Three and a half days, three nights in stony country of kakadu escarpment above Gunlom!
Those who have a weak stomach please skip this post!
Every journey caries with it a set of unique experiences and learning opportunities.
What did I learn?
This trip was an exercise in Hygiene management.
Some time on Wednesday last week I consumed something that completely destroyed my gut biology. I don't know if it was the home cooked Indonesian food that had gone cold or the fermented health drink from the supermarket but by Thursday night my stomach was screaming at me.
Discomfort in the stomach soon passed into the bowel and on Friday morning when I should have been ready to rock and roll, I was experiencing cramps and a nasty rumbling down below.
My ride arrived at 6:30 am, we met up with the other hikers and were soon on our way down the Stuart Highway, I hadn't been to the toilet yet but I was already becoming fearful that there was more pressure at the base of my posterior than would be attributed to just gas.
By the time we arrived at Gunlom I had to bolt to the camp ground toilets! BoooM! My but exploded! Liquid explosion! NOT a good way to begin a three day hike!
The track was closed for an hour after we arrived due to trail maintenance, helicopters were delivering materials for a new staircase to the top of the falls! In one hour I had to visit the toilet three times!
I think that is enough graphic detail for this journal entry.
Before I go on with my hygiene report I should first comment on the quality of the walk. Excellent! The leader was competent and patient, group size was perfect (only six hikers in total), country was spectacular and a little challenging.
I had no map or compass so was completely dependant on the other walkers, that's OK though, it took all my concentration to keep my but cheeks together and avoid a nasty accident!
My new Scarpa Boots were absolutely brilliant! They literally carried me over the roughest ground I've walked to date. The benefit of good quality ankle high boots with deep tread is that you don't have to use so much muscle power or skill to hold your position on rough ground. These boots did all the work, my feet were a bit uncomfortable at the beginning but by the third day felt I had completely broken them in.
Back to hygiene management. When hiking and toileting in the bush personal hygiene is always a high priority. The relationship between the organism (human hiker) and the environment should be one of respect. Water is not the conduit for disposal of waste! Fresh water is a precious resource that cannot be abused. First rule of hiking is don't contaminate your water source.
Organising toileting should be a well considered procedure. Waste disposal must always be managed with the environment in mind. It is a matter of personal security. So most of the time while clenching my but cheeks and battling the urge to release gas/water/slime composite into the environment I was constantly surveying the landscape for a suitable place to 'dump it'.
Releasing effluent is only one part of the process. There's more to it. See list below.
Got the Shits cycle
After last expulsion:
- Use mind control over bowel to not allow unscheduled explosion.
- Reduce food intake to prevent buildup of fuel to be expelled
- Search constantly for appropriate place to squat (Nowhere near water source is acceptable!)
- Be extremely conservative with use of Bog Roll (I usually only bring about 50 sheets worth, nowhere near enough for this kind of situation)
- Avoid soiling pants at all costs!
The first two days were hell! I had lost my appetite, had constant cramping in the bowel and bloating! I had to carry the full weight of my pack on my shoulders and couldn't urinate without risking similar substance erupting from my arse!
By day three the cramps had left but motions were no firmer. On the last leg of the final day I seemed to have achieved a far higher degree of bowel control but the nature of my stools had not improved. During the walk I was very grateful that others donated toilet paper and hand sanitizer. If it wasn't for these welcome gifts I would have had far worse time.
In the hygiene stakes I think I succeeded (with help from my co-walkers).
I managed to:
- Complete the whole hike without soiling my pants.
- Achieve a sterile field between myself and fellow hikers (I don't think anyone else has been sick)
- Prevent contamination of shared water sources
- Bury waste sufficiently enough that it wont be disturbed by animals
- Achieve hygenic standards with minimal use of paper and other sanitary products
Big thanks to my fellow hikers, thanks also to Bining/Arrakpi rangers who manage the park, Scarpa for great boots and God for the wonder of creation.