Never before during my camino had I woken up with such a hangover. As I was really late this time, I had to set out without breakfast. Not pleasant.

My backpack felt as heavy as lead, as if it was filled with bricks. I had to pay heavily for the alcohol and cigarettes of the previous night. With each step I was pulled backwards. I progressed agonizingly slow. How in heaven could I get through this day?

Finally, after a two-hour hike, which lasted forever, I found a place where I could have breakfast. I was so happy! I immediately ordered a double coffee and delicious buns.

body language

To my surprise I met two pilgrim ladies here whom I had met several times. I joined them at their table. They immediately complimented me for emanating so much balance and having a beautiful body language. I burst into laughter, for I still felt my hangover. My body felt so heavy, it seemed as if I could sink into the earth at any moment.

Suddenly, I had to think of that photographer of my photo shoot in St. Jean Chez de Port. He had mentioned the difference in appearance before and after the camino. Maybe that’s what it was? But I had not reached Santiago by a long shot. The pilgrim ladies seemed to be serious, so like a real pilgrim I thanked them for the compliment.

surprise

After my delicious breakfast I continued my trip. Strange enough I recovered quickly. Finally, after hours of hiking, fatigue did strike again and I arrived in a small village called Azofra. I found an inn with a lovely swimming pool.

And suddenly, on the edge of the swimming pool I saw… six legs wiggling in the water. Incredible! Three washed-out dutchies were staring aimlessly into the water. I screamed with joy and was so glad to see my dutchies unexpectedly! But obviously, the alcohol had taken its toll with them as well. So no party that night, but a simple pilgrim menu and early to bed.

parish inn

The next morning I set out alone again and enjoyed the sunflowers in the varying landscape. After some six hours I entered the small village of Grañón. Automatically I walked along the main road, passing a beautiful church. According to my walking guide, one of the most attractive inns along the camino was also in this village.

Driven by curiosity I entered the inn. It was indeed beautiful, and as in all parish inns hard sleeping mats were on the floor and you could give a donation as you pleased. We were invited for a joint dinner and mass. The mass was in Spanish, so I didn’t understand a word of it, but I enjoyed the mystical atmosphere and it turned out to be a nice evening with interesting new encounters.

stop at every bar

The next morning I was approached by two Spanish ladies. They asked me if I would like to join them. They had one important condition, though, that I had to comply with. This condition was: 'We will stop at every bar'. I hadn’t heard that one before on the camino. It sounded so funny and both ladies were smiling so invitingly that I could not resist their offer.

We set out and actually stopped at every bar, drinking our coffee standing up like real Spaniards. We became more and more relaxed, took our time and had no plan whatsoever. We did not only nip plots of coffee, but also had nice encounters with the locals, enjoying their hospitality enormously.

A new world opened up for me, as this was a completely new way of hiking. I learned a new, very special lesson:

the best plan is no plan

In all honesty, I was very happy with this relaxed hiking pace and the many stops, for I noticed a rather nagging pain developing in my lower right leg. I had no idea what it was, but I felt a shooting pain in my leg with every step. So I was quite happy when after a long day we arrived at our next parish inn in Tosantos.

In this inn I met a successful businessman who told me he was also an acupuncturist – an unusual combination. He offered to help me, claiming he could ease the pain in my leg with his special needles. I did not have much to lose, so I entered into this adventure.

It became a very special session. I was lying outside on the lawn in front of the inn and was punctured all over. To be honest, I did not feel any difference after the session. But I had to be patient and be confident, he told me.

After the pilgrim meal the monks invited us for a meditation. In spite of my punctured leg I entered the meditation with confidence and relaxed. Until the monk said:

'the pain in your body represents the pain in your life'

I was startled and touched. Help, what did the pain in my leg mean? For the first time I went to the dormitory broodingly… and could not sleep with a punctured, painful leg on the sleeping mat that was a bit hard anyway.

Read what happens next in Santiago 10

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