|Paine Grande Mountain Lodge|
|Dining room at Refugio Las Torres|
My introduction to hostels came in 1972 on a five month tour of Europe, where the youth hostel idea was conceived in 1909 by Richard Shirrmann, a German schoolteacher. It was an inexpensive form of lodging with the all important opportunity to meet other young travelers. Hostels today have followed the expanded territory of backpackers. In Puerto Natales, a launching town for Patagonia, a population of 20,000 supports 20 hostels as listed on hostels.com. In comparison, there are only two hostels listed for Dallas on the same site.
|Our room at Refugio las Torres|
Next day brought a change of residence to “Paine Grande Mountain Lodge” on Lake Pehoe which sits alone at the vortex of two of our planned hikes. We arrived in a catamaran with wind gusts of 60 mph and rain showers. The “lodge” had a large dining room with beautiful views but it soon became apparent we were again in a room with three bunk beds. Our roommates didn’t arrive until 5 and I’m sure those two young men from Los Angeles were horrified to find their “parents” ensconced on all the lower beds. All they requested was to hang their clothes to dry. Soon shirts, pants, socks and even underwear were hung over beds, storage units, and curtain rods. And, they, wisely, took the ear plugs offered by my sister-in-law.
Noise level in the lodge increased as groups of hikers hurried in from the cold. Four German women arrived in heavy hiking boots, layered clothes, jackets unzipped, and covered backpacks slung over the shoulders . One American woman dried her shoes and warmed hands in front of a wood burning heater as another put vaseline on legs and shoes. A Spanish girl complained of pain in her legs and feet and several were limping. A young buck walked by with towel around his waist. Freshly changed young adults headed to the bar in flip flops where Spanish, English, German, French, Italian and Japanese were heard. All were so comfortable with the mixed sex rooms and visiting seemed easy among them.
Taking advantage of Happy Sour - 2 Pisco Sours for price of one - we waited for dinner. Ever though the lodge was unexpectedly full because of the gale outside, it still offered generous servings of a mild curry chicken with lots of vegetables, corn soup and flan. The large, full dining room had about 85% young and 15% older guests.
|Basic breakfasts at hostels|
Wind blew all night and our room seemed barely heated. Sleeping bags sufficed for warmth but a closer bathroom equipped with paper towels was missed. All quieted by 11. The next morning, we were up early and the dining room was more equally divided 50/50 between age groups. I guess they used up all their funds for dinner as breakfast was marginal - first time to try chocolate bran cereal - yuk- and coffee served with hot water, small packets of instant coffee and fortunately, hot milk to mix.
|Waiting for the Catamaran with backpackers|
After the morning hike, we waited with a line of backpackers for the return voyage on the catamaran. An equal number of backpackers emerged from the boat to start their hikes, with one lone Asian couple carrying a suitcase. I actually felt quite proud that we had survived two nights in hostels but was looking forward to our private bath and hot water at the next hotel. Some experiences truly favor the young but I say never say never. It’s only a night.