Monday, February 2, 2009

Night in Hades

Okay, so here's the story of a stupid traveler who needn't be named, although he may or may not be me.

Two days ago in Olympia, the bus dropped me off at night and I found myself disoriented for a few minutes. I had about an hour before my hostel closed (according to my travel guide) and a map of the city. I just had to figure out how to get there. While looking at the map, a man approached and asked me if I wanted to stay in his room, but after the bad experience I had in Yangshou, China, I was hesitant to comply. He told me that he'd charge me 15 Euros and that the hostel was closed. That sealed my decision. I hate when hagglers lie and I knew for a fact that it was open (not actually a fact). He pointed me in the right direction (nice guy) and I went on my merry way, eager to find the hostel.

When I arrived, however, the hostel was dark and no one was inside. I knocked a few times and rattled the doors, but no one answered. Now most people here would either (a) sigh and find a more expensive place to stay or (b) run back to the bus stop and hope the man is still there.

I, being the idiot that I am, realized with exitement that I had no place to stay and had to sleep outside. I almost skipped away, happy to start scouting for places to sleep. There was a possibility of more rain, but nothing bad (not actually a fact). I found an empty park and tested each place for comfort, cover, and light. I wanted somplace that wasn't horribly cold, with cover above, and out of the street lights so someone wouldn't stumble on me in my sleep.

I eventually found a little place that worked. It had a roof-type thing that would block the rain (not actually a fact) and seats around the edge of which I could sleep in the shadows.

In my defense, the hour before it started to rain was one of the most fun moments I had on this trip. I was ecstatic. It was a beautiful night with strong, warm winds and lightning rolling away in the distance. Then Zeus decided to have a raging fit that quickly ended any enjoyment I had that night.

It rained. Hard. It was not a drizzle, like the weather report said, nor was it simply rain. It was pouring. Thunder was screaming in the sky and lightning lit everything up now and then. I learned quickly that the "roof above my head" was nothing more than twigs lined up to block the sun. I wrapped my backpack's cover around my body and took out clothes to cover anything thing that was still exposed. Actually, this managed to work for a bit. I stayed relatively dry the whole night. However, the warm winds were now gone and the freezing rain had cooled everything. It was still, after all, January.

When I realized that I was basically sitting on a slab of cement in the middle of a park in a thunderstorm, I got up (shaking) and started to look for someplace else to sleep. Nothing was open because it was January and the town is half the size of my high school. Not too far away, I found a little gutter in an alcove that was completely dry. I got in, kicked out the cat that had also made it it's home, and curled up again. Unfortunately, after walking around, my whole body was now a bit wet and I couldn't stop shaking. I did about thirty sit-ups to warm up my body that wrapped up as tight as I could.

While laying there, trying to fall asleep, I realized that this was actually the second gutter I'd slept in and both times it had rained. What great luck I have.

The rest of the night was... not fun, but rather uneventful. The rain eventually subsided. I got about two hours of horrible sleep. When the "shakes" got me again at 4:30ish... I remembered that walking warms you up, so I took a two hour stroll in loops around the city, which worked but was tiring. At 6:30 I watched the sunrise and finally at 8:30 went to go check on the hostel to see if it was open.

It was. The old man greeted me, seemingly confused. What could he possibly be confused about? Anyway, after I asked him if he had any rooms he shook his head and told me that a group had come so he had no rooms. I gave him a look of utter desperation but still got the same answer.

You can imagine my irritation. The only thing that had gotten me through the night was the thought of taking off my wet clothes and either hibernating in a mountain of dryness (a bed), or taking a hot, hot shower for the rest of my life.

In my frustration I almost left right there. I'm really glad I didn't. I had an awesome time in the ruins, perhaps partly because I was so sleep-deprived that my senses and imagination was on complete overdrive and I could really "understand" everything around me.

Oh well. I got out fine, have a good story to tell, and just slept 12 hours last night in my new hostel here in Patras. You learn from your mistakes. Next time I'll pay the extra 5 Euros.


Book Look Column Author said...

Your trip would not be an adventure without nights like that. One of my worst nights (can't compare) was in Italy at a KOA type cabins place in the middle of an orange grove. Heaven? No it was hell! No heat in January, roosters who crow all night, and a group of French school children who arrive at midnight and run around crazy for hours. Ah, European vacations.

esthervictoria said...

how i miss you.
This is great though probably the best life story you've ever told!
it so beats the one about you not liking biology and cells or something...i don't really remember it i walked away in the middle.
Please have more life experiences such as this so i can laugh!!!

-Best friend Esther!!!

Donna said...

You really know how to worry your mother! I am on someone else's computer so not sure how this will post. Just the thought of some strange man wanting to share his room with you-more comforting to think of you in a culvert.Please be careful!!!