Flushed with embarrassment

I feel I need to apologise to people who were (admittedly until now) unaware of my scorn.

I need to apologise to North American users of portaloos. Porta pottys. Shitboxes. Cabinets of doom. Portable toilets. Plastic shitters.

You see, I would read on Reddit and Facebook and other forms of expression the abject horror people would feel when they were faced with using a portaloo. I thought: “Yeah, they can get a bit stinky, particularly at race startlines with all the nervous shitters, but jesus! It’s just for a few minutes!”

I just didn’t understand the general revulsion until the other week when we were cycling round Stanley Park in Vancouver and stopped at a small park playspace. The park authorities were renovating the public washrooms there, and had put in a bank of hired portaloos. Until then, I didn’t know that North American portaloos aren’t like Australian portaloos. They aren’t the same design.

My Australian friends, North American portaloos DON’T HAVE A BOWL.

Seriously. It’s just a wide mouthed toilet seat and lid, atop a large plastic box with a big hole, filled with blue liquid. (And floating used toilet paper, bobbing like jellyfish). At least with the classic Australian long drop bush toilets there’s a good metre or so between your arse and the pile of poo, but here, there’s not even that. Maybe 15 centimetres, max, between you and a small lake of blue liquid.

That this was not a one off was semi-confirmed last week when we were in Seattle (maybe it’s a Pacific Northwest thing, but still, two different countries). We were heading into an exhibit, and they had a bank of portaloos set up outside. I needed to go, and was a bit curious as to whether my horrific discovery was an aberration, but no – a big old hole again.

The portaloos back home have a seat, a bowl and a flap at the bottom of the bowl connected to a foot operated pump that allows you to blue water flush your waste away into the plastic box, leaving the bowl, if not semi-pristine, at least not completely loaded up with the aftermath of the human digestive system. There is also a small sink with running water (attached to a smaller, foot operated pump) and usually some spray soap in a dispenser so you can wash your hands.

It wasn’t until this trip that I realised that Australian portaloos are relatively civilised.

Australian portaloos give you the ability to pretend that if you were to accidentally drop something into the bowl – a mobile phone, or an energy gel packet – that it would be salvageable. I mean we all know that if anyone actually dropped their iPhone X into a portaloo toilet bowl that they’d immediately be calculating how they feel about disposing of A$1000, but you still get that choice! In North America you don’t get that choice: one poorly angled pocket emptying moment and it’s goodbye device.

So please consider this an apology to my North American brethren; your revulsion is completely understandable.

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Things you don’t realise people need

There’s a bandage commercially available that is really good to carry in a trail first aid kit as your snake bite bandage. It’s called Setopress, and is 10cm wide and 3.5 metres long. It stretches and through that applies compression to the wound or snake bite. I’m not going to give you the current advice on how to treat snake bites, because as time passes the advice changes, and I’m not going to update this post each year. But you can probably guarantee that there will be some sort of compression required.

What makes Setopress particularly good is that if you sprain an ankle or something similar, you’ll want to use compression on the injury site to provide support to the limb.

Setopress bandage with rectangles printed on the bandage to easily work out how much stretching is required to have the bandage applied correctly.

Setopress bandage

You would be concerned about how much pressure you’re applying, and whether you’re completely stopping blood flow to the extremities, and Setopress factor that in with little rectangles printed on the bandage, which, when stretched properly, become squares. Use the green squares if you want to apply 30mmHg of pressure, and the brown squares if you want to apply 40mmHg of pressure. Every other collection of trail runners would buy Setopress just as a cleverly designed compression bandage, but Australians first think of it as a snake bite bandage.

We’re on holiday in Vancouver, and on Sunday we went for a walk down East Broadway from Main Street, where there are loads of outdoor apparel shops. We went into one, and realised it was more of a hiking and mountaineering shop, rather than trail running, but there’s some crossover and we wanted a sticky beak.

That’s where I discovered clotting sponges.

Yesterday, we hiked up the Grouse Grind – I can’t claim I ran it, because 2.55km at 33% took me 1h40m. I hiked.

I spent most of that time almost bent double hoisting my sorry body up this bloody mountainside, occasionally grappling with my hands (hooray for running gloves) at sharp edged granite rocks that served as steps. Occasionally I’d stop and rest, and look around at this gorgeous forest surrounds, breathing hard and leaning on – sometimes clinging to – a tree. It was beautiful, but it was really bloody hard, and I have no great desire to repeat the exercise (there’s a good reason there’s a $15, seven minute gondola ride up Grouse Mountain).

The Grouse Grind was also educational, because I swear to god I nearly fell down the mountain three times, and after the first time I suddenly understood why Vancouver outdoorsy people pack clotting sponges.