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Trains have loos, but how do you go about using the loo during those long distances and long hours on the road?
When you got to go, you got to go.
You have heard that before, right? Let me add to that, ‘easier said than done!’. As you might have guessed already, this month’s column is not about hypercars. So continue reading if you want a first-hand account on how an adventure traveller goes about coping with the all-important issue of biological waste.
Mahindra Adventure run expedition convoys all over the country. With 20 to 30 cars, these convoys are like trains on tarmac and are connected by radios, if not vestibules. The big difference is that trains have toilets and convoys don’t. We learnt early in our convoy life that the participants start asking for toilet breaks within 20 minutes of flag-off. Since it was not very sophisticated to hear someone crackling over the radio ‘sir, can we have a pee halt’, we coined the concept of, ahem, ‘bio breaks’. At times it is pre-planned with the advance team giving the exact location and at times it is chosen by the size of the bladder of the lead car driver. Most of the time, the latter.
So, when, a bio-break is announced, the cars zip into the parking lot of a hotel/restaurant and close to 100 people rush out and gun for the restrooms. Since it is not very nice to ‘mass pee’ and leave, we buy some tea and coffee for the participants, which will ensure that there is another unscheduled bio-break within the next hour.
I remember the entire ASEAN rally convoy coming to a grinding halt near an unsuspecting village in Myanmar one cold morning. Almost everyone who got out let their zippers open. Ah, the sight of mass urination complete with its very own vapour trail! And before the villagers realised what was happening and took a collective decision to take out their bows and arrows, the convoy disappeared in a cloud of dust. I am certain a few kids got scarred for life.
Personally, I have had a few close encounters of the ‘number two’ kind. You see, I try experimenting with local cuisine and have eaten everything from blood pudding in England to deep fried tarantulas in Cambodia. At times, my stomach disagrees, and this has landed me in some atrocious situations. Recently on a stormy day somewhere in Russia, I ordered the convoy to a ‘bio-break’, but in reality, what was brewing in my tummy was nothing short of a mini Chernobyl. I got out of the car in the most dignified way, pretending that everything was normal and headed to the only toilet in the only restaurant that we came across in 100 odd km. Trust me, all the women participants of the expedition were already queuing up in front of the loo. I went to the back of the building where I saw a primitive standalone shed with a hole in the middle to aim at. But there was another problem, there was no latch from inside. What followed was a phenomenal exercise where in I stood inside with my jeans rolled down to the knee and an extended arm holding the door. It would have been an incredible sight if the storm blew away the weak tin structure! I also learnt that my aim isn’t all that bad. There are some more stories, but I don’t think you will have the stomach for it!
Seriously, finding clean toilets is challenging on any road trip, anywhere in the world. If women think it is a problem only they face, I choose to disagree. Perhaps I should have taken a selfie from Russia to prove the point. L