It would be day three of bush camp before I would use the shovel. Digging my own hole for ablutions had not been something I was looking forward to. Desperate, I had to wait till nightfall. I sat anxiously in my tent, thinking through each careful step.We had received an email before the trip started with toliet instructions and as I recalled the key points the need to get to it became more and more urgent. Eventually darkness set in, a shovel became free (it seems we all wait till dark if we can!) and off I went. Hi ho, hi ho… it’s off to poo I go!
I walked quite a distance from camp.I did not want to be caught with my pants down – literally! I dug as deep as the depth of the shovel and carefully sat down my loo roll, toliet wipes and lighter and with remarkable ease set about my business -well, it had been three days! Phew.
Eventually I became used to the ritual and came to find that going off to use the loo was perhaps the one real chance for quiet and own space.As I’ve mentioned before there are more than 50 riders plus staff and with little shade in many of our camps we are often all crammed together taking shelter behind the truck at the end of our rides. Personal space is not easy to find. Further, given the fact that many people are often sat infront of the shovel storage area it is hard to be discreet regarding ones bodily functions. There simply is no chance to be embarassed.
All was going well and then a few challenges set in.
Challenge one – the sandstorm. The wind was strong and the sand actually hurt as it hit your skin. Tonight I was waiting not just till nightfall but also until the gale had dropped slightly. Even going for a pee had been hard enough – one thing you don’t want is gritty sand in your cycle shorts! Predictably night-time came but unfortunately there was no let up in the wind. The storm had even meant planes had been forced to land elsewhere. Holding onto toliet paper would be tough. Needless to say. I failed. Fortunately I had crossed the road from camp so while dirty toilet paper had gone flying it would not head in the direction of the tents. What a relief. I quickly mastered the technique of wipe, ditch and cover with sand to avoid the paper escaping. It was too windy however to use the lighter. All I can do is my best I guess.
Challenge two – solid dry ground. As we came into Ethiopia the depth of sand reduced. We were camping on rock. Not only is this a problem for tent pags but digging a hole became virtually impossible. Using the shoval like a pick axe I managed two inches but as we moved on digging was not possible at all. You now knew where people had been to the loo by recognising small piles of dry matter/dirt topped off with a stone. “X” marks the spot.
Challenge three – hot, arid areas. To date (aside from the windy day) the disposal of toilet paper came through burning. This had been no problem at all. However, as holes were undiggable so too earth to douse the flames was no longer avaialble. Twice I feared setting the country and camp on fire. Embers still glowing, I covered things up, placed my stone on top and headed back to my tent. Could you imagine explaining that one!
We were told as we headed into Ethiopia that we would start using toliet tents. There were simply too many inquisitive locals. The toliet break would no longer provide personal space – apparently this was worth watching!! Given this would reduce the need for digging and provide a bin for waste paper, thereby meaning wind and fires had also now been mitigated, I was quite pleased. Infact, while embarassed about the return of the wind (mine this time not the weather!) I was proud to be able to add something solid the first evening they were available – most of the camp were suffering with upset stomachs! Unfortunately this would become all too apparent the following morning – some people had missed!
We’re in a hotel right now. Western style facilities. I guess we’ll all just have to become accustomed to the new camp ensuite facilities.