My preference was camping in Glacier National Park but my wife politely pointed out that this was never going to happen. Patagonia or not!
I suggested a hostel, to which she eventually, reluctantly agreed.
Only four-bed dorms remained, but how bad could it be, I argued, we would only have one extra person with us.
I was immediately impressed with the hostel, a modern, mountainy lodge with laidback ambience.
Darragh loved the bean-bags, groovy couches and bustling restaurant.
‘Wait till we see the room! ‘ Nan whispered threateningly.
It was clean,fresh and airy, the only draw back was the railing-less top bunk; a fall onto the hard, clean tiles would do serious damage.
‘Boxy! There’s nothing in here and someone will break his neck off that top bunk!’ Nan snarled.
‘You love it, I knew you would!’ I answered.
Who’s in that bed?
Our unpacked guest turned out to be a charm. A young Buenos Aires doctor camping alone in the mountains.
He chatted a while, was great company but soon left to buy nine days of food to lug across the Andes.
‘A doctor! We’re sorted if I fall off the top’ I laughed, as we enjoyed a lovely meal downstairs.
Our visitor returned late, rose early and set off without incident.
We trekked paths all day, spotting condors, Magellanic woodpeckers and Patagonian foxes while enjoying stunning views of Mt. Fitz Roy in incredible light.
The vacant bed remained a source of speculation and we were relieved to find it still empty on our return.
Throughout the evening, we watched, from our restaurant table, as tired trekkers turned up, including a motley British tour group who mutinied against their enthusiastic guide.
Nan and Darragh tired and went upstairs but I was enjoying the tour’s theatrics too much, so stayed.
I spent a while watching the carry-on when suddenly, Darragh appeared excitedly from the downstairs communal bathroom, toothpaste still around his mouth.
‘There’s a new guy in the room’, he gushed breathlessly.
‘He’s from Japan and speaks no English or Spanish. All we can figure out is that he’s been on the mountain for 5 days.
He’s washed his clothes, and his underpants and socks are hanging from your bed.’
You gotta see it!’
‘Ok, ok but finish brushing your teeth first’ I told him.
After a few minutes, Darragh ran to me again.
‘He’s here. He’s here!’ Look!’
He pointed out a wild looking man with a moustache limping barefoot up the stairs; huge hair stood up high on his head.
He had thick glasses and was dressed in a tracksuit; one pants leg pulled high up above his knee, while the other trailed the ground.
I told Darragh to stop staring and to sit down and give the man some space.
We waited a while and then went up to find hilarious, bizarre goings-on in our corridor.
Our Japanese companion, both hands on door handle,was trying enthusiastically but awkwardly to get into the room.
Nan, locked inside, in her pyjamas, offered advice.
‘You got your key? You got your key?’ she screeched.
‘The door is locked, you locked me in.’
He didn’t have a clue what she was saying,laughed nervously and continued to push, twist and force in frustration.
Darragh and I intervened to help. Nan explained she had been locked in for ten minutes.
He had left earlier and locked her in.
He failed clumsily with the key, until I took over and opened it.
He was embarrassed but relieved to finally get in.
The smell inside from drying laundry was shocking. His smalls hung from my matress over his bed.
He disappeared quickly with passport and coat and we didn’t see him again till he returned, after we were asleep, at 2 am.
In the dark, he bumped his way, bottles in hand to the bunk and adjusted the laundry hanging over his head.
Sitting on his bed, he rummaged through lots of little bags,stiffling a cough, while removing two oversized alarm clocks.
He then got up, locked the door and fell immediately asleep.
We were locked in.