Toto to the res­cue

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

Lonely Planet has a new guide­book de­voted to toi­let spot­ting. Re­gard­less of the dou­ble-en­ten­dre na­ture of the ti­tle, it doesn’t sound like a savoury topic. I tell guests over Satur­day lunch about the pub­li­ca­tion and, rather than share my dis­ap­proval, off they go with tales of their der­ring-do across the pub­lic con­ve­niences of this world. Voices are raised, and so are the com­pet­i­tive stakes.

In fact there’s no stop­ping the, um, flow of con­ver­sa­tion. One friend has mem­o­ries of a makeshift lava­tory perched on the edge of a glacier with ex­hil­a­rat­ing views, as he says, to king­dom come. Oth­ers rem­i­nisce about long-drop loos at sa­fari camps with warthogs (in Africa) rootling around just be­yond the hes­sian walls and spi­ders (in Aus­tralia) the size of saucers perched above and sur­vey­ing pro­ceed­ings. I point out that long ago, as I was re­liev­ing my­self in the wildlife-filled Kenyan bushveld, be­hind our sa­fari ve­hi­cle, the driver took off. My fel­low trav­ellers (all male and fleet of foot) had for­got­ten I was not back on board and it was a good 10 min­utes, which felt like at least that many hours, be­fore my ab­sence was noted and the ve­hi­cle re­turned. By that time I was fig­ur­ing out how to climb a tree, and prefer­ably not one with a leop­ard al­ready aboard.

Then a trav­el­ling com­pan­ion and I re­call how we de­vel­oped al­ti­tude sick­ness and se­vere de­hy­dra­tion in China’s Yun­nan prov­ince be­cause we re­fused to drink dur­ing a long road trip lest we had to use the fa­cil­i­ties en­route, which we knew to be trenches, re­quir­ing a per­sonal sup­ply of toi­let pa­per (the ex­pe­di­tionary-sound­ing Golden Camel brand, as it tran­spired) and smelling salts.

We agree, as one, that there is noth­ing worse than open-plan bath­rooms in ho­tel gue­strooms. It is im­mod­est and dis­con­cert­ing. We con­cur, how­ever, that the Toto toi­let, with its warm seat and myr­iad cleans­ing func­tions, is our dear friend and the po­litest of com­pan­ions, too, as it lifts its lid in salute on ap­proach and does its own flush­ing.

But, back to the hor­ror sto­ries be­cause, as with all forms of travel sto­ry­telling, what we re­ally want to learn about are the shock-hor­ror mo­ments. Maybe when we hear of mis­ad­ven­tures, we feel less en­vi­ous, per­haps even smug, con­grat­u­lat­ing our­selves we’ve been safely tucked at home while friends were up the creek, as it were, with­out an en­suite in sight. It’s not all about loos, of course, but tem­per­a­men­tal weather and other va­garies of hol­i­days. Oh, it rained in Bali for two solid weeks? Well, we think with much mean­ness, you did book in the wet sea­son. Flight up­grades, fab­u­lous meals, ho­tels with run­ning but­lers, sight­ings of Leo DiCaprio in the lobby … Who cares? Tell us again, Su­san, about the time the Imod­ium ran out and you got caught short in that In­dian bazaar and asked a stall­holder to di­rect you to the ladies’ fa­cil­i­ties. De­scribe, please, the in­cred­u­lous look on your face as he pointed to a pile of rub­bish. “Here,” he said. “Any­where here, good madam. Please be most wel­come.”

Cue the sound of Su­san whim­per­ing. “So sorry, good madam. Please, who is Toto?”

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