sandra Konnad says:

    Will be following because I plan to do this route 2018.
    I’m leaving Friday to do the Portugal route👣
    Buen Camino😎

    Like

  25. terrygriffiths says:

    Well written, I’ll befollowing your progress eagerly. I’m walking the Pyrenees Haute Route to Hendaye in the summer, then it will be across the river to Irun and Camino’s del Norte and Primitivo to SdC
    Buen Camino

    Like

  26. Lisa says:

    I am glad I ran across your blog link! I was scheduled to start in San Sebastián Saturday (yesterday) morning for a leisurely walk to Santander. But I am at home, on ice, with a bulging disc and pinched nerve instead. I really love your writing and photos! I hope to get there eventually!

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Camilla says:

    Really enjoying your Camino so far-hope you are too!

    Like

  28. Ruth says:

    How impressive is your first day!!! My husband and I are planning to do this route next year or the year after. Will be following your posts. And your photographs – wonderful. Buen Camino!

    Like

  29. Beth Stilwell says:

    This was the most helpful article I’ve read about Camino del Norte. I’m curious if it’s just steep or if it’s also challenging to walk? We’re considering this in summer of 2017. I look forward to more of your experience!

    Like

  30. Merilu Smith says:

    Good morning magwood! Thank you for your blog. I love it! I plan to walk the Camino August 12, 2016. I am so excited! I am walking alone but I know I won’t be alone…. How long did it take you to cross the mountains? My accommodation are in Roncesvalles. Been Camino!

    Like

    • magwood says:

      Roncesvalles is on the Camino Frances. As far as I remember we left St Jean at around 8:30 and arrived st Roncesvalles around 17:00. A tough day, but beautiful. Buen Camino!

      Like

  31. dennis says:

    great description of the first day ..lovely
    pictures … thanks for sharing. ..

    Like

  32. Robert East says:

    Hi, I just found your blog. I’m presently walking the Camino Norte behind you. I left San Sebastián today after walking the Alpine Route on Monday. I had a constant drizzle almost all the way, which was ok, however, I’d prefer not having rain gear on while making those climbs. I’m in Zarautz tonight. Where are you now? Great photos! I saw lots of potentially good photo possibilities, but couldn’t discipline myself to extract my camera from my pack. And surprisingly, the wet rocks weren’t slippery.
    -Robert

    Like

    • magwood says:

      Oh wow, great to hear from you. Glad you didn’t don’t have any issues with the wet terrain – you are probably more sure footed than me.

      Like

  33. Joan says:

    Hi Maggie – I hope you enjoy your Camino. Reading your post and seeing your photos reminded me of walking the same route with my 14 year old son 4 years ago. I hope that you enjoy your experience- Joan

    Like

  34. Beth says:

    Thanks for the link on the camino.uk site, Maggie. I’ve been wanting to do the route you are on, but opted to go back to the Frances again next month. Will be following to see how you’re getting along.

    Like

  35. Simon says:

    It is very nice to read what I have got coming ahead me and my friends in 2 weeks time. Are there many pilgrims on the walk?

    Like

  36. Karen Murray says:

    Wonderful to read your blog about Camino Norte – I am considering doing this but coming from New Zealand so it’s a toss up whether to do thus or Francais for a second time. Are you meeting many fellow travellers?

    Like

    • magwood says:

      Hi Karen, yes there are plenty of other pilgrims walking. Mostly French and Germans, although the French all seem to have chosen to walk the Primitivo.

      Like

  37. Fatma says:

    Thank you so much for this blog.
    If you compare to the other Camino’s- how well is it marked with arrows? If notwell marked, was a guide enough or did u need any GPS?

    Like

    • magwood says:

      It is mostly very well signed. I went wrong a couple of times, but only because I really wasn’t paying attention. I do need to concentrate on looking for the arrows – but there are plenty marking the way. I tend only to use a guide if I am unsure about the route.

      Like

  38. Eline says:

    Hi!

    What wonderful pictures. What a great adventure…

    My husband and I walked the Frances in 2010 as our honeymoon. It was such a life-changing, wonderful, warm experience.

    We now have three kids, who’ll be five (great hiker), four and two next Summer. We’d love to walk part of the Norte with them in the Summer of 2017 (for about two weeks). Of course, this means that we won’t be able to do more than 10 km a day.

    Do you think this is possible, given the greater distance between towns with hotels, refugios etc.? And what’s the one bit of the trip you would suggest? (Ideally with quite some coastline)

    Thanks a million for your advice!

    Eline

    Like

    • magwood says:

      Hi Eline, wow you’re brave. I find it hard enough looking after myself, let alone three children!
      On the Norte you have the great advantage of the Feve train that runs all along the coast. You could make the Feve part of your adventure so that you can walk whatever distance the children can manage and then hop on the train to the destination of your choice. There are some lovely beaches that the children will enjoy. The Norte departs from the coast quite often and there is a lot of road walking which would be a nightmare with little ones. You might find it preferable to take the GR routes where appropriate.

      Like

  39. I have just discovered your site and find it very inspiring . I love your Fotos and text.I have walked the camino Francese from my hometown in Switzerland to Santjago in three stages a couple of years ago.Last year I walked the camino Portuguese from Porto to Santjago and on to Finisterre and Muxia.I decided to take more time and enjoy some Sightseeing and places along the way.this spring I walked part of the Tolosana from Arles to Toulouse and am hoping to finish this one in September or next spring.At first I was feeling an odity as my friends could not understand me doing anything like that ,despite the fact that I have been hiking all over Europe and in the U.S. A. and Canada as well.When I joined a Swiss organisation and found other crazy people.As I am getting older,nearly 73 years old, I wonder what I can do in the near future.I would love to do the camino del Northe or the via della plata.

    Like

    • magwood says:

      Hi Margrit, many thanks for your kind comments. How long was your Camino from home? It must have been an amazing experience. If I’m still walking caminos in ten years, when I’m your age, I shall be very happy.

      It is good to be part of a community of like-minded people who ‘get’ your obsession. I find the Camino forums provide that support system for me.
      Buen Camino for your next one!

      Like

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