The hard sleeping mat, my painful leg and the monk’s impressive words caused a sleepless night. The next morning I got out of bed exhausted with a lot of pain.

Unfortunately, because of my hurting leg I also had to part from my two funny Spanish friends.

I set out alone and felt a shooting pain in my lower right leg with every step. But I did not give up and tried to walk at a reasonable pace. I passed another pilgrim…looked left and suddenly saw that this was the businessman/acupuncturist. Strange…he was walking very slow and barefooted.

He looked at me with his intensely blue eyes and asked me how my leg was. I said, rather irritated and ungrateful:'bad…your treatment did not help anything.' He replied:

'walk slower and slow down, try walking barefooted'

He claimed this would activate different pressure points in my foot and have an alleviating effect on my leg. This sounded really ridiculous! This didn’t help me one bit. I would not hear of it either. I thanked him for his advice and quickened my pace, despite the pain.

So far, I had not had any physical complaints, not even a blister. So I couldn’t complain. But I was not familiar with this shin injury and it was painfully present with every step I took.

Lonely and in a lot of pain, I continued. I saw nothing of the environment, looked only at the hiking trail and suddenly saw

my own shadow

I saw my crippled silhouette. That was very confrontational. I could not escape my own shadow. But I did not have any issues, did I? And what did those words of the monk mean:

'the pain in your body represents the pain in your life'

Should I have listened to this well-meant advice after all? Should I have trained in advance? Or did this pain have a totally different meaning?

Suddenly the phone in my backpack rang. This had never happened before and it sounded so strange…

as if I was called from another world

Automatically I stopped to get my phone out of my backpack. But why…I didn’t want to receive any phone calls, did I? But I could not resist. A missed call from one of my sisters with a message. She said that the home front was very worried because they hadn’t heard from me for quite a while. As a result, my mother slept badly.

Oops... It startled me… I was so absorbed in my own adventures that I hadn’t thought about that at all. It really touched me, the tears ran down my face. I was really spent, my leg ached and suddenly I felt homesick.

I had such a fine and warm family, I didn’t want them to worry unnecessarily. Of course, they had not been happy when I told them, that I would set out for Santiago on my own. But well, something could happen anywhere, which would stop you from going anywhere at all. I didn’t want to give into fear.

I decided to go on and not linger in my pain. I was looking around again and saw how beautiful the hiking path was, full of wild flowers. Suddenly I saw two butterflies trailing each other. Time and time again a new couple emerged, not one butterfly but always two together, so lovely!

it seemed as if the butterfly was pointing something out to me, no idea what

It was dead silent on the hiking path until I was overtaken by a strange man. He pulled an elongated luggage cart with two large bags on it. He looked a bit strange. No-one had a cart with him. Always a backpack, or something that looked like it. Suddenly I thought of Miss Kiwi with her flower-power bag. Woh, how would she be doing? I hadn’t seen her for quite some time. And the dutchies had been out of sight for a while too.

A little while later I passed this man again. He was sitting by the side of the path now. The whole scene made me feel a little unsettled. What was this man up to?

was he a real pilgrim?

He looked different from all other pilgrims. A little panicky I looked around me. Fortunately, I saw a hiker approaching in the distance. Thank god… it is a lady. She looked Italian or Spanish. She was walking very slowly too, limping a little. We passed each other as much as three times.

Out of fear for this strange man, but also out of curiosity for this lady, I finally spoke to her. I asked her why she was walking so slowly. She smiled and was thinking the same about me:

'why did she walk so slowly, that blonde lady with her big legs?'

I burst into laughter. Big legs? I hope you meant ‘long legs’? We both laughed. She told me she had a shin injury on her right leg…this was too bizarre. When I told her exactly the same about the shin injury on my right leg, we almost doubled over and fell to the ground laughing.

Together we continued, limping and chatting. She asked if I would go with her to Agés, two villages down the road. There was no medical post or pharmacist there, but there was a Spanish man who had treated her leg before and who could help me too. I looked forward to that and enjoyed this special encounter along the route intensely.

Read what happens next in Santiago 11

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