Thursday, October 22, 2009

Check-in was at the bar. That was the first sign that the Hotel Gearin might be less than ideal. It was Saturday, early evening, and the place was packed with grisly-faced and beer-bellied men who oggled at us shamelessly.

We paid, grabbed our key, and beat feet it out of there. When we opened the door separating the hostel from the bar, a thick wave of putrid air hit us like a festering brick in the face. I have cleaned many a rodent cage in my life, and there is no other way to describe it: the place smelled like guinea pig pee.

On the way to our room we passed by the bathroom, quite possibly the source of the stench. It contained two showers, a toilet, two urinals and two washing machines. We were wet, muddy and smelled like horse, and in the interest of good health decided to remain that way.

Down the hall to the left was our room. Unlocking the door, we were struck with a fresh understanding of where exactly we stood in the social and financial hierarchy of the world. The floor was covered in grime and crumbs. One bed was still made up with visibly dirty sheets; the other had a set of clean sheets, but they were folded on top of a duvet marked with a large stain that looked suspiciously like urine. There were ashes on the bedside table and communicable diseases leaping from surface to surface.

We spent the evening playing cards on my bed (urine stain covered with a sheet), under a couple of towels and pushed up against the heater because the indoor temperature was approximately 12 C. We declined to attend the show in the restaurant featuring half-naked men and a crowd of screaming middle-aged women and went to bed at 9:10pm.

We checked out at 10:00 or so the next day and set off for our hike. Sunday morning. The bar was already full.

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