Since finishing high school some 13 years ago, I have spent just under half of that time traveling. In the beginning, being somewhat younger and more naive, I did not truly understand how lucky I was to have the opportunity to see different parts of the world, experience new cultures and eat new and delicious food! Now that I am at the ripe old age of 31, I feel that I am somewhat more mature (and a hell of a lot wiser) and now have a clearer understanding of how fortunate I was and still am.
Traveling in my family was never a choice. It runs through our veins and is imprinted into our genes. From as early as I can remember, my parents encouraged my sister and I to travel the world and immerse ourselves in different cultures. We were encouraged to experience how other people lived, how they ate and how they interacted with one another in the hope that we would adopt little bits here and there so that we could become well-rounded human beings. With this point in mind, I think it is safe to say that we both turned out to be people who are not afraid to look at life from a new or different angle.
For years, my wife has been at me to write down all of the funny, bizarre and unbelievable stories I have collected on my travels. My response is usually, “Who wants to hear about my allergic reaction to a $200 glass of vintage red wine in Copenhagen, or about the time an Indonesian Policeman knocked me off my motorbike with a bamboo cane (specifically designed for that purpose)?” I am still not convinced that people want to read my stories, but at the very least I will have them documented for a time in the future when I can not remember them so clearly.
Over the next couple of posts, my aim is to bring you a short travel story that is a bit left of centre. I have to remember that my dear grandmother subscribes to my blog, so I will try to leave out anything too inappropriate (apologies in advance Nan if you read something that shocks you!).
Since the beginning of man-kind, there has been one form of humour that never fails to draw a laugh. My first travel story is focused on toilet humour, literally. At the risk of humiliating the person involved, I will not reveal his name…let’s just call him “Dad”.
The lead up to this story is a story within itself, however I will cut to the chase and focus on the day that this messy incident occurred. Let me paint the scene. “Dad” and I find ourselves in the middle of the Indian Ocean with 10 other men, cruising somewhere between Lombok and the island of Sumbawa. The weather is hot, the humidity is through the roof and the onboard chef had served the population of the boat a dodgy version of Spaghetti Bolognese the night prior. After a morning of surfing and snorkelling off the back of the boat, we find ourselves crowded under the limited shade of a small plastic awning in an attempt to escape the scolding sun.
As I flicked through a magazine, sweat running at a steady pace down my forehead and into my eyes, Dad sat next to me looking oddly concerned. The rumbling noises escaping from his abdominal region had previously given me the indication that he was not feeling great after last night’s meal. After asking how he was feeling, he turned his ever-whitening face towards me and declared that he was “not feeling the best” (he rarely gives away much whenever he is asked how is feeling). Over the next five minutes, the gurgling of his stomach became more pronounced and the groaning grew in both intensity and interval. In one motion, Dad leapt from where he sat and declared that he was not only feeling unwell but also had the sudden inclination to use the sole on-board toilet.
Before I continue, I feel I need to explain the plumbing arrangement on the boat for this story to make sense to you. For those of you who have visited Asia before, you will know that the bathroom facilities are rarely hygienic or in good working order. Being on a simple boat, this toilet consisted of a European style bowl and a narrow pipe that bent at 90 degrees to empty out the side of the boat into the water. As you sat, you would regularly see the water level in the bowl change drastically as the swell hit the side of the boat. With your number twos on full display to the other guests, a week on this boat was not for the shy or feint-hearted.
As we all sat there laughing at Dad’s misfortune, I was relieved that he had made it to the toilet in time and not caused the evacuation of the only shaded area on the boat. After a minute or two, one of the boys on the boat commented on one of the larger lines of swell that was approaching the boat. When it was only a few metres from the side, it registered that it was about to collide with the side of the boat where the toilet was situated. Before I could get my words of warning out of my mouth, the wave hit and the blood-curdling man-scream that erupted from the small bathroom sang out across the Indian Ocean.
The door flew open and there, stood before me, and the other 10 men onboard, was Dad, covered from head to toe in his own filth. The force of the wave had given this simple toilet a pressurised reverse flushing system! As we stared in disbelief, struggling to breathe between the laughing and the stench in the air, Dad took his only option and dived overboard. The state of the bathroom resembled some of the worst I’ve seen, and I was immediately taken back to a horrific day in Jaipur, India (but that is a story for another time).
Later that night, once the bathroom had been cleaned, and Dad had given himself and his hair a thorough scrub, we all sat around on the deck of the boat reflecting on the funnier side of the day’s events. The appropriate nickname of “Pooie Louie” was suggested and met with another round of raucous laughter.
For me, this story comes to mind whenever I go back to Indonesia or when someone else brings it up in conversation. All those years of him beating me at sports and the odd times I was grounded as a youngster were forgotten that day when I saw “Pooie Louie” standing before me, covered in shit.
Life on the high seas: Little boat, a lot of people (this shot was taken on the same boat, different trip).
Life’s better on Island Time.
It’s close quarters onboard the Desertstorm.
Life is Good: Open space, no crowds.