At the end of December 2006 it was discovered that my wife had a stomach tumour. After a 10-month sick bed, she, sadly, died in late October 2007. After her death, I realized that I had to seek a new purpose in my life. And also that I was entirely up to me to find that purpose. I knew that I enjoyed physical challenges such as long distance skating of which I undertook several long tours in the past. That is why the idea arose to start long distance walking.
I started at Easter in 2008 with a 5 km walk the first day, a 10 km walk the next day and a 20 km walk on the third and final day. It went so well that I walked 40 km the weekend thereafter. In the following years I participated in various well known 4 day walks in various places in the Netherlands. Walking and traveling made me feel good. I noticed that many people were drawn to walking because of their life experiences. Many people have a ‘backpack’ of different kind of emotions and experiences. It helped me to become more open and to be able to talk to people about my experiences and what happened to me. That also meant that I was better able to accept the death of my wife. With that gained experience I was in a position to help others as a volunteer. Therefore I became active in a volunteer organization! Moreover, walking, and especially various pilgrim walks, gave me a lot of satisfaction because of the nature one walks in and the variety of landscapes one sees. On top of that the friendship of fellow walkers, the special atmosphere and kindness during the overnight stays, the cultural history and so forth.
During those walks I came into contact with people who had been walking long distances for a long time. Not only to the well-known pilgrim destinations such as Santiago de Compostela but also to places such us Rome and Jerusalem. Some did that in stages, others in one go! In July 2010 I terminated my contract of employment. In 2011, I walked from St. Jacobiparochie (a small place in Northern Friesland in the Netherlands) to Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain. In 2013 walked from my hometown Dalfsen (Eastern Netherlands) to Rome. In May 2014 I suffered a complicated heel fracture. In 2015 I walked part of the so called Camino walk from Porto in Portugal to Santiago de Compostela and from close by Finisterre to Muxxia. I am very grateful that I am able to walk such distances!
And now about this year, 2017. My intended walk from Rome to Jerusalem. My plan is to start during the first week of September! Also this time I want to use my walk in order to promote a worthwhile charity. This time for disadvantaged children in West Kenya who suffer from Jiggers. Jiggers are sand flies which penetrate the soles of children and grownups and remain there whilst feeding on their blood. The whole story you can read on the website of the GERTIN Foundation www.gertin.nl There will be a special section called ‘Jan’s foot trip where you can follow my progress during my walk. I estimate that it will take about 8 to 10 weeks to complete this 2200/2300km. walk to Jerusalem.
I sincerely hope that many people will be moved by the plight of these 22.000 small children in Kenya and that many will decide to support GERTIN with a monthly donation so that this horrible health problem can be dealt with and that those children can have a future.
Routes of the foot trip
These are the routes I’m going to walk. The start is in Italy, then by boat to Greece and thereafter by boat via Rhodes to Turkey. After Turkey, I cross to Cyprus. There I arrive in Northern Cyprus (the Turkish part) and then I walk to Limassol in Southern Cyprus, the Greek part. From Limassol I travel by boat to Haifa in Israel and then walk (via Nazareth) to Jerusalem.
Start is in Italy.
By boat to Greece.
By boat via Rhodes to Turkey.
After Turkey, I cross to Cyprus.
By boat to Haifa in Israel and then walk (via Nazareth) to Jerusalem.
Nine days on the road
Today had a lot of rain. At one point it came streaming down the slopes onto the road! I took shelter and finally ended up at the place called Artena where I wanted to go. When I got there I saw that the church was partly flooded. I helped the people to clean up. Tonight I sleep there, at the Convento Francescano Santa Maria de Gesu. An unforgettable day with many unexpected coincidences!
I have arrived at Ceprano, about 140 km south of Rome. Yesterday and today passed through the main agricultural area. Lots of olive trees and vines seen. Also picked plums and ripe figs! One can also see lemons, pomegranates and apricots. The people here were very happy with the rain because it has been very hot the last 3 months, 35 degrees Celsius! Last night I had some pain in my calf/knee cavity. This morning it was luckily gone. What strikes me is that one sees almost no small songbirds, but a lot of small lizards and crickets. I feel well and I am in good spirits. Tomorrow I shall pass Aquino on my way to Cassino.
I have arrived in Alife. According to the route book, I have now walked 230 km. The last days, I feel that I’m back in my old rhythm. The route has been mainly through agricultural countryside the last four days. Last night I stayed in an ‘agriturismo’ in the vicinity of Presenzano with among other things 10ha. of hazelnut trees. Further in this area one sees a lot of walnut- and olive trees, vineyards and in people’s gardens pomegranates, figs, peaches and many apple trees. No pear trees! The weather is good after the rain of this week, dry and sunny with between 22 to 28 degrees. Tomorrow on to Solopaca.
I’m in Benevento where I found an overnight place for pilgrims. Benevento is a very old city. Lots to see and visit. Also today I was walking through an agricultural area with many vineyards and olive trees. Very quiet roads with beautiful views. Villages, often old, stuck to the slopes. With this sunny and dry weather it is a pleasure to be here. Where I stay overnight, people often do not want to accept money whilst pointing to my shirt. So far I have ‘saved’ €60,00 that way, so that goes to Gertin for the children.
On my way to Bari
19 September – 23 September
I arrived in Troia and spent the night at the Hospital del Camino. Now having breakfast. Soon on my way again. The last few days there were quite a few slopes. After the vineyards and olive trees there are now, since yesterday, more grain fields. I’m heading towards the Adriatic Sea. Bari comes in sight, another 180 km to go.
Arrived in Santuario dell’Incoronata, about 120 km from Bari. After the hills with olive trees and vineyards of last week, the land is now quite flat with mainly fields of grain and many aggressive farm dogs. Today very long stretches of straight roads. This town has a very special, modern cathedral. Yesterday and the day before it rained from time to time. On the unpaved paths, I had to contend with big clogs of clay on my shoes. But, I’ve managed! From now on the route is almost parallel to the Adriatic Sea to Bari. Last night, in a pilgrimage stopover, I met a young German Law student called Florian. He is also going to Jerusalem, but his route takes him through Albania, Macedonia, Turkey and Cyprus. We agreed to walk some of the stretches of the remaining route to Bari together!
25th of September
Yesterday I arrived in Bari. Meanwhile, the boat has been booked. It departs tonight at 7.30 pm with arrival at Patras tomorrow at 1 pm (13.00). The weather is now cloudy with the threat of a rain shower. I’m feeling well. The amount of sponsorship by people refusing payment for my overnight stay is now €110,00!
On my way to Athens
23 September – 30 September
The boat trip from Bari to Patras took about 17 hours. A long sit, but I still managed to sleep about 7 hours. On the day of arrival I stayed in Patras. It is a university city with many young people in the streets and on the terraces. In the old town it was nicely busy with music in the main square.
On Tuesday, September 27th, I left a little before 08.00. In fact, the route is easy, I just follow the coastal road along the Adriatic Sea. Sometimes I literally walk along the water’s edge. Around noon I was invited by someone to eat and drink something. That was the first time for me in Greece. So far, it has happened to me three times. It’s always nice break. Sometimes people offer me a lift. I do accept those! That’s what makes for nice contacts. On Wednesday, September 28th, my driver was an hotel owner and today a taxi driver who did not drive his own taxi, but his Dad’s 35-year-old car.
Today, Friday September 29, I arrived in Corinth. There was a Spartaklon this afternoon. That is the name given to a long distance running event of 180 km from Athens to Sparta, which has to be completed within 36 hours. The start was this morning at 07.00. After Corinth I have another 100 km to go! The route is almost flat. The water is on one side of the road and homes on the other side. Also here, like in Italy, homes and villages are built on slopes. Everywhere I meet with friendly people and I walk through a horticultural area with lots of lime, olive trees and citrus fruits. Limes are currently harvested and thus enough possibilities for free food. The weather conditions are mostly good with a temperature of 20 to 25 degrees. From here about 80 km remain to Athens.
The journey continues
On Tuesday 3rd October, I made the crossing by ferry from Piraeus to Rhodes. On Wednesday 4th October I stayed in Rhodes. There I visited the old town and on the island the places Lindos and Landos. Thursday 5th October I sailed from Rhodes to Marmaris in Turkey. From there I took the bus to Fethiye. Then on to Ovacik, which is the starting point of the Lycian Way, a well-known hiking trail of about 540 km.
Sunday, October 8th. I have been following the Lycian Way for 3 days now. The road is usually with steep slopes with narrow paths and loose stones and/or rocks. Now in Xanthos (Kinik) I am again at sea level. In the area I passed through, I now see more horticulture, while in recent days I encountered farmland, goats and olive trees. I meet friendly and helpful people and enjoy the Turkish hospitality and cuisine. The weather is generally good until now. Sometimes some light rain and sometimes a rain shower in the afternoon. Presently the sun shines again and it is about 23 degrees. I feel good and continue my trip in good spirits.
Yes, just an update after a few days without internet. Last week, Sunday, October 8, 2017, I was able to report that I was in Links (Xanthos). Meanwhile I have arrived in Finike, about 25 km after Demre. The weather is still dry and sunny with 25 to 28 degrees during the day and at night about 15/16 degrees. On Monday October 9th, I saw the ruins of Patara, an impressive theater and arena from the Lycian time. I continued my trip and passed through Kalkan, Gokceoren, Kas, Bogaczik, Simena and Demre. And now I am in Finike.
Due to some fluid in my right knee, I am taking a bit of extra care. I think that this has been caused during first two days of last week by the steep slopes with loose stones and rocks. I also know that my right knee is a weak spot of mine. But, it’s so beautiful here so close to the sea. In this area there are many greenhouses with mainly tomatoes and peppers. They export those to Russia and earn good money with that. Furthermore there are ripe fruits in the fields such as limes, oranges, pomegranates and occasionally grapes. I meet helpful and friendly people and I am often invited for tea and/or lunch or dinner.
Yesterday in Demre I was invited for a picnic by a family of 6. And today there was someone in Finike who approached me and offered me tea. Last year this gentleman had visited Eindhoven! All the conversations I am having here are very open and interesting. The weather forecast for next week is good. The weather is likely to remain as it is today. I regard it as a privilege that I am able to make this trip and I am very grateful.
Still continue in good spirits
Friday, October 20th
I arrived in Atalya. I am taking a day’s rest to explore the old city and visit the historical museum.
Wednesday, October 25th
Because I walked more along main roads during the past few days, I was approached more often and asked if I wanted a ride. That’s why I arrived in Anamur already yesterday. I was advised not to go to Silifke on foot. The road becomes quite narrow. In addition, there are a number of tunnels where only car traffic is allowed so it is therefore too dangerous for pedestrians. That’s why I took the bus! Hence I arrived in Silifke today.
Thursday, October 26th
I am now in Tasucu where I bought a ticket for the ferry to Giren, in Cyprus. The departure time is at 24.00 tonight and the crossing is 6 hours. The problems with my knees have improved, so I continue in good spirits.
Friday, October 27
After a delayed but good crossing I arrived at Girne at 09.00. Girne is located in the north of the Turkish part of Cyprus. On the boat various people spoke to me, I feel like a celebrity! I also get some food from them. I spoke to people from Afghanistan, Turkey and Russia. After arrival, I ate something with a Turkish boy in his friend’s apartment. Then headed for Nicosia. I arrived there at about 15.00, I searched for a hostel and then visited the old part of the Turkish part of Nicosia.
Saturday 28th October and Sunday 29th October
On the way to Limassol which is about 100 km. Every day I walked about 40 km. The road went through a slightly hilly landscape with olive groves and greenhouses. There were also ripe fruits along the way like figs. Arrived in Limassol on Sunday.
Monday 30th October
This morning I went to the booking office in order to buy a ferry ticket to Haifa. This was not possible. What was worse is that in my passport there was a Turkish stamp because I had been in Turkey. As a result, it was not possible to travel from Cyprus to Israel. I would have to go back to Turkey and to take a flight from there to Israel. I then went to the Tourist Information Office. There the same story with the advice to go to the Israeli Embassy in Nicosia (distance 100 km!) because they may able to do something for me. No cooperation at all.
Tuesday 31st October
At 09.00 I was at the Tourist Information Office again. I was not allowed in, but I got the same person of yesterday on the line who did not change his point of view. Because he mentioned that I do have a valid Dutch passport, I decided to go to Larnaka International Airport, which is about 70km from Limassol. If I do not manage to get to Israel, I will go back home to the Netherlands. I arrived at the airport at around 13.00. At 17.40 there is a flight to Tel Aviv. There is a seat available, but I must book a return flight from Tel Aviv to the Netherlands at the same time. I called my son Joris in the Netherlands and he arranged it. But now, I have to get to Tel Aviv. Well, I had some exciting moments at the customs. I was asked by 3 different people about the reasons why I wanted to go to Israel and why from Cyprus. Fortunately, They did not look at the page in my passport with the Turkish stamp! On arrival in Tel Aviv again an in depth conversation with the same sort of questions. It was quite a tense moment. After about 15 minutes they let me go through. Took the train and bus to the hostel. Quite an exciting day today!
Wednesday 1st November
By bus to Tiberias. There I slept at the beach in a wooden hut. I visited various points of interest in Nazareth. In the evening I attended a gathering at the Basilica. At the overnight stay I met people of different nationalities, including a Dutch lady from Alkmaar.
Thursday 2 November
I travelled by foot only part of the way to Nazareth because a stretch of the route went along a main road with a lot of traffic. At about half way I took the bus. At the Tourist Information in Nazareth I received the news that the National Israel Trail also goes through Tiberias and that there is also a hostel there. I did not know that.
Friday 3rd November
Today I left Nazareth and followed part of the National Israel Trail route. I have arrived in Hilf Sabbath in a hostel where I sleep in a tipi. Today was one with beautiful sunny weather and a temperature of about 23 degrees C. The route went through a hilly landscape with olive groves, agriculture land and fields with cattle. Also forests with coniferous and eucalyptus trees. Despite the fact that there were sometimes steep but short slopes, I enjoyed this route. Therefore I shall continue in good spirits tomorrow. It feels good to bring this last stretch in Israel to a good end!
On Saturday, 4th November 4 I went from Hilf Sabbath to Kibutz Yagut. Also this day a beautiful route and like the last days, very nice weather. This beautiful weather is also expected during the next few days. There were virtually no cars on the road, only groups of children playing with their parents. I was invited by a traditional Jewish family. The whole family was together, father, mother, 7 children and a number of grandchildren. And I was offered fruit, tea and food and got into conversation about all kinds of subjects. About life in Israel, the Jewish tradition, training, police, threats and security etc. They also showed me a short cut around the Kibutz. That saves me about 4.5 km, about one hour walk.
Sunday, 5th November 5 I walked to Ein Hod where I arrived at dusk. On Monday, 6th November I walked from Ein Hod to Caesarea. The route goes through an area where bananas are grown, however it seems with lots of pesticides. There are also orchards with avocados. About halfway the route bends towards the Mediterranean. I walked along the beach and the sea. After viewing the remains of a Roman castle I headed for the TrailAngel.
For a few days I walked along the beach to Netanya and Tel Aviv. Lovely weather and several people spoke to me. At Tel Aviv the route goes east, away from the coast. Via Rosh Ha’ayin, Beit Hashmonai and the Kibutz Tzoba I arrived in Jerusalem today (Sunday 12th November) at about 12 o’clock. I am going to explore Jerusalem and its surroundings for a few days. I am looking forward to it. Tomorrow to Massada and the Dead Sea. The walk is finished, I have reached Jerusalem. I realise that the weather conditions were very good and that my physical problems were minimal. I look back on this walking trip with a good feeling. I am very grateful that I was able to do this. On Friday, 17th November 17, I fly back to the Netherlands from Tel Aviv.