The next day I woke up in the heat of St. Jean Pied de Port. After breakfast I decided to send my thick down-filled sleeping bag back to the Netherlands.

The sleeping bag didn't fit in my backpack, so I got rid of the deadweight. My parents, without warning, received a sleeping bag and didn't understand why I'd done this.

photo shoot

When I subsequently passed a pilgrims hostel, a man with a big beard and open sandals spoke to me. It was as though he'd stepped straight out of the bible. He worked as a volunteer at the hostel and had walked the Camino de Santiago on numerous occasions before. I couldn't understand this...to me it seemed enough to hike to Santiago once and moreover I never made the same journey twice. After all, it's far more interesting to go on new journeys and not know what lies ahead?

He asked me if he could take some pictures of me in a small chapel further up. At first I found it a bit strange. Was this safe? Eventually he managed to persuade me with his explanation and introduction as a photographer. His idea was to get a picture of me before and after the Camino. According to him, there would be a vast difference in the two. This definitely triggered me. I was curious and somewhat flattered so I went with him. It was a beautiful, mystical chapel. Of course, I felt slightly uncomfortable. But in the end it was a really fun session. As he was also from Amsterdam, we arranged to get the 'after' picture there. Spot the difference!

cowboy hat, tattoos and beer

That night I sat alone on a terrace for dinner. I felt slightly uncomfortable without a companion at the table, even in these surroundings where many pilgrims travel alone.

On the same terrace there was a tough looking lady with a cowboy hat, tattoos and big jug of beer. I caught myself looking at her a lot. She made an impression on me. I actually thought I was pretty tough, even though I prefer wine over beer. But compared to her I felt like a goody-goody. Later in the evening I saw her again at a different terrace, but I didn't dare speak to her. How great it would be to actually meet her further down the trail!

peculiar dream

That night I had a peculiar, vivid, dream. One of those dreams you never forget. In this dream I had to say goodbye three times, once at work and twice to an ex-loved one. The meaning of this dream wasn't yet clear to me and no, I didn't have any other underlying issues. It seemed to me it was interesting timing just before I set off on my pilgrimage.

the dutchies

The next day I set off on my exciting journey. The hesitations and fears on the home front definitely had an influence on me. So, not in one go across the magical and challenging Pyrenees but via a pit stop in Auberge Orisson. Just to be sure, I reserved beforehand in the fear that I wouldn't have a place to sleep that night.

Considering I would only have to hike for a few hours, I could complete the 800 metre elevation at my own pace. Halfway I came to a standstill when I spotted 5 women on the other side of the trail. They looked amused by the way I slowly, step by step, climbed the steep mountainside. In the corner of my left eye, I spotted zip-off pants and walking sticks, two things I didn't feel the need for whatsoever. They, in turn, looked questioningly at my short jeans. It was impossible to ignore the zip-off pants and walking sticks and it was instantly apparent that 3 of the 5 women came from the Netherlands.

They spoke to me and thought they knew me, but this turned out to be a mistake. Apparently I have an exact lookalike in the Netherlands. Contact was made. Slightly further up we came across a terrace, the cup of coffee made for an ideal break from the climb. Together we reached Auberge Orisson. After we'd checked in, we chatted and enjoyed the terrace all afternoon, with wonderful views of the Pyrenees. Another surprise awaited me. The lady with the cowboy hat and tattoos was also checking in. This time without beer.

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