It’s funny how that 50 Rupee note comes to be worth £50 as you search for it in your jeans pocket – “I know I had it there earlier,” – or haggle with the auto-rickshaw driver about the cost of the journey to your destination. It’s actually worth 50 pence at current exchange rates. But that’s the sort of thing that happens as you adjust to a foreign currency in another country.
Value for money becomes a very relative thing.
Actually, only for the first time since we set out on our year travelling abroad are we living within our daily set budget of £30 a day (currently: accommodation: £10, food & drink £10, sundries £5).
Going through the Balkans cost a lot more than projected, with campsites of varying quality always setting us back at least £15-20 and food/drink/fuel dearer than anticipated. Not even in Bosnia or Albania were we able to live for less.
While the sinking Brexit pound Sterling made staying in Airbnb or basic hotels in Portugal and Spain much more expensive than originally planned.
And this is another point: although certain costs may appear lower, it may not be connected to the local economy. It may just simply be accounted for by the quality of the object or service on offer.
For example, nowhere in the UK (or most of Western Europe) could you possibly encounter the kind of budget-priced room you are presented with in India – small, dark, irregular power supply, inconsistent (or no) running hot water etc. So that it is virtually impossible to make any kind of price comparison. Similarly with the food: £1.50 for a typical thali of chapatti, rice, dal, pickle is just about right. That’s all it is worth by any standards.
Enough about money…(although I have to say £5 for a bottle of Kingfisher in Mumbai was pretty steep [high local tax], whereas here in Rajasthan you pay much less…plus Indu’s vegetarian cuisine from her little kitchen is delicious…and every rupee well spent…)
And so a second week in our mauve-and-yellow painted room at the Jungle Lodge in Bharatpur near the Keoladao avifauna park draws to an end. When we arrived a couple of days early at the beginning of March in order to escape the frightful noise and pollution of Jaipur it was to thunder and rain. Since then the sun has shone solidly and the creeper spread over the balcony is putting out feathery shoots. By the time we leave for Haridwar I expect a lattice of green to be protecting the next guests from the heavy afternoon sunshine.
The hours have been languid, with passing travellers making a regular appearance and sharing tales of India together, and being looked after all the while by Ashok and Indu, always taking our meals in the restaurant and sipping cold drinks on the veranda. “The epitome of happiness,” was how our son described a photo of me sitting bare-chested and using the laptop outside our room.
With my beard and glasses, suntan and greying hair, I look a lot like images of Hemingway when he was poring over his texts in Cuba (see what you think). Certainly, life has never been easier.
In a few days we head north towards Himachal Pradesh, as had always been envisioned. What has been changed is that we are going by way of Haridwar, on the Ganges, before travelling on to Rishikesh (as mentioned in an earlier blog).
Oh, one last thing on the subject of money. Since our age qualifies us for a discounted rate, the train fare for both of us from Bharatpur to Haridwar (over 300 km) is less than £4 (₹400). Then again, it’ll take twelve hours from start to finish. Like I say, money comparisons are not always clear cut.