That night I slept in one room with the three other dutchies. The room was really too small for four persons.

Consequently, Joyce and I had to share an improvised bed, a sort of three-quarter bed. The beds only fitted into the room in one way, so I lay with my head against Anja and Ilse’s feet.

However, they were very special feet, as they had hiked thousands of miles from the Netherlands. And without blisters, as far as I knew. Ilse did collapse somewhere in France, though. How would that have looked? She was cheerfully up and about now, and with the aid of good walking sticks she came a long way. All in all: respect for these genuine pilgrim ladies.

Joyce, by contrast, had started somewhere in France, just before I joined the route in St. Jean Chez de Port. Joyce did not have that much travelling experience, but was very eager to learn, absorbing everything. She was not too tall and carried a huge, red backpack. When you walked behind her, she looked like a red beetle with small, short legs. A very droll sight and she, too, was propped up by two walking sticks.

I liked Joyce a lot, but that night I lay so close to her that I did not feel any personal space at all. The room and the bed were just too small. At the same time, Ilse and Anja’s feet were constantly sticking toward me. It felt very oppressive. I drove myself crazy. Even my earplugs could not save me. It just went on and on in my head and I could not sleep.

Miss Kiwi seemed luckier initially. She lay in a free-standing bed in a spacious dormitory. However… next morning her bed was suddenly empty. She could not sleep either, because that night two pilgrims had been making love in the dormitory. Miss Kiwi could not handle this and had left in the middle of the night, back on the hiking path in the dark.

the famous bridge of puenta la reina

The three dutchies had left early that morning, so I was the last to go, on my own. My itinerary indicated that I had to walk from Puente la Reina to Villamayor de Monjardin, a route of 32 km in 8 hours. Quite a distance carrying a heavy backpack. No idea where the three dutchies were heading, we had not discussed that beforehand. And Miss Kiwi had not left anything behind either.

I left Puenta la Reina crossing the beautiful, famous bridge, known from many hiking books (see photo). The surroundings were once again fantastic, it looked a little like Tuscany. All around you saw waving, freshly mown wheat fields with green vineries or forest edges in between. On the hills you saw small, nice villages where time seemed to stand still.

crowded inns

On the way I met a Dutch guy who had joined our group several times before. We continued together. When we entered Estella eventually, we had had it with hiking for that day. We decided to look for an inn. No such luck…

Many inns were full because there would be a bull run the next day with lots of festivities. We had not foreseen that. I did not feel like walking to the next village at all. Finally, after having been told six times that the inn was full, we found an inn that still had room. I was so exhausted by then that I sat down on the sidewalk in front of the inn, overly grateful and happy that we had found a bed.

Suddenly, a window of the inn was opened behind us and a head was stuck out. This head was triggered by our cackling on the sidewalk. There were screams of joy… incredible! It was Ilse’s head. The three dutchies were here too. How extraordinary!

Given the large numbers of inns in Estella it was nearly impossible to meet one another. The itinerary also indicated a different stage for that day. As if it had to be this way. Only Miss Kiwi was nowhere to be seen.

Read what happens next in Santiago 7

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