Friday, December 18, 2009

International Outhouse Adventures - Annie

Anyone who has gone backpacking or spent significant time traveling in developing countries knows that going to the bathroom is often part of the adventure. While talking to one friend recently about a trip to Asia, she said that she never really feels like she has fully arrived in a new place until she has sampled a local toilet. I tend to agree -- and if you have read my previous blogs about "squatty potties" versus the complicated electronic Japanese toilets, then you are already familiar with some of the amazing global toilet diversity.

While in Tanzania climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2008, I had the joy of experiencing "long-drop toilets." Really, these aren't toilets at all, but more like a very deep pit dug into the ground. Usually, there is an outhouse-type wooden structure around the pit to provide some privacy. There is sometimes even a seat to sit on, although not always! Occasionally these long drop toilets are "squatty potty" versions of outhouses, if you can imagine such a thing. (I was always extremely careful to avoid falling in!) Fortunately, the pits are usually deep enough so that the experience inside isn't too stinky. Although, again, not always! I'm including a photo that I took of one of my favorite long drop toilets, the day before our summit day on Kilimanjaro. It's quite a scenic location for a potty!

One of my favorite international bathroom stories is an anecdote from my Canadian friend Jeremy, who just wrote to me about a toilet that he encountered while driving in a jalopy across the middle of Australia. Jeremy was traveling with two friends, and they were camping as they made their way across the continent, so they were always in search of reasonably clean facilities. On their 4th day of driving, they went swimming at a reservoir in the middle of the Outback, and were relaxing in the sun. Jeremy suddenly realized that he badly needed to go to the bathroom… so he writes:

"I located a small cinder-block building on top of a small hill, that contained a functional, if somewhat spartan bathroom. One of the many amenities that was missing was a toilet seat, and I was in a situation that normally would have required that particular piece of gear. But, needs must when the Devil drives, so I used the toilet, sans seat (chilly, and somewhat precarious), stood up, turned around, and flushed. And watched in horror as the long, green snake that was coiled around the inside of the toilet, just under the rim, was knocked out of it's perch by the flush water, and began to thrash around. To say that I experienced a "shrinking" feeling is no understatement! I beat a hasty retreat, feeling lucky that I had avoided a worse experience."

As much as I am looking forward to a trip to the southern hemisphere someday, I also have heard that Australia is home to the largest number of poisonous creatures in the world!! I will now always, always, always check under the rim when going to the bathroom in the Australian outback. Every time.

Share your favorite international toilet stories! Write to!


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