My New Hostel Gig in San Cristobal

I answered an inquiry in Workaway (work-for-room-&-board online ¨job¨ directory) while recovering from Cuba in the shiny colonial Yucatan city of Merida. A new hostel in San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, was seeking a few new workers. We´d be responsible for working a few night shifts, completing some random projects, soliciting backpackers at the bus station, planning fun events, activities, outings, and acting as social ambassadors. We wouldn’t be paid, but we´d have a free bed and a few free meals everyday. I.e a similar gig to the one I had in Colombia, but a new city with slightly different responsibilities and less ¨work.¨

After dropping a pretty penny on my Cuba excursion, laying low and saving some money for a few weeks sounded like a good idea. I emailed the hostel and received a response almost immediately. Showing interest in my help, they offered me a few free nights accommodation to decide if the hostel was a good fit for me.

After a 14-hour night bus, I emerge into the lovely highland city of San Cristobal de las Casas.

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Real de Guadelupe, one of 3 pedestrian streets in San Cristobal

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Random street of San Cristobal

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Templo de Santo Domingo, one of the cities finest Cathedrals

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One of the main plazas in town

San Cristobal, at an elevation of 1940 meters, is one of those cities of ¨eternal spring,¨with very comfortable days, sunny in the high 70s; with cool, often downright brisk evenings in the 40s and 50s. A colonial city nestled in a scenic highland valley surrounded by pine forrest, the medium sized city boasts cobblestone streets, colorful indigenous markets, impressive cathedrals and enough quant and atmospheric coffee shops, cafes, and night spots to keep anybody happy, entertained and well-fed for years.

Already pleased with my potential new temporary home, I arrive at Puerta Vieja Hostel, an impressive mansion-turned-hostel. Completely gutted, remodeled and restored, the hostel has that perfect mixture of old charm and modern comforts. Brand new, high quality mattress, high-pressure hot showers and nice kitchen facilities make Puerta Vieja feel a bit luxurious on normal hostel standards. I´m pretty convinced Ill stay from the moment I arrive.

With Semana Santa quickly approaching, I was relieved to have a free place to stay. Semana Santa, or holy week, is a week of religious observances–processions, masses–and celebrations. It also acts as an important vacation period, and convienantly lines up with American spring breaks–hence hiking up accommodation prices throughout much of Latin America–and making reservations necessary.

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Hostel Puerta Vieja

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The garden, hammock, firepit, temescal (Mayan sauna) area at Puerta Vieja

I meet the Mexican owners–three friends in their early thirties–guys who are surely prolonging their youth by running a backpacker hot spot. They give me the lowdown (all in Spanish, by the way) and let me know my responsibilities and that my partner, a Kiwi, would be arriving shortly.

The first 2 weeks on the job, I work 2 night shifts (sleep on a couch and let people in, when needed) and one afternoon shift, chat and get to know guests, and along with my partner organize campfires in the garden, a very successful excursion to a nearby nature reserve to explore caves and have a picnic, salsa dance at a popular night spot, throw a St Patrick´s Day BBQ, and play plenty of card games involving local spirits. I couldn’t believe my luck nabbing this little job.

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Trip to Tuxtla for a national soccer game

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Playing ¨mushroom¨

I´ll stay for at least a month, until after Semana Santa–to relax, read a few books: really get to know a city and some of the people in it; to map out and plan the remainder of my time in Mexico–and to start coming to terms with the fact that my great Latin American adventure is, sadly, coming to an end.

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