Walk of Wisdom in winter – Sheila Olsthoorn

My Walk of Wisdom – by Sheila Olsthoorn

From Saturday 3 to Saturday 10 December 2022

Early in the morning we drove to Nijmegen for the departure ceremony at sunrise: the pilgrim’s lauds on this Saturday. That seemed like a good start and a good start to the Walk of Wisdom. As the only pilgrim, this ceremony was special to me. Kudos to the volunteers who give the Walk of Wisdom Foundation so much life. After another cup of coffee and a sandwich in the city, I hit the road to Nijmegen from the Groenlanden and Ooijpolder for my Walk of Wisdom.

What strikes me right away is the peace and quiet in the nature reserves, while you can still see Nijmegen when you look back. Only a few walkers and runners encountered, but the further away from Nijmegen it became quieter. There have been days and parts of the day when I haven’t met a single hiker and I had nature all to myself. On day 1 I didn’t spot any route markings of the WoW, I was way too busy with map reading and how this all works. I had zero experience with longer hikes, of course trained, but in my own environment. On day 2 the combination of map reading and route markings went very well, and at the end of the route I got a smile on my face every time I saw the WoW angel on a pole. It is the angel who shows you the way and by far the nicest route marker you will encounter along the way.

Ooijpolder - Sheila Olsthoorn

The first day was full of adventure. From a huge Galloway cow that was on “my” route and ruminating, that became a detour for me via the beach on the Waal. And muddy paths at Persingen and after the ferry in front of the Bronnenbos to the manually operated ferry. This is hard work on day 1. Also the diversity of nature in 1 day, the tour of Bison Bay, beautiful. That’s what makes walking in a different environment so fantastically beautiful.

Day 2 was grey and bleak, but my favorite the Duivelsberg was on the program early on. I took beautiful pictures of the forest here. The marking Germany – the Netherlands and the text “what borders share, let friendship heal” is also one for a tile.
I renamed the bench “for Iris” to “for Jeroen” to symbolically leave it here. Cried tears, took pictures and looked back many more times. The peace and quiet in the forest makes it nice to let go of the sadness for a while.

Day 3 was a rainy day with the Reichswald and Freudenberg on the program, so much forest in 1 day and hardly seeing anyone. The Sint Jansberg reminded me of Droomvlucht in the Efteling. The distance from Kranenburg to Mook was long, and because of the rain it was really hard and hard today.

Mookerschans Walk of Wisdom

Day 4 was one to enjoy with a piece of Mookerheide and Mookerschans, Heumense Schans and the Hatertse Vennen. Treated to some sunshine it all looked so beautiful. The Netherlands is so beautiful and you can see many different areas in 1 day with this walk.

On day 5 I had booked an overnight stay in the Emmaus monastery, so off to Velp. Today we passed the halfway point. In the Lady Chapel there was a clearly visible book with the WoW marker on it. What a nice gesture and it makes this trip complete. Halfway through, take a moment to reflect on why you are doing this and what it has brought you so far. I wrote down my story and motivation in it. On a road through the meadow the sun broke through, right in my face, so that I was blinded. That must have been Jeroen, that he saw and understood it. Today I was walking on clouds, the physical aches and pains were gone. This gave me room for the emotional. Being over halfway gives wings. I enjoyed every meter for the first time.

Sheila Olsthoorn

In the Emmaus monastery I was the only guest in the Dormitorium. That, in combination with the very sober room design, made it a bit spooky to spend the night. I had an excellent meal there and enjoyed a delicious dinner with vegetables from our own garden and a royal breakfast with freshly baked monastery bread.

Day 6 left early to arrive in the picturesque villages of Ravenstein, Niftrik and Leur via De Keent. In the morning we walked in nature and in the afternoon we walked on the road and through villages. Today, loneliness begins to set in. It’s going to be the 6th day and night that I haven’t really spoken to people. Fortunately, there are dear friends who follow and support me during my WoW and who offer a listening ear in such a case. It’s definitely also the tiredness, after a bad night in the monastery, that makes me feel so much.

Walk of Wisdom

Day 7 was a tough day and also a long distance from Leur to Deest. The lack of catering on this part of the route and the cold outside makes it a tough trip. Take a quick break on a cold bench and then move on. There seems to be no end to such a day. Fortunately, the sweet B&B owner wanted to pick up my ordered pizza by car, so that I didn’t have to go through the cold after a hot shower.

And then there’s day 8, on to the finish! The day you want to accomplish on willpower, and even though everything hurts, especially now that you have come so far. Saved all the rings so far and was also able to pick up the last one at the dike warehouse of Beuningen. From here it started to snow and in Nijmegen, on the stretch between De Oversteek and the railway bridge, there was a nice white layer that felt like the red carpet on the way to the finish. Here I could get used to some more people around me before I arrived at the Stevenskerk in the heart of Nijmegen. The last ring, a stamp on my certificate, to be added to the pilgrim register and a photo at the WoW symbol. For me, the circle of my Walk of Wisdom is complete and I return home proud and satisfied.

Nijmegen Walk of Wisdom winter

The route of the Walk of Wisdom is beautiful. You will pass through so many beautiful nature reserves and cozy villages in a short time that you have the idea of being away for much longer than 8 days. Seen and experienced a lot these 8 days. This has been a unique journey for me through a beautiful part of the Netherlands.

I also ran the WoW with a purpose, a bit of processing and letting go of a recently deceased loved one. In any case, I took more time for it while walking than I was able to do at home. The symbolism of the WoW, the angel who shows you the way, the beautiful places along the way, the pilgrim’s book in the Lady Chapel, the departure ceremony and the warm welcome on return, all contributed to this. Thank you very much Walk of Wisdom!

Sheila Olsthoorn
December 10, 2022

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