Day 21: Morro de Sao Paulo
My first night in Morro de Sao Paulo was hell.
We left Itecare the day before, in the afternoon. Our bags were more or less packed, and the seven of us were lazily lounging on the hostel sofas, passing the time until our coach was due to leave Itecare.
It was the perfect day to leave. The various people staying in the hostel were all leaving on the same day to their next destinations. I was travelling with the three Israeli guys, as well as three Brits I'd had a drunken conversation with the night before.
For some reason that only she can explain, Debs, one of the Brits, impulsively double checked the list of coach departure times posted on the wall behind the check-in desk. Even though we had already poured over the list many times that day. And that's when she realised we had misread the information and our bus was leaving in fifteen minutes, not fifty.
A mad scramble began as we hoisted the backpacks onto our backs and ran for the bus station. We got there with only minutes to spare before departure and settled in for the two hour coach journey to Valencia.
It was nightfall by the time we arrived in Valencia, and the last scheduled boat transfer from this little coastal town to the island of Morro de Sao Paulo had already departed.
Valencia is a tiny, decrepit industrial town without a single hostel and nothing at all by way of tourist attractions. The guy manning the boat transfer office by the pier generously offered to transport us to Morro as long as we were each willing to pay five times the going rate.
Seeing as we had no choice but to be extorted, we coughed up the cash. As he counted the wad of bills, he casually asked if we were also interested in buying some crack cocaine. He quickly shut up when he registered the looks on our faces.
The boat journey to the island took two hours. The night sky was virtually pitch black, unspoilt by urban light pollution, and there were hundreds of stars everywhere you looked.
We arrived at Morro's docks, trekked up a steep, sandy path, and emerged into a big courtyard-type area, flanked with trees and open-air restaurants along the sides.
At this point, we had been travelling for nearly four hours and so gratefully sank into the comfortable wooden chairs of one of the restaurants for something to fill up our stomachs.
None of us had booked accommodation in advance, preferring to turn up and see what's on offer. The problem with this plan was that the time was nearing eleven at night, there wasn't anything in sight that looked remotely like a backpacker's hostels and everything else was shutting up shop for the night.
As we dined, a woman sitting at a nearby table came over and introduced herself. Evidently she had overheard us talking about how we were going to sort out where to sleep for the night.
'My friend has a place! I will call her here now and she will show you!' she chattered excitedly and swayed animatedly. The glass of red wine in her hand had clearly gone to her head.
We waited patiently for her friend, who turned up, more subdued but equally wobbly. Me and one of the other Israelis followed her to scout out the place, the other two Israelis went to check out another place, and the Brits went to see a place one of the waitresses had recommended.
It wasn't a hostel. More of a large house surrounded by thick bush and tall trees and in need of renovation. And lighting. And pest control. The room fan creaked for a few seconds as the lady switched it on, before juddering to a halt.
She looked at it uncertainly, before purposefully striding towards the window and flinging it open.
'See? You can let the air in through the window. It's safe!' she beamed.
Not completely sold on the place, we navigated through the hilly, sandy streets and side streets back to the restaurant. It wasn't looking good. It was nearly midnight and our accommodation options were bleak.
We decided to trek around the island to a hostel we had heard about. At worst, if it was a complete dive, we would stay put for the night, and reconsider our options the next morning.
The hostel was inconspicuously tucked behind a beach-side restaurant. Loud, pumping music blasted out of speakers haphazardly tied onto metal poles on the patchily-grassed lawn. The rooms surrounded this area in an L-shape, like little bungalows. There were about ten or so guests sitting down further down the lawn, drinking and chatting loudly. Not that I could see them. The hostel owner - in his infinite wisdom - elected not to fix up any lights, so I could only hear these people and vaguely make out the outlines of their shadows.
Aaron, the hostel owner, was lively. Loud and social. We were exhausted and desperate for some shut-eye. I scribbled my details on the handwritten check-in form, using the candle on one of the white plastic tables to see what I was doing.
For reasons I'll never know, Aaron decided to fit each room in the hostel with one king sized bed. The problem was we were six guys and one girl. We only discovered this interesting setup after handing over the money for the first night's stay and after switching the lights on in the room. Apparently I was supposed to share the bed with Tobi, one of the Israelis.
Now, even though I'd only known the Israelis for no more than a few days, it felt like we'd been best friends for years. But I wasn't counting on sharing a small bed with another guy, no matter how well I got along with him. Then again, I didn't have a choice.
I was shattered, but Tobi wanted to head out to the hostel courtyard and meet the other backpackers chilling there. After unpacking his bags, he left and I crashed into the bed.
I inadvertently found myself curled up in the fetal position against the wall. It was as if my body was subconsciously protecting me from rolling over in my sleep and waking up later in the night to find myself staring deep into the flared nostrils of my snoring friend.
The mosquitoes chose that night to persecute me. Every now and then, they would let out a high-pitched whine as they flew past my ear. It was maddening. The fan didn't work, and the wall-mounted air conditioning unit only had two settings - full blast or nothing. The bedsheets were paper thin and the duvet wasn't much better. The loudspeakers outside continued to blare loud, heavy music.
After what seemed like an eternity of tossing and turning, I was finally drifting off into that semi-conscious state when I heard the sound of someone turning a key in the lock. Tobi stumbled in while whispering, apparently drunk. Suddenly, I heard a second pair of feet trotting on the ceramic tiles.
There was some muffled conversation, followed by the sound of a girl suppressing a giggle.
By now I was fully wide awake, although I pretended to be sound asleep. What was going on? Is this for real? Were they actually going to have sex with me lying next to them? I wondered in disbelief. Did they forget I was here? Should I snore loudly to remind them? What if they get carried away in the throes of passion and I get... splattered?
They continued to talk in hushed tones for a few minutes, before I heard one of them patter into the ensuite bathroom.
Now in a stroke of sheer engineering genius, the walls surrounding the bathroom were built only three fourths of the way up to the ceiling. Meaning, if you somehow locked yourself in there, you could get on top of the toilet, clamber over the wall and jump down to freedom.
So even though the occupant shut the bathroom door, I could still clearly hear the force of the stream of piss hit the ceramic toilet bowl. Once finished, whoever it was came out of the bathroom and before I knew it, I felt two more bodies ambling into my bed to give me company under the duvet covers.
I wasn't sure if I should continue to lie still and feign sleep, or if I should pretend the stirring had woken me up, go stand outside and then give fifteen minutes to finish up?
They made whispered conversation and then I heard the sound of lips smooching. I lay silently, half expecting them to start passionately thrusting me against the wall.
The girl, who was sandwiched between me and Tobi, suddenly appeared to pass out instead.
It was well into the early hours of the morning and I had no hope in hell of being able to sleep. My new bed buddies liberally spread themselves across the bed. No matter how much of the duvet I grabbed, with every toss and turn, they generously inched more and more of it away from me.
By the time daylight started making its way across the sky, I sat up in bed to see them happily still in dreamland, both snoring open-mouthed at me with a conceited satisfaction.
With a resigned sigh, I hauled myself out of and wearily made my way to the bathroom.
To be continued