Back home and now time to reflect on my Camino Norte. For me there is no doubt that the Norte is tougher than the Camino Frances. This is in two senses - firstly because the frequency and heights of the climbs are greater and because the walking stages tend to be longer. The stage are longer in part because of the relative scarcity of inhabited places in some parts but mainly owing to the paucity of available accommodation at times. The currently available UK publications are poor and we used a guide published by the Spanish tourist board which came with an accommodation guide that is updated yearly. Unfortunately, although the guide was mostly ok the accommodation info was often inaccurate, with places closed and many places not mentioned at all. As has often been said on the forums the German guide appears to be the most comprehensive but it was by no means faultless. We had mostly good weather with only two days with drizzle during the first part of the Camino. However, the last week was overcast and the last two days had heavy rain. In fact the final 20km were walked in torrential rain with rivers of water at our feet. No real problem for the hiking itself and the poncho I bought was excellent. I would certainly take it again as it both kept me and my rucksack dry and because it is long the rain only dripped onto my waterproof leggings.
Notwithstanding the relative toughness I thoroughly enjoyed by Camino and I liked the relative scarcity of other pilgrims. I think the most I saw at any one time was about 20 and that was in one AdP. For many days we often saw no others hikers and often spent time in AdPs with less than 3 other people and twice we were the only two in the AdP. In general, the food was better on the Norte in part because few places catered especially for pilgrims so we most had the standard 'menu of the day'. However, the almost total lack of vegetables was again a common theme. My impression is that there is more road work on the Norte but overall I think the general scenery was better. Especially, if like me you love to see the sea. It was good to get to Santiago de Compestella again and the extra day there gave a good opportunity to explore the city. My best discovery being the market that is about 500m behind the cathedral where not only are there a large range of stalls but also what looked to be a lovely fish food restaurant. Unfortunately, we had just had lunch so did not try it and it was not open in the evening. Despite the number of pilgrims and tourists in SdC there are plenty of places to stay especially if like us you don't want to stay in another AdP. In fact booking.com appeared to be as good a way as any to find a hotel and we found that it was no cheaper going to the hotel direct. However, there are many places that do not feature on the booking websites which is fine if you want to trudge around the city. Did some tourist shopping at the end and found one stand out place that sold high quality items and artwork called Rosario Rey . It's not a cheap place but certainly a little different. I found one item that is a wooden ball cut in half. The are lines cut in each half so that when the ball is placed back together it would read 'otro camino interior' which means 'another internal path'. I liked this a lot as it really called to me, however, it was a little expensive. Notwithstanding this I went back again later and after some discussion I bought it!
For me the Caminos are a physical and mental challenge that I enjoy whilst giving me time away from life's normal demands. I am a competitive person but this is primarily against myself as I will always set myself challenges whether they be as simple as "climb this next hill without a stop" or "complete another Camino". Lucky, I again stayed healthy with only a few minor aches and pains and only 1 little blister! Buon Camino till next time!