Travel: Holiday disasters
When you've backpacked and biked your way around the world, you would think that nothing could surprise you. Yet, when Sarah Graves remembers her visit to an Egyptian washroom, it still sends a shudder through her
Sunday 25 April 1999
We pulled up at a truck stop. I asked if there was a toilet and was told there was a special washroom - just for ladies. I was a little surprised but quite hopeful that it might not be as wretched as many of the desert stops we had encountered on our journey. I was pointed in the direction of a tumbledown hut about 50 metres behind the cafe. I had nearly reached the door when one of the staff from the cafe came running towards me clutching a light bulb. I was beginning to have my doubts and one step into the hut confirmed my worst suspicions.
It was indeed a special washroom - so special, in fact, that it was the worst I had ever, ever, ever been in, and after years of backpacking and global motorcycle travel I have been in a fair few! Pitch black, ankle- deep in every kind of muck and swimming in every kind of human liquid.
I about-turned immediately - to get some fresh air and to find some quiet spot to relieve my bladder in the open countryside. No such luck. Four coaches and about a dozen trucks had descended on the cafe - the place was swarming with people, with most of the men relieving themselves behind and in front of the "ladies washroom". Dungarees, leather jeans, one-piece waterproofs - my standard biking gear - is not conducive to having a quick pee. It takes time to take it all down and pull it all back up again. So if I decided to just go outside I would be easily noticed - and fair hair doesn't help either. Back to the washroom-from-hell, then.
I went to the doorless cubicle nearest the hut entrance - fresher air I thought - and started about my business. Within two minutes I had had two visitors.
The first, the light-bulb-bringer, thought I had got lost and was checking to see I was all right. In my best Egyptian Arabic and a bit of sign language I assured him I was fine. Little did he know. The second was rather more alarming. As I was about to crouch over the hole in the floor, I noticed the beady eyes of a large rat sitting just there. I was so revolted I froze - in fact it gives me the shivers just thinking about it now. He stared at me for a few moments - it felt like an age - before popping down the hole.
I gritted my teeth and got on with the job in hand, convinced that he was going to leap up and bite me on the backside. I didn't like the look in his eye.
I could hear scuffling around me - either the rat was back, or some of his friends had come to check me out. I clambered frantically back into my biking gear.
I decided that, next time, I would opt for truck drivers watching me pee rather than rodents, and I was just thankful I hadn't put the light bulb in.
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
- 1 Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
- 3 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 4 Game of Thrones season 5 trailer: The first full-length look is here
BA vs Virgin Atlantic: Who has the best premium economy?
Warnings stepped up for travellers to Israel and Thailand
The 10 Best hiking boots
Gatwick’s biggest airline, easyJet, calls for new runway at Heathrow
Peru's 'second Machu Picchu', Italy by train, and the original Hogwarts Express - Travel agenda
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
King Abdullah dead: We can't afford not to hold Saudi Arabia's royals to account
£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...
£21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...
£26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Email Marketing Specialist is needed to join...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...