How wonderful it was to be reunited as a group! León was behind us by now and vast fields appeared in front of us.
We were always walking in a line, behind each other, never next to each other. I rather preferred walking behind. This gave me the space and freedom to set my own pace and to leave the line every now and then.
Anja and Ilse often walked in position one and two. They had built up their own rhythm from when they had departed in the Netherlands and were walking synchronised. They were still wholeheartedly in love with their zip-off pants and their walking sticks ticked away happily.
Joyce often walked in front of me or in third position. She also hadn't yet thrown away her walking sticks. She had to make big steps in order to keep up with us, and she was still carrying her oversized backpack.
Miss Kiwi also often walked in front of me, and today she was wearing grey joggers and a cowboy hat. Her mini backpack and her flower-power bag made her look more like a day tourist than a pilgrim. But hey, where does it say that every pilgrim must have a huge and overstuffed backpack? Maybe she was the best example for us to bring as little as possible.
Sometimes she also left the hiking trail without any notice, just to join our line again a bit further on. Walking sticks were certainly not included in her dictionary.
I, myself, was still wearing my short, cut-off jeans. And I still found it hard to stuff everything in my backpack. My sleeping bag was always dangling on the bottom of it in a creaking plastic bag. With every step you could hear this squeaky sound. To the great annoyance of everybody else. I was still convinced that it was really not necessary to use a walking stick, even after the other dutchies tried to convince me otherwise.
We were all so different that we probably would have passed each other without a second thought in our daily lives. We also had totally different occupations. Ilse was a photographer, Anja a financial controller, Joyce a lab technician, Miss Kiwi a hairdresser and I was a recruiter.
but what we all shared was humour, self-mockery and the complete acceptance of each other
Even as we travelled as a group, there was always room for contact with others. This made us being together so relaxed and easy.
we were all open-minded, each of us in their own unique way
After having walked for hours in silence, but interspersed with stops, a lot of chattering and laughter, we arrived in Villar de Mazarife, a small village. We checked in at the Jesus Inn, a beautiful name for an inn along the Camino.
It was a very pleasant and cosy inn with a jacuzzi and a large garden. We dropped ourselves on the chairs and had the table filled up with wine, beer, crisps and cigarettes.
Suddenly I saw a familiar man in the garden. He was wearing his swimming trunks and walked to the jacuzzi, or what looked like one. He stopped at our table and looked at me with his intense and piercing eyes.
he looked right through me
He was the man who had given me the advice to walk in a slower pace, to slow down and even to continue barefoot. I had told him, not very kindly and rather ungratefully, that his acupuncture treatment hadn't helped me at all. He had been my first teacher on my path, the successful businessman come acupuncturist.
I couldn't speak, I wanted to say something, but I just couldn't... the businessman also didn't say anything.
I should apologise to him for my earlier ungratefulness. Why was this so difficult for me? Why did I have a lump in my throat?
I didn't have any issues, did I?
He walked on, to the jacuzzi. His eyes had said enough. I let the chance to apologise to him pass, and tried to ignore his presence. A feeling of shame hit me.
Our own little party continued, accompanied by many glasses of wine and beer. In the end we exchanged the garden for our small, intimate dorm room. We fell on our beds laughing and quite tipsy.
Suddenly Miss Kiwi closed the shutters on the window and asked for our attention. She was standing there, very solemnly, like a monk, as if this was the way to act in the Jesus Inn. Then she led us in prayer:
'Dear Lord, please forgive Hinde for the creaking plastic bag on her backpack'
'Dear Lord, please forgive Anja for all her cigarettes'
'Dear Lord, please forgive Ilse for the irritating ticking of her walking sticks'
'Dear Lord, please forgive Joyce for her oversized backpack and her small steps'
'Dear Lord, please forgive me for being in this crazy group'
Her prayer went on and on, and we couldn't stop howling with laughter. Miss Kiwi was such an amazing actress!
but who was she, deep down?
In her daily life, Miss Kiwi had a profound belief in God. But what about my own faith?
Numbed by the huge amount of wine, I couldn't answer this question anymore. It didn't take us long to fall into a deep sleep, and this time we weren't bothered by all the snoring sounds that were part of that.