Read along as we trek through the second installment of Matt and Max’s adventure of finding a place to sleep in Humahuaca. When we last left them, they had just been turned away from a second hostel.
“She said there is one other hostel we could try down the road,” Max said. “She said if they don’t have any room then we’re screwed.”
“Worth a shot,” I said halfheartedly.
So off we went, flashlight and map in hand, trudging down the uneven dirt roads of Humahuaca. The complete darkness was eerie, but the moon and stars provided a certain level of comfort that kept us at ease. After winding our way left and right down the maze of streets, we finally saw the sign. It lit up as my flashlight shot in it’s direction. “Hostal La Antigua,” it read above the door. The door creaked open and we set foot inside. We were greeted with empty soda bottles, candles shooting out of their tops like fireworks, illuminating small patches of the floorboards.
“Hola?” We called out into the hallway. Before we even drew another breath, a man walked out into the hallway. He was about 5’10”, with a thick beard and long black hair pulled into a ponytail. He wore cargo pants and military boots, with a heavy olive green jacket.
“Hola que tal?” He looked at me and Max, waiting for a response. Max instantly took over. He seemed to be explaining that we couldn’t find a room. The man was watching Max intently as he spoke. Once Max finished, the man motioned the two of us over to a room.
Bunk beds filled the room, a single soda bottle candle on the floor. Backpacks were scattered about, and it looked like just another full room. The man pointed at a bunk bed in the corner. Both the top and bottom were empty. He smiled, explaining these were the last two beds left in the whole hostel, and they were ours for a mere 50 pesos a night. We were ecstatic. This definitely beat sleeping with the dogs in the street. We signed into the guestbook, then went to our room to throw down our bags.
“How lucky are we?” Max smiled as he said it.
“Dude, I seriously can’t even believe it. Thanks again for letting me come along with you. If I hadn’t met up with you I’d still be in Purmamarca sleeping in a dumpster right now!”
We both began to laugh, relieved it had all worked out.
“Let’s go into the kitchen, meet some of the guests, and hopefully get something to eat,” Max smiled, “because I’m so damn hungry!”
The kitchen was close to our rooms, right down the hallway, and we could hear a myriad of voices resonating out of the room. At least 15 people were in the room, sitting in the dark at the various tables. Two 20-something year old girls sat at a table in the back. I looked at Max and motioned towards the table. We walked over and pulled up the remaining two chairs. An unlit candle sat in the middle of the table.
“Hola amigas,” I said casually as I whipped out my matches and lit the candle.
The two girls smiled and laughed.
“We don’t really know much Spanish.” The one on the left said shyly. She was beautiful, with dark brown hair accented by big hazel eyes. “Do you know English?”
Max and I looked at each other and began to laugh. After a short talk we learned their names. Marie and Millie. Just like Max, they too were from France. Marie and Max started into a conversation in French, while Millie and I conversed in English. Finally after a good 20 minutes, we all decided we were pretty damn hungry. The hostel owner said we could cook in the kitchen, but we needed our own ingredients. We told the girls to hang around and that we’d be back in a few minutes with some food.
We stumbled back out into the dark night. It was 11:30 p.m.
“I doubt anything is open, especially with the power outage and all.”
“Let’s just check, you never know.” Max was more optimistic than me.
After a few blocks of nothing but locked doors, we happened across what looked to be a general store. A small lantern flickered on the counter. Sure enough a man was in the shop, just about to close up. He gladly helped us, and before long we were heading back to the hostel with bags in hand, carrying enough raw pasta and tomato sauce to feed everyone. Marie and Millie offered to help cook, Max laughing as he watched.
“This right here, Matt, is French cooking at it’s finest!”
The girls scowled and continued stirring the pasta and sauce, firing off remarks in French at Max.
There was enough pasta for everyone to have seconds, and even the hostel owner had a bowl. Millie, Marie, Max, and I sat back at our table, digging into our pasta creation. Max got up and opened the fridge, producing a liter of beer. He placed it into the middle of the table. I grabbed the bottle, popping the cap off with my bottle opener ring.
“What a Yankee, seriously. That’s such a Yankee ring. Only an American would have that!” Max and the girl laughed.
“Well if it wasn’t for the U.S., you guys would be speaking German twice.” I let out a loud laugh and raised my glass before they could respond. “Salud!”
We raised our glasses bottoms-up and began digging into our meals. We finished in no more than five minutes, barely pausing between bites. We cleaned up the dishes and all headed outside to the back of the hostel. Two benches were set up across from one another. Millie and I sat on one bench, Marie and Max on the other. I looked up at the sky. A shooting star flew over head. The air seemed still and silent.
“Cigarette?” I looked up to see Marie’s hand extended out towards me, cigarette between her fingers.
“Sure, thanks.” I took it and placed it between my lips, opened my matchbook and struck a match.
“I thought American boys didn’t smoke,” Millie said with a smile as I put out the match and took a drag.
“Guess I’m the exception.” I laughed, then turned my gaze back up at the night sky.
A conversation immediately began between the three of them in French. I took another drag of the cigarette, letting the smoke dribble up out of my mouth, thinking of nothing other than how relieved I was to have a place to stay for the night.
This definitely beat sleeping in a dumpster.