Camino del Norte – Irun – 100 km to Deba – 2014
The children were now 8, 10, and 12 and we’d bribed them to come on an other Camino 😉 We’d read a lot about the Camino del Norte, that it was breathtakingly beautiful but also that it was ‘not for the faint hearted’ as it was all up and down, and very steep. As it turned out the kids liked it just for this reason, as it was much more adventurous, and you never could tell what would come behind the next cliff, bay, mountain of beach. The cliffs with their endless stairs and steep trails where exactly what kids like, otherwise it just gets so boring walking miles on end on a rolling path. There were mountains to be conquered, sea’s to be swam in, waves to surf on. It was like one big theme park with endless rides. And you got a free stamp at each ‘attraction’. When it rained, it got wet and everyone put their poncho on and marched on. So, do kids like walking? Of course not, kids hate going on walks, everyone knows that. We sold it to them not as a walk, but that we were going on ‘The Camino’ together, and that we would find a beach or a public pool every day. That, and endless ice creams. We did a ten day trail and would walk no longer than 15 km per day. Sometimes as little as 10 km. Distance wasn’t the point, it was about moving from village to village, finding a new place to sleep, finding somewhere to swim, good Spanish food and playing some games on the iPad that they shared. We would get up early and start walking at around 06:00 am in order to beat the blistering Spanish 38 degree July noon sun. The daily sunrise was a treat the kids rarely saw back home. We would frequently rest in the shade of the olive trees, or stop and play in the streams. Our pace was slow, and soon we split up into two groups, the boys scouting out front, and the 3 ladies chatting away reliving many events of the previous school year. An unforgettable summer holiday.
Tips for walking the Camino with kids:
Just do it. Just go. Don’t ask your kids if they want to go on a long walk, the answer you already know. Make it an adventure instead of a walk. Don’t ever use the word ‘walk’ and bribe them with many ice creams ;-). They each get their own stamp book and collect stamps at every Refugio or Church. Every day is totally different. What also helps is a few days relaxing on the beach after you end your trail. And remember your kids will thank you big time when they are 30 year old. It’s all about planting the seed for the great outdoors.
Don’t walk too long, remember they’re kids and it’s supposed to be a holiday. We walked between 8km and 15km. There were families who walked 25km a day with kids, ands believe me, kids can easily handle it, but don’t push it, its got to be fun. We did 8 to 10 day trails. You can start where you want on the trail and stop where you want. You don’t have to reach Santiago, we didn’t as its very busy there.
Start early, if you start walking between 6am and 7am you’ll have quite some km without the blistering heat. It sounds very early, but all Pilgrims get up very early and go to bed before 9pm, so its something you adapt to very quick. Even the kids adapt very quick and it wasn’t an issue for them at all.
Have fun, stop to play a game and play in the streams or pick some flowers. Take many breaks in the shade, and drink lots of water. The kids each carried their own 300ml bottle which they frequently refilled along the trail.
Swim a lot: Find the local village swimming pool. It will only cost you 3,- euro pp and you’ll probably have the king sized pool to yourselves. If your walking the Camino del Norte, there’s a beach with a refreshing sea to dive into quite often.
Sleeping: Most Pilgrims sleep in ‘Refugios’, these are cheap, simple large dorms. You can also sleep at private Albergues or Pensions, which will have a bit more comfort and privacy. Usually we even got our own room as we were with such a big group (5). Pilgrim refugios are very cheap, between 5,- and 10,- euros pp. They are also very bare and simple (just as I like it). As you can’t always book ahead if your sleeping in the Pilgrim Refugios, you have to just go with the flow. Albergues you can Book ahead and this can be good to do if you are with a family. You’ll arrive early and you can claim your beds easily. We had 5 sleeping bags, which my wife and I carried. This is a must, you can’t do the Camino without sleeping bags, but buy thin light ones, as its very hot in Spain in the summer. There are very many refugios along the Camino Frances, about every 10 km you will find one, which makes it very flexible to change your plan.
Eating: It’s always a feast every day to eat in Spain. Especially if your hungry after a day on the trail. The kitchen isn’t high class, but it’s always great to order a ‘menu del dia’ for 10,- euro at the local Cafe or Bar. Walking with the 5 of us did mean eating out was always times five which did make the food quite expensive overall. It is also possible to cook at most Refugio’s and is often a lot of fun to eat together with the other pilgrims from many countries and of all ages.
Other children: We saw about 2 other families during our 10 day trail, we tried to introduce the children to one another, but it didn’t really work as the language barrier didn’t help.
Costs: It’s free! Well the hiking bit is. The Pilgrims paspoort will cost about 5,- euro pp, the sleeping will cost between 5,- to 10,- euros pp per night, and the food is about 20,- euros pp per day. Of course you can spend more, sleep in a pensions and eat fancy and even have your bags transported for you. You can use the ‘Luggage Courier Service’ which will transport your bags to your next sleeping destination every day. This costs around 8,- euro per pack per 25 km stage.
Camino Forum for all your questions: https://www.caminodesantiago.me/
Dutch Santiago Vereniging: https://www.santiago.nl/
‘Luggage Courier Service’: http://www.theroadtosantiago.com/sending-your-backpack-ahead.html