- Cost: 70 quetzales($10)/night
- Ameneties: Kitchen, bar, hot tub, washing machine, TV, public computer, free wifi, filtered water, awesome staff
- Acivities: Trivia Night, Salsa Dancing, Yoga, Bar crawl, Movie night
- Transport: Shuttle service to the ariport, Atitlan, Xela, Flores, Honduras, Belize, and Mexico
It was just about midnight when my shuttle from the airport pulled up to the gates. Despite the darkness, I could still see many old, colorful, buildings lining the now deserted street. The driver and I exited the vehicle and approached one of such buildings with the words "MATIOX" inscribed above a closed black door. Without talking, he rang the bell. At first, nothing happened. Then, after about a minute, we heard some commotion and the door opened. A man of about my age stood in the entrance and invited me in.
Instantly, I noticed this was no ordinary hostel. There was no roof for the common area and the whole space was lit up by the light of the moon. In the center of everything stood a tangerine tree (or clementine tree. I don't know the difference), with actual fruit on the branches. Despite my delirious jet lag, I wandered a bit and noticed a jacousi and bar located near the back. Numerous large couches rested against the many walls, and a few bicycles were scattered about. Off to the side was kitchen and refrigerator in their own separate room. I wanted to explore, but since most people there were sleeping, I ultimately conformed to societal pressure and went to bed.
The next morning, I hoped to see more, but unfortunately I was going to Atitlan so my time was limited. Thankfully though, the hostel is part of a regular shuttle service to the lake so they were able to arrange a ride for me for a rather low price. I, therefore, expressed my gratitude and promised both the person at the front desk and myself to return soon. One other person from the hostel, a girl named Franzi, took the shuttle and along the way, we chatted about past travels and things like that. Which leads me to...
Four days later, I hopped off the same shuttle that took me to Atitlan (only this time doing the reverse route) and walked up to the doors of Matiox. That's when things got a bit unexpected. I approached the front desk to check in, and out of all people, Franzi, the girl who left the same day as me, was standing there checking in for herself. Now, if I wanted to make my brain hurt, I would try to think of what the odds are that we could both leave the hostel for the same destination at the same time, and somehow return 4 days later at the same time once again without any planning or coordination, but I like my brain so I will spare it the trouble. Anyway though, after going through the procession of the "you again!" encounter, I noticed a sign for trivia night at the hostel bar.
"Is that tonight?" I asked.
"Yes." the girl at the desk replied. "You want in? The winners get free drinks."
The second the word 'free' was mentioned (as I'm always teetering on broke destitution), I knew I was in. "Sure." I said, "Is it individual or for teams."
"Teams... Hey! Why don't you two be a team!" The girl said to me and Franzi. She agreed and our team was formed. And therefore...
Naturally, I got there a little late and the teams were ready and about the begin. Franzi had chosen our team name 'Party Pool' in honor of the hot tub next to the bar. Next to me stood an obnoxious trio of three 20-year old dudes while the rest of the groups were seated among the various couches. The bearded bartender turned and said in a slight Canadian accent, "Alright, everybody here?" Our four categories tonight are Guatemala, the Olympics, general knowledge, and music. The winner of each round gets either a free beer or shot and the loser overall has to do a shot of this nasty Mayan liquor." He explained more, but I'll spare you all the details.
We started with Guatemala and to my pleasant surprise, Franzi turned out to be a pro in the category. She knew nearly every question and by the end of the round, we were in the lead with 8.5 out of 10 points. The bartender counted up the points and announced, "After one round, Party Pool is in the lead! So what'll it be then? Beer or a shot?" Franzi chose the beer, but due to my curiousity, I asked to try the Mayan liquor he mentioned before. The bartender gave me a strange look and asked if I wanted it mixed with anything to mask the taste a little, but I refused. After more than two years in Russia, I take my liquor as is.
Now, I'll be honest here. I was expecting something like gasoline, so when it turned out to be not that vile, I was relieved. That said, it was by no means good and I had no desire to try a second shot.
Then came the Olympics round, and it was my turn to showcase my expertise in bizarre information. Host of the 2010 winter Olympics? Vancouver. Only indoor winter sports without skates? Curling. (There was a clear Canadian bias in the questions). Over my shoulder, I could hear the three obnoxious guys struggling with the answers. My confidence continued to grow, and when the round was over, we were on top again. Another free drink for us and this time I went with the beer, despite the three guys (now belligerent and making a scene) taunting us to take shots.
"I'll take a shot when we win the next round." I replied. "Enjoy the drinks you paid for."
Growing up as a clumsy, uncoordinated galoof with slow reflexes, I didn't get that many chances to trash talk, so in this particular circumstance, it felt great. Then came the third round: random general knowledge (my favorite!) Many of the other teams seemed to be losing motivation by this point, but not us. Like a freight train on steroids and uppers, we demolished the competition, taking both the third and fourth rounds and getting another three free drinks each.
"Remember when I said I would take the shot next time? I lied."* I said to the three guys, adding insult to injury as Franzi and I each chose beer. Finally, those endless hours of Sporcle finally paid off. Victory had never tasted so sweet (metaphorically speaking since the shot and beer were cheap), and now there was a hot tub and the open night sky to enjoy.
*I may not have actually said that line. It does make the story better though.