A Million Steps
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Kurt Koontz thought he was well prepared for his 490-mile walking trip on the historic Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in Spain. He was fit and strong. He had a good guidebook and all the right equipment. His pilgrim passport would grant him access to the shelter of hostels along the way. But all that, however helpful, did not begin to encompass the grandeur of his external or internal adventure. A Million Steps climbs over the high meadows of the Pyrenees, quests through the unceasing wind of the Meseta, and dances in the rains of Galicia. While following the yellow arrows that mark the route, Koontz also navigates through his personal history of addiction, recovery, and love. With outgoing humor and friendliness, he embraces the beauty of the countryside and joyful connections to other pilgrims from around the world. Part diary, part travelogue, A Million Steps is a journey within a journey all the way to the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela and beyond.
lifetime, I returned to the room to make a plan for the day. I felt so well rested and satiated with food that I made the decision to bank my planned “rest day” for a time when I might need it to recover from illness, injury, or other unforeseen circumstance. I sincerely hope that another person can find as much happiness in room 305 at the Almirante as I did on September 22, 2012. By the time I left the hotel in the late morning, I saw no fellow pilgrims on the path. However, when I passed
the albergue. A stage was set up for some type of live concert that evening. A lone man provided afternoon entertainment for a crowd of about 25 people. It amazed me that more did not stop to hear him because the surrounding area was swarming with people. In my previous life, the one that had ended 15 days before, I probably would have walked by, too. This man played a variety of instruments, none of which I had ever seen or heard, for at least an hour. I could not understand a single word, but
explained that his palate was conducting a test for the top 10 flans of the Camino. This particular custard did not make a dent in the list, but he inhaled it anyway. I asked about other top 10 lists, and he immediately told me about the rooster crow list. I could not stop laughing as he puffed his chest and let loose his personal renditions of the best cock-a-doodle-do’s. After dinner, we walked back to the albergue accompanied by a sunset of mountain ridges that melted into layers of pink,
After a nice, warm shower and some hand washing of clothes, Ellie and I both headed toward the courtyard for some much-needed rest. Getting down the stairs was a bit tricky as my knees were not pleased with the extra-long day. After securing my wet socks and underwear to the clothesline, we headed to a table in the sun to relax and write in our journals. It was a marvelous afternoon. Although practically strangers, Ellie and I agreed to exchange foot massages. Our very sore feet were
with an estimated 200,000 pilgrims arriving in Santiago in 2012. The modern-day walkers come in all sizes and shapes from every corner of the planet. Some seek religious affirmation while others aspire to a spiritual awakening. Many are there solely for the physical challenges of the adventurous journey. It provides an appealing escape from the day-to-day routines of our busy lives. Ellie and I found breakfast at a bakery and explored the historic sites in Pamplona, including one of the