I decided to go on a little, fun and beautiful hike, the Malerweg (The Painters’ Way) in the area of the Elbsandsteingebirge (Elbe Sandstone Mountains), which is part of the Sächsischen Schweiz (Saxon Switzerland). It’s about 112 km (68 mi.) long and it’s designed as a round-trip starting and ending in the small town of Pirna.

Yesterday was my day of arrival, I chose to take the train and to everyone’s surprise it was a pleasant trip, no delays and all connections went smoothely. I checked in at the community campground in Pirna for € 12,50 a night. I was surprised on how nice of a campground it is. It features a small lake for swimming and all of the infrastructure including sanitary facilities are really well maintained and clean. I wasn’t much into admiring those little things as I was really tired of the trip and coming out of a night-shift at work; there wasn’t too much sleep possible on the train.

I put up my tent, enjoyed the sunset and fell asleep pretty early. Tomorrow is a new day!

Picture of the day:

Home is where my tent is!

La Réunion

...what words can't express!



Tales from the PCT! – I lost my identity

You may think this is another essay about the spiritual journey one is taking on a long-distance hiking-trail, another essay saying how one is being transformed to a new human being becoming one with nature ‘n’ stuff. Well, to be honest, everyone’s life is a spiritual journey, some learn to see it this way – others don’t. But this story is about how I really lost my identity on trail.
It was on day 5 when I  reached Stagecoach RV in Julian, about 75 miles (120 km) into the trail. This whole adventure was still new to my body & mind, so new that it was time to only take my second shower since I left my friend Susies’ house in Sacramento about one week ago. Here I was, arriving at an official campground with toilets, showers and washing-machines – boy that was exciting! I checked in, set up my tent and took my backpack with all my belongings to the laundry-room to put my few clothes into a washing-machine. In the corner in the room I found a soda vending-machine which I immediately fed with my money out of my pouch to get a nice, cold, and sugery drink. I drank it fast because a refreshing shower was waiting for me.  Afterwards I went to collect my clothes, went to my tent, cooked dinner and quickly fell asleep. The next day was supposed to be a zero day, a day without hiking. I just wanted to relax a bit. My backpack was a little too heavy in the beginning because I had packed about ten days worth of food, three gas-canisters, one gallon of soap and other stuff I maybe should have not brought. It sounds ludicrous now when I think about it now but that’s how it was back then. Anyways, I’m drifting off a little bit. What was I saying? Ah yes, I wanted to take a zero day and relax. I woke up in the morning, had breakfast, sat around for a little while and at some point decided to have another one of those delicious sodas out of the vending-machine I found last night. I looked for my pouch in my tent and found … nothing! Wait, wait, wait. It had to be somewhere, I looked again. And again nothing. I got everything out of my tent and layed it out flat on the ground, looking in every pocket but still couldn’t find my pouch. What a shocking moment! I had to realize that there is no pouch; a pouch which included some cash, my passport incl. visa, my credit-card, my hiking-permit. Everything “important” was gone! I panicked a bit, looked at every place I had been since last night and after one hour I had to admit it’s gone. My hike was over after five days. One year of preparation, one year of looking forward to this adventure was over after just five days. I couldn’t believe it!
I didn’t know what to do. At least I still had a little bit of food with me. As I tried to relax on this situation I sat down with a fellow hiker, CamperDan, and his wife, Linda, who camped close by my tent. He hiked the trail, while she drove a Campervan along and meet him every few days,  they did this adventure together. I told them what happened and after thinking for a little while Linda came up with the idea if there is no one I could call. “Hmm”, I thought, “yes there is.” This one little question she asked me got me out of my thoughtless moment and getting focused again on problem-solving. There was someone I could ask for help, someone I WANTED to ask – Michelle. A dear friend from high-school which I haven’t seen for over twenty years but when I sent her a notice that I’m coming back to the States and asked if we want to meet, she immediately said yes. While we met, she made sure that I understand that if I need any help I should contact her. Now was the time. Now I needed help. To my luck the campground provided free wifi and I contacted her, told her what happened and we discussed next steps. For my own surprise I had copies of my passport, visa and hiking-permit on my ipod. I sent them to her, asked her to print them out and send it back to me with some cash. From that moment I felt positive again. It took 4 days for the package to arrive. In those 4 days I contacted my sister, she had to cancel my credit-card and organize a new one and send it to a location I would arrive at in a few days. In those 4 days, many people have helped me out. The camp-ground let me stay for free, fellow hikers bought me food and stood by me with nice words, other campers invited me for meals and spent time with me and gave me good ideas for how to proceed. Those 4 days have shown me the kindness of people’s hearts.
I contacted the Consulate of Germany in Los Angeles, told them my story and we worked out a plan. They also helped me out very much.
Michelle, CamperDan and Linda (I’ll write a seperate essay just for you later), Christina G, El Queso Grande, Bluebird, Richard and Linda V. this is a try to thank you very much. The trail provides! Also this is to my sister who managed all my stuff, mostly financially, from back home. Without her constant support I would have never hiked this trail or La Réunion or The Camino and I certainly wouldn’t be hiking the E1 next year. Thank you, Yvonne. I love you!

With copies of my identity-papers and some cash I went back on trail. Two weeks later, after arriving in Idyllwild where I got my new credit-card, I went to L.A. to personally show up at the consulate. CamperDan and Linda drove me there. But this story and all the other things that happened between CamperDan, Linda and me will be covered in a separate story. So stay tuned and see how livin’ is done!

I quit!

“I herewith announce that I do not see any possibility to keep on going under the current conditions. I must sadly admit that therefore I will quit!”
Those words I could have used to tell my boss that I quit my job by the end of this year in order to go on the E1 adventure and beyond. But instead we had a reasonable eye-to-eye talk about my plans and how we are going to proceed with work to the end. He needs some time to think about it, of course, and I now finally have taken another major step into a new chapter of my life. This whole thing is getting real. How exciting that is for me right now!

My next steps will be, starting this month, buying some new gear, which I will keep you informed on. So stay tuned and see how livin’ is done! 🙂

PCT! – But why?

The decision to hike the PCT was quite a long process. After I came back from La Réunion I was sure that I wanted to hike a longer trail. I started asking myself “What is longer?”. As I couldn’t answer this question with specific numbers, I started to look for the longest trails out there. I figured, that I can always stop if I feel I’m done but I did not want to decide on a 4-week-hike and be unsatisfied or going for a 1,000-km-hike and feel undone. There are quite a few long trails out there all over the world and I somehow wanted to hike them all. But that urge didn’t help me now. I needed to make a decision, I needed clues. I watched videos, read a few blogs, tried to get inspired by something, but it all failed, it all felt the same. So I tried to narrow it down to some aspects, I wanted some adventure but also security, I wanted some wild but comfort, I wanted to sleep in my tent but not being illegal. Those aspects narrowed it down for me to trails in North-America as wild-camping is not allowed in most of europe (exceptions apply but then you won’t have really long-distance hikes), Asia doesn’t have a developed hiking- and camping-culture, New Zealand was a bit too expensive, Australia too remote, Africa too wild and I couldn’t imagine South-America back then. When looking into long-distance hikes in North-America one will find three trails in particular, they are the Appalachian Trail (AT), the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) and the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). At first I wanted to hike the AT as it looked to be with the best infrastructure. I was still a novice in hiking as I only hiked once before, well twice by the time I finally hiked the PCT. I started to talk to friends about my plans and it felt better and better as more often I talked about it. I was getting there finding my first long-distance-hike: the AT. I remember the moment I told my friend Helmut, r. i. p. my friend, and his wife Christel about my plans. They told me that they have been in the Appalachian mountains before and they agreed on it being a nice landscape. “Nice?” I asked. “Yes, and a bit boring” was their answer. “It’s only a green tunnel, you walk through the woods all the time. It’s similiar to the Black Forest…but for six month.” Those words put doubt in my mind.
A few weeks later I happened to be in the Saxon Switzerland, maybe comparable to the Black Forest, and I decided to take a little hike there. No, I was sure after returning, I don’t want to do this for six months. I want a different trail. So it came to decide between the CDT and the PCT. Well, that was easy. The CDT was too adventurous for me (again, back then!), so I finally started to think to hik the PCT. Suddenly I could see clearly now. That’s the decision I was waiting for. Why did I not think about this earlier?  I have lived in California before, I still have friends there I haven’t seen in many years, I really like the US west coast. The PCT offers adventure and comfort as you come through towns every 5 days on average. I’m allowed to wild-camping. This one was pure perfect. And what an adventure the PCT is! Incredible! What a landscape! How many awesome people!

One thing I really enjoyed before hiking was thinking to meet my dear friends again. Friends I almost forgot about, I must admit. Friends I haven’t spoken to in a long time, I must admit. Friends I wrote to a few weeks before arrival in San Francisco and they welcomed me with open arms. Friends I will never forget! Thank you Susie, my sister from high-school. Thank you Michelle, a great friend back in time and now. Thank you Chris, also a great friend through the times. I should mention many other and please, if you read this, be sure you are not forgotten. We share many valuable memories.

Tales from the PCT – I almost quit.

It is what it is!

Maybe it’s not the best idea to start writing about the PCT with the thought of quitting. Maybe it’s more fun to write about the stunning beauty of nature. Or trail-angels. Or fellow hikers I’ve met. Or maybe I should write about my planning-procedure or gear. But maybe not! Maybe I should start with the time where I almost quit, because, well, I only ALMOST quit. And because of ALMOST it raises the question on “Why didn’t I quit?”. The answer to this is a story of beautiful, kind and nice people who where there just at the right time. They came to me like angels telling me the story that everything is taken care of, when one is on the right track. Here is my remembrance to them.

Oregon was hard for me. After four month in California fighting the desert and the Sierra Nevada mountain-range, after enjoying the heat in beautiful northern california, Oregon is placed somewhere in nowhere. Just like everyone else I was excited to finally leave California. It had the feeling of a new beginning. Still about 1.600 km (1,000 mi) away from the finish-line, hiking in Oregon was just plain work for me. While many/most hikers talked about crushing miles in Oregon, 30 mi + (50 km) each day, I barely managed 20 mi (30 km) on average. Most of Oregon, at least in my memory, was burned down. Nature was ruined by lots of wild forest-fires, the landscape wasn’t too appealing also and I struggled with lack of motivation and funds. Under those conditions I reached, approximately half way through Oregon, Elk Lake Resort. Initially I didn’t want to go there. I already took quite a few zero days in the last two weeks and I didn’t have enough money on me to spend it on restaurants and expensive Resort camping-places. I remember hiking my way through another miserable Oregon-day when I passed the sign leading the path to the Resort and thinking to myself that I should just keep on going, so I did. It wasn’t much after that when I turned around and foolishly decided otherwise. “What the heck? If I do quit, at least I can spend my last money in a resort enjoying myself and who knows…!” Well, who knew? I hiked down to the resort looking for a nice quiet spot to pitch my tent in the dark so no one would spot me. Yes I was trying to camp there without paying, shame on me. But, as I walked towards the Resort entrance, I met a fellow hiker I met before and he told me that the Resort offers free spots for camping for PCT through-hiker. Encouraged by his words I walked up to the reception and asked the lady behind the counter if there’s a place for me to pitch my tent for free. She told me that usually they don’t offer free camping but today was my lucky day. She told me that a group of motorcyclists made reservations for three spots but ended up using only two and they donated the free spot to PCT hikers and that I can pitch my tent there for free. Luckily and happily I walked to the designated spot just to find out that it was already taken. Miserable as I was with the recent roller-coaster ride of having – not having – having – not having a camp-site I was close on giving up. Maybe I was mistaken? Maybe! I spotted a couple on the site which I thought was for me (the site, not the couple!), walked up to them and asked if they may have taken the wrong spot. They smiled and told me that the signage is a little bit confusing and misleading and that my spot was the free one right next to theirs. What a relieve! I excused myself and pitched my tent. After I finished, the couple and I introduced each other; their names are Sarah and Jeff! At that point I wasn’t much into talking, I just wanted to take a shower and relax, so I took off quickly leaving them behind as they where setting up their site.
I walked down to where the showers and the restaurant where. After taking a shower I saw quite a few fellow hikers sitting on the restaurants porch and I was about to walk up to join them when two stranger, obviously a couple, passed my way and started one of those polite american small-talks. “Are you a PCT-hiker?” – “Yes, sir, I am” was my response. “Are you going all the way?” – “That’s the plan” I answered even though I was still uncertain of what I am actually going to do. “When did you start?” – “March 29th”. “Your accent, where are you from?” – “Germany” I said. “Oh, that’s nice. We have friends in Germany and have been there many times. Where from?” – “I’m from a town near to Cologne, it’s called Wuppertal.” “We know this town” they said excitedly. I was as surprised as they where to find someone at the other side of the world knowing the town I come from. “Yes, you have the suspension rail-way, this mono-rail thing where you hang upside down as public transportation. What’s it called again?”. “It’s the Schwebebahn” I answered with a smile on my face not knowing how to react to this whole situation right now. It instantly put me in a good mood and made me forget all my miserability. We talked for a few more minutes and introduced each other with names before we split again. Their names are Jim and Jane.
Before I finally walked up to join fellow hikers on the porch I decided to bring my shower-stuff to my tent and get some money. A few minutes later I joined a couple of hikers. One of them turned to me and handed me a business-card and said “Here, this is from Jim and Jane. When you walk through their town, you are invited to stay at their place.” I took the card, thanked and put it in my pocket. Later that evening I walked back to my tent already in a way better mood than before. As soon as I got there it was Jeff and Sarah who invited me to join them for a cold beer and some talking. It was a lovely evening! They told me that they live up north not far away from the PCT and if I make it through there I am also invited to stay with them.
How lucky I was to stay at Elk Lake Resort! How lucky I was that I was guided there!
The next day I enjoyed beautiful weather at the lake, some swimming and relaxing. I refused to think about tomorrow and about the worries about hiking. But, as time goes by, this day had to come to an end and I had to make a decision on what to do. Free parking at the camp-site would come to an end after tonight and my motivation wasn’t up again yet. That’s the situation I laid myself to sleep in.
The next morning I woke up pretty early. I don’t quite remember what I decided to do but I do remember meeting this guy I talked with for a few minutes and he said something like “Something good can only happen when you say Yes to opportunities!”. After that I made up my mind, walked up to Sarah and Jeff to ask them when they leave, where they would go and if they could give me a ride to Bend, a city close by from where I could contact Jane and Jim to follow their invitation to their home. Their answer was a surprisingly perfect. They where putting their things together, they want to leave in 30 minutes, they need to go to Bend anyways and yes, they want to give me a ride. 30 minutes later we sat in their car on the way to Bend. They dropped my off at a Starbucks where we enjoyed a coffee together and before they took off they handed me a can of fine tuna. I ate it a few days later after another tough day – how delicious it was, how much energy and motivation it gave me! Anyways, now here I was in Bend at a Starbucks trying to reach Jane and Jim. As I didn’t have a phone I sent them an e-mail. They responded soon and later that day he picked me up at a certain place he asked me to be. I stayed two days with them. They were awesome. I don’t want to write too much about what we talked about, but I want to say that they are two interesting, far traveled, kind people. I planned to stay for only one night, because I felt bad for taking advantage of their hospitality. But they hosted another hiking couple, too; actually it was the couple who handed me the business-card, and in the morning after the first night they asked if they could stay another night. As I still didn’t feel very motivated, I joined in and stayed another day and night. The whole day I was lying in the garden enjoying the beautiful view of the Three Sisters. After those two nights sleeping in a real bed, listening to Jane’s and Jim’s stories I was reborn. I was ready to hike again. I was now sure than ever that I now can finish the trail and that it doesn’t matter what happens next. I finally understood what I only heard so often on the trail before: “IT IS WHAT IT IS!”, simple as that. Jim gave me a ride back to the trail and even though Oregon was still a tough time, I was finally happy again.

About two weeks later I came to Washington and I called up Sarah and Jeff. They came and picked me up and they, too, let me stay in their home for two, or was it three?, nights. We again had nice talks about cooking and food and politics, we went for a walk, cooked together and shared stories together. After they brought me back to the trail back in Oregon I crossed the Bridge of Gods leaving Oregon for good and facing Washington state for my last 800 km (500 mi.) of my trip on the PCT.

I would have not finished the PCT at the Canadian border if I wouldn’t have met Sarah and Jeff, Jane and Jim. If they wouldn’t have opened their hearts and homes for me, I would have just quit somewhere in Oregon. It’s because of them I can tell stories of how I finished the PCT and it’s because of them that I can think about going on future hikes. I am forever thankful for them being part of this adventure and, because of this, part of my life.
Please, Lord, bless them always!

A life-changing moment

When it comes to answering questions like “why have I hiked the PCT?”or “why do I want to hike the E1?” I always remember that one life-changing moment laying in bed after work. It was about 4 o’clock in the morning and I was trying to get some sleep whilst channel-hopping on the TV. Suddenly my attention was caught by beautiful landscape pictures. I became curious, stopped and watched. It was either a documentary of or an advertisement from the tourism-office of the beautiful island of La Réunion. I was stunned by the pictures I saw and  I decided to have a closer look at this island … tomorrow when I wake up. I fell asleep, woke up a few hours later, excited like a child at christmas still due what I have seen on TV. I turned on my PC to check out the island. La Réunion is a small island in the indian ocean about 700 km east of Madagascar. The pictures I found online and the stories I read by people who have been there made my decision very clear very fast: I gotta go there! This all happened 2011.
It took another 4 years before I finally went. Upon decision to go there I asked myself “What’s there to do? How do I explore the island?” and after further research on the internet I decided to hike the island. La Réunion has a well maintained hiking trail system and offers a variety of different trails. I chose the GRR2, a trail that traverses the island from north to south on a distance of 140 km. Those 140 km probably were the single most beautiful 140 km of my life! I will write about the island, the trail and my experiences in future posts but so much for now at the end of this hike, after 12 days, I knew I want to keep on hiking. I wanted and to go further and farther than any Björn has ever gone before. I was hooked to hiking.
I stayed on La Réunion for four weeks and as soon as I came back to germany I started looking for longer hiking-trails. It took me about 4 month to finally decide to hike the PCT. I hiked it in 2016 and it was, of course, also magnificent. That’s why I hiked the Camino in 2017, met Jared and now I am going to hike the E1 in 2019.

The story of the banana

or Explain me figs!

I left St. Jean Pied de Port just this morning to hike the Camino. The first stage ended in Roncesvalles, a small little village in Spain with a monestary where all pilgrims found a place to stay and something to eat for dinner. Dinner was served in a big room at big tables holding maybe ten people. I happend to sit next to Peter from Switzerland, a guy I met a day earlier on the train to St. Jean Pied de Port, some guy from Brazil to my left and Hannah from the States in front of me. Hannah and I had a quite interesting talk about this and that and especially with Hannah I came to talk about all the „why’s and but’s“ which have gotten us here to hike the Camino. We talked a little bit about our answers which we hoped to find while hiking this spiritual old pilgrimage-trail. We finished the evening by wishing us all the best and looking forward to Santiago de Compostela, also hoping that we can match up again and talk about the outcome.
The next morning I started my day with Ken from Canada and it happened to be that I hiked two regular stages that day and I finished in Pamplona. I wasn’t really happy about this accomplishment, because I figured that, if I keep that pace, I finish my Camino in less than three weeks. I surely didn’t want to be that quick. So I decided to take my first zero-day on day three. Pamplona is a beautiful city, the decision to stay there for one day was quickly made. I remembered the nice trail-angel culture I have experienced hiking the PCT in 2016 so I decided to provide some fresh drinks at the bridge of Pamplona, where all hikers come into town. In the morning I went to a store, bought some coca-cola, a few beers and a bottle of wine. The bottle of wine was supposed to be for a girl I met in the monestary of Roncesvalles. She came from the same town in Germany and we thought it was a strange coincidence that me meet on the Camino. It happened to be that we had a bet about the number of inhabitants of our town; I lost the bet and owed her a glass of wine. Anyways, I started to sit at the bridge waiting for her and other hikers at around 10 o’clock. I waited until about 12 until the first hiker crossed the bridge. It was Hannah – what a surprise! We had a couple of beers and at around 1 o’clock, after I had given away all beer and cola, we decided to go for some sight-seeing in Pamplona. (Just if you’re curious: I still owe the glass of wine, couldn’t manage to meet yet…). As Hannah and I explored the city and went to a Museum we became hungry. We chose a sweet little restaurant, had a beautiful late lunch and had a very nice talk. It comes as it comes in restaurants, the bill has to be paid. As we both didn’t want to make it hard for the waitress to split the bill, we made a pact, that one of us pays this bill in full, the other one pays one in Santiago de Compostela, which is about 800 km (500 mi) or about 4 weeks away. A game of “rock, scissors, stone” decided her to pay now, my turn had to wait until Santiago. Later that day we split and again hoped for a new meeting at the finish-line. Over the course of the hike we happened to meet several times and, as we befriended each other on facebook, we kept in touch to see how our hike was going. For most of the time we were only a little bit apart, usually I was a day or two ahead and then I fell behind a little bit.

It was in Burgos when I first saw them. I was cleaning my stove in the kitchen-area of the municipal, the city-hostel. They sat at the table next to me enjoying their time. As one by one left, there were only two guys left – Tomasz and Jared. I then had no idea of how important they will become later. Tomasz was handling fresh vegetables, Jared was sitting around and socializing with other pilgrims. By the time I finished cleaning my stove, Tomasz has gotten up and went somewhere so I turned to Jared, introduced myself and let him know that, as the kitchen did not provide any kitchen utensils, I would offer “the other guy” my stove to cook the vegetables. I waited for about 10 min., the other guy didn’t come back and I decided to go up to my bunk bed and then hit the city for a while.
The next day I hiked to Hontanas, about 30 km away. I didn’t want to hike that far. I planned only 24 km, but the hostel there was closed and I had to keep hiking. Hontanas is a little village on the Camino like so many others with the only purpose, as it seems, to provide food and shelter for pilgrims passing through. I found a little private room for the night, had a shower and then sat outside watching for other pilgrims to arrive. It was always nice to see fellow hikers arriving, some you know, some you don’t know but usually will get to know by the end of the day. We are all a big community. It was after dinner when I stepped outside again and saw this group of people sitting together and enjoying themselves. Among them I spotted Jared. I went up to him, said “Hi’ and asked if I could join. I was invited to sit down, introduced myself and really tried to remember all names. We had fun talks, shared some laughs and had a good evening. I was the first one to excuse myself to go to bed…
The next day on the way to Itero de la Vega I passed Jared again. Last night we agreed to become friends on facebook the next time we meet, now was the time to exchange data. In Itero de la Vega I talked to Alice for the first time, another person of the group. It was the last time I saw them. As I have picked up some pace the next days, I thought that I probably would never see them again.
Three days later I arrived in Leon and I decided to stay for a couple of days, mainly because I wanted to wait for Hannah. The hostels on the Camino usually let you stay only for one night before you have to leave, so I had to stay in a different place every night. In my third hostel I found them again – the group! They just arrived and stayed at the same place as I. Again we had some nice talks and a fun time. The next morning we split again as I wanted to stay in Leon for the day and leave later, the group however wanted to continue. But only for a few km. We agreed to meet there in the evening. So we did! I arrived there at around 19:00, just perfect for dinner. The group cooked dinner and invited me to join in. At that evening I came to contact with everyone else of the group. I became part of the group. I was part of the trail-family, my trail-family. We were the Misfits! From there on I hiked with them for the next days.

A few days later we came to Ponferrada and on that day Hannah showed up there, too. We talked a bit about the last couple of days and the plans for the next few ones. She told me that two days from now the Camino offers an alternative route, longer and more difficult but definitely more scenic. As the walk wasn’t much challenging so far I decided for myself to consider taking the alternative. That would mean that the next day would end in Villafranca del Bierzo, roughly 30 km away. The next morning when we sat at the table we would discuss the plan for the day and I offered mine to the group. However I couldn’ t really convince anyone to take the alternative with me and Villafranca didn’t sound for a good stop to them, either. While hiking everyone of us followed their own pace, usually hiked by themself or maybe in small groups of 2 or 3. On that day I decided to hike by myself because I wanted to do some thinking. Half way through the day I met Jared and we hiked together for the rest of the day. As we were hiking and talking he told me that he decided to hike the alternative and that he stays in Villafranca with me. “Nice!” I thought. As we hiked up the last hill, about 6 km before Villafranca, we met Alice sitting there all by herself enjoying the scenery. We joined in and hiked the last 1 hour together to Villafranca. We told her about the plan of hiking the alternative tomorrow and she told us, that she wants to keep on hiking a little further today. As we arrived in Villafranca we came to the crossroad where Jared and I go into town and Alice keeps following the Camino. We saw a little Cafè on the other side of the street and decided to have a coffee first. So we did. We sat, we talked, we laughed. As time went by everyone else of the group arrived at the Cafè joining us. As we all sat together, Jared said that he wants to walk the alternative route tomorrow. A few minutes later we were already 6 people wanting to take the alternative, 7 didn’t. That night we all stayed together again at the municipal-hostel. The next morning we split. 7 people took the alternative, 6 didn’t. I took the alternative route, too, and I must say, this day was challenging. It was long! It was hard! We took an alternative to the alternative, we got lost, we had to bush-wack our way through the woods. We were scratched by thorns on the arms and legs. But after 12 hrs and 2 min., 44,89 km, an elevation gain of 2.278 mtrs. and an elevation loss of 1.505 mtrs. we finally arrived at our destination in O’Cebreiro and joined the rest of the group. I wish I could say more about that day but I can’t. It was strenous but beautiful. Days don’t need any special reason to be, they just are and I try to enjoy each and everyone of them. However this day became to play a major role in the days to come.
The next two days were to Triacastella and then Samos. It was in Samos, I hiked with Leo this day, when we found Alice again sitting on the wall. The group decided to stay at the beautiful monestary in Samos. Leo, Alice and I arrived early and while Leo and I decided to take a nap at the park, Alice finally wanted to hike a little bit for herself and kept walking.
Samos is only 125 km away from Santiago and I texted Hannah to find out where she was. Her response was shocking to me. She would arrive in Santiago de Compostela in two days. After we last met in Ponferrada she was hiking long days and was about 60 km ahead of me. Oh no, what can I do? I really wanted to have my last dinner with her, I still had a promise to keep and I wanted to know all about the answers we discussed on the very first night in Roncesvalles! Well, I decided to take two hiking days, 60 km each. That would mean I had to split with my family again and had to hike the same distance two days in row – a distance I’ve hiked only once before, my last day of my PCT (all about that you’ll find out later). I couldn’t really believe it, but I told myself that at least I need to give it a shot. So here’s the plan: eat well, go to bed early, sleep tight, start early and just do it!

100 km
I really wanted to start early, 6 maybe. But I didn’t. Dinner lasted longer than expected and I couldn’t get out of the monestary before 6:30, Still I was convinced that I was the first one to leave. I was wrong. About 8 km into the day I saw this strange light in front of me. It was Tomasz trying to fix his headlamp. His batteries were going out of power and he couldn’t get much light out of it. As he was the only person of the family I haven’t talked to much before I took the chance and decided to walk with him for a little bit. He needed light, I needed destraction because my plan was stressing me out a little bit. We hiked, we talked. We agreed on many things and I felt that meeting him this morning was a good thing. He left early because he wanted to meet a trail-friend, too, and he had the plan on hiking around 50 km this day. As we were talking about our past experiences of hiking and life we arrived in Sarria, 16 km after Samos at around 10 o’clock. We had a good breakfast and we decided to keep hiking together until we meet Alice. Alice had stayed in Sarria last night but already moved on. It would take another 14 km for us to catch up with her. I don’t remember the name of the little village where we met her again but I do remember that it was while talking to her Tomasz and I finally openly communicated the idea of hiking 100 km that day. We thought we were crazy! Of course, while hiking this morning we had this funny sentence that one could hike 100 km a day but didn’t take it seriously. His longest day ever was 80 km and he described it as a very tough day with lots of pain. My longest day was 60 km and I remember it being very hard, too. But while we, Alice, Tomasz and I, were sitting together it felt so right to say it. It was only 13:00 or 13.30 and we already hiked 30 km. We made the plan to hike another 70 km that day. 100 km in total in less than 24 hrs. Alice was laughing at us, told us we were crazy. Tomasz and I got up and started hiking. We set little goals. We tried to keep our pace up above 5 km/h, that would give us another 3 hours of break-time. We planned to reach his goal, 53 km., first and then see. I was looking forward to reaching 60 km and then we’ll see.
What a day that was! After 40 km we arrived in Portomarin. We planned on going into Portomarin to buy some food, bananas especially, but the Camino touches the city only a little bit and we didn’t want to waste any time and decided to keep on hiking. Instead of food we found Jördis. Jördis is a woman from Hamburg which I have met in Leon also and she hiked with us for a little while. Her plan was to hike another 8 km and then find a place to stay. We told her our plan, she also thought we were crazy but stayed with us for the next 8 km. While walking with her we talked about this and that, about science, nature and god. She said, she doesn’t believe in deity, Tomasz and I gave her our points of view when we found a fig tree. Even though many people have been harvesting this tree before us, we found a few figs for us. How delicious they were! We came to philosophize about all things when someone came up with the sentence: “If there is no god, please explain me figs!” As noone had an answer to that, we started hiking again, trying to keep the taste of the figs in our mouths for as long as possible. A few km later, Jördis came to her destination and we split.
We kept our pace above 5 km/h – I was constantly checking with my gps-device and we arrived at the 53 km-mark by around 19:00. But there was nothing, no hostel, no food. The next town was at least another 7 km away and if we want to get there before any stores close, we had to hurry up. It was getting dark. We arrived at the next town just before 21:00 and hoped to find a store to be open. But there wasn’t. We were hungry, it was dark, we were getting a little tired but our motivation was still sky-high. We asked some strangers if there’s a possibility to find a place to buy some bananas. They looked at us and pointed to a bar across the street. We entered and while everyone was looking at us we asked if one could sell us some bananas. We woman behind the counter grapped below the desk and reached us some bananas. Crazy! We thanked, paid and left. A few meters further down the road we spotted a little bar. We decided to go there and look if they have something to eat on the menu. They did! As we were hungry, we ordered half of the menu and ate like starving barbarians. It was then when we realized that we can do it. We can hike it. We actually can achieve hiking 100 km in less than 24 hrs. It was only 40 km left and we had 8,5 hrs left. If we can keep our pace around or above 5 km/h we still have at least 30 min. of break-time left. We started again. Fully motivated and full of food we headed towards our finish-line. It took us maybe 20 minutes to get the speed up again, our muscles were tired. But we made a pact that we won’t start whining and complaining before we hit the 70 km mark.
I don’t know when it started, but at some point Tomasz and I were certain that someone was following us. We both had this deep feeling of intuition we both couldn’t ignore. And we both knew who it was. “Jared is following us!”, Tomasz said it first and I fully agreed. There was no doubt. We kept ourselves busy with imagination of how Jared is behind us, talking about how he might feel, where he might be by now and so forth. Once in a while we heard dogs barking a few km behind us and we were sure it was because Jared passed by. There are a lot of houses with a lot of dogs on the Camino. And they all bark at all by-passers. It’s quiet at night, you hear them a long way. It was a beautiful night, almost new-moon, no clouds. The stars were shining. I know it’s been said many times, but they sparkled like diamonds in the sky. It was just plain magic. Tomasz and I have stopped talking. There wasn’t much to say. The night was cold and everytime we stopped for a few minutes it took us 15 minutes to get the speed up again, the muscles were cooling out very fast, we were tired. At around 2 o’clock, we had finished about 80 km, we decided to take another break and sit down for about 20 minutes. We talked about how Jared may feel. We didn’t know that he was following. Of course Tomasz stayed in contact with the group via whatsapp and we knew that the group has safely arrived at their destination, but noone mentioned Jared nor he has ever responded to anything. That wasn’t too unusual as his connection wasn’t the best.
Just when we wanted to start and tackle the last 20 km Tomasz came up with the idea to leave our last banana here on a little wall waiting for Jared. So we did. We placed the banana on a must-see spot and put a little note besides it. “Keep on going!” is what we wrote on it.
We started hiking again. It became tough. There were no words left. But we kept hiking. One more little break at about 5 o’clock and then we were on our last 10 km
It was a little after 6 when we touched the 100 km mark. We did it! What an experience! 100 km in 23 hrs and 42 min.

The connection!
Right at the mark, it was still dark, there was a nice little, waist-high wall next to us. Even though Tomasz was talking about keeping on hiking earlier, we then decided to take a nap on the wall. We slept for about 2 hours before the first pilgrims and the rising sun woke us up. We were freezing cold and decided to pack our things, find a Cafè and have a coffee. So we did. It took about 30 minutes before we found one, but we arrived happily, ordered coffee and breakfast and were just hyped about what happened the last 24 hours. We couldn’t believe ourselves when the first whatsapp messenges arrived at Tomasz’ mobile. “Congatulations!” it said by almost everyone of the group. Everyone but… “Where’s Jared? Is he with you?” was the next message arriving. Tomasz and I were looking at each other and grinned so hard. That was the proof that Jared did follow us. But he wasn’t with us yet. We started calculating: At what time did we start? When did Jared start maybe? How fast could he go? Did he take brakes? … we were puzzled. But the only result we came up with was, that if had followed us through the night, he should be here maybe now or within the next few minutes or so. I said to Tomasz: “Wait here, I go outside!” As I stepped outside and looked around the corner I couldn’t believe my eyes. He was still maybe 200, 300 metres away. Could it be? As he came closer, thoughts became certainty. It was Jared! Unbelievable. He arrived at that exact moment. What a moment that was! We saw each other and celebrated this moment really hard. “Come on in” I told him, so he followed me inside where Tomasz was still sitting there looking in another direction. “Look who I found!” I said and the Celebration continued.
After a good breakfast we continued together for a few km. I stayed in one town, Jared and Tomasz went to Monte de Gozo.

Santiago de Compostela.
The next day I went to Santiago de Compostela where I did meet Hannah again. We had another beautiful day and we talked about all the things happened to us while hiking the Camino. She found answers to her questions, I found mine. The Camino truely is a special way!
The next day I returned to Monte de Gozo to meet up with my family again and spend my last evening with them. My plans were to hike all the way to Finisterre, the end of the known world of the old times. It was a marvellous ending.

Monte de Gozo
Two days later the family was re-united again and we all embraced each other and told each other the stories of the last couple of days. It was while we all sat together when I asked Jared if he saw the banana. “Yes, I have. And I knew that you guys left it there for me!” Our all response can not be put into words.

It was sure that after that night, the family will break apart. I leave to Finisterre, Wietse had to catch a flight, Tomasz wanted to stay in Monte de Gozo, Sara needed to catch a flight, too.

Thank you to my trail-family: Jared, Tomasz, Shahar, Andreas, Anna, Leo, Sara, Florian, Alice, Wietse, Claire and Gosia.
Thank you Hannah.
Thank you Ken, Larry, Stephanie, Manuel and Paulina.

Tomasz has written his view on the 100 km on facebook. Find it here, read it, like it:

**English Below**23.10 – 24.10.2017 O przejsciu 100 kilometrów w 24h, ''niespodziewanym'' gościu i spontanicznie…

Gepostet von In&Out – Journeys Back Home am Sonntag, 5. November 2017