A pilgrimage of 700 meters – report by Hermine Oldhoff

Hermine Oldhoff ran the first 700 meters of the Walk of Wisdom. That’s all she could do. Still, the trip was important to her and a symbolic conclusion. Below is her inspired report. Thank you for your beautiful contribution Hermine! There are many more people for whom a trip of 136 kilometers is too ambitious. We felt like you were kind of ahead of them too.

When I was told that I would become wheelchair dependent after about 15 years, I promised myself to walk as much as possible, as long as I could.

I had never been much into running, but now it suddenly became a goal in itself.
My daily rounds with the dogs became real pilgrimages through Drenthe with bottles of water, urinating in public and getting lost.

When I could walk for about 6 hours in a row, I decided to make a pilgrimage there.
I borrowed a donkey, put a mini-tent and some luggage on it, picked out a dog, christened myself Donna Quixote and set off.

It turned out to be a beautiful trip with very nice weather, a stubborn donkey that didn’t care about my route map (‘bridge? Yes, too bad, I don’t do bridges. Just walk 5 kilometers’) and a lot of attention.

In the evening I made a bead with some sticks and a rope and rustled some hay for the donkey, fed the dog, set up my tent which was just a little bigger than my sleeping bag, ate a sandwich with cheese, drank 2 glasses of whiskey, crawled into the mini tent with a huge dog and slept like a log.

Early next morning.
It was fantastic and definitely tasted like more.

A few years later, my husband made it possible for me to walk to Santiago de Compostela, a great wish of mine.
Not from the Netherlands, I’m not that brave but he took me to Spain by car and I walked the rest, slept in inns, collected my stamps on my Credencial, got my Compostela and was deeply grateful.

I have sucked Galicia through the soles of my feet with every step while my head spun from everything I heard, saw, smelled; frog choirs, crystal clear streams, eucalyptus.
My solid Reformed upbringing disappeared with every ray of sunshine, as if the fog had lifted.
In Galicia I became an animist.

And then the walking got worse.
A pity but of course no surprise and I decided to make one last pilgrimage at the end of my ‘current life’.

I heard about The Walk of Wisdom and it seemed like everything was falling into place.
Every word on the website matched my wish; the connection with nature, independent of religion but also that it was actually relatively close.
Galicia is in my soul, but I still have a long way to go from the Netherlands…….

This journey was to be the final part of my pilgrimages.
But in the preparation for this grand finale I crashed and it became clear that I was not going to run those 136 kilometers anymore.

What should I do?

I asked for wise advice via Facebook and someone gave me the tip to walk the departure ceremony alone. And that’s what I did.
It was only 700 meters but for me it was everything.
A small step for mankind but a giant leap for me.

Fortunately for me it was difficult enough with the hills, stairs and cobblestones.
Fortunately, it didn’t happen all by itself.
Fortunately, I got all the help I could from Brother Damien who stopped my walker when I went down a hill. It’s nice to have such a strong arm.

Like I got a strong arm during my donkey ride when my dog couldn’t go any further.
Like I got a strong arm on the way to Santiago when I stood on a boulder in the middle of a stream and didn’t dare to get off.

Strong, unexpected arms that helped me move forward. They are there.

The ceremony in the Valkhof Chapel put everything in its place.
Everything was right and so touchingly beautiful.
The music, the stories, the chapel.

A few days after my own Walk of Wisdom , I had the symbol of the pilgrim tattooed on my foot.
A pilgrim on my foot and forever a pilgrim in my soul.

Hermine Oldhoff