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Adventure Sports

with Stefan Nestler

Heavely aching muscles after “Power pilgrimage for Nepal”

Wet finisher

Wet finisher

Slowly, very slowly. My feet feel as if they were twice as thick. My legs are a rock-hard muscle package that hurts with every step. I’ve never taken part in a marathon, but I suppose I am feeling like a 42-kilometer-runner on the day after the race – with the difference that more than two marathon distances stick in my bones, literally. From Wednesday, 8 a.m. to Thursday, 7.55 p.m. I hiked 96 kilometers. And I have reached my goal: from Cologne Cathedral on the Way of St. James to Aachen Cathedral within 36 hours, including an overnight stay. Five minutes before the time that I had set before I reached the gate of Aachen Cathedral. The mission “Power pilgrimage for Nepal” was accomplished.


A candle in Cologne Cathedral

A candle in Cologne Cathedral

When I walk into the cathedral early on Wednesday, it’s still empty. I light a candle, then a priest in the sacristy gives me the pilgrims’ blessing. Ready to go. At 8.20 a.m. I’m on my way. In Widdersdorf, at the edge of the Cologne city area (after 13 kilometers), I swear like a sailor for the first time. Somewhere on the last about 500 meters, I must have lost my map sheets that were in my trekking pants’ pocket. So back again. At a crossroad, I find the empty transparent envelope. The about 20 map sheets have been blown by the wind across the road. Two passers-by help me to collect the sheets that are partially wet now and printed with tire marks. “Now you know why we call it flyers”, says one of my friendly helpers and grins.

Not quite perfect piste conditions

The sun says good-bye

The sun says goodbye

Then my hike goes by without incident. “All fine for skiing and tobogganing?”, a joker asks me in Frechen-Königsdorf (kilometer 21), when I pass him with my trekking poles. “Perfect piste conditions”, I reply. That’s not entirely true. Only after five and a half hours, I’m walking for the first time a long distance on forest trails. After all, the wind has now blown away the clouds, the sun is shining. When it goes down at 4.30 p.m. – I’ve left Kerpen (kilometer 33) behind me – the hardest part of the day begins. I am getting weaker, with pain in my legs and feet, walking only in the light of my headlamp. Don’t think! Go on and on, now on country lanes that seem never-ending.

Got my hopes up too soon

In the light of the headlamp

In the light of the headlamp

It’s about 7 p.m., when I see an illuminated rotunda on the horizon. I assume that this is a church in the town of Düren, where I want to finish my first stage. I summon up my last reserves of strength – and get disappointed by the place-name sign Merzenich (kilometer 47). The eye-catching building was an old water tower. Another five kilometer till Düren, then even across the town! At 9 p.m. I reach my interim destination (kilometer 56), after 13 hours on the road. Obviously I look all but fit, the woman at the hotel reception hands me commiserating a bottle of mineral water.

In twos

Still almost dry

Still almost dry

I don’t sleep much due to heavy storm and rain that is pattering against the windows. Nevertheless, I feel so far recovered the next morning that I leave the hotel on time at 8 a.m. My son Jan, who is studying in Aachen, has got up earlier than I to accompany me on the second stage of my hike. This is balm for the soul. You are hiking simply easier if you have someone to talk to. Behind Düren, the Way of St. James leads through forests for a long time. The trails are muddy after the severe weather the night before. After four hours we enter a snack bar in in the small village of Schevenhütte (kilometer 70). We fill up our empty storages of calories with meatballs and large portions of French fries.

Raining cats and dogs

Hiking in the rain

Hiking in the rain

“Normally, no more pilgrims are passing here in November”, tells us the owner of the snack bar. He is surprised that we didn’t ask for a pilgrimage stamp at the church on the other side of the road: “You are no real pilgrims without stamp.” We make up for it a few hours later, in the small village of Breinig (83 kilometers), where the stamp for the pilgrims is hanging in a box on the main road. At that time, it is already dark again, and it’s raining cats and dogs for a while: For the last six hours, we are hiking under a constant shower from above.

Stumbling to the finish

Our handprints on Aachen Cathedral

Our wet handprints on Aachen Cathedral

The forest and field paths are muddy or have turned into small streams. The water flows into the shoes, into the neck. The rain cover does not work anymore. When we turn to the finish line in Aachen, we are wet up to the underpants. On the last kilometers, we are even stumbling through the city, no longer in an upright position. It’s only the goal to reach the Cathedral within the set time that pushes us forward. And we succeed: Only when we are already taking our “summit pictures” in front of the now closed Cathedral (kilometer 96), the church bells are ringing: 8 p.m.

Go to the bank! 😉

So, dear sponsors: Now please multiply the amount you fixed for each kilometer I hiked with 96 and transfer the money to the account of our aid project “School up!”:

Recipient: Nepalhilfe Beilngries
Bank: Volksbank Bayern Mitte eG/Germany
IBAN: DE05 7216 0818 0004 6227 07
Intended purpose: Gerlinde and Ralf School

Thank you – also on behalf of the children in Nepal! If I have estimated right, the amount of my sponsored hike should be about 800 euros (including donations as fixed amounts) for the reconstruction of the school in Thulosirubari. For that, I accept my heavily aching muscles for a few more days. 😉


20. November 2015 | 18:13