A few years back playwright David Williamson wrote about Cruise Ship Australia. He found his fellow travellers somewhat pompous and demanding, preoccupied with their status and consumerism.
I think I’m pleased to report that on a recent bus tour of India my impressions of my compatriots were rather more positive. In what seemed like a statistically normal blend of geography, class and occupations, the general tone was mellow, relaxed, cooperative and open-minded. Many were experienced travellers. Aussies in general are enthusiastic and adaptive travellers. But perhaps in this case just a bit too accepting and somewhat, dare I say, sheeplike?
They knew India would be challenging, with long hours in a bus, looking out on desert, poverty and filth. At the end of each day, hot water might not await in the so-called good hotels. On the road toilets, clean or otherwise, were a luxury.
The payoff for the discomfort and disturbed bowels was the great food, the colourful dancing and music, and the wonderful palaces we visited and stayed in. More about incredible India another time. Glad I went, won’t be going back. Like the Pope, I kiss the tarmac every time I return to OZ.
There was little grumbling, even at the endless extraction process for tips, although we had already paid a significant amount up front to cover this. My friend and I were hold outs on this, but the others either didn’t notice or didn’t care. There was some consumerism, and some rip-offs, but this we all accepted as par for the course. My friend and I would have preferred more history and less shopping, but we knew what we were in for.
The two of us were not the only ones who noticed that one elderly and not very mobile member of the group was also extracting a a good deal of physical and psychological special attention, which several of the males and the tour guide obligingly provided. The requirement of a doctor’s letter stating capacity to climb and walk, and the advance notice of the amount of walking involved, did not seem to matter. Often the whole group was delayed, or special travel arrangements made.
At one point I suggested to one of the non-doting males that perhaps a palanquin could be arranged, so the men could provide tranport for this assumed royalty. He grumbled that he didn’t come on the trip to provide these services.
I doubt that any of the rest of us would presume to book a tour knowing they would be dependent on the good will of their fellows. But they made the best of the situation, preferring to go along rather than stir bad feelings. We all got by, but my feedback to the company will note that this was not an ideal situation. But if there is deception, either self or otherwise, what can be done? This particular person told of holding up a tour because of their mobility problems 15 years ago, so clearly this is their standard MO.
Maybe I am the hyper-critical too much thinking spoiler, and the others are salt of the earth good sports who accept it as their role to get ripped off by tours and stand by strangers, even an unreasonable one who made the choice to come along and take advantage of their fellow travellers.
Certainly India is a country where questions and change are not obvious. About Australia I’m not so sure. Baa!