The weird, wonderful & stupid – 5 months at a hostel

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As a traveller I have experienced many hostels, in many different countries with many different people. But for the past few months I have been working in a hostel in my home town Alice Springs so I have really had the chance to experience travellers at their finest… or stupidest. Actually, this blog is based around the stupidity of backpackers and the hilarious things they do and the stupid shit they say.

The one word to describe the hostel I work in is MANIC. I say this every day. I swear to god, the person who makes a reality TV series from a hostel is going to be a millionaire! There is NEVER a dull moment. In 2009 I worked at a hostel in Serbia and although the same in the craziness, it was on a much smaller scale… That hostel was a 10 bed.. This hostel sleeps 130 so you can imagine how much I witness here on a daily basis!

I’ll begin with the good old 5am starts. Yes, there is a shift I do a few times a week which starts at 5am to get the breakfast out, see off the tours & clean the hostel. On top of that you get the pleasure of witnessing the walks of shame, the passed out drunks, find lost property and basically clean up the aftermath of the night before. The weekends are obviously the most amusing… Although I wasn’t particularly amused when I found my little sister in one of the long term rooms in one of the long-termers beds during room checks one morning! (She’s going to kill me for writing this – but hey, Cate, one day when I’m famous you’ll have your 15 minutes of fame too! Hehe) I’ve also witnessed many local friends doing the walk of shame dash at 6am, trying to disappear unnoticed only to discover I am lurking around the corner nearby. I see everything!

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Then there’s always the fun part of kicking the passed out drunks in the ribs to try and get them to stumble off to their rooms. Not before I’ve taken a photo of course! Time after time I have found money, tobacco, sunglasses, phones, shirts, shoes, hats. How someone loses both their shirt & shoes without noticing is beyond me! It all sounds like fun right? Well… Not the time I had to clean up someones chunky, pink spew from a table in the communal kitchen. I discovered that the culprit had literally been sitting there dipping bread into various flavoured dips and then obviously projectile vomited all over the table and floor. I had to scoop up the chunks of vomit and then use a butter knife to scrape in between the cracks of the table to get the rest out. Let’s just say I disposed of about 4 or 5 tea towels that day, along with a butter knife and a couple of garbage bags… There was no logic in my actions at 5am that morning, but I tell you, my gag reflexes were getting a good workout!

Although nowhere near as bad as the vomit, there have been other occasions where I have had to clean unusual substances off surfaces around the hostel. One day I found a trail of footprint blood from one end of the hostel to the other. Apparently somebody had climbed onto the roof, split his foot open on a nail and then proceeded to walk all around the hostel with blood gashing out. Mmmm. Then of course there was the morning where I spent half an hour scrubbing Nutella and Peanut Butter off the communal area floor. It appeared the Irish lads had a bit of fun with the breakfast spreads in the middle of the night.

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Of course, as you all know, I am not so shy of a drink myself. And I get myself into some “sticky” situations too. One night in particular I must have had 8 shots in a row after an afternoon of beer. I stripped down to my bra & underwear and proceeded to belly flop into the pool over & over again… In front of the WHOLE hostel and all of the bar patrons. Not long after my dip I stumbled through to reception and passed out on the couch, thinking I would be safe to sleep there. I woke up at 4.30am alone & abandoned and my legs covered top to bottom in vegemite. I LOVE vegemite, but not a jar full, dried up on my legs, with a banging hangover at 4 in the morning. I drove home and climbed into bed again, waking up at 9am still covered in vegemite.. and now all of my sheets were too!

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Now for the subject of this very blog; the stupid things tourists say & do, the weird, the wonderful & the downright creepy. First & foremost is the pronunciation of the word “Wifi.”  Although an internationally recognised word, so many people have missed the part on how to actually pronounce it.  “Can I have the free wee-fee?” Makes me chuckle every time! Then there’s the cross-pronunciation; “Free Wee-fi?” I’m not sure if this humours me more than it should, but I sometimes wonder how people are so misinformed on how to pronounce such words!

I once had a woman who checked in and then decided she wanted to go and stay at the YHA instead. She came downstairs and advised me that she was moving to stay at the “Yeehaa” and asked if she could have her “coins” back. I couldn’t help but laugh and happily refund her “money”.

The most classic question we are asked is “Which street is Ayers Rock on?” Or “Can I walk to Uluru?” Yes, sure, if you’d like to walk 500km, be my guest!  A few years ago I also had a guy pull out his Alice Springs town map and ask me where Kings Canyon was and how long it was to walk!

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I know there is a huge belief (especially by Americans) that we ride to school on kangaroos, we live underground and don’t even have proper roads, but one of our hilarious American guests Alison topped that with her latest comment. She asked our bus driver if all Kangaroos were as small as the ones she’d been seeing. When he replied yes, she was somewhat disappointed as she had told all her friends in the USA that she was going to get a photo in a kangaroos pouch while she was in Australia. Hahaha… Classic!

Then there’s the beloved Chinese & Korean who, I believe, have never eaten toast before in their lives. “Excuse me, do you have any more chocolate jam?” Of course “chocolate jam” is actually Nutella. Now, whilst on the subject I must point out the reason why I don’t think “toast” is a usual breakfast food for them… They have NO idea on how to SPREAD! All my life I never thought spreading butter, jam and other spreads was actually a skill. But believe me, it is! If only I could re-enact how they do it! I will try and explain… It goes a bit like this; Knife pointed downwards, a dip straight into the jar, get a chunk of whatever spread it is and then kind of just drop it onto the toast whilst usually putting holes straight through the bread. No spreading involved, no swishing the knife back & forth, nothing but poking & prodding and what appears to be a gamble on whether the spread will actually fall into place on the bread or not. The end result? *After at least 15 minutes* A lumpy, floppy, worn out, 60s mattress looking, almost-inedible object.  Then there was the Asian lady who asked how much squirrel was in the stew on the restaurant menu…. Hmmm. Last but not least for the Asians was the guy I checked in and advised that his room was up the stairs right next to reception. A few minutes later I was at the front of the hostel and he was half way down the street, dragging his suitcase looking for his room!

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Generally on the weekend’s  there would be at least a few people still stumbling around from the night before… Sometimes making toast or harassing the backpackers leaving for tour. If we didn’t wake up to see the drunks still around, we’d at least see the aftermath.. or hear about during the day. There was the young Kiwi guy who stole a bike and had absolutely no recollection of it whatsoever.. When we showed him on the security cameras he almost cried! I found it humorous. I can’t forget our buddy Charlie. It was his first night back in the hostel and I put him in the long termer dorm with all the other working lads. He is such a character I thought he’d make friends with the fellas in there straight away…  It took a few more days than expected because he passed out in the bathroom of the room and wouldn’t wake up when the guys tried to shower for work! Finally after an hour or so he woke up, stumbled out and crashed into another guys bed, leaving a trail of vomit all through the bathroom. Lets just say, he had a bit of sucking up to do before the boys made friends with him!
Other times I would get up for my 5am shift to discover the bar windows smashed or the door had been pulled off and half of our spirit bottles missing. That was always fun!
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Of course I must also mention the injuries. The worst would have been the Canadian girl who was riding a bike on the balcony outside of her room when she lost balance and fell 4 metres onto the concrete below. She managed to smash her elbow into pieces and spent a week in hospital before going home. Then there was our dear friend Amber who fell down a flight of stairs blind drunk and was out for the count for a good minute or two. It took three of us to carry her to bed whilst also trying to pull her dress down so not to flash her arse to the entire hostel. The noise that came from that fall was unbelievable! She had to have time off work to recover from the concussion!
Now my absolute favourite thing to see since I’ve been here is the good ol “walking into the glass door in the bar” trick. I really don’t understand how people don’t see that it’s a door. To be fair it is open for most of the night until towards the end we pull a few of them shut leaving one to walk through. But in saying that, they are not squeaky clean and it is very obvious there is a door there. However, after a few drinks it seems to be invisible. The first time it happened it was a ringer in from out bush who ran straight into it and managed to shatter it in 2 places; where it his face & his knee. It wasn’t until after we realised what had happened that we discovered he had a mouth full of spew, trying to run to the toilets down the back of the hostel. Since that one was replaced (with stronger glass) we have had at least 5 people walk into it. Call me cruel, but watching people walk into things or fall over makes me chuckle like nothing else! One of our residents Daniel split his face right open doing it. Eventually we put some stickers on the door to stop it from happening (much to my disgust) and it hasn’t happened since. What a laugh!
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Now for the weirdos and the characters, the people that make this place amusing… or frustrating or just downright painful. The first is an Israeli guy who spent almost a week here. As Alice Springs is a stopover on the way to and from Uluru we usually only have guests stay for a night or two. Unfortunately all the weirdos seem to stay longer. Anyway, this Israeli guy spent at least 12 hrs a day using the free computer in the TV room next door. Except for the one day when we needed to use the extension lead from that room and I closed it for 2 hours. He almost had a fit. I swear, I am surprised he didn’t go to the shop and buy a new extension lead just to get his internet fix. He managed to track down the workers that were borrowing the lead and watched until they had finished. He came to tell me that they must have finished work because they were sitting down having a beer. He couldn’t wait a few minutes for them to return the lead, but instead he stalked around all day (like a creep) until he got his computer back! It wasn’t until the day before he left that we discovered he was looking up porn all day everyday… UGH.
Next was Fred from Sydney who ended up here after being at a festival in the bush. He would sit at a table of basically anyone who would listen and tell them how he could suck women into his personal space using his “energy”. He could even create balls of bad energy and throw them at his friend while they were play fighting… The conversation like this would go on for an hour with the other person not even responding. When I would go to do room checks in the morning and find him asleep, when he was supposed to be checking out, his response was “I don’t like to make plans.. I like to go with the flow.” Sorry buddy, but unfortunately there are circumstances in life where you MUST make plans. I appreciate the whole “energy” thing, but this guy was unreal and extremely painful to speak to!
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Now, I wasn’t actually working at the hostel when this woman visited but it is so worth a mention, I couldn’t leave it out. When she arrived at the hostel she was seriously enquiring at reception about hiring a helicopter to charter a flight to Uluru. When the staff advised her that it would be thousands to do so, she was adamant that they call and check as she didn’t think it was this much.  I can guarantee that someone staying at a backpackers can NOT afford to be flown 5 hours and back to Uluru in a chartered helicopter. When they finally settled that argument with her she then asked if she could go and see the “freakshow exhibit”. It took the staff a while (through giggles) to figure out what she meant… The hostel is painted in some very unusual artwork and signs. On the luggage storage room (which is basically a cupboard in the wall) there is a painted sign saying “Freakshow Exhibit.” This woman actually believed there was an exhibit of human freaks behind the door!
While on the subject of the extremely strange I must also mention the guy (with an unknown nationality) who we found hovering around in the communal area one night, looking extremely suspicious. After discovering he wasn’t staying here and asking him to leave, he told the security guard on duty that he was the founder of Apple and he was going to shut down the entire Apple network around the world. “So don’t be surprised when your iPhone doesn’t work and you can’t play any music from your iTunes” were his words. He then told the guard he was going to turn him into a rock, smash him into pieces and then eat him.  He was removed by police and funnily enough the same security guard worked in the hospital mental ward a few weeks later and he was in there… In a padded cell.
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One of the creepiest experiences I have had since being here is the guy who has made a website to shame his ex girlfriend who is a tour guide for a company in Alice Springs. After being removed from the bar one night because the tour guide was there having her dinner with her group and felt uncomfortable, he came back with a piece of paper with the website address on it.  This website is something that looks like its created by a child and is titled “The Truth About Mandy.” The website was full of pathetic allegations that Mandy had been sleeping with so & so, shagged this many people when she was abroad, lied about getting an STI check, blah blah blah. Honestly, if the things she did made this guy so mad to make a website about it I would hate to see if anyone ever did anything really bad to him! Can anyone say STALKER?! I cannot even fathom what went through his head to think something like this was OK! The hilarious part is when he mentions that she gave him back the dildo he bought her and he wrote his own little “For Sale” sign about it.  I can’t remember the exact words, but there was a part like this; “For Sale.  Barely used dildo for sale because the owner gets enough dick.” CREEP.
Then there was Alan who was adamant that someone was pissing in the sink in his room in the middle of the night. No one was.
Mitchell, the weirdo from NZ who basically forced his girlfriend into wearing skimpy clothes, wouldn’t allow her to speak and would verbally abuse her in their room until the point of complaints. This isn’t funny, I know. But what happened afterwards was; they moved in with some “good Christians” but Mitchell didn’t like their church so he decided to leave, but the Christians kidnapped his girlfriend and basically he never saw her again. I did see her once and she is absolutely fine.  He, on the other hand, needs some serious mental help telling me we are all in “grave” danger and talked about computer hacking for over an hour. Brad, who lied about being in the Army and the Special Forces. To prove he was in the Army he had a picture of him (that he showed to everybody) with war paint on, in his army clothes, holding a… plastic… gun… at a paintball skirmish field. He still doesn’t know that we know that. Every word that came out of this guy’s mouth was a lie!
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Richard, the retard who would use any excuse to come to reception and ask a question. “How do you open the roller door?” “How do you turn the TV on?” “Can I store my laptop here? Will it be safe? Where do you store it? How do you lock the locker?” “Can I leave my ice block in your freezer every night and collect the next day?” ARGHHHH, it just didn’t end. On his fourth day here the cleaner was dry retching trying to clean his room. I went up to check it out and the smell was literally the most horrific stench I have ever smelled in my life! I can still remember it… Blah! It was like wet towel by a million crossed with old man smell, sweat, drool, mould and the rest. The funniest part about this weirdo, though, was that he had literally chained his suitcase to his bunk bed… with a chain that must have weighed 10kg and looked like something from a Saw movie.
Now, as all backpackers would agree, the cheaper the better. And more so than that, the more freebies the better. But then there are the backpackers who literally walk around town with a notepad writing down the best deals on tours & accommodation and what exactly you would get for free. As if free breakfast and Wifi isn’t enough, we also get asked if we do “backpackers discount”… Now why the f*** would a backpackers do backpackers discount? Wouldn’t that mean it would be cheaper for everybody?!  Also, I sometimes wonder whether the guests are aware that free breakfast does not mean “free breakfast and then butter 12 slices of bread and take them with you in your backpack for the day”?

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Now, as you can probably imagine this job has been both amusing and extremely challenging. But overall I have had such an amazing, hilarious & memorable experience here at this hostel in Alice Springs! In my time I have been hot air ballooning, took my first ride in a helicopter, visited some more amazing waterholes and places I had never been to before and met some ridiculously cool people! I have saved my pennies, whilst working in a job that I love and I am now off on my next adventure… The ski season in NEW ZEALAND baby!!

Now I shall leave you with this amazing quote  “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”
Go on out there and travel people!! Thanks for reading. Love you all muchly, hope you enjoyed the blog! 🙂

*All names have been changed for MY security and not to totally embarrass everyone mentioned! :p


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