Trials of a low-budget traveller

The trials of the low budget traveller

You all know one. Low Budget travellers (LBTs). They hate spending money and are always on the lookout for the best deal. They hold Tiger Airlines Gold Passes, which entitle them to free use of inflight toilets. I had a chance to practice all my LBT skills on a recent trip to India. It started the morning I was leaving

when I saw that my boots, only 12 years old and having travelled the world several times, were coming apart. The sole of the left one was flapping as loosely as a Kmart thong. The shoe-glue I had tried previously didn’t work – so Araldite was called for. Applied, it was held in place by a generous (well, 2 turns) amount of cellotape. Looked a bit funny, but LBT’s don’t care about that. The problem was it would take 24 hours to cure, so the plane trip to India involved perpetually crossed legs, keeping my left boot off the floor. Slightly uncomfortable, but worth it in the long run (if you will excuse the pun). Other LBT passengers looked enviously at my cellotaped boot wishing they had thought of that too. The worst outcome would be leaving the boot araldited to the floor of the plane and having to hop right-legged around India. Then there was always the possibility that a more skilled LBT might work out how to un-araldite the boot from the plane floor after I had got off and obtain a free boot. He would the guy hopping left-legged around India. But I arrived, boots intact.

In Delhi I found the cheapest hotel I could : $18 a night. The guy tried to add on an extra $6 for taxes. I told him that no-one paid taxes in India and he seemed surprised I knew this (I read in a free newspaper at the airport), so he reduced the extras to a $2 service charge. I felt ripped off but paid anyway. He said there was a hot shower in my room. There was, but when I turned it on, only 6 little sprays came out from the clogged head. One went out the window, one hit the roof and another bounced off the door, leaving only three sprays to shower under. I got a lot of exercise running around the bathroom trying to get wet. Saved money on a gym membership – this was an LBT goldmine.

It was time for dinner. I went out onto the Delhi streets, checking restaurant menus, bypassing anything that was expensive (e.g. main course $3). I settled on Mickey’s Hamburger Joint. It had a picture of Mickey Mouse that was badly drawn and now so covered in grime that it looked like a squashed cockroach. I should have taken that as a sign. They were out of hamburgers, so I ordered Lentil Curry and Garlic Naan for only $2. It was very tasty. What could possibly go wrong?

Reflecting back, the menu did not present the whole truth. It should have had a Full Product Disclosure statement somewhere with : “May contain traces of Giardia, Salmonella, Campylobacter,  Shigella or E.Coli.” I think I got them all. From 4 a.m. I spent a lot of time on my knees closely inspecting the quality of Indian porcelain, appropriately branded as ‘HindWare’. This, as it turned out, was not just Delhi Belly. Over the next few weeks it metamorphosed into Agra Belly, Bharatpur Belly, Jaipur Belly and Goan Belly. Why settle for one when you can collect the full set?  LBT’s love all-inclusive bargains.

But it did mean that my travels could never be too far from a public toilet. Fortunately I have an App called JustInTime which shows the location of public toilets anywhere in the world. It seems there are only six of them in India, but, after you have visited one, you think six is too many. They are unroofed brick-enclosures surrounding a series of holes in the ground and are located on main roads. The walls are low so you can stand or squat behind them and still see what is happening on the street – a total cultural experience. Of course passers-by can also see you. Observing a grey-bearded Aussie face peeking over the wall, some commented: “There’s an old guy with a few runs on the board.” A few runs? I had more ‘runs’ in one day than the Indian cricket team could score in a five-day Test. Some runs are better than others. Successful runs are good. But there is an uncompleted one when you get caught out in the middle. Hence the term ‘sticky wicket’.  You can minimise the impact of this phenomenon with a woollen sock strategically placed in what is referred to as ‘inner wear’ in India. Don’t ask me how I know this, but never borrow my socks. A folded facecloth would be better, but budget hotels do not supply such, only towels, and that would be way too bulky. Even LBTs have standards.

There are some helpful ways of dealing with the runs. One of them is music. Do you remember the 1980’s chorus ‘Bind us together, Lord.’? I would sing that as grace before meals. It seemed to help. Some Abba songs also came to mind. For some reason, I couldn’t get ‘Waterloo’ out of my head. But the words became: “On-the-loo, I’m just squatting on the loo.”. Also ‘Mamma Mia’. But it transformed into ‘Diarrhoea, Here I go again’. It has become a bit of a personal favourite. I found that singing songs loudly muffles other sounds that I might be making at the same time. This is a bit more pleasant for passers-by on the main roads. I like to think of it as my small contribution to Social Justice.

But I give thanks for small mercies. I still have two boots. The Araldite is still holding together, which is more than I can say for some other parts of my anatomy. So if you’re ever in India, and you see a grey-bearded Aussie with Araldited boots singing Abba songs loudly while squatting behind a low wall on a main street, just give me a wave. LBTs love that kind of recognition. After all, its free.