Got to go

A very nice toilet in Mole National Park, Ghana

A very nice toilet in Mole National Park, Ghana

The worst part of using public transport is finding the right time to go for a pee. It usually starts with the bus station. Often times there are no toilets. And if there are some, you will be sitting in a bus with the driver saying: ‘We’re leaving now.’ For three hours straight.

Once the bus is moving you are humping and bumping over miles of potholes somehow connected to form a road. With a bladder that’s filled with water (you should always drink two litres a day…). And the coke you bought while waiting for hours. And the tea that the nice lady offered to you.

At some point the bus will stop. But by the time you’ve figured out that it’s a pee stop (people just know) and have pushed through piles of fellow passengers the bus is moving on.

Then the bus stops again. Now you know it must be a pee stop. So you storm out. Just to find you’re in the middle of nowhere. No bushes or trees to hide behind. You could go and hide in the corn field. No sure whether the farmer would appreciate that. The guys have no issues. They just step off the bus and open their flies. The local ladies have no issues. They just squat in their skirts. Or don’t squat but open their legs a little – a light squat. Not an option for you in your pants.

Finally you stop caring. And everyone gets the great white ass show.

My advice

Across most of Africa the standard toilet is no toilet at all. It’s a hole in the ground. If you’re lucky. You’ll see many people squatting right by the side of the road to do their business, big or small. In many towns there are fines for urinating in public (the fines are written on walls for everyone to see). But that doesn’t stop people.

The key is to carry toilet paper and a shovel with you. Dig a hole before you squat. Africa has a huge landmass. But it’s not big enough to not stumble across people’s remains.

Many travelers will also use hand sanitizer. I only used it when there was no water available.

Toilet paper is available at most stores but often not in public toilets or even hotels. Instead a small bottle of water is provided to rinse and wash your private parts.

Even if you get sort of proper facilities most toilets aren’t the Western sitting type but squatting toilets. Practising your squatting before the trip is a good idea. In the end I came to prefer the squatting type as I really didn’t want to sit on most toilet seats along the way.

Ladies only

No shower is one thing. But once a month a woman needs toilets. Here’s how I got through ten monthlies in Africa:

  • Have a bag with all the necessary items ready: pads, tampons, toilet paper, baby wipes, pain killer. In many places people have no idea what tampons are. So stack up when you can (usually in mayor towns). Always carry toilet paper and baby wipes!
  • When you’re in a nice and clean place with decent toilets and showers: Stay until the worst of your period is over!

Next time I’m also considering taking a contraceptive – like the pill or the Nuva ring – with me that allows to push the time of my period back a couple of days. So it doesn’t get in the way of excursions that can’t be pushed.

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