Hostel: Wild Rover
Cost: 21-bed dorm: 22 soles
Where: Alfonso Ugarte 111
I chose Wild Rover because it was described as a ‘party hostel’ and so I assumed there would be lots of sociable people. Upon arrival I installed myself at the outside bar and asked for hot water so that I could make tea – my tea, smoky loose-leaf Lapsang tea. Soon we were told to transfer to the other bar. It seemed that every foreigner who worked there was from Ireland. I don’t know if this was due to discriminatory employment practices or if they were all in fact from different countries and were asked to speak with an Irish accent, like waiters in Pizza Express pretending to be Italian.
Having lived in Buenos Aires for so long surrounded by long-time friends, I’d rather forgotten how to actually meet people. As a result, the bar in the hostel became a fairly intimidating place, resembling more a job interview than an easy-going social space. After dinner I popped my head in to see if a beer was on the cards, saw that there were only cliques gathered around tables, and predicted that my beer would be drank at the bar, alone, regretting the purchase, and dealt with in great gulps to hurry my exit while glancing at the other groups with forlorn eyes, them thinking me a serial killer, or just a freak. Better to go up to the room and pretend to sleep.
Unfortunately our dormitory is above the bar, which means that all through the night there is a background murmur of voices and music and the occasional cheer, presumably in response to someone downing something. If you are planning on doing the Colca Canyon tour and you want to sleep the night before (the tour starts at 3am) then I highly recommend that you don’t stay here, because you probably won’t sleep.
The bed is passably comfortable and I construct a kind of curtain that blocks out some of the light from the bulbs; I’d forgotten hostel etiquette and saw other people in bed and so I assumed that the lights would be left on all night to aid people leaving early for the Colca Canyon tour, like me, and presumably those already in bed.
About an hour later the first of the sleeping men awoke, stomped his way through the room like a wounded bear, and proceeded to shout in Portuguese Portuguese (as opposed to Brazilian Portuguese, which, in contrast, is a beautiful language). It soon transpired that all those sleeping men were just taking a late siesta in preparation for a big night, as evidenced by the intoxicating aftershave now suffocating the room, the loud grunting laughs in response to manly jokes, the back-slapping, and, worst of all, the constant entering and exiting from the room, presumably to go to the bathroom and check their hair had just the right tilt. I occasionally sigh deeply in a passive aggressive attempt to show my displeasure at the various goings-on, but to no avail.
At some point I fall asleep. I know this because I vividly remember the shock of waking. In the bed beside me I make out the pale patch that must be a man’s oval bald head. He’s lying on his back. Silence. Then an almighty snort crackling with snot and stodgy phlegm that punctures the quiet of the dormitory like a pneumatic drill to the head. Silence again. Perhaps it was a one-off, perhaps it was a… SNORT. Long and foul and caustic catarrh breaking through. Clearly the five seconds of silence were merely the building of pressure, the lull before the bombardment, the gradual inhalation of a mass of air in the pockets of the nostrils searching for a way through and finally, gloriously, breaking through in a celebration of mucus and snotty detritus. That he didn’t wake himself up after the first snort is proof that he is either deeply deaf or dreaming of standing by the speakers in a drum’n’bass club.
An hour later, an hour spent wondering about the mechanics of my neighbour’s snoring, I drift off again only to be awoken at 3am by the party-goers returning to bed with all the subtlety of a freight train. I lug my bag on my back and head down to reception, making sure the door doesn’t creak on the way out.
I had quite a different Wild Rover experience after getting back from the Colca Canyon tour. It was a Friday, there was no reason to get up early the next day, and I now had friends, real friends. The tour group had more or less collectively decided to get drunk that night, and the meeting place would be the Wild Rover bar. I napped for a while and then found some dinner while a contingent went to Starbucks and had a backpack stolen.
When I perched myself at the bar beside my two Brazilian friends the bar was still pretty quiet and populated almost exclusively by guys, much to the Brazilians’ disgust (they’d spent much of the tour imagining scantily-clad Brasileñas dancing in various important spots, then describing the scene to us in vivid detail). They bought me a Jägerbomb and kindly pretended not to be aghast when I admitted I had no idea what I was supposed to do. (For those similarly ignorant: you recite some speech like a murmuring drunkard – the words aren’t that important – then you drop the shot glass into the redbull and down it.)
Beer was 8 soles and there was a happy hour, so by the time the others arrived at the bar I was pleasantly tipsy. Every so often someone behind the bar shouted ‘free shots’ and you were encouraged to approach the bar, tilt your head back and ceremonially receive some flavoured shot. At some point people started dancing on the bar. They induced flashing recollections of school discos with their costumes and painted faces and attention-grabbing stunts: slices of nightmares long buried under attempts at maturity. I pushed the images out and tried to find the whole situation not embarrassing.
Later, after the Brazilians had slunk off to ‘go skiing’ – as they described it the next day – there was a mass exodus to a club called Deja Vu. I was drunk enough to dance freely, albeit badly, and yet to avoid the need to buy another drink. The club had two levels and was mostly filled with gringos, Peruvian girls trying to seduce gringos, and Peruvian guys hoping to pick up the pieces. Our group mostly stuck together, dancing awkwardly in a circle and, if someone was feeling quite audacious, dancing with each other. People began to disappear mysteriously, and at around 4am I noted that my group were nowhere to be seen. I made it back to the hostel without incident, much to my surprise, and probably made a lot of noise going to bed.