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13 November 2012 / leggypeggy

On toilets—some make your hair curl

Bush camp

Bush camping in a quarry—always piles of rock to hide behind

When you’re travelling overland in remote parts of the world, your whole day can revolve around toilets or the lack of them.

The first question has to be—is there a toilet? It goes from there. Is it a hole in the ground, porcelain squat or ‘proper’ throne? If a throne, does it have a seat? Toilet seats are rare. Has it been stolen or do they leave it off so it isn’t stolen? Maybe it just broke and was never replaced? I’ve sat on a few cracked seats that viciously grabbed my thigh as I shifted to wipe. I recommend a close inspection before sitting, and a willingness to sit side-saddle if necessary.

But the questions continue. If there’s a toilet, does it flush? If it flushes, does it flush for every person or only occasionally? Is there toilet paper? Is the hypothetical paper in the actual cubicle or in a gigantic dispenser on the wall outside? I saw huge dispenser with the brand name of Willy. But woe to the person who forgets to collect a few sheets of paper from Willy on the way in. And if there is no toilet paper, is there a bum gun (I’m sure you can figure that one out)?

Speaking of toilet paper (as I did the other day)—in most far-flung places, don’t think of disposing of those little bits of tissue in a toilet. The pipes just can’t cope with great or even little gobs of toilet paper. The rule of thumb is that if there’s a bin near the toilet, you are meant to use it for the paper. If there’s already a pile of paper in the corner on the floor—well, just add to it.

But I digress.

If it’s a bush toilet stop, do I need to take a shovel? It pays to plan ahead. Also how high or wide does a bush or pile of soil or rocks need to be to shield a view of my bum? After a while, does anyone really care?

I always liked the story of Denise, a 73-year-old woman who was on the African trip a year before us. I heard about Denise after I told Chris, our driver in Africa, that people can do this kind of travel as long as their knees hold out. Oh no, said Chris, Denise managed just fine. He went on to explain that Denise travelled with her own toilet seat on legs. Chris said it was quite a sight to see her march into the bush with a shovel over one shoulder and the collapsed toilet seat under the other arm.

Denise was a no-nonsense kind of gal. But the truth is, some people seize up when expected to relieve themselves in ‘public’. This hesitation, which is rare in men, usually passes within a few days although some ‘suffer’ for months. That said, bush toilets are scary in Ethiopia. The locals seem to have a sort of radar that draws them to your side before you even have a chance to drop your daks.

Overland travel

A sightseeing stop—sometimes combined with a pee stop!

But for the most part, bush toilets have a lot of positives. Hygiene for starters! I’ve used toilets that would make your hair curl. I wrote about one such toilet, encountered when we took a rust bucket across the Caspian Sea from Azerbaijan to Turkmenistan.

I could fill a book with details of the bad toilets I’ve used in Africa, Asia and South America, as well as a few tales of luxury.

A memorable toilet in Gabon was simply a 12-inch square ‘hole’ in the middle of a circular concrete plinth. The plinth was about 12 inches thick and maybe 10 feet in diameter. It was in the middle of a much, much larger room. Unfortunately, a lot of women hadn’t bothered to get anywhere near the hole to do their business.

We hit luxury in a shopping centre in Angola. A marble-walled bathroom that was all light and mirrors. There were 10 stalls, deluxe sinks and toilets, hand dryers and copious amounts of paper towels and toilet paper. Being intrepid overlanders who never miss an opportunity, we washed our feet in the sink.


Leave a Comment
  1. afarawayhome / Jan 2 2017 9:34 pm

    Haha, I like this! I’ve never been one to freak out about toilets – as far as I’m concerned, they are just somewhere to get in and out of ASAP. However, the bus station in Chandigarh (India) is the only one so far to reduce me to vomit-suppressing mouth-breathing from the odour… there were definitely no toilet seats there!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jan 2 2017 10:37 pm

      Oh dear, you have my sympathy. I don’t know that exact toilet, but I know many of its Indian relatives. Glad you survived.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. weggieboy / Sep 2 2017 1:49 am

    My favorite is in the military part of the Athens airport. Identified in Greek, but not with icons for people like me who don’t read Greek, I located the toilet by opening the door and, on looking in, hoping it was, indeed, the toilet for men.

    Whew! It was, (I think) but then there was the issue of what to use. The room was covered in marble tiles, with little terra cotta porpoises prancing out from the wall every few meters between a line of green-colored tiles.

    Below that, there was a narrow trench cut in the marble on two sides of the room, with a drain hole at the intersection of the walls.

    I hope I correctly identified the proper use of that wall as what one urinated against because, well, that’s what I did!

    I don’t recall a turkish toilet for Nr. 2 issues, another kind of alarming thought. I may well have guessed wrong about the room’s purpose.

    Then there was the British military base in Germany where the TP had a royal seal watermarked into an extremely uncomfortable paper that was rough on one side, shiny on the other, and nonabsorbent. Definitely not Charmin! (That’s a brand of American TP that is very easy on the bum!)

    Of course, there was the Athens restaurant where I had a lovely meal that had a curious toilet arrangement where women went in one door, men the other, but they met a a T-intersection that lead to the same hole in the dirt with porcelain foot rests on either side for the comfort of those using it for Nr. 2. I used that one fast before being embarrassed by someone of the opposite sex!

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Sep 2 2017 4:39 pm

      Thanks for sharing some of your disarming toilet experiences. Your hilarious description of ‘rough on one side, shiny on the other, and nonabsorbent’ will have me laughing for the rest of the day.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. barkinginthedark / Apr 1 2020 7:48 am

    Peggy, this is a really shitty post! 😀 continue…

    Liked by 2 people

  4. jeanleesworld / Jul 28 2020 12:49 pm

    HA! You know, I would be one of those all worked up about having to do my business outside. Even when we camped, we were a short walk away from a bathroom. Guess I will truly need to “rough it” one of these days. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person


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