Any loyal follower will remember that this blog started with a slightly too graphic poo story. I think it’s time to reignite some of the original values of Indie Road.
I’m currently in Ecuador and have recently been exploring around the Andes mountains. I spent a few days in an award winning eco-lodge called The Black Sheep Inn, located in the remote town of Chugchilán. The owners of the lodge have done amazing things to resourcefully make an ecological establishment feel very comfortable – from hot rainwater showers, delicious vegetarian cuisine, recycled building materials and yes, the composting toilet.
The first time I had to relieve my bladder, all the horror stories started coming back to me; stumbling through gravel car parks barefoot in the middle of the night, clutching a roll of toilet paper and a torch in a desperate frenzy to find a decaying shed atop a black hole of human faeces. I could feel the heat of the composting mass beneath me on my bare cheeks, but otherwise the whole experience was not unpleasant in the slightest. I noticed next to the toilet were the following instructions on how to correctly poop and the proper way to use this unique bathroom.
One of the beautiful things about The Black Sheep Inn is that they feed you three times a day (+ unlimited coffee and cake!!) which is inclusive with the price of your bed. They will even make you a packed lunch if you tell them the night before that you are going hiking for the day. The food is all vegetarian, but carefully considered (and super delicious) to ensure you receive all of the proper vitamins and a balanced diet, so for anybody staying for a couple of nights or longer, they can pretty much guarantee that any addition to the compost heap should be of healthy standards. The moment inevitably came after dinner one evening when I would have to let nature be nature, and I reluctantly locked myself in the shed.
In comparison to my previous experiences using long drop toilets, this was an absolute dream. I took a seat on the throne, feeling somewhat royal, and spent a moment to appreciate the view, hoping that not too many of the locals walking up the road were appreciating the view of me with my pants around my ankles staring at them like a rabbit stares into the oncoming lights of a sewage truck. The window looks out over the picturesque mountains towards the Quilatoa Lagoon and there is rather a lot to glaze your eyes over while you push out your dinner. The bathroom feels like a tropical jungle, but not because it contains the insect population of the amazon rainforest like the long drop I used in New Zealand, but instead because your are surrounded by exotic gardens planted inside the room. I did what I had to and wiped with the recycled toilet paper before scooping some “dry stuff” into the darkness. There was no unpleasant smell. A lot of campsites should be taking notes.
This has entirely changed my perception on waterless toilets. I have found the light, located in a dark hole filled with human shit.
During my stay, as well as pooping we also completed a couple of day hikes with the help of the friendly eco-lodge manager. We walked along a ridge line referred to as the “Skywalk” where one of Julieta’s friends and also the wife of the Japanese Ambassador experienced a vertigo induced panic attack (much to the delight of the Japanese ambassador taking photos). We took the moderately challenging uphill hike to the famous Quilotoa Lagoon in record time, only getting marginally sunburnt in the breathtaking scenery which more than compensated for the pain in my poor legs. We wandered over to the cloud forest where a local told us all about the native plants and their medicinal values, letting us sniff them and leading us deeper and deeper into the dense vegetation where he had plenty of chances to store our dead bodies. I have been blown away by the landscapes and would highly recommend any hiking or mountain enthusiast to explore the area.
The locals, the Quechua, dress in a peculiar fashion with fancy looking trilby style hats, smart jackets and often high heels – basically nothing I would ever recommend for a rural mountainous walk, and as my friend Henry mentioned, they are a patchy bit of facial hair away from being a Camden Town hipster. They speak their local language, Quechua, but all understand and speak Spanish as well. English is out of the question, which has been interesting for me to say the least, but I have stumbled through… They greet any hiker with a smile and a “buenos días” as they go about their days.
The Black Sheep Inn have done a very good job of looking after me with their delicious food, friendly staff, comfortable accommodation, in depth knowledge of the surrounding areas, unrivalled generousity and clean facilities. If any place can make even the mundane and arduous task of taking a shit this pleasant, it deserves a big thumbs up. Rates start at a very reasonable $35 a night for a bunk and three meals and I will guarantee you it’s worth every cent. I’m going to leave them a glowing review somewhere, devoid of stories about my bowel movements.