On the Road

The Old Days

I kissed this three-and-a-half-inch , thumb-thick tube before shoving it in my anus. It went up high into my large intestine. It was part of me.

Protecting your cash from thieves is considerably easier than in the old days. Before the advent of ATM machines, traveller cheques, and Western Union money transfers, the average traveler had to get around carrying gold.

The 19th century traveller extraordinaire, Richard Burton, notes:

“Some prefer a long chain of pure gold divided into links and covered with leather, so as to resemble the twisted girdle which the Arab fastens round his waist. It is a precaution well known to the wandering knights of old.”

Links could be detached and traded for local coin whenever necessary. He then mentions an extreme measure:

“Others, again, in very critical situations, open with a lancet the shoulder, or any other fleshy part of the body, and insert a precious stone, which does not show in its novel purse.”

Most travelers would perhaps rather be robbed than cut open their body to hide a precious jewel but, happily, there has always been an alternative hiding place – the anus. In prison systems around the world this was the sure method for preserving your cash in case of shake downs from the screws and theft from other convicts.

In Papillon Henri Charriere tells of his beloved ‘charger’ – a metal cylinder with a screw top in which he hid his money whilst imprisoned in Guiana.

“I kissed this three-and-a-half-inch , thumb-thick tube before shoving it in my anus. It went up high into my large intestine. It was part of me.”

Or in the days before an exchange rate was set up, British explorers and foreign envoys on long missions for the Empire were sometimes equipped only with a ‘chit’. This basically amounted to a promise for reimbursement from the Queen. Presumably it could only be reimbursed at some prominent office within the realm of the Empire. Imagine trying to pass that off on a yak salesman in Mongolia.