Thursday, November 21, 2013

Strange Tales From The Desert

"Give me food! Give me a blanket now! You're my friends," he screamed in slurred Spanish, his body hanging over the entry gate with both hands outstretched in rage. Up on the pink stucco hostel deck with our backs against the hulking entry door which stood between us and safety, I began to rummage through my pockets for any item that could be transformed into a spur-of-the-moment weapon.
Cell phone? No.
Wallet? No.
Lighter! Maybe. Who am I kidding? I'm not a fire-breather, by trade at least.
     Slamming on our wooden hostel door and furiously ringing the ivory bell to the right began to seem like a futile effort, as we nervously waited for any sign of life to crack open the dark paneled entrance. It was 3 in the morning; no one was awake.

     The previous afternoon, a few friends and I left the bustling city of Lima to spend some time in Ica—a Peruvian city located in the desert region, along the southern coast of Peru. We traveled there by way of bus, and the accompanying sights while on the five hour trek to Ica proved to be nothing short of spectacular. Massive waves crashed along sandy coastal shores, and as the sun began to set, the water became a palette of purples and oranges. Palm trees extended their branches with direction from the wind while lining themselves along the intersecting edge of the coast and the road on which we were traveling.
     We arrived in Ica at around seven-thirty that night and proceeded to flag down a taxi to take us to the village of Huacachina, where we were staying. Marvel met my eyes when we stepped foot into the tiny village, realizing that the entire place was situated in the middle of the desert with a giant oasis in the middle. Massive dunes enclosed the area like gargantuan sand mountains; the oasis was alive with green vegetation growing around it, and palm trees rising out like a mass of people putting their hands into the air. Rising up about five feet, and winding around the entirety of the water mass, was a massive stone walkway decorated with restaurants, bars, hostels, and small stores. Our hostel was situated among this stone ring, its tall pink exterior looking down on us, with a deck, littered with wooden tables and chairs, protruding from the front. After checking into the hostel, we went to our room, which, needless to say, was the epitome of simple—plain white walls, a high ceiling, no windows, and several wooden bunk beds. Up until this point, I had never been in a hostel; the thought of being surrounded by strangers while I slept sent a shiver up my spine. But, figuring I had to do it sometime, and with the price being unbeatable, I accepted the quarters for what they were.
     We immediately threw our bags on our beds and descended back onto the walkway to hunt for food and alcohol. While walking down the stone boulevard, glancing around for the appropriate mix of fun, food, and drink, we came upon a white building bearing a giant sign with "Huacafuckingchina" illuminated in massive blue neon letters and a man, dancing in utter exuberance and wearing a bright red soccer jersey—from England, strangely enough—out front. He greeted us in an excited fashion and convinced us to go up on the deck-bar to eat and drink. As the hours passed, it slowly began to erupt into a dance party, complete with a DJ and an open dance floor. Thinking back, I don't even remember how it all happened, but I guess it doesn't matter much; lunacy has a way of acting like a memory eraser. At one point in the evening, I decided to step down into the street and clear my head. While I sat against the stone railing across from the wild display going down at the bar, a man—who immediately gave off the notion of being a local, don't ask my why—walked up to where I was standing and began to chat. He had two tan dreadlocks hanging down from atop his head, and in one hand he held a skinny section of PVC pipe, and with the other, he put his pointer finger against his thumb and held it against his mouth—the universal marijuana sign. He spoke slang Spanish and already seemed to be inebriated, or high, or a combination of both, which just made our interaction all the more annoying and I quickly found myself wanting to shake this loon. Gradually, I backed away and lost the manic street dweller, slouching myself onto one of the white couches surrounding the party bar.
     Things at the bar began to wind down, and after exploring the village streets and checking out a few clubs, we decided to head back to our hostel. When we returned to the stone walkway, it was a completely different world than earlier in the evening. Only random pockets of people remained, half-heartedly trudging back to their lodgings; some stumbling, some holding onto another person as if they were an anchor—the typical scene that results from a night of pure, unadulterated hedonism. My room mate and I decided to stay out a bit longer and take in the lunar-illuminated night along the oasis. We sat there, talking about life and its many intricacies while taking in the immense beauty around us. The water was perfectly still, with the exception of random ripples formed from bouncing water bugs, and the occasional fish. The stars looked deeply into the oasis at their own reflection, and the moon watched over the entire scene, much like a happy father hunched in the doorway of his children's room. After some moments had passed, and we both found ourselves satisfied with the night, we began our short stroll back to our hostel. As we proceeded, much to my dismay, the same half-lucid street dweller from earlier spotted us, and began to approach. Quickly, we rose up the steps to our hostel and rang the bell, hoping to completely avoid the oncoming event. Things are never simple, nor easy, and of course, there wasn't the faintest sign of someone opening the door. Dammit, I thought to myself, as the wild derelict finally arrived.
"Give me food. Give me a blanket."
At that point—and in my influenced state, ignoring him seemed like the appropriate option, figuring he might have enough brain capacity to take a hint and leave. However, as it always is with people like this—that is, the annoyingly-exuberant transient type—a simple acceptance of defeat, accompanied by an early exit, rarely happens.
     Then, right as we were gearing ourselves up for what would have been a hilariously depressing skirmish—imagine two young, well built men wailing on a drug addled vagabond, as he screamed hollow threats—another man, who seemingly appeared from out of nowhere, went up to the drifter and demanded he leave us a lone. He was a younger guy, probably around the same age as us, and wore a white wife-beater, camo-shorts, and a black baseball cap with DC in bright orange stitching on the front. Over the course of the next several minutes, he continued trying to persuade the crazed wacko to leave, and, when it seemed that nothing could convince him, he began to scream at the guy.
Turning my back to the erupting scene and pounding my fist against the door before me, a very loud— and an English might I add, "Shut the FUCK UP!" rang out behind us, followed by some meaningless shoving. This continued for several minutes, when finally, someone came to the door. We burst through the door like half-starved orphans finding shelter for the first time in days, completely ignoring the person who answered the door, and darting straight for bed. 
     Being completely inebriated, while witnessing what could possibly have evolved into a massive fight involving all parties concerned, tends to leave one in a state of—I wouldn't say shock, because that isn't what I was feeling; it was straight-up, fucking awe. I proceeded into the room, with every bunk now inhabited by a sleeping traveler, and fell right onto the lone remaining bottom bunk, fully clothed and not even for the slightest second nurturing the notion of undressing. As I lay my head against the soft pillow and stared into the deep darkness of the windowless expanse, an unbearable desire to laugh came over me. Realizing that we had already caused enough ruckus, I held in my desire to exuberantly howl, and instead opted to just lay there, grinning to myself. Shit man, I thought to myself, I can scratch "being almost accosted by a substance-fueled maniac in the middle of the desert" off my bucket list

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like one of the many nights I have encountered back in my younger, partying days. Well, minus the oasis, and the palm trees, and the being in Peru,. but otherwise, very close!!! LOL Glad you made it to your bunk ok. Keep the stories coming-very interesting stuff there in Peru. Stay safe!