TAHOE, Calif. — Monica Armanino and her husband David Jennings, Realtors with Better Homes andamp; Gardens (Tahoe City and Incline Village, Nev.), returned home after completing the Camino Frances pilgrimage.Monica and David started with their backpacks from St. Jean Pied de Port, France and hiked over the Pyrenees to Spain. The first large town was Pamplona, then on hiking paths and country roads they continued through Logrono, Burgos, Leon, Astorga, Ponferrrada, before arriving at their goal, the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. The 500-mile trek took 38 days, including two rest days. Lodging was in a variety of accommodations: albergues, hostels, pensions, and casa rurales. The first 30 days were hiked during the worst weather Spain has had in more than 40 years, with rain, cold, and gale-force winds. While many people make all or part of the walk each year, senior citizens Monica and David were in the less than 5 percent by age who complete the whole Way. Martin Sheen made a movie “The Way;” a story involving hiking the Camino Frances. According to David, “It is a good story and does show much of the country we crossed, but in the movie there is no rain, no mud, and Sheen doesn’t get blisters or break a sweat.” Monica wanted to do the “Way” for several years, and said, “While not a walk in the park, it was a fantastic experience, from the physical accomplishment, the culture, the history, but more so from the interaction and friendship with the other pilgrims representing some 40 different countries.” Monica and David did the walk for spiritual reasons. The “Camino Frances” is considered the main route, although there are 10 other routes that all lead to Santiago de Compostela, and have been used by religious Pilgrims for more than 1,200 years. Today, it is considered one of the three great walks in the world, and people now do it for an assortment of reasons, besides religious/spiritual.According to David, walking 15-25 miles a day, day after day, you first think of all the people who have followed this same path, primitive cultures, Romans, Moors, Crusaders, and Pilgrims from all points of Europe. The origin of the Basques in the Pyrenees, and the Maragato’s in Galicia is still in question. Secondly, you become detail oriented, noticing flowers from the largest to the smallest; the birds and their songs; the many different trail conditions; and of course, the weather. As most of the 500 miles is in rural or country areas, there is much time for reflection, meditation, or just plain thinking. A great plus to the walk is the interchange with the other Pilgrims. The couple met people from around the world — Slovenia, New Caledonia, Africa, Israel, Mexico, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Scandinavian countries, Russia, and on and on — only to discover their ideas for life on this planet was identical. They were all in agreement the World Leaders should walk the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.Monica and David also shared a feeling. They wore expensive hiking boots, carryied top-of-the line backpacks, goose down sleeping bags, trekking poles, water purifier, foul weather clothing, even an iPhone with GPS and camera. They thought about the early pilgrims walking a much less refined trail, peasants with meager possessions and few accomodations, yet they had a belief that gave them the strength to walk 800km and more, to profess that belief. And, they asked themselves, “Are our beliefs that strong?”If they had a question about the direction of the Camino; where to eat or sleep; a medical question; any question that came to mind, and a person would appear volunteering to help, asking nothing in return, but friendship. They labeled them “Angels” and they appeared throughout our travel.“If only we could always practice the Golden Rule, we could change the world. The world needs a lot more angels,” said David.
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