Questions About Trekking in Nepal That You Are Too Afraid to Ask
For some reason, the topics of poo, wee and bottoms seems to be either the subject of childish jokes or only discussed at the Dr’s office. But just for a moment, let’s get serious and talk about something that effects us all – the call of nature. If you like to plan ahead or have travelled to developing countries before, chances are, you’ve already experienced or thought about what the toilets will be like.
If you are thinking of joining us in Nepal, you’re probably especially curious about Out Houses there.
Most of the time, we don’t give much thought to our daily visits to the Lavatory. But habits and expectations surrounding relieving onself can change considerably across countries. Often it’s hard to ask these questions for fear of seeming ignorant, and instead we silently stress about them. BTW, Some poor folk face this fear on a daily basis: parcopresis is a fear of defacating in public places while paruresis is a fear of urinating in public places.
Your Travelling Toileting Profile
Type 1: The Fully Prepared
Those who really care (or worry) about the type, state and shall we say “accessories” of their Water Closet. If this is you, I have included links to each section where you can jump into your detailed research and know all the ins and outs to fully prepare yourself.
Type 2: Go with the Flow
You’re happy to do your business whenever and where-ever is necessary. The smells and sights of the lavatory don’t phase you too much, afterall, we’re all human. If this is you, I hope you pick up some pointers here to make your travels a little more straight forward. For you, I have condensed this blog in to my 4 Top Tips so you can pick the topic of interest to hone in on it.
Type 3: Quietly Interested
Those of us who live somewhere the between the two extremes; we’re not particularly afraid of the foreign rest rooms, but we’ll take any new tips that will help make our travels that much easier.
My 4 Top Tips for Toilets while Trekking
Toilet Types in Nepal
You will come across all types of toilets while in Nepal from the regular western type, to the Asian style squat toilet. Most however are usually the squat variety (especially when travelling overland). Mid to high-end hotels and cafes will likely have Western style toilets.
Regardless of type, one thing that is for sure: DO NOT FLUSH TOILET PAPER! Nepal is an ancient country and the plumbing cannot handle it. It will clog the system. You will need to put the paper in a rubbish bin (if in a hotel or cafe) or a plastic bag and take it with you if there isn’t a bin available.
For an in-depth description of what toilets are like in Nepal, I highly recommend you checkout this article by gogoguano.com – a website dedicated to teaching you how to use toilets while travelling.
Which brings me to my next tip.
Toilet Paper Vs Water
Many countries in the world prefer to use water over toilet paper as a more hygienic and sustainable approach to toileting than toilet paper. If you don’t think you go paperless, or you find yourself without toilet paper, simply bring a roll of toilet paper with you. I also recommend a few small plastic bags (nappy sacks from the baby aisle work well and they’re usually scented too) and a small tube of hand sanitizer to keep you going.
If you use water, you are expected to let your bottom air-dry. I have to admit, I got a little tired of having a wet bum. So in the colder months my personal preference was to use a combination of water washing and then a little pat-dry from toilet paper.
For a great education on how to toilet yourself using the water method instead of toilet paper, read this article.
A guide to cleaning yourself without toilet paper
And that leads me to the next important subject…
Left hand Vs Right hand
Left hand is for wiping & washing your nether-regions, and the right is for eating and greeting. Before my first visit to Nepal I would stress about using the wrong hand and the wrong time and committing multiple social taboos and horribly offending the locals. I can tell you this – once my left hand was involved in wiping and washing a Number 2, I couldn’t forget it. In fact, I don’t think I looked at my left hand the same way again for months…
Secret Women’s Business
I think it’s safe to say that at the very least, many women find having a period a little inconvenient, especially on trek. But I’m lucky – for many, it can be painful and even debilitating. If this is you, I highly recommend consulting your doctor for solutions as soon as possible to rule out endometriosis or other medical conditions.
Although menstruation is a taboo subject in Nepal and not easily discussed in public (more on that later), I easily found and purchased sanitary products from roadside pharmacy stores, albeit a limited choice. For short visits like ours, it would likely be much more convenient to take your favourite products with you.
Consider that sanitation in Nepal is far from perfect and it would be a good time to consider more sustainable alternatives such as a menstrual cup like the Diva Cup. http://divacup.com/ (this specific product was recently introduced to me by a friend when discussing this very topic, and I have to say it is my new favourite thing in the world – consider it, trekking or not!) So give the Menstrual Cup a thought – they can be purchased online or from an increasing number of Chemists. Not only is it far more sustainable, but it will require less frequent changing and they are becoming more common place in Nepal.
To Illustrate what I mean about typical sanitation;
One night in Kathmadu, I was at a friend’s house when her sister called out “I’m just going to toss the garbage” as she walked out the front door with a bag of household rubbish. I imagined a scenario much like home where we wheel the bins out every Wednesday night (ok, so more realistically, in a mad rush Thursday morning). Except she literally was going to “toss the garbage” into the street. You see, there was a specific spot near an intersection that people tossed their household garbage. Stray dogs would pick through it for morsels of a meal. Rats sporadically scurrying in the background. Occasionally someone would attempt to reduce the pile by setting it on fire. In fact, on a similar garbage pile in another part of town, a dead cow had ended up on one. Eventually it would get big and obtrusive enough, so a truck (I’m assuming government ordered one?) would come and shovel it up and take it away. And the cycle would start again.
Spare a thought for many Nepali women. Even though it was officially outlawed, the traditional practice of Chhaupadi is still common place. This is where menstruating girls and women are banished to small huts outside the family home, sometimes resulting in disastrous consequences for the women. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-03-10/chhaupadi-nepal-menstrual-cup-revolution/9531814
Sometimes their diet is severely restricted during this time and they are also not allowed to touch men or cattle or enter the kitchen. This is more entrenched in religious families and village communities, who think of menstruating women as dirty and unlucky and will blame misfortune on them. I am happy to say I didn’t experience any of this personally when I lived there and attitudes are slowly changing.