The time has come to talk of toilets. As you would imagine on a trip like Tour D’Afrique – 8000 mile bike race across Africa – toilets are a big deal, especially for the women. I don’t often get penis envy but this was one of those times. I was drinking an average of four litres of water a day on the bike and eating between 4000 and 6000 calories so that all had to get processed out.
While we were in the Sinai in Egypt, it hadn’t been too bad. We could nip behind a dune and have a pee, and as there were so few people and so little traffic, it wasn’t much of a problem. You did have to make a decision which way to face to the road – face forward so other riders could see your face but not your bottom, or the other way. Psychologically, I decided that if I couldn’t see them, then they couldn’t see me, so a lot of riders got way too many views of my bared arse.
But when we got to the more populated areas of Luxor, Edfu and Aswan, it all became a lot more difficult. We were cycling beside the Nile and the Nile canals, and the whole area is intensively farmed. There are people everywhere. If you saw a likely spot, you had to leap off the bike and whip down your sweaty shorts as quickly as you could, while squatting on those aching thighs.
When we were in camp in this early part of the tour, there were toilets on site. But they just could not compete with the volume. Also, the staff didn’t tell everyone that in Egypt you don’t put toilet paper down the toilet but in a bin because the drains can’t take it. Add to this the fact that by this stage almost everyone had a bad stomach, and the toilets were blocked and unbearable within about an hour of being in camp.
So, on to my night of shame. We had dinner as usual at around six before the sun went down. Some of the kids from the school where we were camped had come down and there was an impromptu game of football. I watched for a bit and then I headed off to my tent which I had pitched in the middle of the group. I fell asleep listening to the muezzin at one of the three mosques which surrounded us and all was well.
About two in the morning, I woke up with bad stomach cramps. I tried to ignore them because I knew how rank the toilets were and it was dark, but to no avail, I had to go, and go quickly. I scrambled out the tent in my pyjamas, with my head torch and headed off to where the toilet block was. But it wasn’t there and by this time things were becoming urgent. I hobbled round the perimeter, searching for the toilets, and still couldn’t find them. My head torch wasn’t helping much in the pitch black and by now I was doubled over.
Crisis point was reached, I staggered to the nearest dark corner, switched off the head torch and off I went. I was there for about five minutes and it was not a happy experience. All I could think was, “Those poor school kids, I am shitting on their playground!”
More stories in Dodging Elephants.
All pictures by Kristian Pletten.