Even when I was hitchhiking around Europe with less cash than a blind Buddhist monk, I would sleep on the beach or in a park rather than spend the night in a backpackers.
And not just because most backpackers have a male to female ratio of 15 to 2, either. I'm not afraid of competition. Well, now I am. But not then. Not when I still had a face and my snakelike hips were more viper than anaconda.
I think it might have something to do with dorms. Sharing a room with a bunch of strange men is a deeply unnatural act. It's like being in boarding school or the army or prison, two of which I have had the misfortune to experience.
But it was starting to get dark and everyone was pale and shaken after traversing the Eastern Cape in a Land Rover that slowed down so dramatically on the inclines that bandits could have walked alongside us and taken control of the vehicle without having to break into a sweat. Not that they would want to. It's unlikely that 1979 petrol-driven Defenders with torn seats and a back door held on with wire are high on any Mthatha hijacker's list.
Brenda suggested we take the turnoff to Cintsa, or Chintsa, as the bottle store would have it, and we found ourselves adrift on something called the Jikeleza Route which is like the Midlands Meander with the added risk of getting pillaged by roving bands of Eastern Cape nomads armed with blunt machetes and tripping out of their skulls on powerful Transkei weed.
So when a backpackers hove into view, I took a swift left and sent us bouncing down a dirt road towards the ocean. I should have turned around the moment I saw a crudely fashioned dream-catcher announcing that we had arrived.
The reception area looked like a UN staging post for acid casualties from the sixties, except that nobody here was born before 1980. The place was awash in tie-dye, dreadlocks and Rasta-related accessories. A large hippie dog wearing a purple cravat ambled up and started showing an inordinate amount of interest in my crotch.
I was considering our alternatives when I spotted an older guy leaning against the railing with a beer in each hand. His T-shirt read: 'F-off. I have enough friends.'
"Right," I said to Brenda. "We're staying."
A red-faced girl with red hair and red eyes standing behind the counter bounced her big bra-less breasts at me and asked if we wanted a room or ?
Her voice tailed off as she became distracted by a gecko the size of a small crocodile stalking a spider bigger than a Frisbee. Brenda screamed and ran for the car.
The room was billed as self-catering in that it had a fridge. No problem there, then. Beer contains all the nutrients that the human body needs. Brenda took down a painting done by someone who had clearly eaten way too many magic mushrooms, while I sat on the verandah returning the smiles of all the Scandinavian nymphs ambling happily between the deck bar and the bush bar.
Later, I discovered that backpackers aren't necessarily used only by adolescent lovers and novice truth-seekers travelling on a shoestring. They are also used by middle-aged alcoholics who have lost their homes, wives and children and who live there on a full-time basis because it's marginally more comfortable than sleeping in a doorway and comes with the bonus of being able to finish off the youngsters' drinks when they pass out at night. There is also the outside chance of one day getting laid by a drunk Australian sheila.
These were my kind of people and when Brenda insisted that we go to bed, I waited until she was asleep, then climbed through the window and rejoined them at the bar which had no rules and never seemed to close.
When we get back, I'm going to convert our home into a backpackers. As far as lifestyles go, I think it's a fabulous choice.