Going Local – My Best Hostel Experience
At best, backpacking can be difficult. Trying to find the balance between having a good time with all the cool new people that you meet in hostels and making the most of all the amazing experiences that you can have often means that you are left completely overwhelmed. I think moments like that are the absolute best opportunity to stay in a locally run hostel and soak up all the culture you can while getting a well-deserved rest from the party backpacker scene.
Staying with local families is a great way to see the local culture first-hand and spend some time with those who live and love it. Not to mention that getting off the beaten track means you can get some real personal experiences and practice that local language you’ve been trying to learn, as the likelihood is that these smaller hostel owners won’t have fully mastered the English language, but that only makes it all the more authentic.
As for me, I will never forget my stay in La Chosita Hostal in Quilotoa, Ecuador, an amazing volcanic crater lake a few hours south of Quito. Arriving to Zumbahua at 10pm, we jumped in the back of a trailer jeep (no seats of course) and arrived at Quilotoa in the pitch black with no accommodation booked. Luckily our driver was local and brought us to the small family run hostel right on the craters edge. It didn’t look like much, but it was dark and we were cold and tired so we just went for it when he started beeping his horn and shouting back and forth with the hostel owner out of his bedroom window. Best. Decision. Ever.
At this stage it was clear the owner had been asleep in bed, but without any hesitation he came down to meet us, helped us with our stuff and brought us to a small room at one end of the hostel with enough beds for the three of us. Freezing cold and soaked through from our trailer jeep journey, we were delighted to see all the blankets on the beds. But our night was really made when we saw the owner point to a little stove and say that he was going to light a small fire to keep us warm. Talk about a welcome.
From there it only got better. After a cosy night’s sleep with our blankets and stove, we braved the cold at 5.30am to watch the sunrise over the crater. Thinking we would have to walk to get a good view, we didn’t realise that when the driver the night before said we were on the craters edge, we were actually physically on the edge of the crater. They say it’s all about location, but if this hostel was any closer it would be in the crater!
After a beautiful sunrise all to ourselves, we returned to the hostel where we were told that our breakfast was included and what would we like? Considering we were about to set off on a 5 hour hike, this was the best news. Even better was when the hostel owner’s son gave us cute homemade bracelets, and his older brother hiked with us so that we wouldn’t get lost. I’m still amazed at how such a young boy could so casually navigate his way; I’m not even embarrassed to admit that we struggled to keep up at times!
It may not have been the most glamorous accommodation in the world, but it was comfortable, clean and was the most amazing local hostel experience I ever had. Not to mention all that we learned from speaking to the owner and his wife -but that’s a story for another day!