Being on a fixed budget for the trip I am trying to save money on accommodation to be able to spend it on fun stuff. Like trips to see the sights, surfing, skiing, bungee jumping (still thinking about that one) and all the stuff that you are supposed to see and do on a once in a lifetime trip. So this means having to stay in backpacker hostels whenever I can. Those of you of a certain age will remember the good old Youth Hostels, with spartan, creaky bunks, having to take your turn at sweeping up and keeping the place tidy all followed up by a welcome mug of Horlicks and a rousing chorus of Ging Gang Goolie (I think you can catch that in Thailand). Well, backpacker places are nothing like that. Think more Salvation Army meets The Big Brother house, sprinkle liberally with dirty socks, knickers, empty beer bottles and fag ash and you are getting close.
Space is naturally limited in most of these establishments. So you would think that being reasonably tidy and keeping all your gear together would be a basic minimum. Most of the youngsters however believe that traveling light involves stuffing the contents of two wardrobes and a bathroom cabinet into a pack that most probably couldn't lift without a small crane. The consequence is that said bags, governed by an irresistible force of nature, routinely erupt Krakatoa like, spewing crusted undergarments and once white flip flops over a wide area. Thus causing hardship and suffering to any middle aged refugee in the vicinity.
Hostels are a bit of a paradox. They can be noisy and uncomfortable as opposed to the clinical cleanliness and order of a budget hotel. But they offer the potential to make friends and avert the loneliness that often haunts hotels. The trouble is that most of the 'making friends' is between the twenty somethings who are the vast majority of your average hostel population. There is a definite generation gap at work here and probably quite justifiably. The only thing I have in common with these guys is the fact that we are sharing a bedroom.
There is a significant agenda difference between the lager louts and the saga louts. The kids just want to party, party, party. When I ask them if they have seen much of the country the answer is usually that its something they are going to get round to... when they are not either working, pissed or sleeping... the three states of entropy of the average juvenile backpacker.
I feel quite sorry for them in a way. Most are on a severe budget. If they don't work they don't eat. When they are not working they are busy looking for work. So it becomes a big effort to have to divert any spare cash (beer money) towards excursions or experiences other than the mundane. But they are quite happy. They are just enjoying being away from home, making up their own rules and having the best possible time. If that means getting off your head every night, watching TV, sleeping and working to get the money to do it all again; then I'm really not one to criticize.
Last night I managed to get a single room. It cost three times the dorm price, but is still well worth it to be able to sleep without being invaded by drunken youths at 3am. Although it was still all going on in the room next door at some ungodly hour. I get my own back by banging a few doors at 7.30am. Wasted effort, they are probably too much in a coma to notice.
It will be all change for the next two weeks as I'm going bush. Off to the wilds of north western WA to see dolphins, whales, stromatolites - http://www.sharkbay.org/terrestial_enviroment/page_15.htm , Ningaloo Reef - http://www.ningaloo.com/ and Karijini National Park - http://www.calm.wa.gov.au/national_parks/previous_parks_month/karijini.html. Then down south for three days to see Albany, the giant Tingle trees and Margeret River.
After all that camping out I'll probably be made up to crash on a hostel bunk. Its all part of the experience!