At our age, toilet facilities are important, so we were pleased to read in the booklet we got about our trip that each of our overnight stops had ensuite facilities. Most impressive in the middle of nowhere! But more of them later.
En route along the unpaved road, things were different. There was no shortage of bushes, trees and scrub to crouch behind, after first of all ascertaining that there were no nasty creatures lurking. By the end of the trip we’d all got quite used to men in one direction, ladies in the other and a communal mooning at anybody unfortunate enough to be passing.
It was the dunnies that were… interesting. (An Australian toilet is a dunny by the way.) To have any sort of toilet in a wilderness area is a feat of logistics and many and varied were the solutions to the problem of where to put it and how to dispose of it. Some dunnies were of the simple ‘long drop’ variety – a long drop into some sort of pit where it would eventually compost down. The flies loved these. And the smell could be pretty overpowering too. But they gave you privacy and they always had toilet paper!
Others were more sophisticated with buckets of some kind of disinfectant and instructions on washing down the toilet bowl after use. They also usually had a trap door in the bowl which kept the flies and smell out, and which opened when a lever was hauled back and forth. Noisy but effective.
Our bus was loaded with a water tank, liquid soap and anti-bacterial hand wash so we managed to avoid any episodes of the runs – or at least, no-one was admitting to them.
In the roadhouses we stopped at, most had flush toilets – oh the luxury! But they came with warnings. Put the lid down to keep out frogs and snakes, they admonished. Apparently creatures come through the septic tank system and up the toilet bowl.
Gary, our guide, told us a tale of a young girl in her early twenties who had been bitten by a snake when she sat down on the toilet, and was so embarrassed by where the bite was that she told no-one. Two hours later, she collapsed (it was probably a brown snake, one of the most venomous) and unfortunately they couldn’t save her.
It was certainly one way of making sure we put the lid down!
One night in our glamping tent, we discovered a frog sitting happily on the cistern in the en suite. It point blank refused to return down the way it had come, so my other half (MOH) simply closed the door of the en suite so that it would not come into the bedroom area. Another of Gary’s tales was that frogs liked to seek out the warmest places to sit on and therefore they headed for your face in bed at night. Neither of us was happy with the thought of that frog, pretty though it was, spending the night with us.
I had been trying to ensure I didn’t become dehydrated that day and had been regularly emptying my water bottle (they recommend you drink around four litres each day) so of course, the inevitable happened. In the middle of the night, I had to go. Gingerly stepping out on to the cold floor boards, I reached for my solar powered torch. It was dead. I stretched my arms out to find the light switch. It wasn’t where I thought it should be. I stepped forward and collided with the door of the en suite. I couldn’t find the handle to open it. By the time I did manage to fling it open, things were desperate and I couldn’t have cared if I stepped on the frog or even sat on it. Much relieved, I returned to my bed.
The next morning, the frog was clinging to the toilet brush, none the worse for its interrupted night.