Guatemala was not somewhere I ever imagined I would go. It seemed exotic and remote beyond my reach.
I roll off the hammock and collapse into my actual bed. I had fallen asleep on the balcony the night before in a rum haze, and am now covered in mosquito bites half the size of my fist. That Jungle Formula is no match for Guatemalan pests.
The inevitable hangover is the result of a rowdy night at the bar of Zephyr Lodge, a hostel in remote Lanquin. There will be no time to wallow in it; I have a full day excursion to nearby Semuc Champey planned. (image)
Zephyr Lodge’s reputation precedes itself. Most backpackers on the Central America route will find themselves there while passing through Guatemala, and more than a few end up staying for months as volunteer employees, working the bar in exchange for board, food, and enough tips to cover their bar tab. It’s easy to see why they get sucked in. Forget Leo DiCaprio’s beach – this is The Jungle.
Zephyr Lodge was started by two backpackers who, like their current roster of volunteers, fell for the Guatemalan life and forgot to leave. Chris and Thomas worked at a neighbouring hostel, and lived in lodgings built on the current Zephyr site. In 2006 they decided to open their own hostel. Building took two years, with Chris and Thomas working in a bakery in Lanquin as they oversaw construction.
Nine years later, the hostel continues to grow, the latest addition a swim-up bar for the incredible infinity-edge pool. The pool overlooks a deep valley, and as the sun makes it way behind the hills in the late afternoon, it is bathed in warm golden light.
We booked a private room, which features a large balcony and ensuite. Other than an unwelcome family of ants taking up residency in my suitcase, the room was comfortable and very quiet considering how late the party in the communal bar rages on until.
There is are two dorm rooms too, with room for up to nine people each.
The food is great – far superior to so many hostel offerings, with plenty of American and English- style breakfasts, dinners and a handful of healthier options for those sick of the backpacker diet. Once a week there is a BBQ night, where an almighty feast is served buffet style.
At Zephyr it’s all about the party. Drinks are cheap but the tab system lures you into buying rounds of shots for half the bar.
Wifi is offered but extremely limited – streaming and Skype are off-limits to save bandwidth, but with so many backpackers trying upload great latest Instagram, it is very intermittent. Well, it is the jungle.
The only real hiccup for Zephyr Lodge is their checkout process. All buses to other locations leave at the same time, which means a scramble to settle bills in the morning and a long line of hungover travellers worried about missing their transportation. The staff encourage everyone to check out the night before, and take the advice of someone who waited over an hour to check out – that’s the way to go.
Private rooms at Zephyr Lodge start from AUD42, GBP22 per night. Dorms from AUD12, GBP6 per night.