Todayâ€™s cycling: a relatively easy 145k, smooth tarmac, nice tailwind, felt like a lot of downhill, no problems. Crossing the border into Zambia took a wee while, but weâ€™re now at a great campsite with grass and shade and showers.
Itâ€™s funny how primitive you become on a trip like this, a trip like this meaning traveling through 3rd world countries and tenting it. Little things remind you of your idea of civilization, like having a convenience store at the gas (sorry, petrol) station or access to exciting things like plumbing. Especially with the first half of the trip, through less western countries, weâ€™ve reverted to caring for our basic needs, consumed with ideas of food and toilets. Much of our conversation revolves around such topics and the amenities forthwith. Weâ€™ve even regressed to the bartering system, with Snickers (readily available from Egypt onwards) and toilet paper being hot commodities. Perhaps you simply need to find a sucker to trade your lemon lime PVM energy bars for the chocolate strawberry, like a kid in elementary school.
As for toilets, youâ€™d be amazed at where weâ€™ve created personal latrines along the way. Personally, I prefer the shovel, taking it to a well-scoped out spot (after all, youâ€™ve got to think about privacy, how hard the ground is, if hyenas are going to go running by, if it has a good view), digging my hole, doing my business, burying it, and being on my merry way. I donâ€™t consider it so dirty, in the bushes or in the desert or in the open air, as in some nasty public toilet that is anything but sanitary. (Thereâ€™s a lot of diarrhea among us!)
Then youâ€™ve got the squattie-potties, which weâ€™ve learned to use effectively, though it does take a bit of practiceâ€”believe me, people are now leaps and bounds better than previously with their aim. Recently, these long-drop toilets have been much cleaner, equipped at times with flushers or toilet paper even and sometimes a sink to wash your hands! Luxury! (You see how far our thought processes have degenerated? All we need to be happy is a bit of t.p. and some soap.)
Now if weâ€™re really talking, you might even end up somewhere with a toilet, something you can sit on if you like, that might even have a mirror somewhere so you can see exactly how dirty you are or how fabulous of a hair day youâ€™re enjoying. We didnâ€™t start seeing mirrors until Ethiopia, really; I was a bit taken aback by my own face by that point in time, though others have utilized bike mirrors or some such to shave. I did, however, recently exploit a dirty bathroom sink in order to wash my clothes by hand, something I would never, ever consider doing at home. Then again, at home I probably wouldnâ€™t then hang my undies out to dry around others, either. I laughed when the young guys on our trip took down their personals, shall we say, from their tents when another group of people rolled into our campsite the other day. It was fine to hang around the TDA people, but not so fine to exhibit to outside young people.
Anyway, these are just a few examples of our primitive and insular lifestyle. As we cycle along, weâ€™re entering more and more westernized areas, complete with traffic lights, ice cream, large grocery stores and swimming pools, so Iâ€™m sure weâ€™ll easily transition to such extravagance.