When I decided to walk the Camino de Santiago, I immediately planned a “practice week”; a week in which I would not only walk several consecutive days but also practice with my gear. That week was last week. Because the Netherlands can become quite cold in winter, there are only a handful of nature reserves in which you can camp throughout the year or where, as it is stated on the website of the organisation maintaining these reserves, you can “stay with the ranger”. I chose to go to Borger, a tiny village in one of the Northern provinces.
I ran through my packing list one last time to confirm every item was in my bag. It was. And boy, was that bag heavy. Somewhere halfway I met up with Mum for a little coffee and cake celebration, as it was my birthday a few days before and I love celebrating things. Her words that it was not possible to prepare for everything resonated with me once I sat in the train to Assen. Once in Assen, I had to take two busses to arrive at a bus stop after which it took me another 45 minutes walking to reach the campsite. Side note: it was cold. And with cold, I mean just above 0 degrees cold.
I had a look around the campsite. Apart from one other tent there was no one on the terrain. I ignored my feelings of dislike and walked towards the information column. According to the email I received when making the reservation, it was here that I had to check-in. Great… a touchscreen computer. The screen was cold, my fingers too. After fifteen minutes of pressing the same damn button, I finally received a label that I had to fix to my tent as proof of my reservation. On the label it said I had camping spot number 9, which happened to be all the way on the other side of the terrain. I walked towards it with the front part of my feet already frozen.
Proudly seated in the entrance of my tent – that I had pitched relatively quick seen the ice-cold state my hands were in at that time – I was boiling some water to make myself a nice cup of tea, when I saw someone walking towards me. Soon I figured it was a man and by his posture and tread I had decided he was the ranger. He kneeled down in front of me: “So, are you not going to be cold tonight?” “I’ll experience that tonight. In case it will be cold, I have got many layers to put on.” I told him I was practising for the Camino de Santiago. “Alright. You have a Therm-A-Rest pad, those last for about 10 to 12 years.” I nodded. I knew that, I had done my research. “My name is Rennon.” “Hi, I am Querien.” We shook hands. “You might want to consider a lid for your pot, so you don’t have to fight the wind. Here, this is what I’m sleeping in.” He showed me a picture on his phone of bivy sack and a tarp. I told Rennon it looked impressive, which it did, although I was not really sure whether I would exchange my tent to sleep in that situation. “I saw some good trees over there. I am going to set up my tarp. Good luck!”
He took off, leaving me behind with a strange feeling that something was about to happen and I was not prepared to face it. Definitely not the ranger, I thought, and had a sip from the tea of which the water had taken way too long to come to a boil.
Curious? This blog post will be continued next week! See you then : )