‘More than a wee?’…outdoors

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Going for a wee outdoors has never seemed unusual to me – having spent much of my childhood on beaches and ‘up the woods’, and subsequently on DofE expeditions and hill and mountain trips with friends in the UK and beyond.  I count myself lucky to have had some incredible views whilst doing it – it’s the location that is memorable rather than the bodily function!

Here are three of my favourite ones…

Wee #1 – French Pyrenees, 1991. Day 2 of my Gold DofE Expedition. Very hot weather, and much water consumed to counteract this. My team consisted of 4 boys and myself, so this was very much a solo effort – but the view was stunning!

Wee score 8/10 – great panorama, but too hot and insecty for comfort.

Pyrenees view – not the actual view of Wee 1, but pretty similar. Credit: Google Streetview

Wee #2 – Volcan Maderas, Omotepe Island, Nicaragua, 2003. After a particularly muddy and foggy scramble through dank cloud forest, my expedition team arrived at the rim of the volcano crater. Everyone needed a wee, but there were steep drops, thick forest (too thick for getting into) and other people on the trail. Quickly forming a ‘backs in’ circle of 15 or so of us, we took turns crouching in the middle for a wee whilst everyone looking out sang songs loudly…

Wee score 5/10 – innovative, but mud/fog-wise we could have been on Dartmoor. And there were big bitey ants…

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Somewhere in there is a volcanic crater lake. Near enough to the ‘wee in a circle of friends’ spot Credit: Google Maps photos

Wee #3 – Cordillera Apolobamba, Bolivian Andes, 2006. 7 hours into a ‘5 hour drive’ that ended up being 12+ hours (Bolivian time – that’s another story!), we needed a wee. ‘We’ being about 10 girls from my school expedition team, and myself as the only female leader. All the lads and male leaders were back on the wobbly bus within seconds, but we took our time, and I’d like to think we had a more memorable experience as a result. We scrambled off the side of the road, and a short way down a rocky slope. Standing in a horizontal line, facing out a 270 degree Andean panorama, on the count of three it was a co-ordinated release, with laughter and chat to hide the noise of 11 teeny waterfalls!

Wee score 9.5/10 – for the view, the sun, the company and the situation. -0.5 for the chilly wind at 4300m altitude! 

Bolivian Andes view – not the actual spot, but it is my photo! Worth taking time over…

Of course, there’s the slightly larger (sorry) topic of ‘more than a wee’ as my title suggests…

Wee+ #4 – Cordillera Apolobamba, Bolivian Andes 2006. I only have one picture and memory to share in this regard, and that is from the same trip as Wee 3. This picture has been used many times, for obvious reasons – the 4500m early morning view, the cloud inversion, the spontaneous hands up post from the three expedition team members on the shadowed skyline.  But the real reason for the cheery pose is the successful and first time ‘outdoor No.2’ for the person in the centre. I cannot recall why the friends were quite so close by, but clearly we had trained them to support their peers through any new experiences!

Wee+ score 10/10 – for the cloud inversion alone!

Bolivian expedition – morning ablutions…

The phrase ‘more than a wee‘ appears in a information booklet that I have just finished writing – this section explaining the arrangements for toilets and sanitation on DofE expeditions that we run at school.  As part of our training for DofE expeditions we teach how to ‘wild wee’ and more – this training is vital before teams wild camp, but pretty essential even if they are not – when you’ve got to go you’ve got to go! Increasing numbers of the young people I take on expedition seem to have little or no outdoor experience of this most basic human function, and need encouraging to even give it a go rather than hanging on or not drinking enough on purpose.  

Essentials

Poo kit – Loo roll (portioned up if you’re very organised), baby wipes, hand sanitiser, trowel, nappy bags to wrap it all up. If you’re feeling flush (!) I’d recommend a system of double drybagging – and keep some air in there to avoid squashing the contents! There is lots of advice online about making your own poo-tube for packing it all out, or digging catholes for organic material. Think carefully about how you will dispose of human waste on return to civilisation…

Period Kit – see Two Blondes Walking‘s excellent advice on this…

I am looking forward to joining Lifetrek Adventures in North Wales at Easter, for a 36 hour immersion into ‘Leave No Trace’ principles. I am sure that ‘more than a wee’ will be part of that weekend, but there is so much more to consider alongside just where and how to go to the loo in the wild…

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Amazing Day Project

In November 2016 the band Coldplay asked fans to film 20 seconds of their day. The best clips picked up from the hashtag  #Coldplayamazingday on social media were to be compiled into a film, with the soundtrack of their song Amazing Day.

You can read the full details of the project here, and watch the resulting film on their Facebook page here.

As much as the word ‘amazing’ may be overused, the film is a fine antidote to our daily world news – the people on the clips are doing fun, smiley things, things that we’d all like to believe could be our own daily events. Behind the stagefront of a Facebook feed, an Instagram or Twitter profile it is easy to be convinced that this is the case for other people – when of course most of us are living completely normal lives where the average day involves nothing amazing (unless you get in the sea, which is nearly always awesome, never mind amazing!).

Watching the film a second time I realised how few indoor scenes there were. Nearly every clip or shot was outside – beaches, clifftop views, cityscapes, mountains, aerial views, waterfalls, forests, playgrounds, rivers, sports fields, geysers and waves -they’re all there and more. Given the chance, people choose these settings as their own ‘amazing’ places. 

And yes, they’re the staged (or unstaged!), submitted choices from an audience of thousands, whittled down to the ones that fill 3 minutes. But that such a large proportion of the scenes are outdoors is surely indicative of our underlying need for contact with the real world, real air, real land and sea-scapes?
2017 is a year for increasing the proportion of my life I spend outside. If that can be a resolution then I may have made one…