I was so glad to have found a room in Casa Margarita’s Hostel in Creel during Mexico’s Semana Santa holiday that I overlooked the unlit stairway between the second and third floor. In the dark, I nearly tumbled down the stairs when I turned my ankle on the uneven surface of a step that had lost a tile, but I dismissed it as the price of staying in a cheap hostel. Warning bells started to go off when my dorm mates demonstrated how to get into the room with a dinner knife that had been placed on top of the exterior door frame.
Things went from bad to worse. Though the price of the room included dinner, I was informed that I would have to wait until after 8 p.m. to eat, since the hostel had agreed to feed a group of RV’ers who were given precedence over paying guests. Exhausted from a hard day of travel, I climbed into bed without eating, hoping to get a little writing done. Unfortunately, there was no light on my side of the room, so I decided to call it a night. Despite a non-functioning space heater in the room and mountain temperatures descending into the 40’s, the hostel had seen fit to provide only sheets and one thin blanket for my bed. I burrowed beneath the covers, trying to get warm, but it was no use; I shivered through a mostly sleepless night. Sometime during the middle of the night the water was turned off and in a room inhabited by seven guests of both sexes, the toilet couldn’t be flushed.
The next morning I was rudely awakened from my fitful sleep by the sounds of pounding hammers and buzz saws; the hostel is adding on a new wing, and construction started at the crack of dawn on the other side of my bedroom wall. I sighed and gave up on sleep, telling myself that I had to get up soon anyway, since I had booked a tour for the day. Famished, I showered, dressed quickly and headed downstairs for breakfast, only to find the RV’ers firmly ensconced in the dining room once again. Since my tour (which was booked with the hostel) would leave prior to the RV group, I missed a second meal.
The situation deteriorated even more. At the end of the day I broke into my room with the dinner knife and discovered that someone had moved my personal items from my bunk bed and taken it over. I trekked down three flights of stairs to get the issue resolved but absolutely no one in the hostel had any idea who was assigned to what bed and as a result, beds had been double booked. Once that problem had been remedied I hoofed back downstairs, determined to finally get a dinner, as promised. Although I had reminded the cooks and servers that I am a vegetarian, they served me meat anyway. I sent it back and was promptly served an alternative: a scoop of rice and a spoonful of refried beans was my entire dinner. I again went to bed hungry and cold, adding dirty to the list, since there was no hot water for the shower.
Couldn’t get worse? Think again. The owner, Margarita, is a real witch of a woman. She conducts business from a wooden booth in an alcove just off the dining room, berating people on the telephone in front of guests. At one point I listened to her yelling: “Esa cabron, el no sabe nada!” That jerk, he doesn’t know anything! (I am intimately familiar with the word cabron, so I recognized it as a slur immediately). Yet when I tried to address my complaints with Margarita she suddenly knew nothing. Repeatedly, whenever conflict arose, she referred guests to some other employee, avowing ignorance.
On my third morning I rose very early to catch the bus to Batopilas Canyon and was zipping up my suitcase when I heard the familiar jiggle of someone trying to get in with the dinner knife. Perplexed, I looked around the dorm room. All the beds were full. The door opened a second later and a Mexican laborer waltzed into the room, casually walked into the bathroom, shut and locked the door behind him, and proceeded to use the toilet and take a shower. I don’t even want to think about whose soap and towel he used. Since I’d been asleep at this hour the previous two mornings, I wondered if this was a daily occurrence, and then I wondered if the locks were left unrepaired purposely, so that Margarita’s workers could use the dorm facilities.
Needless to say, Casa Margarita’s is the kind of place that gives hostels a bad name; it should be avoided at all costs.