“You have the fading mist, the sounds of the birds… I listen to music but I turn the volume down just enough to hear the birds. It’s the best way to start the day,” says the former city-slicker.
Rituals like these are important when working in the cloud forest, as with its remote location, shifts can be gruelling. Marc’s longest stint without leaving Mashpi has been 45 days, when he was new to the hotel and wanted to get his head around the place.
“You need to be special to work at Mashpi,” he says. “Sociable, patient. You need to know what you’re getting yourself in for: you’re absolutely surrounded by nature.”
And it’s not just the isolation that would test any world-class hotel manager: running Mashpi isn’t quite like running any other hotel. When the El Niño weather phenomenon hit a year ago, for example, Marc had to make a contingency plan.
“All that moss fills with water, bringing down trees that could block paths, smash into the hotel, make entering and exiting impossible,” he says. A somewhat trickier a situation than the average lost luggage complaint.
But before El Niño had even become an issue, Marc recalls an instance when it had rained for 52 hours without respite. The sodden ground was primed for landslides. At 11.30 at night he received a call from one of the guards, asking him worriedly if he had “heard something.” Fearing the worst, he rushed around to the staff house (located just steps away from the hotel) and found everyone lined up outside as the rain continued to pour.
The ground on the other side of the building had fallen away down a slope. Would the staff house follow? Phoning the architect, Marc ascertained that, like the main hotel building, the staff house was anchored to rock, but none-the-less passed a sleepless night worrying about the employees, the generators, and even dreaming that he heard another almighty crash.
But was it just a dream?
In the morning, walking around the grounds to inspect the damage, he saw that everything was where it should have been. But a little way from the lodge an entire mountain side had indeed fallen into the river.
“You never get bored,” Marc smiles.
In a hotel where you can never be sure what will happen from one moment to the next, that is probably the only real inevitability. That, and lots and lots and lots of rain.