When you gotta go!

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Carol Lazar

Lavatories tell you much about a country you are visiting. In Turkey I fell down a toilet and was extricated by the local undertaker who doubled as a barber. It happened in a picturesque village near Bodrum on Turkey’s south coast.

We were exploring an ancient archaeological site. While balancing myself above the ubiquitous hole – here holes rule – my foot slipped. It is no joy to have a left foot incarcerated in a Turkish bodily-waste evacuation unit. A local undertaker cum barber, dug out my left foot with a crowbar. The public convenience was damaged beyond use. My late husband was all for leaving me there.

If you are queasy, stay home because you will find every kind of lavatorial arrangement in the course of your holiday abroad. In many Asian and African countries, a squat-and-aim hole in the ground suffices. This makes good sense in a germ-free way. Your derriere will not make contact where others have been before.
In rural areas of China, there are flowing narrow channels with cubicles built straddling them. To use such a convenience, you place your feet on either side of the channel. Then you crouch and perform. It is better not to gaze into the running water. This is not a sight you will treasure forever.

In Japan, your buttocks will rejoice. The Japanese have turned their lavatories into an art form. The most luxurious I tried had flashing controls and various buttons you had to push. The first warmed the seat. The second played a soothing but sufficiently loud sound to block out any other noises that might, during the course of action, be emitted. The third button sprayed a soft jet of water upon your parts and the fourth and final control was the drier.
My derriere emerged from this experience feeling as though it had attended a full session in a spa. Special slippers were provided for use while seated upon the throne. Now that was a wholesome experience.

While travelling though the mountainous parts of the Ozarks in the USA we stopped for a hamburger in a tiny village comprising a petrol pump, a diner and a small general dealer’s store. I ventured into the bathroom. There were two facing cubicles. The swing doors on each started above thigh level and ended just above the waist. Perhaps the original intention was to create a little privacy but somebody had seriously miscalculated and, as you sat on the loo your private parts were in full view – as were those of the occupant of the opposite cubicle. Only your navel area was fully screened. I only realized this when a lass the size of a hippopotamus seated herself and all I could see were her performing parts. We smiled and said hello, as you do in this situation.

Quite my worst traveling experience happened some years ago when I found myself in dire need outside South Africa House in Trafalgar Square, London. The officials at the door would not let me enter.
“But I am a South African in distress,” I wailed, standing with my legs crossed.
“No, you definitely cannot use our toilet,” said one sternly. “You might have a bomb up your pants.”
Unquestionably, the finest toilet experiences are those in the African bush where you have a loo with a view. The pleasure of watching an elephant or a warthog strolling past turns a necessarily regular function into a delight.

Carol Lazar
South Africa’s best known veteran travel writer Carol Lazar has crossed the Andes on a yak, climbed Kilimanjaro with a toothache, sailed in the Queen Mary 2, eaten pickled penis in Tunisia, and been lost on more transport systems than you can count. She’s had tea with Prince Philip at Buckingham Palace, dinner with Prince Charles at Powys Castle and coffee with Al Gore in Miami. She’s shared a camel in the Sahara with Naseem Abdul of Tunis and a bicycle with Boris Binkel in Vienna. Now based at at the southernmost tip of the USA, she is unique; a turquoise true blue transplanted African Key West granny, the only one …