Category Archives: RTW Travel

Yeti Sleeps: The Inhospitable Hostel

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When you book at a hostel, anything can happen. I’ve stayed at some pretty dire places in my time, but Natural Rock Hostel is possibly the worst.

To be fair, the location is great and the rooms are good value. But that’s where the positives end. When we arrived, there was no one there. Like guests or employees, apart from a cleaning lady on the 4th floor. Finally someone showed up and despite a largely empty hotel, they split up our party, putting Zulia and I on the third floor and my Mom on the fourth.

This mattered because at 2am a loud party began on the third floor. Music blasted, people sang at the top of their lungs, and the smell of alcohol filled the floor.
We waited 20 minutes before calling the front desk, who assured us everything was “tranquilo”. The music didn’t stop, the shouting and singing didn’t stop. Until finally they were replaced by the noisy sounds of sex. These lasted longer than you would have liked or hoped.

When they finally finished, we went to check on my mom on the fourth floor to see if she was okay and discovered a) the room next to us was full of prostitutes and b) the man from the front desk, wearing nothing but a towel. A used condom lay in the hallway. All this time I had hoped that it was drunk guests who thought they were alone in the hotel, but this was the dude who had checked us in. He had put us in that very room next to his antics!

What happened next I’m not sure; either the prostitutes didn’t get paid (as they claimed) or they stole something from the men (as they claimed). What it meant was a lot of shouting at the top of the lungs. By 4am, sleep-deprived and going crazy from all the noise, we fled upstairs and discovered many other guests who had fled the third floor. A german lady had fled 30 minutes before us, and a family with a baby had come up an hour before that. Even from the 4th floor, the noise of arguing and banging was so loud we had to turn up music to sleep. In all, we were up from 2 am to 430 because an employee of the hotel was partying with hookers. We left as soon as it was light, asking a new guy at the front desk for either a refund or the owner’s number and getting neither.

Guatape is a lovely town but I’d be lying if I didn’t say this affected how we felt about it. I’ve stayed in some dodgy places in India, Nepal, Thailand, etc but this was one takes the cake.

Cold cities are all alike; every hot city is sweltering in its own way

20191108_154806Some thoughts after my first 24 hours in Medellin

Human brains are pattern-seeking, so it’s pretty common for travelers to form initial comparisons to places they know. Thus Medellin initially struck me as part Brisbane and part Mandalay, a sprawling palm tree-laden city built on hills ….

This is just a list of first impressions, mind, so small sample sizes abound and all opinions are subject to change.

It’s humid here but not sweltering, not anything on Asian heat. The traffic likewise is pretty chill–there are motorbikes but it usually comes in the direction you’d expect. I’ve seen more Volkswagon bugs here in one day than in the last couple years elsewhere.

Looking at the map of the area, I saw there was a Hooters. I pointed it out and Zulia laughed knowingly. “Have you been?” I asked her. “No,” she said, pausing. “But I think you’ll find just walking on the street is pretty much the same as going to Hooters.” And do you know what? She was not wrong!

It’s kind of cliche to describe the residents of a country, especially a developing country, as kind or generous but in this case it does seem to be true. I’ve already seen several random acts of kindness on the metro or in the streets

It’s a mix of the developing and developed world; fruit cart vendors push overladen carts past a modern metro station.

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Speaking of fruit, there are lots of great fruits here, some that I’ve never seen before. Giant avocados and guavas and passionfruit, something called lulo, a kind of soursop called Guanábana and goji berries all abound, but so far my favorite is pithaya. It looks like dragonfruit but whereas dragonfruit tastes rather tropically and peppery, pithaya tastes more like vanilla pudding.

Many countries have a lower rung of immigrants/refugees that make up a lower rung of the work force. The Burmese do it in Thailand, the Kazaks did it in Uzbekistan, and the Swedes do it in Norway. Here it is Venezuelan refugees, many of whom are forced to roam and beg or work in menial jobs. I’ve noticed that the poorer the country, the better their English and it rings true here. Venezuelans speak excellent English! Which I’m not claiming is a good thing, but it is definitely a thing.

That’s it for first impressions! I’m looking forward to learning a bit more about the area.