The next morning, I was happy to continue my journey in the direction of Sahagún. The landscape was not especially beautiful today, but that didn't really matter.

I felt comfortable, walking alone

Soon enough, I arrived at the next village. I hardly believed my eyes when I found the Spanish runner lady sitting in the only bar in the village. She was still looking a bit peaky, but was already rolling another cigarette. Again she looked at me with her cheeky smile and asked how I was. I answered:

'I'm fine and surprised, what about you, how are you feeling today?'

She told me she was still feeling a bit shaky, but well enough to continue her hike. And besides that, she said, it wasn't possible to spend two nights at the Inn. I thought that wasn't really fitting with the whole idea of being a pilgrim.

There were more familiar faces on the same terrace, including the American lady with the laptop. That was nice! I immediately ordered a coffee.

After the coffee break, the Spanish runner lady speeded ahead in her usual fast pace. It was a very funny sight. I walked on as well, together with the American lady.

She told me she came from New York. Not much later, she also told me that her fiancé had been killed during the 9/11 attack. I was shocked and, while I felt cold shivers, I stopped and said:

'I'm so sorry for you'

Our conversation immediately became much more personal, and I learned a lot about her life after 9/11. It made a huge impression on me. We were so engrossed in our conversation that we saw nothing of the surroundings. Until just before Sahagún, when we passed a small church with a marker stone on both sides of the road: only about 400 km to go to Santiago!

We had barely passed the church when a pilgrim overtook us, taking small, fast dribbling steps. We both looked to our left and saw the elderly lady from Italy passing us. We all burst out laughing. This was a very nice reunion! We walked on like three musketeers.

When we arrived in Sahagún, we first had to get some cash. As we were standing at the cash machine, a Russian woman suddenly joined us in a very obtrusive way. She came out of nowhere and was standing so close, that we couldn't even move aside. As if she was stuck to us.

the woman said nothing at all, she spoke only Russian apparently

It was a bit odd, to say the least... and none of us really knew how to react. We decided to have some lunch, and the Russian lady joined us as if she had been with us for days.

what was going on in her mind, was she feeling lonely?

It felt like we had a mystery guest at our table who had no voice. On the other hand, we didn't dare to send her away. So, as true pilgrims, we welcomed her into our little company. From that moment on, we walked, the four of us, the Russian lady stuck to us like a magnet.

Just before arriving in the next village, the American lady wanted to call it a day. I decided to join her and see if we could find an Inn.

Miss Italy and the Russian lady continued walking... the two of them looked like a pair of ice-skaters. Miss Italy dribbling in front and the Russian lady behind her with just a hand's breadth between them.

I was touched by this image, I had no words

After we had said goodbye to them, we found a municipal Inn in Calzada del Coto. The key was in the door, but there was nobody around. Two empty, deserted dormitories.

There was a beautiful, big tree standing in front of the Inn, and the American lady said:

'Hinde, shall we sleep outside under the big tree?'

This suddenly sounded very exciting! When I first started my Santiago trail, I would never even have considered this. I would have been terrified of doing something like that. But now, it seemed like an exciting adventure! I said:

'yeah…great, let’s do it!'

I went inside to get my sleeping bag. But just as I got inside, I was suddenly struck by an extreme feeling of nausea and I had to vomit violently. At the same time, I was hit by a bout of diarrhoea. My body was literally emptying itself from all possible sides...

Completely exhausted, I crawled to one of the beds in the dormitory. It was a very rickety bed, but I couldn't care less, I was glad to have one. After a while, the American lady came in. She was shocked to see me like this and said:

'Hinde, what happened to you?'

I was as white as a sheet, could barely speak and just managed to say:

'I don’t know, suddenly I had to throw up'

She said:

'ohh...help'

She was clearly worried and said that she would go into the village to try to find some medication.

Meanwhile, I crawled back and forth to the toilet, actually relieved that there were no other guests around.

When she came back after some time, she told me that there was only one shop in the village, and it was closed. The only thing open was the local bar. She had managed to get a thermos with boiled water and lemon. She nursed me lovingly. I was impressed and very grateful for her help.

The next day I was lying in bed, completely drained. I couldn't put one foot in front of the other. My American friend was somewhat panicking now. She said:

'Hinde, I ordered a taxi to take you to a hospital in Leon'

Help! A taxi? It was 'not done' for a pilgrim to divert from the trail and arrange for alternative transport. But at the same time, strangely enough, I was totally numb... couldn't say a word and, therefore, I also couldn't argue against it.

When I was finally lying on the back seat of the taxi, I could just about look through the window. I saw the kilometres flying by, while my feet didn't touch the earth... it was so strange and I felt like I was floating. I also felt guilty,

as if I was breaking all the rules of taking a pilgrimage

The taxi stopped in the centre of the busy town of Leon. The driver and my American friend got out to take my backpack from the trunk. In the meantime, I let myself slide out of the taxi, slowly and very weak.

I was barely standing on my feet when I felt like I was having a heart attack. She was dazzling... I felt like standing right in front of one of the angels, who had just descended from heaven!

I immediately fell into her arms and she screamed:

'my goodness, hinde....'

'what happened to you?'

Read what happens next in Santiago 17

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