Here is a brief recap of some noisy “party” hostels we had the displeasure of staying at last week.
We stayed two nights at a backpackers in St. Lucia where they were having a special on dorm rooms, so we decided to splurge instead of camping because it was right in the city and we thought it would be quieter. Turned out the hostel is right next door to a karaoke bar. Weird thing was there was just one guy singing for about an hour or two each night and his repertoire did not vary much from night to night. His entertainment lasted from maybe 8-10 PM and then the boom-boom-boom-shaboom party music kicked in until long after I fell asleep.
This hostel was nearly deserted on a Thursday afternoon when we arrived, and we passed a fairly eventless evening here. There were two other women staying here, one who worked in the coffee shop of the adjoining hotel and one who had a very rough, unfriendly demeanor and I never asked what she did.
The next morning we went to a museum and had a guided tour with a great guy. He was very interesting to talk to and invited us out for the evening to hang out with his friends. Our plans were still undecided for the day as we anticipated leaving that afternoon. Back at the hostel to figure things out, we started talking to the caretaker and one of the cleaning staff. They said it was too late in the day to get to Drakensburg and it was best to leave in the morning. While talking about our plans, the caretaker said there was an awesome backpackers in Northern Drakensburg so we decided to head there in the morning. That night we went out with our tour guide and his friends and girlfriend. They walked us back to our hostel and came in for a drink. There was a big bar attached to the hotel and a small unattended bar in the backpackers. Our tour guide knew the caretaker so we got our beers and went back there to chat. The two other women were also there and our tour guide referred to the one unfriendly woman as a sangoma (witch doctor) which helped to put her personality in perspective. The race vibe was very prevalent here as she (white) unabashedly told our guide’s girlfriend (black) to go to the bar and get her a beer.
It was a late night and we went to bed at midnight. At 3 AM I awoke to loud, drunken arguing and loud, obnoxious music coming from the small bar by the backpackers. I gave it about 20 minutes and it didn’t quiet down. Anne didn’t stir during this time, but I was completely unable to fall back asleep, so I got up to ask them to quiet down. I walked into the little bar and was surprised to see that it was the caretaker and hotel staff making all the ruckus. I asked them to turn the music down since we were tenting so close. They actually did turn the music down but somehow this only made their voices louder. We’ve all heard how loud drunk people can be, especially drunk people at 3:45 AM, and since we were camping 50 feet away it was just ridiculous to me because these were the people whose salary I was helping to pay by staying there. Anne was still sound asleep but I knew she’d be on my side, so I got up again to tell them to quiet down because I couldn’t sleep. The caretaker said I had two options – 1) I could just deal with it and 2) I could get a room. I took the free room, woke Anne up at 4, and said we were upgrading.
We arrived at the backpackers in Northern Drakensburg on a Saturday evening after a nearly 8 hour journey via taxi (including wait times). We were tired and ready to set up camp and relax. The hostel was bustling with activity. More people were staying at this one hostel this night than probably ten of our previous hostels combined. It was a big setup with cabins, rondavels, dorm rooms and camping. The weather was overcast and raining. The hostel was grossly understaffed to deal with the amount of people arriving when we did so we had to stand around and wait for about 15 minutes before we were helped, this was partly due to a group that just checked in coming back to complain that their accommodations were incorrect.
Upon check-in before being shown where the tent sites, kitchen, bathrooms, etc were, the staff member helping us prioritized going over all of their tour options in excruciating detail and asking what we wanted to book. We said we wanted to think about it. We finally set up our tent, cooked dinner, and talked about what to do the next few days. The tours were quite pricey and involved either going on the cultural tour (which in our experience amounts to forced paid interactions, not to mention that it was described as visiting a village in Lesotho were the kids were so happy to see the tourists because they give them stuff. Yeah, that’s a healthy version of “development.”) or hiking up the escarpment to a beautiful waterfall (remember it was completely overcast and raining so views would be impossible). We read up on a National Park nearby and went back to ask about a shuttle there. The shuttle was 30 Rand per person each way, so we asked about one-way shuttles so we could camp there. The employee’s response was “what’s wrong with our campground?” I said we wanted to do a few days of hiking so it would save on shuttles expenses, so he responded “just take one of our tours” and we said we didn’t want to pay that much money to hike up a mountain where we would have no views and did he know anything about the campsites at the park. He said he’s never stayed there and “Well, I shouldn’t say anything, BUT I heard there are a lot of whiskey-sippers there.” At this point we decided this hostel was a joke, more about making money than any other operation we had been to. It was obnoxious, and we wanted to leave but rather than the 8-hour taxi journey being for naught, we opted to take the shuttle to the park, do some day-hiking, go back there to sleep (mostly so we didn’t have to pack up a wet tent and there was no other option for transportation to the park). That night the bar was in full swing. There was a huge grass lawn for camping and we purposely set up our tent as far from the bar area as possible given our experience in Eshowe the night before, but to no avail. The music was cranked up and the party was hopping. Anne said she got up at 3 AM to use the bathroom and the music was still blaring. I was very grateful for my earplugs that night. It dawned on us sometime this evening that we ended up here on the recommendation of the guy who woke us up drunk at 3 AM the night before. Mental note: know your source.
The next morning, while waiting for our shuttle, a large group was checking out and arguing with the staff about their tour the previous day. What we gathered from the conversation and other guests is that the weather, being cold and wet, was not agreeing with some of the tourists and they were getting hypothermic and asked to return. Other patrons on the tour wanted to continue so the guide decided they would all continue. Further confirmation that paying a lot of money for a hike was not the smartest thing we could have done. So, we went for a lovely day hike in the park and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It was Sunday evening when we returned to the hostel and were surprised to find it nearly deserted compared to the night before. Being on vacation you tend to tend to lose complete track of days of the week, and it turns out weekends at party hostels are a big deal. That’s not to say that the music wasn’t cranking that Sunday night to humor the four people in the bar drinking.