Following two weeks of purgatory it was time for me to move into the $18 a night 20-bed dorm hostel down the road that I had been promised. I must admit the thought of sharing a room with 19 strangers did not exactly fill me with joy but the dirt cheapness of it was a massive appeal.
After doing the formalities of signing in I heaved my way up the spiral staircase from reception to level 3 and, after steadying myself, made my way down the corridor to room 301. I didn’t need to use the key card as the door was propped open by a flip-flop, which I found intriguing and sensed was an indication of the room’s happy go lucky nature. I paused warily, before gently pushing open the door and quietly slipping into the giant sized room. I had never seen so many beds in one place and thought I had accidentally been placed in a homeless shelter.
There were bunk beds running parallel all the way down the room, with ridiculously cheap plastic chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and a sofa that looked like it had been plucked from the dump – no doubt it probably had. Unsure which bed I was supposed to have, I wandered cautiously about before spotting a bottom bunk bed in the corner that looked free. I glanced around the room and noticed a handful of people on their beds who were listening to music, on their laptops or reading.
I felt like I was in a gold fish bowl, with every move observed by the sea of watching eyes. With my new environment I knew that even such luxuries as a brief scratch to my balls would now have to be performed with great care when no one was looking, rather than the usual elongated hearty rub until I felt immensely satisfied the itch had gone. The same principle applied to my bum, while I also knew I’d have to be wary of releasing bodily odours when close-by to others. After all, I’m English not French.
Not to mention the greater care I would be forced to take in covering my genital regions, particularly when wearing boxer shorts that offered little in the way of coverage. I could just picture the scene where I was introducing myself to fellow backpackers, before returning to my bed only to realise in horror that my manhood had been poking out the side, or one of the many holes, in all its glory. I would then forever be known as “Winkle Steve”.
I decided to check out the facilities. Wandering into the kitchen I pulled a glass from the shelf to refresh myself with some water from the tap. As it flowed out I noticed it was a bright white colour, almost identical to what you get from cows. “This must be the milk tap,” I mocked, holding the glass up. Bravely, I took a gulp hoping I wouldn’t be poisoned, before noticing there were two fridges that had bags with everyone’s food in. There was a large table in the middle with two ovens in the corner. One of which had a sign, “Not working”, that due to the smattering of old food looked like it had been there a while. “They like to keep on top of things here,” I observed and walked out shaking my head in disgust.
Next, I went to the toilets and shower area. Although the toilet seat was hanging off, everything else appeared to be in working order. Having fetched my towel I then entered the shower, where there was an arrow pointing clockwise for hot water. I turned the knob, naturally expecting lovely heated water to come effortlessly flowing out. But instead was only intermittently sprayed by ice drops shipped in from Antarctica. Jumping out of the line of fire I quickly fiddled with the handle and was finally rewarded with the occasional drop of lukewarm water, after figuring out the knob was the wrong-way-round.
To make matters worse there was someone in the shower next to me, clearly enjoying a warm soak while blissfully humming to himself. Looking down at the floor I noticed a gap at the bottom of the separation in which I unwittingly saw the reflection of the man. It was far from a pretty sight. But with me now totally naked I suddenly realised that if I could see his reflection then surely he could see me. Without a second’s thought I grabbed my towel and leapt out of the shower with foam from my shower gel still frothing under my armpits.