Walking the Camino del Norte: Pola de Siero to Ovieto (Stickgate!)

The Day When We Almost Lost Our Walking Sticks:

This could also read as the day when we almost lost our shit because when Lizz and I woke up in an albergue in Pola de Siero to find that someone had stolen our walking sticks, we were devastated.

And then a new friend offered to help us hunt down the thieves, and we set out on a Nancy-Drew-style adventure on the Camino de Santiago.

Stickgate: A Saga on the Camino del Norte

In an albergue, all boots and walking sticks are often kept in a communal storage room near the hostel’s entrance. Until Day 22, it never crossed my mind that anybody would steal from this communal space. For a fellow pilgrim to abscond with another pilgrim’s shoes or sticks is something close to stealing the presents out of the back of Santa’s sleigh.

Who wants that kind of bad karma?

But, on Day 22, I walked into the communal space and stared at the bucket that had once contained our sticks. Our shiny blue, adjustable sticks with their attached blister-preventing gloves were nowhere to be found. Left in their place were two crooked sticks – like actual sticks from the woods.

I poked my head out from the walk-in closet and called out to Lizz: “Hey, we left our sticks in here, right? Right??!!”

Lizz was instantly in the doorway, confirming that we had, indeed, left our sticks in the bucket. She nearly turned over the shelves searching for our missing sticks.

Lizz laughs easily and it’s tough to bring her spirits down, but I remembered her horror when we had accidentally locked our sticks in a hotel lobby before locking ourselves out. She wasn’t laughing about our missing sticks. Not. At. All.

While Lizz ransacked the closet, I told Roberto, the friendly albergue operator who we had sipped wine with the evening before, that our sticks were gone. This involved a lot of miming to bridge our language barrier, but between my exaggerated walk with fake walking sticks, and the destructive noises coming from the communal closet, Roberto grasped the issue.

He mimed to me the motion of someone driving a vehicle, spun on his heel, and ran for the door.

Before long, Lizz and I were seated in Roberto’s car while he careened along the Camino. When we saw a man and a woman walking with sticks that looked just like ours, he slowed the car to a crawl and drove past the culprits while we stared at our beautiful sticks in the hands of two perfect strangers.

As soon as Roberto pulled over, Lizz was out of the car and rounding the corner at a dead run. Roberto called to me to stay put, trying to explain in his broken English that if we waited, the thieves would be forced to walk right by the car. But it was too late, Lizz was already around the corner, fast approaching two known thieves who were carrying, let’s all remember, sticks.

I followed and, by the time I rounded the corner, Lizz was holding two pairs of walking sticks while two very embarrassed pilgrims walked away from her and toward my camera. Naturally, I stuck my camera in their faces.

Two women hold walking sticks over head on the Camino del Norte
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An Honest Mistake?

I like to believe the best in people. I really do. The stick thieves told Lizz that they didn’t think anyone was left in the albergue. This is a possibility, considering that Roberto had given Lizz and me a private room and that we – as usual – slept later than the other pilgrims, emerging as most people were leaving.


Except our shoes were in that communal room as well. Two pairs of shoes, sitting alone on the shelves next to two pairs of walking sticks. Those pilgrims would have had to ignore our shoes while they gathered their own shoes from the very same shelves.

In the end, we decided to give them the benefit of the doubt, and I chose not to show their faces in the video (though you can see the man for the briefest of moments in the hilarious moment when he and Lizz make eye contact as we drive past).

Stickgate Complete: A Saga on the Camino del Norte with a Happy Ending

We ended up having breakfast with Roberto, who had driven to the first café on the route in order to watch the thieves walk by (without sticks).

This day would turn out to be my favorite day on the Camino. Better even than the day when we finally arrived in Santiago. We could not stop laughing at how Roberto had whisked us into his car and took off down the Camino at NASCAR-like speeds, or how Lizz had run toward two strangers carrying sticks without any concern for her own safety. The real threat, she said, was facing miles of walking without her sticks.

That night in Oviedo, perhaps because we were still on a Stickgate high, we splurged on an expensive dinner out at a restaurant with real vegetables. We then stayed out way too late at an Irish Pub, indulging in being a tourist for the night.

The evening was a perfect ending to a day that will forever be my fondest memory on the Camino de Santiago. It just goes to show that the Camino will provide.

Lessons Learned on the Camino del Norte:

  1. It’s best not to drink the night away at an Irish Pub when you’re supposed to walk a lot of miles the next day. BUT…sometimes you have to let your hair down – even on the Camino de Santiago.

Tips from a Post-Camino del Norte Perspective:

  1. There just isn’t much you can do if someone decides to steal from the communal room in an albergue. However, it is nearly unheard of. Furthermore, you will run into the same pilgrims over and over again, so it is likely that any stolen item will be returned to its rightful owner in time. It is best to trust in your fellow pilgrims and trust that, if something does go missing, the Camino will provide.

Our Pilgrimage Stats After Day 22 on the Camino del Norte

Map on the Camino del Norte

(Offstage detour) Miles: 10

Actual Miles Walked: 10

Bus forward Miles: 1 (thanks to Roberto and his car!)

Total Miles Walked So Far: 261 (419 kilometers)

Up Next: Day 23 on the Camino del Norte Oviedo to Cadavedo

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    2 Comments on “Walking the Camino del Norte: Pola de Siero to Ovieto (Stickgate!)”

    1. Dear Jenn: I just am floored that you and Liz made this trip on foot and relying on hostels and friendly dinners with wine to fortify your next days. I am Lizzies Aunt two down. Her Mother Debbie is my sister’s daughter. Liz has always been a stand-alone sure and confident. This trip has been a wonderful treat for me, especially since I know I am not capable of doing anything near what you two girls have accomplished. I just want you to know how much I admire you and your lust for adventure. Besides that, after your year of loss and sadness, which seems to spur you on to live every moment, my wish for you tho, is to know you were loved and will be again. All the travels you will do are a pre-cursor to a bright future. You are loved, talented, and on the cusp of finding what you are looking for. love to you, Aunt Mary Dean xoxo

      • Thank you for this. Your comment came at exactly the right time – just when I needed it most. I hope that you’re right that I’ll find love again. I know that I’m right when I say that you are capable of many many things that you think you might not be able to do. Lizzie and I never thought we could walk the Camino; we finally admitted to each other that we didn’t think we would be able to do it as we sat in Santiago after walking 440 miles together!

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