At Axladitsa-Avatakia this year, I am staying in the bridal suite. A veritable hobbit palace where, although you have to stoop to enter, once inside even Gandalf couldn’t bump his head. Variously dubbed the Barn, the Circus Tent and the Big Top, it is grandly off by itself, a ways up the driveway, with its own verdant shady awning (complete with a tribe of screech owls) and access way.
And the toilet is ‘en-suite’. The perfect distance up the road – just enough to provide a gentle wake-up constitutional walk in the morning and not too far to demotivate in the midday sun (although somewhat more daunting after dark…) – tucked away discretely behind a reed screen, along a path strewn with generously-leaved mullein plants (that make perfect soft organic toilet paper) and rich floral displays, is a good, old-time thunder bucket.
The only thing that gives away its presence is the screen. There is no accompanying odour, no noxious buzzing swarm of flies. Approaching the entrance, all you see is a humble wooden box on a larger wooden base, topped with a toilet seat. A blue plastic bag is neatly tied to the wall for toilet paper, on your right is a covered box protecting the toilet paper from the rain – with a little access slit in the lid, that nevertheless lets enough rain in to provide you with fragile but soothing wet wipes for the next few days after rainfall…
The potential of the most simple ecoloo becomes clear when you read Meg Wheatley’s and Deborah Frieze’s wonderful new book Walk Out Walk On, which refers to the arborloos of Kufunda Village in Zimbabwe. “Inside, a gentle breeze wafts through the side walls, supplementing the built-in ventilation. The little room is spotless, cool and odorless. A roll of toilet paper hangs neatly on a nail; a watering can and soap are affixed just outside to a tree. But the accoutrements are not what make this toilet design unique, Ticha explains. He leads you several feet away to a small mulberry tree. “Here is where the last toilet stood,” he says. “Once the pit is full, we plant a young tree in the soil and move the entire toilet structure to a new location.” Look around and you’ll observe several fruit trees in the otherwise nutrient-poor and drought-plagued soil. “We call this toilet an ‘arborloo’ because it allows us to plant many trees – lemon, orange, mulberry, guava.”
Personally, I find relieving myself outdoors a sublime experience. Feeling the warm air on my skin, breathing in the aromas of nature, looking out onto healing green vistas, listening to the buzz of the insects just piles happiness on top of happiness for me, as I give my most useful gift to nature, enriching the soil. What madness we commit in the ‘civilised’ world, to shit in our drinking water and flush this beautiful nutrient away as waste!!