Toilet Torture in Kathmandu

Halfway up the many steps of Kathmandu’s Monkey Temple, Rachel and I looked at each other in horror.

“Oh God,” she said, and clutched her stomach. “Me too,” I said, clutching mine. And we started to move a bit quicker.

Somehow the diarrhoea that had dogged us for the entire 10 hour bus trip up the Himalaya had decided it was time for its last hurrah. We had been pretty sure we were empty, that the bug could not create any further misery – or embarrassment – for us. (Dilemma – do you present your butt or your face to the farmers on the terraces below as you squat on the side of the mountain?) And so we’d agreed to stop at Swayambhunath, the monkey temple, to climb the stairs and see the stupa and its painted eyes that overlook Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal.

Image courtesy of Krebsmaus07

On weak and shaky legs, we made it to the top of the stairs, looking desperately around for a sign to point the way to the toilet. Our search became frantic. Finally we spotted the sign and we hobbled in the right direction. But there was a queue. We joined it, holding each other up and grasping our stomachs.

After a painful clenching wait it was finally our turn. The two cubicles became free at the same time. We rushed in the adjoining dark cubicles. I rushed straight back out again. The stench coming from the toilet was overpowering.

“OH MY GOD,” I said, of the smell. My intestines convulsed. “OH GOD,” I said, rushing back in and shutting the door.

Things got even more urgent. “Ohgodohgodohgod.” I fumbled with my pants and positioned myself over the squatter, which looked – and smelled – like it hadn’t been flushed since the 70s.

The bathroom was old, the paint on the walls was yellowed and flaking. There was a cistern on the wall. I reached up and pulled the chain. Nothing happened.

“How is this possible,” I thought, as my guts heaved and hoed like drunken sailors. “I should be empty.”

“Are you ok over there?” I shouted out to Rachel. “I think the smell in here is going to kill me.”

“This one smells worse than yours,” Rachel said in her posh British accent. “I think I’m going to …. Yechhhh.” She started dry retching.

I got the giggles. This, of course, gave Rachel the giggles.

There we both were, squatting over foul-smelling troughs of other people’s diarrhoea, shitting our guts out, giggling.

“I can’t get up,” I said, snorting and snuffling, which somehow intensified the smell.

“Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrrccchhhh,” said Rachel. “Me either.”  “Yeeeeerccchhh.”

I’d left my anti-bacterial handwash stuff on the bus. I was pretty sure this place wouldn’t have soap, pretty sure it didn’t even have a hand basin. But I had no choice but to reach out and use the grimy waterless waterpipe leading up to the cistern to haul myself up.

“Wait for you outside,” I said, as a dry retch threatened.

“Yeccchhhh,” Rachel replied. “Be with you in a minute. Yeccchhhh.”

Still giggling, with tears streaming down my cheeks, I left the bathroom, walking past a queue of very puzzled Nepalese ladies.

I had to walk a little way to get clear of the stench. But I could still hear intermittent yeccchhhhs from Rachel, faintly filtering out of the toilet window.

Yep. Toilet stories. Every traveller has them.

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11 years ago

By: Barbara

A career girl who dropped out, traveled, found love, and never got around to going home again. Now wrangling a cross-cultural relationship and two third culture kids.

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