You all must be thinking, what is this guy writing? But frankly after going through some very challenging experiences, I thought I should write about it.
This is not to make fun of it or give it undue importance but just wanted to express myself about a small thing but in certain situations it occupies all your logical thinking.
Take a example of my work in Arunachal Pradesh, I was in a village called Sango in central Arunachal Pradesh, while working on Protobothrops kaulbakki, a Pit viper, which was the first record from India, along with Ashok Captain and Bharat Bhat. Every day, going out in the morning to fulfill your natural needs means preparing for a battle. Not with your internal muscles but with a group of village pigs.
I don’t know how they used to understand the objective of my going out, may be relate it to water bottle in my hand or some other trigger points, but they would always be ready to follow me when I come out to relieve myself of previous days eating. So the situation used to be this, you are sitting with a stick in hand and all these pigs standing in a circle around you waiting for you to do your thing. Your whole attention will be on hitting and shooing them away so that you can do your intended business, and it used to be race against your business delivery expertise and their demand process expertise. I have mastered the technique after some days to beat these pigs. I called it a cross-butterfly technique, only instead of taking from every flower like them, you should distribute your load across various points, so that you are always ahead of the pigs. Otherwise you will have tough time, I remember one particular incidence when I jumped multiple feet in air after getting moist sensation on my butt. I can tell you there is nothing more disgusting than that Pig-nasal touch.
The second problem of the whole Arunachal equation is a black fly locally called “ Damdum”. They’re always active after sunrise and get immensely attracted to those parts of the skin which are generally covered and which gets exposed in such situations. Their bite gives immense itching and bleeding sores. Most of my insect repellent were used as a butt-cream before venturing out every morning. There is good idea to inventors if they want to invent insect net for butt like they have for head, the only problem will be designing the opening in that net. I haven’t been able to find a way yet.
I can not tell you which was a bigger problem, Pig Or Damdum, but sorting both things out used to take all my early morning thinking and after some days even before eating my lunch and dinner, I started thinking about fasting as a right solution to avoid these challenges.
Now you will say, what can be more challenging than these situations, wait, just let me start on my tales of Ladakh winter expeditions. I love to photograph Changthang planes at 15,000 feet in peak winter when temperatures are in range of minus 20 to 30. And frankly I started loving those Arunachal pigs, at least you know the external factor with whom you need to fight. In Ladakh winter, relieving yourself in open with those below zero temperatures is like going blind to shoot a target.
Really, once you loose sensation of your butt after freezing, there is nothing you can do and then you understand, how important small small sensations are, which tell you the details of functional responses. So in these freezing situations, you can only time your functions and think that you have completed them. And the funny situation is this can be my slowest de-panting and fastest re-panting activity till date.
In trekking language in Himalayas, we say “I am going to search for a friendly rock” or in our own Sahyadris, “Looking for suitable tree” OR “I’ll just throw my ‘dabba’ and come” are some of the dialogues which are used to show the nature of your outing. But I don’t remember thinking of these sentences in Arunachal or Ladakh winter. It used to be, “Lets get over with it”, it was purely survival situations.
The other challenge in Ladakh winter is to use “sand paper” yes, your toilet paper becomes so hard due to freezing temperature that it feels like you are scrapping with sand paper. The only thing you understand then is those drops of blood on the paper and then you have a problem of sitting on any surface, in the tent, in the car, etc. as it will remind you of the needle bed of Shri. Bhishmacharya (in the epic – Mahabharata).
So what I am saying here is, there is fun most of the times as flowing cool breeze cools your less exposed parts but in some situations its more of a challenge and takes maximum of your thinking and coping up part. I remember seeing my first wild spotted deer during my school camp in SGNP while doing a nature call with all school mates near bamboo hut. Many times I have missed carrying my camera on these ritual walks as I have witnessed some amazing dramas, like fighting of giant squirrels in Dandeli or disturbing a paradise fly catcher which came and perched 4 feet away from where I was sitting or shitting. Generally when you are out to do this business you don’t make much noise, which gives you chance to see some unique incidences in wild. I always decide to carry my camera with me but most of the time due to other challenges have to keep it away.
On a serious note, here are a few pointers for all outdoor travelers:
- Please follow “Cat holes techniques” i.e. to dig shallow pit of 6-8 inches, do your business and then cover it with soil.
- Try to use non-perfumed toilet papers and that too needs to be buried below the soil.
- If you are comfortable then you can also use locally available leaves, soil or water in place of toilet papers.
- The place selected as dump site should be at list 200 feet away from nearest water source and camp site. If you are in same place for more days, try to scatter these locations so that it doesn’t start stinking. Human excreta is highly compostable, so you don’t need to worry about environment impact but the usage of toilet papers and throwing them around needs to be controlled in order to avoid contamination of water source.
Some of the solutions given here are based on personal experiences, and you should find your own solutions in such situations. Most of the time, try to follow local practices as they are more suitable in their respective environments. Like “Dry toilets” in Ladakh, etc.