The software loaded into our GPS units – “Maps 4 Africa” – warned us, the Ghion hotel on the Ethiopian side of border town Moyale has the most stinking toilet in the whole of Africa. Having been subjected to quite a range of bogs in India, China and Central Asia that we thought could claim the honours for their respective continents, the Ghion was too hard to resist.
So we checked in and it was confirmed there was one toilet for the 40 guests and staff to share. Nobody was brave enough to try it that evening so the test would have to wait for the ritualistic dawn breakers.
I arose, girded my loins and made a beeline for the celebrated latrine – only to find Tony outside the door, leaning against the wall, assuming the posture one does when dry reaching. Then he was bent double trying to contain his stomach contractions, emitting peculiar choking sounds.
With that introduction, I was fully into inhaling and exhaling solely through my mouth as I entered the cubicle – techniques I had recently perfected in my scuba diving course in Zanzibar. Visually the bog was typical 3rd world – a hole in a concrete floor, starting blocks on which you squatted, a bucket of filthy water into which you dipped your left hand to clean yourself after the business was done, and the requisite number of swarming flies, mozzies and assorted nasties to ensure you didn’t linger. No sign of any 4-ply of course but a bucket to throw your own used material in after completion, if the water bucket was too foreign an experience for you to partake.
Finally opening the valves in my nasal passages some 20 metres down the path from the site, what was my assessment of the stinkiest toilet in Africa? There’s a public one in Kyrgyzstan that leaves it for dead – same general design except it’s a multi-squat. On our Silkroad trip we were forced to access its fine hospitality, squatting cheek by bowel with a dozen other punters while the goats outside rummaged through our contributions. Moyale you don’t know how lucky you are.