Guatemala, Semuk Champey, Space Cookies, Central America, Walkabout, 2013

THE HOSTILE HOSTEL

The last you heard from me I was pining over a hairy faced man (not hipster hairy, neglect hairy) who I had attempted to romance by feeding his mother and young sister space cookies, and was then surprised he did not say goodbye. But here is the catch: he did! He left a note, which I never saw as the hostel threw it away, but I knew this because I bumped into him in the street in Antigua, and so I convinced him to put his family on a plane and come and play happily ever after with me for a few weeks, or forever (I was not fussed). So after three days in Antigua we headed to Semuk Champey, which is a natural 300 meter limestone bridge of descending pools with a river passing underneath in the jungle, and Tracy agreed to meet us a few days later.

When Tracy did arrive she had some new friends in tow: a very camp, allegedly heterosexual Australian couple who were backpacking for a year with suitcases mainly filled with beauticians wears for waxing and whatnot. They said it was to make some money, but I think it was primarily to keep his eyebrows shaped, as his appearance was of great concern. So with them, we went to the crystal clear turquoise pools where fish nibbled the dead skin off our feet (which I have paid a lot more than a park entry fee for), and we ate some BBQ chicken at the entrance, where a man in a counterfeit "Van Dame" t-shirt (given away by the misspelling of Van Damme) tried to stop the dogs from fighting for food scraps.

Then our choice of transport back to the hostel was on a tyre down the river. Our guide was no match for Tracy's decolletage, and before you knew it he was touching her feet whilst trying to cop a feel of her buxom bosom as we were floating down the river at a rather brisk pace. Of course I laughed, because I was a good wingman and it was all part of her master plan, as who wouldn't want to have freshly fish-nibbled feet fondled?   

We got back to the hostel as the afternoon storm hit, and it was a cracker. Eardrum-puncturing thunder, epilepsy-inducing lightning, and rain to match, which fondly reminded me of munching space cookies on Lake Atitlan. Mmm space cookies, I wonder if…. well there could be no harm in asking…  So I did.
  "Why hello lovely French hostel employee, you look like living in the Guatemalan jungle you would not be adverse to partaking in the consumption of sugary treats with a special ingredient. By chance have you baked a fresh batch today?"
 "Alas mademoiselle, I have none fresh. Unfortunately I can only offer you a freezer full of special brownies I made last week."
 "10 please."
 "And whilst I am here, may I suggest an alternative to your plans to go to Tikal, where you would see the unforgettable Mayan Ruins at sunrise whilst howler monkeys surprisingly howl?"
 "Certainly."
And that is where things got interesting. You see, if he had said, "I am sending you to an isolated, bug infested hell," I would have most likely said, "Thank you, that sounds wonderful, but I think we will stick to the original plan." But since he packaged hell in such a way that it sounded endearing, the next morning we willingly set off.

A geezerish English man with hideous teeth picked us up from Livingston, and then transported us to his guesthouse called "Greenhouse" on a river which was only accessible by boat. The first thing we saw—actually, that is not fair, the first person we saw was a skinny man in his 30s with long straggly hair and big welts all over his legs: he had clearly been a delicious smorgasbord for all the creepy crawlies in the area. A human tasting plate if you will. The guesthouse was in a state of disrepair, and we suspected the geezer was just too baked the whole time to get around to doing anything aside from disparaging his girlfriend. When I thought about going to the outdoor bathroom I envisioned myself returning looking like a ravaged cavewoman (and not in a good way), so I held off.

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By the time that we sat down at dinner, we had determined through some subtle eye contact and gesticulating that we wanted to get the hell out of there, and would do so first thing in the morning, but we had to get through the night. This did not involve barricading ourselves in our room (don't be so dramatic), but an excruciatingly awkward dinner of tamales where we felt that the geezer and his girlfriend were in the middle of a fight (given away by the silence and glaring). The only background sound was the slurping, lip-schmacking and finger-licking of the other guest who was eating with the same enthusiasm it appeared the bugs had eaten him. When we finally did get upstairs, we attempted to sleep straight away so that the morning would arrive sooner, and we were reluctant to talk as someone, anyone, may have been peering through a peep hole (take your pick).

Of course none of this damp, dirty, cobwebby creepiness boded well for a good night's sleep, nor did the tamales we had eaten for dinner. By 2am I knew that I was not going to make it through without regurgitating dinner. I did manage to find the outdoor bathroom—but not the light—and all I could hear when I was not hurling was what could very well have been scampering spiders on the tin roof. I did eventually make it back to bed and lay rigidly awake until the morning. When we told geezer that we wanted to leave he was quite taken aback and would not let us use the internet (something about modem and too hard basket) so we did not know where we had to get to, but we just wanted to leave and asked him to drop us off at the dock to go to Belize. With the cost of the transport, it turned out to be the most expensive night of the whole three month trip, but I considered it the fee for our release and gladly paid it.

You would think that maybe—as I was puking up tamale on the dock amidst petrol fumes as we prepared for our next border crossing—I would have reflected upon the turn of events and concluded that following recommendations from a stoned Frenchman with exceptional brownie-baking skills was a bad idea. But it wasn't a bad idea. Not only was it a travelling 101 demonstration that everyone has a different idea of Utopia, but it also provided a benchmark for rockbottom, meaning from that day forth, when assessing the viability of an option, it would be based on a scale of Greenhouse to 10.