Very recently, I had the opportunity to hike the Camino de Santiago. for those unaware, this is a centuries old pilgrimage trail, or network of trails with a common end point, Santiago de Compostela, at the Cathedral of St. James.
People walk very short versions of this trail, and extremely long variants. People hike it for spiritual reasons, religious reasons, wanderlust reasons, nature loving reasons, or any of innumerable motivational sources.
Whatever the reason, there is a commonality amongst those who walk the way, the need for a shelter.
There are many restrictions regarding tenting in Spain, and this forces hikers to convene at albergues, or refuges, or more commonly in the States, hostels. Some people opt for hotels, or try to skirt the illegality of tenting, but most find themselves in these large bunkhouses at the end of the day.
Some of these hostels have an added luxury associated with a stay, breakfast.
Before excitement sets in and you start imagining fresh fruit, airpots of coffee, bacon, pancakes, muffins, eggs, and waffles with syrup, allow me to clarify of what “breakfast” typically consists.
Breakfasts at the refuges, are most often, white bread, with butter and jelly, and instant coffee.
No one refuses these meager meals though, as before hiking 10, 15, 20 or more miles, some nutrients are better than nothing.
As soon as “breakfast” is available, many pilgrims are found around a communal table, palming a cup of “coffee” augmented by two sugars and milk to mask the flavor, reaching for a basket of baguette ends and random misshapen slices.
It was in this scenario, that I found myself sitting across from Apricot Boy. He didn’t know that was his name, nor did I when we sat down, but soon after, he would own the moniker.
Apricot Boy retrieved his piece of bread from the basket, and used the knife stuck into the butter to spread an ample serving onto the white surface. He then carefully surveyed the jelly options, peering from raspberry, to grape, to strawberry, before finally settling on apricot. He took a fresh, unused spoon from a small glass jar, and dipped it into the apricot jam.
After applying an ample portion onto the butter buffer, Apricot Boy lifted the spoon, looked at it contemplatively, and proceeded to lick the jam remnants from the spoon. He then looked at his piece of bread, and apparently decided there wasn’t enough apricot. He dunked the spoon back into the jelly, reapplied, and again licked the spoon clean. The spoon was then stuck deeply into the remaining apricot jam in the jar.
My hiking partner soon joined me at the table, and when she passed the butter stage, I advised her in a whisper to “avoid the apricot, I’ll explain later.”
After a few hours of walking the Camino, I did share what I had witnessed, and “Apricot Boy” received his name.
(Apricot Boys name actually turned out to be Mana, and he was from Morocco. We met him at the next hostel in San Sebastián where he was cooking chestnuts that he had harvested while walking the Camino. Further down the line, he did a great service by walking us to a grocery store which was, shockingly, open on a Sunday.)