Wednesday, 27 July 2005

Hotel d'Horreur

Accommodation in Lusaka is a curious thing. There is a place we like to stay at because it's cheap and cheerful. With emphasis on both those things – it costs very little money to stay there and the company is always good. Unfortunately everyone else likes to stay there too, so it's usually booked pretty solid. We did manage to book a room for last weekend however. Or so we thought. But on rocking up, with an hour before the Embassy do started, we got told there was a mixup and now there was no room at the inn. And thus ensued a fraught 2-hour drive around Lusaka desperately trying to find somewhere to stay.

Unless you are a big businessperson on an expense account (we're not) and stay at somewhere plush like the Pamodzi or the Intercontinental Hotels, you are left with a choice of guesthouses which beggar belief. Many are openly brothels. The rest charge exorbitant prices for d├ęcor last seen in Auntie Marge's house, after she overdosed on her HRT meds with too many back issues of Gardener's World and Woman's Weekly to hand.

As we drove round and round the capital The Husband was getting a bit hysterical at the thought of showing up to the reception late, in case it was a sit-down affair. I was more worried about them running out of booze, but figured that the combination of an Irish reception in Africa would mean the show wouldn't start until at least a couple of hours after the advertised time.

In the end, in desperation, we handed over all our spending money for the weekend in return for a night in the Hotel d'Horreur, and rushed to get ready. Of course the only clean clothes either of us had were cream-coloured, as this is a colour one must never show daylight to when living in the bush. So, we kinda matched. We also looked quite crumply. Our cheap and cheerful place has an iron. Hotel d'Horreur didn't. As my flat-flat flip-floppy feet climbed into a pair of heels, I thought that given the matching outfits there would surely be some Posh 'n' Becks jokes at our expense. In any event, the climbing into crumply cream clothes was done in a terrible hurry, and it was not until the next day that we realised the true extent of the Hotel d'Horreur.

Waking up with the mother of all hangovers is bad. But waking up with the mother of all hangovers to what looks like a slaughtered zebra draped over your bed, bright sunlight streaming in the windows, and no water in the room, is a nightmare. Having gotten to bed at 2am, I woke up again at 5am, with half the Sahara residing in the back of my throat. We had no water bottles with us, and despite the ludicrously high price we had paid for the room, no water jug there either. I wondered about drinking from the tap. I could vaguely recall brushing my teeth in the tapwater earlier, but that is a different thing entirely to drinking 500 litres of it all of a slap.

I went in to the bathroom. The bath was full of ants. I don't know what they were doing. Not taking a bath, as there was no plug. But there they were, in their millions. I tried to sit down on the loo to take a leak, but the entire seat fell off and it and I ended up on the floor. I briefly wondered if urine was toxic to ants, but then I was a good girl and weed in the loo after all.

Waterwaterwaterwater, it was becoming very important. Perhaps the breakfast table would have some. Or the bar. Surely, somewhere, was water. I pulled on some clothes and caught a frightening glance of myself in the mirror. No mirrors or lighting in the bush. It's quite good that, but not when you come to the city and see what you really look like. My hair was quite borked (new favourite word) but as I was doing a very good impression of the tall one from AbFab on the lash, I decided to roll with that.

But everywhere was quiet. No bar open, no breakfast room open, no reception open. I wavered in front of the swimming pool, but come on, I have standards. I went back to the room and was frightened again, this time by the full on view of the zebra bedspread with matching pillow. I decided to go on a little hunt around the room, to keep up the safari theme. I found:

- 3 Bibles
- One bedside lamp, but the only socket in the room half a mile away
- One electric fan, plug cut off the end, no hope of plugging it in here, there or half a mile away
- Joseph's technicolour dreamcoat, posing as a blanket
- A plantpot posing as a dustbin
- Ikea (?) handles on the concrete wardrobes
- No water

There was, however, a kettle. I decided that if I boiled the tap water it would be less likely to give me the trots. But first I had to wrench the plug of the TV out of the wall, for there was only that one socket, half a mile away. The kettle was perched on a dresser thingummy, and the cord was too short to reach the socket. So it had to sit on the floor – v dangerous.

There was no switch on the kettle itself (is this even legal?). I looked inside and saw no bubbles, so clearly the connection was dodgy. I lashed the plug into the socket with a karate chop and it started to hum. The karate chop unfortunately had now rendered the whole sockety business to dangle wildly out of the wall. LUCKILY there was a switch on the actual socket, as otherwise I would have been faced with the prospect of a boiling kettle spouting steam all over my feet and no way of ever switching it off and it's The Husband's job to set rooms on fire, not mine.

I didn't however, have a wooden spoon for flicking the switch, so I had to use my hand and hope no electrocution occurred. I made tea. I hate tea, but I thought it would be slightly better than hot water. I sat on the chair to drink my tea, but the back of it fell off and I wasn't really into a stool at that point. So I went back to bed, and sat there drinking tea, and thinking how nice it would be to be able to watch TV at the same time, except that now the plug for the kettle was jammed in the wall, so no TV. I went back to sleep.