There I went. Carrying a tremendously heavy backpack, I closed the door behind me and faced the freezing cold on my way to Santiago. On the 1st of March it was already one year ago that I commenced my journey! Time to look back, which I’ll do through a series of stories.
After last week’s post on the beginning and preparations of my pilgrimage, it is now time for the actual start: the first nine days of walking through the Netherlands.
There was a cutting wind blowing, and my eyes were teary. My journey through the Netherlands predominantly cold, extremely cold. Frozen streams, stiff fingers, finding shelter somewhere warm, or just continue walking in a steady pace in the absence of such a place. I was wearing all my layers at once, ate mountains of food and only regained my normal body temperature at the end of day when taking a hot shower.
“Perhaps you’ve left a little early on in the year?” was a comment I frequently heard. Probably, I thought, but I couldn’t have waited a month longer. Cold or not, I had to go in March, afraid that I would make up my mind if I didn’t. And those hardships, they just make you stronger.
every day at home
Almost every night, I stayed at a guest family and every day I was pleasantly surprised by a warm welcome. Fun conversations, sincere interest, tea and biscuits, life stories… A world was opening up to me. I resided in small attic rooms looking out over the meadows, slept in a bed with pink plush blankets and received carefully prepared breakfasts. Wherever I was, every day I felt a little at home.
In my travel journal, I found a poem of Antonio Machado. One of the hostesses had looked up it before my arrival and placed it in my room for me to read. It was a very special poem. Machado’s words reminded me that this was my journey. The way I would decide to walk didn’t matter, and neither did the destination of my journey.
Traveler, there is no path. The path is made by walking.Antonio Machado
When reaching day five I could barely walk. The pain in my back was unbearable and my knee was giving me massive grief. I booked a hotel to give myself some extra comfort and rest. Upon arrival I was shattered.
After a shower and a massive meal, I sat on the bed. I realised that my bruised ribs had prevented me from training with a backpack and that my pack was too heavy to begin with. Furthermore, I had underestimated the effort it was costing me to cover the long distances. Although I wanted to continue, I decided to take an extra day to give my body some rest and go through the contents of my backpack.
Armoured with a knee brace and a backpack that was two kilos lighter (you’ve got no idea what you actually don’t need), I resumed my way through the Netherlands. Someone invited me for coffee when I was walking through a massive downpour, I was encouraged by a passing cyclist and didn’t sleep a single second when camping for the first time with temperatures below zero.
Belief it or not, but I made it after all: Belgium. More soon!