A beer, a chica and a hospital.
Where: Mendoza, Argentina
When: December 2010
How Bad: 5/5
This particular episode of the ‘when things go wrong’ category started with just one innocent beer! Chilaxing in the hammock in the garden of Hostel Lao, soaking up the Mendozan sun, I had been planning a quiet night. Christmas was fast approaching and I had recently started to miss home. I had looked into flying home for Christmas, but these options were not financially viable.
Mendoza is Argentina’s most famous wine region and most of my days/nights had been spent sampling the local delights. Malbec was the specialty and hostel Lao had free Malbec every night!
But tonight I was going to be strong. I wanted to resist the temptation of that red, fruity tasting beverage and get an early night in.
The gentle swing of my hammock was abruptly halted. “Hey dude, whats happening?” a familiar voice said. “Fancy sharing a beer with me?” To this day I still can not remember the guys name. We had partied the previous night at the hostel and like most people I meet on the road, I just referred to him as mate because I forgot peoples names as soon as the introductions had been done.
My obvious answer to his question was “Sure mate”. What could be the harm in sharing just one beer? As others may know, one beer is never just ONE! It leads to another, and another and another until the time comes when you think ‘lets get smashed’. Our afternoon beer session attracted the attention of others. They wanted to join the fun. By early evening when the free wine appeared we had a nice little drinking posse made up of backpackers from all over the world. The ones I can remember were Jodie & Amy from New Zealand, George & Nicola (doctors from England), my ‘mate’ and a few others.
A plan was hatched, we would go to the Irish bar down the road from the hostel to continue our festivities. Fran who worked in the hostel wanted to join us after his shift finished. The bar was packed, mainly with locals and we had to push our way through to get to the bar. Getting served at the bar was n’t a concept Argentine’s warmed to. As in most foreign countries it was all about table service. So fighting your way to the bar in true English style did n’t go down to well. By this time I was sick of beer, it was time for rum and coke and i’d noticed they served Captain Morgans. My favourite!
This was the night I introduced Captain Morgans to Fran from the hostel. I did n’t know it at the time but this night would be the start of a truly great friendship between Fran and I. He also developed his infatuation of Captain Morgans and coke on this night. Fran also played another key part in this whole story. He introduced me to a college friend of his, a local Chica called Egle. We hit it off straight away and as a bonus she could speak English, but sadly Egle and her friend were leaving for a club to meet other friends. She invited me to come. I had a dilemma. Stay with my new friends and continue the party, or ditch them and go with Egle into the unknown. I think most guys would choose option 2. And so did I. Like a lot of people I drink harder when I’m nervous and in unfamiliar company. This was the case when we reached the club. I hit the rum and coke hard and it was n’t long before double vision set in. I tried my best to dance it off but this was after all a result of drinking all afternoon. If you have read my other posts in this category you might notice a worrying trend. Alcohol, females and problems!
Finally the end of the night came. I now have a very hazy memory of the following events and had to later rely on Egle’s interpretation of events.
For some reason I did n’t want to take a taxi and suggested we should walk. I can only think I was worried about feeling sick once inside the taxi. So we walked. And from what I know now it was a long walk. Luckily Egle lived near to my hostel so I would n’t be alone for long. We said our goodbyes and swapped details.
Now, the next set of events are truly a mystery to me even now, nearly 3 years on. I must have walked the wrong way towards my hostel. Apparently where the following situation happened was very near to a club with a bad reputation for fighting. The only slight memory I have of it is being punched to the floor, followed by a series of kicks to the head and abdomen. I don’t remember my attackers or their reason. The next vague memory I have was someone picking me up and putting me inside of a car. This happened to be a policeman and he kindly took me to the local hospital. I think I was unconscious at some point. I do remember having stitches sown in at hospital though and I definitely remember having to drop my pants to receive an injection in the ass. I was informed I had a fracture to the nose, a 2 inch gash above my eye and a chipped tooth. Great news!
After I was all patched up, I was taken to the police station to give my recollection of events. One of the police officers could speak a little English and he translated my story to the office clerk writing it all down. My statement was presented to me in Spanish. When I queried it the officer informed me “You are not in your country, you are in Argentina, you sign” I had enough by this time and the pain killers were in full effect. I just wanted my bed.
Arriving back at the hostel caused quite a stir. The police officer escorted me inside and explained to Mike the owner what had happened. He was truly concerned for me and could not do enough to help me. I was due to check out this morning, but in this state I did n’t want to go anywhere. Unfortunately though the hostel was fully booked for the night. My options were to find another hostel, book a bus to my next destination or sleep on the hammock which Mike had kindly offered. None of these appealed to me in my dazed state. Luckily though another option was presented to me. Fran had just arrived to start his shift. He was in total shock at what had happened to me. He insisted I stay with him and his family for as long as was necessary. The next thing I know his Dad his at the hostel to take me to their home. I can not explain the how this kind-full act made me feel. I had never met Fran’s family and I only briefly knew Fran though the couple of weeks I had stayed at the hostel. These kind people were going to take in a complete stranger and treat me like one of their own.
I stayed with my ‘new family’ for nearly a week. They fed me and helped me in more ways than one. Fran would come to the hospital with me to translate for check ups and help with the necessary paperwork I needed for my Travel insurance.
During this time I learnt to value something else from my travels. It was n’t all about seeing and doing cool things, it was all about interacting with local people and discovering how warm and kind they could be. This experience will be one I remember for the rest of my life. For both the bad and for the truly amazingly kind act from Fran and his family. I even made the local paper and a journalist regularly stopped by the hostel to get my personal account.
As a result of this I was able to go home for Christmas. The insurance company were excellent. They covered all my expenses back to the UK. Before I left I experienced one more unbelievable act of kindness from Fran’s family. They invited me to a family Assado (Argentine BBQ) at their home. For anyone luckily enough to experience an Assado, you will know what a treat it actually is. If you like meat then you will be in heaven.
I spent Christmas at home and returned to Argentina on the 20/01/11 to continue my adventure. I have since been back to visit Fran and the rest of the Hostel Lao crew on numerous occasions. I will be back there again later this year.