Girls on tour - Toilets
Depending on where you come from, you might have a fixed idea about what classes as a toilet. However in many parts of the world, flushing, sit down toilets can be hard to come by. That said, there will be toilets, just squat ones, with a bucket of water to flush with, which once you get used to them, are fine.
Public toilets are not very common in developing countries and you need to think more laterally about where you can go... coffee shops, supermarkets, petrol (gas) stations, markets, restaurants, public parks, libraries, public buildings etc. And it's always useful to learn the local language for 'Where is the toilet?' on arrival.
Some public toilets may not be very clean, however if you've ever been to a music festival and used the porta-loos there for a weekend, then I reckon you can handle it!
"There are times when the great outdoors are preferable to the toilets you find..." Susie
On the road it can be much easier – you just stop when you need to go, run behind a tree, rock, bush and go. You may want to carry a small bottle of anti-bacterial gel, you rub it into your hands and it evaporates. Great if you don't want to waste drinking water or don't have soap to hand.
“The trick is not leave it until you are desperate, looking for the perfect spot to stop – after a few days on the road I got better at spotting good 'wee stops'.” Liz
"Outside of towns, it’s generally no problem to find a place to go. Basically anywhere secluded (or with a bit of cover) works just fine! These days, I don’t even worry about passing cars seeing me pee." Tara
"The only time I've really had a problem finding somewhere to pee is in Southeast Asia, where there are people everywhere and relatively few trees to hide behind. Then, I learned to go any time I spotted a place, rather than waiting until it got urgent." Friedel
"In places where there aren’t trees like the Altiplano and Himalayas, Tim will watch for traffic while I do my business." Cindie
"The world is your toilet :-) On the road I go where ever I can, Just right next to the road, or at a toilet if one is available... obviously. Often that's not more then a hole in the ground. Some countries you're better off just going on the side of the road 'cause toilets can be very dirty... No need to stand up if you can squat, and we can all squat... Our legs are strong enough I'd say." Mirjam
Don't rely on there being loo roll in the toilet, there probably won't be. Most people seem to carry their own or buy little packets of tissues. Many toilets can't cope with toilet paper and you'll often see a bin for used tissue instead. On the road you may want to think about what to do with your used paper, best not to leave it.
“We don’t carry rolls of toilet paper, but instead small tissue packets. They are cheap and available just about everywhere. We separate them and put them all over the place - one in each pocket, a few in the handlebar bag, etc.” Tara
"I carry only when available. More often I do it the way It's done in most of the world. Use your left hand and some water... (do not forget to wash your hands afterwards!!!)" Mirjam
I ALWAYS have toilet paper with me – one of the essentials of biking! I don’t generally have a problem finding a place to pee – there are usually bushes or ditches of some kind. That being said, when I was touring in India and had really bad diarrhoea there were times when I simply couldn’t wait – and had a bit of an audience! " Nancy
There are various peeing devices now available, which allow you to pee standing up. Some people swear by them and Travelling Two have some reviews on their website.
If you plan to use one, it's a good idea to practice at home in the shower before setting off, so you can get used to using it.
"I have a Whiz Freedom but I rarely use it. I do know some women who swear by theirs though! Personally, I would much rather squat." Tara
"I’ve tried lots of different peeing devices for women (see the reviews on the girls outdoors website) but they all seem to be more hassle than they’re worth." Marjorie
"I have tried a she-wee but it hasn’t worked out too well – causing more of a mess than necessary! They don’t work well with cycling shorts." Heidi
If you are really struggling to find somewhere ask a local women, she is very likely to help you. But be careful what you touch...
We once stopped at a small food stall by the roadside in Indonesia, after a while I needed the loo and asked the lady there. We were basically sat outside the front of her house and she said I could use their toilet. It was a squat toilet with a mandi (trough of water and bucket) next to it. The tap above the mandi was running and water was overflowing, so when I had finished and flushed away, I went to turn the tap off. It was a bit stiff and without thinking I pulled it and the lever came off in my hand! Water sprayed everywhere, soaking my t-shirt and hair, going all over the place. I was mortified and ran out to find the lady, saying ma'af ma'af (sorry in Bahasa). I was convinced I had broken her bathroom. She reappeared 5 mins later, in a fresh dress, looking relaxed and smiling. I tried to offer some money for the tap but she waved me away saying no, it's no problem. I have no idea whether I had done any lasting damage or not, but it was the last time I touched the taps when using someone elses bathroom!
Ah yes, the final topic and one which can't be avoided - the wilderness poo! Not half as bad as it sounds actually, however if you've never really 'gone' outdoors before you may want to read this.
Before we set off on any adventure in the outdoors, we always go through our kit. I remember being new to all this and stumbling across a little bag with a small spade, some black bags and some loo roll, "what's this for?" I asked, Chris replied in a very matter of fact way "So you can go for a poo outside if you need to". Right, yes of course.
Months later cycling through Scotland, seeing nothing but hills and lochs for miles and miles, I had my first chance to try out this particular piece of kit. I set off into a woodland area armed with the little bag. I dug a good size hole in the soft ground (you can judge for yourself what a good size hole is I think!), did the deed and then covered it over with the dirt I had dug up. I put the used loo roll in a little black bag, tied a knot in it, taking it with me to dispose of later.
In New Zealand we cycled through some fairly remote areas and the second time, the ground was hard, too hard to dig a hole quickly, so instead I used a black bag to scoop up the poo, tied a knot in it and carried it out. Not particularly pleasant, but if you've ever owned a dog, it's not much different to clearing up after them.
The main rule is don't just leave it, either bury it or carry it out. Nobody wants to step in poo whilst they are out walking! Alos make sure you are well away from any water sources. Finally carry some anti-bacterial gel to rub into your hands afterwards and you might want to invest in a small folding spade too!
For more on this delightful topic, see a well-known book called "How to shit in the woods" by Kathleen Meyers.