After a lot of chatting and fun we arrived in the small village of Agés hours later. We checked in at an inn with a pleasant atmosphere.

In the middle of the breakfast room we found the Spanish man she told me about. A big First Aid box stood beside him on the table. He was treating the feet of another pilgrim. When he saw my Spanish friend he smiled and embraced her. He told me to sit down and await my turn.

I looked around and saw many injured pilgrims. It really looked like a medical post. Who was this man? My Spanish friend told me he was not a doctor, but could do a lot of good. Besides, he walked the Camino to Santiago himself. I didn’t really care about that, as long as he could treat my pain.

Finally it was my turn. He looked at my leg and said:

'lady, did you really walk with that big leg?'

His words startled me, and I looked at my leg… it was really totally swollen by now.

He set to work and massaged my leg at length. After that, he taped it completely. That would provide support during hiking, he said. However, his advice was:

'stop walking and put a lot of ice on your leg'

But surely it could not be that bad with my leg? That was the worst thing you could tell a pilgrim… stop walking! I felt a light panic. I wanted to hike so gladly. If not, I would lose my nice Spanish hiking friend again.

I decided to park his advice for the moment, ordered a white wine and sat down at the table with my Spanish friend. More and more pilgrims joined us: it was a very special scene of taped legs and feet. We made silly group photos and laughed about our injuries. The large amounts of wine numbed our pain temporarily.

(don’t) stop walking

The next morning I faced a hard choice. What to do with the Spanish man’s advice? The pain in my leg was still emphatically present. Everyone around me set off for Burgos, with or without tape. My Spanish friend departed too, her leg had reasonably recovered. It felt strange to stay behind in the inn alone.

Finally, after much deliberation, I decided to set off anyway. It didn’t matter to me how and what time, I wanted to arrive in Burgos. It was a 25-kilometre hike, quite a distance. To make the pain more bearable I decided to stop at every bar. Not for a coffee or a glass of wine, but to put some ice on my leg.

I set off, progressing slowly. The pain was severe, but I did not want to give in to that. I passed a small village and took a break with ice on my leg. I continued and climbed steep trails. On the highest point I could see Burgos lying in the far distance.

Hours later I arrived in Villalval and was overjoyed with a new terrace. On that terrace sat… incredible… one of the two Spanish ladies with whom I had hiked before. They had had the best advice then:

'stop at every bar'

We embraced and were overjoyed to see each other again. Her Spanish friend had returned home in the meantime. She had continued and still stopped at every bar. Really great. She saw my taped leg and looked worried.

I told her I found it very difficult to have to say goodbye to my beloved camino friends again and again because of my leg. She responded:

'there are always new pilgrims behind you with whom you will write a new story'

Ohhh how great… I hadn’t looked at it that way. I was constantly concentrating on my loss, what I was losing. And this while I had already gone through this experience unconsciously, without noticing it yet.

We enjoyed our reunion and recounted our adventures. Together, we slowly walked on and stopped at every bar again for a coffee and ice on my leg. In the last village before Burgos, Villafria de Burgos, we said goodbye again. My hiking pace was too slow for her. I understood. She concluded with the words:

'the camino is the concentration of your life, like syrup without water'

How special, yes it was exactly like that!

The final stretch before Burgos was boring, leading through a huge industrial area. It didn’t really matter, I was filled with inner joy.


I arrived in Burgos and continued to the centre, arriving at a wonderful cathedral! How impressively beautiful. I checked in at the Auberge Municipale, entered the elevator and… bumped into the medical Spanish man. He looked at me baffled and could not believe that I had walked the whole distance with my backpack. He warned me again that this did not do my leg any good.

I told him I understood, but jumped out of the elevator again. I was not in the mood for well-meant advice. I walked out again… stopped and saw on the terrace in front of the inn…. ohhhh…. the three dutchies!

We embraced, for we hadn’t seen each other for days. There were more people I knew, including the two guys with a guitar and ukulele. It became another evening of fun that I will never forget!

Read what happens next in Santiago 12

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