Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Money makes you go round the world

The benefits we have been exploiting of global differences in currency valuesthe £10k saved in 8 months of UK work would last a scant 3 months of UK living, yet translated into Rupees, Rupiahs and Cordobas it yields 10 months of the good life and global travelthroughout this trip played in reverse once we set foot on thedevelopedsoil of Australia, New Zealand and even Tonga in a budget-crushing three week spell. Sterling has traditionally been one of the World’s strongest currencies rendering most-of-the-rest-of-the-world as bargain destinations. The descent of the £ as a result of the global Financial fiasco has reversed that trend with a vengeance. Our daily budget which in more exotic climes would give us our own luxurious bungalow, large terrace overlooking the shared pool, breakfast, lunch, dinner, scooter rental, a few drinks and the odd treat t’boot barely got us lunch and coffees in Australia. Sure, it’s becoming more expensive down-under anywayis there really any need for a bottle of Samuel Smith’s bitter to cost £15 in a Melbourne bar? — but combine that with sterling’s plummet made living unaided here impossible for us. As we’ve meandered the globe the tumble of the pound has been a constant companion. When we arrived in India we got Rs.75 to the £, by the time we left it was under Rs.70. We kicked off Indo with a whopping Rs15,000 to a single £ but eft with a meagre Rs.13,000 in our pockets in exchange for our golden-nugget. Month by month, country by country, treat by treat we’ve had to cut out a chai a day here, a Beng-Beng there, a packet of (chocolate enrobed) Chikys over there until eventually I guess well be reduced to drinking from puddles and sleeping in hedges.

The £3 Global Lunch Equation 2009/2010
United = 1x limp, soggy, plastic wrappered prawn sandwich
France = 1x jambon et fromage croissant
India = 6x all-you-can-eat sublime vegetarian Thalis incl. pickles and drink
Indonesia = 3x delicious Nasi Campur incl. tempe & sambal
Australia = 1x microwaved meat pie
New Zealand = 1x Lamb Pide sandwich
Tonga = 1 tiny sandwich incl. 1 soggy tomato slice & 1 fluro cheese-slice
Nicaragua = 2x Fish Casados incl. rice, beans, plantain & salad.
El Salvador = tbc.

In Aus we were staying for free with family and friends who (over)fed, (over)watered, clothed and (over)indulged our every whim and we still blew our budget on a few coffees, the odd lunch, a few drinks and a missed internal flight. My family and Sofie’s friends were generous, happy and willing hosts yet our poverty and the sense of impotency that accompanies it made us a little uncomfortable. The feeling that even if they had let uswhich they probably wouldn’t — we couldn’t contribute was unnerving. Providing, momentarily, a tiny peek, via a miniscule crack through a door into true, genuine poverty and how debilitating and humiliating that must be on top of the physical hardships that it inevitably produces.

For all my miserly griping our Australia visit was sublime. The Brisbanians were great company, great entertainers and truly wonderful hosts, all of them from 3 year-old Bubba to 49 year-old Pappa. The simple pleasures of being with family, conversation and beach football and cricket with the kids was a highlight of our trip, so much so I didn’t even notice there was a good swell running on the Gold Coast points. My brother even arranged a radio interview for me to talk about India and our Soul&Surf venture. And the Melbourneans matched the Queenslanders generosity throwing bike-rides, booze and bands our way with gay abandon! Tonga was grey, flat and expensive.

Were back on an even keel now thanks to Nicaragua! Once more our budget stretches to a large room with an equally large balcony, a huge four-poster bed, a swing (yes), a hammock, a view through the tree-tops to the pounding Pacific surf, wifi, breakfast, lunch and a knee-trembling dinner of home-made pasta with a putanesca sauce made by Kiara, our Italian hostess, a ding repaired, 2 surfs a day, a trip to Rivas on the chicken-bus… and still have a few Cord’s left for a PiƱa Colada.

Currency and it’s differences makes the world go round and has certainly helped us go round the world thus far. Fingers crossed the £ doesn’t sink any further marooning us here in the real Wild West of America.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Bali hu?

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Time Flies (pics)

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Time Flies

It’s amazing how busy you become when you retire. Leaving my company and my job behind as I set forth on this journey I naively imagined the vast expanses of time I was opening up would be used to explore new vocations, skills and pastimes yet there aren’t enough hours in the day to even write this damn blog. Since I last dispatched a month ago the grand tour has taken in Lombok, Bali again, excitement and fury at Singapore Airlines as they refused to allow us to board our flight to Brisbane due to a ticketing error, family & friends time in Australia as we rediscovered sofas, tv & booze (and realised we’re pretty good at all 3), a stopover in New Zealand and a week’s breather here in Tonga before our assault on Nicaragua, a country where our meagre budget will allow us to blossom again. During this time I’ve tried (and infuriatingly failed) to buy a shipment of Kush Kush caps from India to sell back in the UK, I’ve been developing and planning an e-commerce idea and designed and launched an early-bird website for our winter venture in Kerala, Soul&Surf/India whilst continuing working on the main marketing site. Whew.

The expectation is that on an extended trip like this we leave all cares and worries behind, and that through the absence of a job all problems cease. Not the case I’m afraid. I know I won’t be attracting much in the way of sympathy from those working 50 hour weeks back home but what I’ve learned is that our usual character traits come with us. We find new ways to be busy, stressed and anxious or at least I do. Personal projects, travel arrangements, budget concerns and existential angst fill the shoes of the mundane home-life triggers which continue to swirl around the maelstrom-mind. It’s the character traits we need to work on, not their location, detail or circumstances.

But enough guff, it’s our time in Lombok that I wish to recount. I was enthralled by this wild, rugged, beautiful land. Yes, it’s well known as a destination, easy to get to and sprinkled with resorts but in most parts it’s raw charms prevail and unlike it’s westernised tarnished neighbour it feels like Indonesia proper. The roads are horrific, trees sprout from the centre of the cracked tarmac south coast road, yet traffic is almost non-existent. Villages of traditional thatched bamboo huts fleck the rolling hills which meet the ocean in dramatic crescent shaped bays and people smile and wave as you approach with genuine warmth rather than as a ploy to extract your tourist buck. Visiting, as we did, at the end of the rainy season, showed the oft arid south coast off at it’s verdant best, the grass was green, the rivers full and the roaming livestock fat and contented. And the surf… The south coast is indented and scalloped by bay after bay creating breaks of numerous variety…. Except beach-break. The easiest wave in the area at inside-Grupuk attracted 90% of the travelling surfers, despite the boat-ride access, leaving empty line-ups elsewhere for the more adventurous. Inside-Grupuk also attracted groups of Japanese surfers who pay locals to snake, block and drop-in in order to clear the wave for themselves. Is this the future of colonial-style surf travel in increasingly busy global line-ups? I hope not.

Yet despite my natural affinity with Lombok it’s lack of beach-break beginners waves left Sofie as a frustrated observer for much of the time so with an egalitarian spirit we headed back to Bali.