The Dark and Scary Desert or Where There Is No Toilet

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The Dark and Scary Desert or Where There Is No Toilet

We are going camping again at Arta Plage. Arta Plage provides three toilet options.

  1. In the ocean
  2. In the buildings
  3. In the wilderness beyond the buildings
not the most welcoming restrooms in the world

not the most welcoming restrooms in the world

There are problems with each of these options.

  1. Gross, but doable for certain types of toilet needs and not possible in the middle of the night.
  2. Beyond gross. The buildings have been used as toilets by hundreds, including animals, over decades, have never been washed, stink, and have heaps of mysterious trash. In no possible way doable. (Unless you are one of the incomprehensible French families who arrive and spread hammocks and cots inside these nasty buildings, far from the sea and right next to the poop piles. Why? we ask ourselves every time this happens. Why?)
  3. Reasonable. There is the risk of exposure during the day and the cover of darkness during the night. But doable.

What follows below is the train of thought going through my mind as I trekked off into the wilderness over Christmas break on our last camping trip, a wad of paper in one hand, a headlamp strapped around my forehead, stars and a full moon above, the sound of crashing waves behind. I had to walk far before finding a sufficiently large bush and also had to walk carefully, so as not to stumble across some other, unsuspecting, urinator. We try to look out for a time no one else has disappeared beyond the buildings and there weren’t that many of us, but you just never know.

In the building or beyond the building?

In the building or beyond the building?

Here goes…

Its dark.

Is that a snake? A poisonous one with dripping fangs that will bite into my ankle and I’ll scream and fall into that fresh pile of…? Oh, its just a rope.

Why is the moon so bright? It means I have to walk further. But if it were darker I would be scareder. Is scareder a word? But it is so light I can see all the things on the ground that I don’t want to see. But if it were darker I might not see them and might step in that fresh pile of…

I wonder if any camel caravans will come around the foothills of that mountain. Won’t we surprise each other? I sure hope no French soldiers are out for a jog at night.

Why does the wind die down just when I start to go so there is no distracting sound? It isn’t fair that men have such an easier time with Djibouti beach toilets.

What if a snake jumps up and bites me? Or even just a mosquito. Man, that would be gross.

Walking back to the beach and every bush looks like a nomad, crouched and laughing at the exposed woman talking to herself. Is that a lizard? A poisonous one?

Oh look, a shooting star.

Oh look, the kids are playing with fire.

I wonder if we’ll see whale sharks tomorrow. Or if someone will get stung by a jellyfish.

Wouldn’t this be a terrible, disgusting thing to write about on the blog?

Sure hope the kids sleep past 5 tomorrow morning.

Is that a snake? A poisonous one?

Boy, I love camping.

While I’d like to ask if you are an ocean or building or beyond the building kind of camper, that might be too personal for some. So instead, how about this: Where do your crazy thoughts take you while alone in wild, dark places?


  1. Nicki April 11, 2013 at 2:56 pm - Reply
    • Rachel Pieh Jones April 12, 2013 at 6:15 am - Reply

      Thanks Nicki!

  2. Anita April 12, 2013 at 3:30 am - Reply

    In Mongolia, the family that I camped with dug a hole and put up three stakes near it, in the shape of a right triangle. They tied a cloth on two sides, to form two short walls meeting at the right angle. This way you could use “the facilities” in broad daylight without the surprise of someone approaching from your back side, at least.

    Perhaps you should give it a try.

    • Rachel Pieh Jones April 12, 2013 at 6:16 am - Reply

      Good idea!

  3. James April 12, 2013 at 7:26 am - Reply

    In rural northern China, it’s usually a waist-height square of loose bricks or stones, and a concrete slab over a narrow trench.

    While squatting, you can see anyone approaching, and everyone can see the bathroom is occupied.

    Cloth walls would do the same job.

    • Rachel Pieh Jones April 12, 2013 at 3:11 pm - Reply

      I don’t know why we’ve never thought to put something up. Maybe it is because even in town people just squat on the road or beside a wall. So the idea never crossed our minds. But I think we will have to look into it! :O)

  4. richelle @ "our wright"-ing pad April 12, 2013 at 10:31 pm - Reply

    what has always amazed me is how we can be driving along through the bush and not a person in sight… stop to take a potty break (and since we’re traveling, don’t carry a tent with us although i have held sheets for my girls)… and within about 3 minutes we can have a crowd of 15 to 20… all standing to watch and see what the foreigners are doing.


    the other thing – it always amazes me how much light reflects off a white bum, even when there is “no” moon… 🙂

    • Rachel Pieh Jones April 13, 2013 at 3:56 am - Reply

      Hahaha! What a good laugh for this morning. Yes. and Yes.

  5. Dad April 14, 2013 at 6:49 pm - Reply

    When I have hiked alone for hundreds of miles through wilderness mountains,I sleep on a pad, no tent and simply enjoy the solitude and realize how little we really need to survive.

  6. steph April 15, 2013 at 5:28 am - Reply

    Find a Carrefour in Dubai, and buy a toilet/privacy tents. It is one of those spring-loaded things that pops up and twists down. We totally use that with beach camping (=

    • Rachel Pieh Jones April 15, 2013 at 6:54 am - Reply

      Maybe you could send us one? How about that – shipping toilet tents between the UAE and Djibouti?!

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