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 Piña 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.