I’m not afraid of much. Maybe it’s a confidence, maybe it’s naivety but there is just not much that keeps me awake at night. For the last two weeks or so though, I’ve tossed and turned over the news that in order to attend an event I dearly wanted to be part of – I would have to camp.
There is so much that troubles me about camping but chief amongst my concerns is the question of the toilet.
I cannot deal with a port-a-loo. Can’t do it. No matter how exciting the event is, if there’s a port-a-loo involved – then I am not.
Dark, hot, mystery liquids pooling in the bottom. No way.
I spent a night at a Buddhist retreat a couple of years ago. I had a hut to myself but there was a communal toilet outside. I was so stressed about the torch-lit pit-stops that I spent the entire night listening to the sounds of critters roaming around the grounds and checking for the slightest nudge from my bladder.
I’ve never been able to squat either. There were many childhood attempts by the sides of highways with mum issuing instructions but it never worked. In desperation, I experimented with an Asian squat toilet not too long ago, only to have my worst fears realised. I still can’t do it.
I should probably divulge at this point that the ‘trip’ was actually one night.
BUT HOLD ON! There were more circumstances that made this trip nerve wracking.
Firstly, I was traveling with strangers. I was tagging along with a crew from the Fred Hollows Foundation who were supplying everything from the tent and sleeping bag to those cool tin mugs you drink tea out of when camping (not that I’d be drinking any tea, obviously).
Secondly, we weren’t camping at a camp ground per se but within the grounds of an Aboriginal community about 100km outside Katherine, called Barunga. I Googled hard but was unable to find any info about the ‘facilities’.
And toilets were not my only fear.
“I can’t go camping,” I blurted to my husband about a week out.
“I know, I know, the toilet,” he said wearily.
“No,” I said, “the snoring.”
Ever since my babies were born, two and a half years ago I have developed a mighty snore that has driven my husband from our bed. I should add in my defense that HIS snore has been mighty for a lot longer and while I kicked, shook and yelled at him through many noisy nights, I never gave up and moved out! He says we’re both more tired now, which is why I snore and why he needs to get some rest in the spare room.
“Everyone snores when they’re camping,” he chuckled, attempting to soothe my nerves. I wasn’t buying it and I knew there were no spare rooms where I was going. Only lovely strangers on the other side of a tent flap who I was going to keep up all night with my disgusting dirge.
Well, this is how it panned out. There were public toilets. They were a bit of a walk from the camping area, around which were dotted the dreaded port-a-loos but I tapered my fluid intake in the afternoon and didn’t feel a single bladder nudge all night. No port-a-loo stops for me!
Did I snore? Don’t know. I was tempted to ask my companions so that I could apologise but they were so polite, I didn’t think they’d have told the truth if I had.
The festival itself was brilliant. The welcome was as warm as the Territory sun and I learned a lot in a short period of time.
I have every intention of going back next year and visiting other communities as well.
However the good people at the campervan hire shop will be hearing from me next time.
Some of those vans even have cans!
Meshel Laurie is a comedian and broadcaster. You can catch up with her on Nova’s Drive Show with Tim Blackwell and Marty Sheargold 4-6pm on weekdays.