Bed bugs and bus stations. Not a phrase that conjures quite the same image as the Disney film with which it shares its illiteration, but a very big part of budget travel in India. And it being so, I usually wouldn't complain. I make my own decisions and I deal with the consequences; I'm a big girl after all.
This time, though, the decision to sleep 'budget style' was made for us (and it being so, I feel compelled to whinge about it).
Off to Fort Kochi we were. Down from the cool breeze of the hills to the humid coast, where the air is heavy with the promise of rain. By late afternoon- by our third bus ride in a day of travel- we realised we would probably need to stopover for the night; it didn't matter where, a bed in a room was all we wanted. First town: not possible. We sweated from lodge to lodge in the loud evening streets to find that every single one in the bus station cluster- and there were many- was full. This we found perplexing but decided it didn't matter, there would definitely be space for us in the next town. So on to another bus we heaved. And we arrived at a station and it was eleven pm and we were definitely not getting to Fort Kochi that night. Will went on a hunt. He came back 15 minutes later, elation absent from his face...how could they all be full?!!
They weren't. After several portly managers grunted 'full' from under their moustaches and impatiently waved him on, one man took pity and explained that these lodges couldn't afford the expensive licences required to allow foreigners to stay and, therefore, they were "all full".
Well done Indian bureaucracy, you thwarted us yet again. After a consolitary almost-midnight snack in a brightly lit bus station cafe, we searched for the most comfortable corner to call our own in amongst the all-night snack shops advertising their open-ness with techno music, the rubbish and the encroaching rain, and the Indians waiting for late buses or waiting for nothing, with nowhere to go. Amongst this we lay down on our sheets for a night of unrest. And we un-woke at four am to discover that you don't even need to be in a bed to suffer the wrath of bed bugs.
But we slept it off and then we swanned around Fort Kochi, looking at fancy things and pretending we were richer than we are. Until we got hungry. In our battered old clothes, scratching our bites as we sat on a roadside drinking chai and eating deep-fried triangles, were we fooling anyone?