Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Day 5: Toilet Adventures!

August 30: I woke up to a beautiful morning, not particularly excited to get moving with the amazing views spread out around me. For a second morning in a row, the condensation was quite heavy so I lingered until about 9:00 letting the sun dry out my gear.

The trail was gorgeous all day long--but what else is new? Is there no end to the stunning scenery?!

'Twas a beautiful sunrise from camp! A few low-laying clouds, but still stunning!

The ultra runners were long gone, but I did catch a couple of clean-up crews coming through. One crew picked up trash--which I was glad to see happen. They didn't leave a lot of trash on the ground, but there were definitely fresh wrappers from whatever those runners were eating thrown carelessly to the ground. Another couple of people followed the route picking up route markers.

Today was Sunday and the trail was still crowded with a lot of day-hikers--particularly near the trailheads--and I hoped by tomorrow the trail would become a lot less crowded and busy. Today was a huge improvement without the thousands of runners going through, but there were still a lot more people than I would have preferred.

As for toilets! I'm going to share information about two (TWO!) different toilets I crossed paths with today.

Toilet #1 was located near the Chalet Val Ferret, a placed packed with day hikers and loiters who'd driven up and parked nearby. A line of several portable toilets was at one end of the parking lot, which I assumed were brought in specifically to handle the ultra running crowds but had yet to be removed since the end of the event. They were bright orange and readily available so hey, I'll use them. Why not?!

First thing I did was check the toilet--maybe there was a good reason not to use them. But they were fine. No nasty messes or surprises in sight. Second thing I checked was the toilet paper situation. You don't want to find out about a shortage after you've already done your business.

And there was no toilet paper in any of them. No big deal. I can handle that. I pulled out my own from my pack. Then I really got down to business--a matter in which you'll likely prefer if I did not share in any great detail--so I won't. I'll just say that it went well with no unexpected problems. =)

None of this is particularly interesting, though, and wouldn't even merit a mention. It's what happened after all this that I found interesting. Normally the porta-potties are just giant holes where the poop slashes into a tub of liquid or plops into a pile, but in this case, the porta-potty was designed to separate liquid waste from solid waste. An aluminum sheet, slightly slanted, ran under the hole and the liquid waste would run downhill to wherever liquid waste goes. The solid waste plops onto the top of the metal sheet and just sits there.... until you finish your business.

At which point there's a foot-lever you step on a few times which causes the metal sheet to roll uphill in the opposite direction of the liquid waste. A few good pumps and the solid waste falls off to wherever the solid waste goes. With each pump of the foot, a squirt of liquid something--probably a sanitizer and/or air freshener--squirts out onto the aluminum sheet helping to keep it clean and fresh-looking for the next person to use the toilet.

I'd never seen such a complex porta-potty before, and found a certain satisfaction in pumping my poop away. Even after it fell off the edge, I gave it a couple of more pumps just for fun. =) Alas, I took no photos of this remarkable toilet. I hadn't thought of doing so at the time. Sorry!

Business attended to, I continued along the trail, soon climbing up to the Refugio Elena. There, I refilled my water bottles in the rest rooms (that's where the bartender sent me when I asked if he'd fill up my water bottle), which is where I stumbled onto my second interesting toilet of the day. I didn't have to make use of this one, but I certainly noticed it!

It was a hole in the ground. That's it: a hole in the ground. I'd seen these before, although never had a reason to actually use one and having just completed that business only an hour or two earlier felt no urge to use it now. Many of you world-travelers have probably seen them before. In some parts of the world, they're quite common. I can't say that these kind of toilets are common in Europe, but they do happen--unlike in the United States where I've never seen one anywhere. I did think to get a photo of this one, and some people who've seen it who aren't familiar with these styles of toilets guess that it's a shower. "Nope," I tell them, "that's the toilet! Squat and do your thing!" =)

So those are my toilet stories for the day.

That ain't no shower--it's a toilet! =)

From the refuge, the trail continued climbing higher to the Grand Col Ferret which marks the Italian-Swiss border. I didn't plan on making it over today, though. My goal for the day was the refugio with the squat toilet, then I'd continue hiking until I reached the first good place to stop and camp. I followed the trail for maybe 45 minutes before reaching a small spring and a flat area where I decided to call it quits for the day. A beautiful location with another fantastic view of the valley below and snow and glacier-covered mountains on the other side.

There was no shade here, and the sun beat down strongly. Just sitting in the sun, I grew increasingly hot and irritated by the heat, eventually pulling out my umbrella to use as shade and taking a nap until the sun got lower in the sky and wasn't quite so warm.

The sunset was wonderful. A few other hikers walked passed, some commenting on what a great location I found to set up camp. I said that they were welcome to join me--I wouldn't got the area all to myself--but they had other plans and continued onward. Once again, I camped alone in the mountains, and I loved every minute of it.

One of these "sheep" is not like the others....
This toad was nearly as large as my fist!

Refugio Bonatti

Vallon de Malatra
Some old ruins along the trail.

Because there weren't enough real cows on the trail, they installed this fake one at the refugio. Wait a minute.... let's zoom into that back leg!

They must do this to make sure the cow doesn't run away!

Refugio Elena

Beating the heat with a... wait for it... SUNbrella! =)

My last sunset in Italy.

View from my campsite during the sunset.


Anonymous said...

Ah, the Turkish toilet! I witnessed an unfortunate bride in Kiev discover one in a rather fancy reception hall.

Anonymous said...

Those 'squatting' toilets are common in northern Italy. We came across some at a highway AutoGrill a few years ago. Then in the store you can buy wine, cheese, cappacino, and other sundries.

Di and her guy