Written Thursday 26 May
Over a flat expanse, pebbled with dirt and the occasional brush stroke of struggling green lies a small hut. Beyond it, the Gobi Desert starts to give way to the fertility of the steppes. At first glance it could have been a small stable. It was not attractive; a black scratched exterior lies below bare wooden columns supporting an uneven black tiled roof. As I walk closer the streaking sun illuminated the unlit building between the gaping panels. Untreated wooden supports separate ten stable like slots - five on either side - as exposed nails staple the structure together.
As the wind subsides it becomes obvious what this structure is. It is a Mongolian lavatory - not one of the typical tourist attractions of Mongolia. The wretched odious smells fill my nostrils as I try not to breathe too deeply. With difficulty, I choose my slot. Two flimsy wooden beams separate a foot wide hole into a ten foot deep pit. Hovering my foot over the hole it becomes apparent that a wrong slip could see me wriggling 10 foot below amongst a collection of unpalatable debris. I imagined falling down, unable to escape the steep rocky walls cut by heavy machinery with only a spectrum of different coloured loo roll, plastic bags and a variety of different bottles for company as I try to scramble out. My screams would be unheard as bare buttocks blocked my sinking despair. I tighten my grasp on the loo roll as if it had become a stress ball. Instead I try to focus on the cloudless surroundings as I faced outwards. Another strong gust of wind helped to disperse the convulsive aromas as I thought about my plan of action for the most dangerous lavatory I have yet encountered. Taking out my phone I thought about it plunging down and landing with a squelch, half buried, only moving as it wiggled helplessly to the buzz of my morning alarm until the battery died or it was recovered by a sophisticated rescue operation.
As I tried to dispose of the spoiled goods the convection currents caused the loo roll to flutter upwards, unfurling outwards in a long strip as it wafted around me like a circling kite. In desperation, my fingers delicately plucked it, rewrapping, and this time I thrusted it downwards. Watching its progress, I was satisfied that it was all clear. After repeating this process I carefully straightened up, trying not to fall down in the same way you may fall down when bouncing onto your buttock when on a trampoline.
Relieved, I walked out with the fresh air cooling my humid brow. Just before my tent, I turned away from the sight of a local alleviating himself against the wall of a house. Disdain was my first reaction, as the shack stood, unforgettably, behind me. But then again if you cared for your safety what would you do?