Writing comes from my crazy curiosity, particularly when travelling. With every new discovery I want to know more. Research takes me down topical rabbit-holes, conversations are incredibly interesting with the right questions and wandering off the beaten track gives me a firsthand view. Every thing is an experience that has multiple layers to it, if you’re looking for it; and I always am.
Writing began as a way to put all those new discoveries, feelings, ideas, questions and answers, into words.
Travel blogging took up half a decade before 2020 closed down the world. Now I write the odd article for busy small business owners.
The biggest part of my job as a web designer, is helping my clients turn the information in their business plans into solutions to their audience’s problems.
Every word is important and the right words are the best marketing strategy.
Written for a local hiking business.
Fellas, you probably don’t need to read this—for you, tinkling against a tree is a pretty simple affair!
However, you do need to know where to go. (Guys you might be more interested in dealing with Number Two’s so feel free to scroll down).
We ladies, on the other hand, sometimes dehydrate ourselves accidentally, being too self-conscious about baring our bums to the world when we have to go.
Ladies please don’t do that! It’s not only uncomfortable but it’s also harder to hold on if it’s cold and even more disastrous if you have poor pelvic floor muscles!
Every now and then a trail will offer a public toilet, great for emptying bladders before you start your hike and for when you get back.
But a lot of the time you’ll just have to use the facili-trees!
So we’ve put together a guide on how to manage the Art of the Bush Wee!
The Art of the Bush Wee
- Make sure you’re at least 100 metres away from camp, the cook area, trails and water sources to avoid contamination.
- Choose soft ground, rather than hard ground. Soft surfaces, like grass and pine needles, absorb fluids more readily than hard surfaces. This will help reduce backsplash.
- Keep your back to any wind for the same reason, to avoid splashback on your boots.
-Face downhill if you can, or at least stand on flat ground.
-If you leave your pack on, be sure to check for any dangling straps that may get in the way and get wet too.
- Tie a jacket around your waist as a shield/screen for your back side.
- Pull your pants only half-way down your thighs. If you let them go past your knees, they may get wet as well. It could also be a good idea to roll up the cuffs of long pants or tuck them into the top of your boots or socks.
- The flatter you can keep your feet on the ground (heels down, butt down), the less likely you are to lose your balance, pee on your own feet, or pee on the shielding jacket.
- Now you’re set for business; squat and do the perfect bush wee! The jacket around your waist will shield you from the back and, if you need a little extra cover, you can always drape another jacket or bandana across your knees.
Health Tip – Try to check the colour of your pee to make sure you’ve been drinking enough water, particularly on a long hike. If it’s dark yellow, you need more water. If it’s completely clear, you’re drinking too much. It’s important to stay hydrated, particularly in summer.
The Dry Off
Toilet paper doesn’t decompose as fast as you think it does and also goes against the Leave No Trace principles, so you’ll need a way to manage your paper waste if you choose to use it.
(Also see below for Number Two’s)
If you prefer toilet paper, just bring a few sheets but also a zip-lock plastic bag so you can pack away the used paper and take it with you when you’re done.
You could skip the dunny paper entirely and use some water from your water bottle to rinse off (this is actually quite common in many cultures). After the rinse, you can use a designated pee bandana to dry off, again utilising a zip-lock bag for storing til you get home and wash it, or if you don’t mind, attach it to a pack strap so it can dry off and air out.
Other Tinkle Options
If you can’t find soft ground to avoid splashback or there are too many “tickly” plants around making you nervous, consider peeing in a bag. Or if you’d rather not expose so much skin, use a female urination device which allows you to stand and pee like a bloke.
A simple zip-lock bag has a wide opening so you don’t need to control your stream and you can hold it close to your body, although something like these disposable urinal bags have shaped collars for a better grip and less chance of a slipping accident.
With the zip-lock bag you can just empty the contents when you’re finished. The urinal bag contains granules that will turn your pee into an odorless, biodegradable gel. In a pinch you could reuse the zip-lock bag if you empty it carefully (on the same hike) but the urinal bag is only a one time use.
The Urination Device
Standing up to pee means you don’t have to remove nearly as much clothing. There are reusable devices like this one, as well as disposable ones like these. These are popular with young women who attend festivals where queues to the porta-loos are long.
You only need to unzip and pull aside underwear, then slip the device under your clothing snug against your skin, the cup and spout keeps your stream well away from your body. You then use the back edge of the cup to “wipe” the skin and remove any remaining drops.
OTBT Tip – Members of Team OTBT have had experience with these and would highly recommend you “practice” using them at home first!
This one’s probably more relevant for overnight hiking and camping. Generally when your mind and body are active on a simple day hike, some bodily functions can take a backburner ;).
But if nature is yelling then this what you do:
- As with a Number One, you need to be at least 100 metres away from camp, the cook area, trails and water sources.
- Choose soft ground to dig your hole as you won’t be able to dig very deeply in rocky substrate.
- Dig a hole that’s 6 to 8 inches deep (this is called a cathole) using a small hand trowel.
- Take care of business but try to limit yourself to just Number Two because according to Kathleen Meyer, author of “How to Sh*t in the Woods,” peeing in the same hole can actually preserve the poop.
- If you’re using household toilet paper you’ll need to pack it out with you in a zip-lock bag (leave no trace). But if you’re using highly biodegradable loo paper designed specifically for camping, like Colemans, you can place it in the hole.
- If you can, use a stick to stir things into the dirt because it’ll help speed up decomposition. (Put the used stick in the hole as well.)
- Fill in the hole and disguise it to look like the rest of the surroundings. Don’t put a rock on top as this will slow down the decomposition.
We know this isn’t the easiest topic to talk about if you’re new to hiking so we hope you’ve found this informative enough that you’ve now got the art of the bush wee (and more) covered!
You also now have options; so decide on your bush wee preference and add the necessary equipment to your backpack and don’t forget to pack for Number Two’s if you’re hiking overnight or camping.
We know you love the outdoors (as do we!) and now you can do your bit to leave no trace and preserve our beautiful WA bushland!
Travel Blog Article
Bali has a unique culture very different from the rest of Indonesia and one aspect of that is the island’s new year’s celebrations called Nyepi. Considering there are a few big restrictions for tourists during this time, should you travel to Bali during Nyepi?
Nyepi is a rare cultural experience for any traveller because, to a certain extent, there is no getting out of participating!
During Nyepi’s “day of silence” there are a lot of restrictions for travellers. Sadly a lot of visitors find these restrictions annoying and inconvenient and will often avoid going to Bali during the island’s Nyepi New Year celebrations.
But once you understand what Nyepi is all about, hopefully like me, you’ll see it for the soul-deep cultural experience it is and also have a better understanding of the Balinese people and their way of life.
What is Nyepi?
The purpose of Nyepi is to bring in Bali’s new year with six days of very specific cleansing rituals. The rituals are designed to clear all negative energy from the island, people’s homes and people’s hearts and to maintain balance between all things in the universe. A clean slate to begin the new year.
In this day and age of self growth, manifesting and the quest for health of mind and spirit, the Balinese have been doing this in their own way from as far back as AD79!
First some Nyepi facts…
What date is Nyepi?
There are two calendars that the Balinese use and they’re both very complex compared to the Gregorian calendar that we’re used to.
While the Bali Aga calendar is used to designate the dates of Nyepi around the lunar cycle, the new year of the Hindu Saka calendar begins with Nyepi’s day of silence. (Told you it was complicated!)
This means that the date of Nyepi is different every year but is it’s usually in March some time.
The best place to find evergreen information on Nyepi dates is Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nyepi#Dates
To understand Nyepi better, you need only look to Balinese Hinduism.
While the majority of Indonesia’s population practices Islam, the Balinese have their own version of Hinduism.
Balinese Hinduism is a combination of two beliefs based in Hinduism and Buddhism, with the ultimate goal of maintaining cosmic balance between the forces of light and shadow (represented by gods and demons).
The Balinese understand that both forces are a part of life, that there is nothing bad in shadow and nothing good in light; they are just two forces that coexist in the universe and all have their parts to play.
While it’s more of a personal spiritual journey, to transcend the concept of good and bad, the Balinese strive to find harmony and balance in their everyday life and personal actions which then helps maintain the balance within the cosmos.
Understanding the basis of their religion can give you a true insight into everyday life in Bali but it’s subtle and you really have to look for it without your “western” eyes.
To provide you with an “obvious” example – if there is no bad in shadow you’ll understand why there’s no road rage in Bali’s crazy traffic and why they calmly give way to each other’s cars and scooters!
How is Nyepi Celebrated?
Nyepi is celebrated with six specific ceremonies carried out over six days.
Travellers to Bali are welcome to watch some of them, allowing you an insight into a gentle and introspective culture.
First Day of Nyepi
The Melasti Festival marks the beginning of the Nyepi cleansing rituals.
Crowds of Balinese in their “Sunday best”, carrying umbrellas and playing music, follow priests to a beach temple where sacred objects are purified in the ocean.
I took these photos during a Melasti Festival on Kuta beach a few years ago and to be honest I didn’t notice some big and obvious temple. Perhaps the temple only needs to be one of the small ones you see all around Bali.
Once the procession gets to the beach, the music stops and the affair is relatively quiet and solemn, but not so strict to stop kids from playing towards the end of the ritual.
After the rituals are performed, the procession leaves the beach, resuming the singing, music and smiles. It’s quite a relaxed community affair!
Second Day of Nyepi
On the second day, the Bhuta Yajna Ritual is performed to remove all the negative elements on the island and create a balance with God, mankind and nature.
The Things You Won’t See
At home the Balinese begin the purification rites with prayers in the family temples. Special rice is sprinkled throughout the house, then a torch is lit and carried throughout the home by family members clanging loud objects like pots and pans to chase away malevolent spirits.
Animal sacrifices are held in villages and provinces with different plants and crops included as part of the offerings.
What You Will See
The Ngrupuk Parade, also known as the Ogoh Ogoh Parade, takes to the streets in every part of Bali at sunset and everyone participates.
The Balinese do not frown upon tourists watching the Ogah Ogah Parade. You’re more than welcome to watch and enjoy the spectacle, although I haven’t seen foreigners participating.
In the months before Nyepi, Balinese start making the ogoh-ogoh puppets, giant statues made of bamboo and paper, symbolising the negative elements of the world. These are carried through the streets in loud parades, to attract and trap evil spirits, culminating in their burning to eradicate the evil influences of life and cleanse the island in preparation for the new year.
During the parade, the Balinese create a deafening mixture of traditional bamboo bells, claxons, gamelan and drums as well as metal pipes, small fireworks, pots and pans.
They make as much noise as humanly possible to scare the evil spirits away.
While the parades are definitely loud and chaotic, they always remain friendly. Considering how some parades and festivals can get out of hand in Western countries, the gentleness and respect of Balinese Hinduism is a subtle layer within the Ogoh Ogoh Parade, if you look for it.
The Ogoh Ogoh Parade is practiced throughout the entire island and tourists can experience some really big processions in Kuta, Seminyak, Nusa Dua and Sanur.
It’s a unique cultural experience, safe for the whole family to witness! The only thing I’d say you need to be careful of, especially if you have kids with you, are the small fireworks let off on the ground and the big crowds.
Third Day of Nyepi
Nyepi is the day of silence.
The complete silence is supposed to trick evil spirits into believing there is no one left on the island, so that they leave.
The Balinese use this day of silence to fast and rest in contemplation and meditation, cleansing the inner world as the outer world was cleansed the day before.
Nyepi expects a day of absolute silence, based on the four precepts of Catur Brata:
- Amati Geni: No fire or light, including no electricity. Prohibition of satisfying pleasurable human appetites.
- Amati Karya: No form of physical working other than activities dedicated to spiritual cleansing and renewal.
- Amati Lelunganan: No movement or travelling.
- Amati Lelanguan: Fasting and no revelry/self-entertainment or general merrymaking.
This is the day that all businesses are closed, no cars or people are on the street, the airport closes for the day, radio and tv broadcast from overseas won’t be available, and sometimes electricity and internet can be turned off.
Everyone, locals and travellers alike, are required to stay inside by law.
Local watchmen called the Pecalang are positioned all over the island to make sure that all the rules are obeyed!
Nyepi also extends to a few of the smaller islands off the Bali mainland that follow Balinese Hinduism including Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan.
Nyepi Laut, also called Quiet Seas, is the day of silence for these smaller islands. For the locals it includes all the restrictions of mainland Nyepi (no work, lights, revelry, travelling, etc) with meditation and quiet contemplation on the importance of the ocean environment that surrounds and sustains the islands.
For visitors, Nyepi Laut means all tourist activities like diving and snorkelling are closed for the day, as well as marine transport (you can’t get to or leave the islands for a day).
Fourth Day of Nyepi
While everything is shut on Nyepi day, it’s back to business as usual on the fourth day of Nyepi with many shops and restaurants reopening. However from 6am to 6pm faithful Balinese will use this day to continue their meditations of the previous day.
Fifth Day of Nyepi
On the fifth day, Balinese will visit their families, neighbours and friends asking forgiveness for past transgressions and to express their gratitude and hopes for the new year ahead.
Sixth Day of Nyepi
This is the last day of the Nyepi celebrations. The Dharma Shanti Rituals, reciting ancient scriptures, is performed after all other Nyepi rituals are finalised. This marks the closure of the sacred week and the beginning of the new year.
Nyepi Rules for Tourists and Travellers
If you decide to visit Bali during Nyepi to experience this beautiful aspect of their culture for yourself, I hope you won’t view these rules as restrictions. But rather a way to either provide yourself with a much needed tech disconnect or your own version of introspection.
Please don’t take these rules lightly. Remember they are not only mandated by law but if you choose to be there then you should treat this unique custom with the respect it deserves. And hey, 24 hours of no tech won’t kill you right?!
Nyepi restrictions for visitors:
- Don’t go out onto the street. It’s ok to walk around your hotel grounds (pool, bar, etc) but remain within the hotel’s boundaries.
- No vehicles can be used except in the case of emergencies.
- Be quiet. Keep the music and tv down. Keep your voice no louder than talking level.
- No light once the sun goes down. From my experience hotels don’t normally turn off the electricity because they are also respectful of you being there. However the staff will come and tape your blinds shut so no light leaks out through the windows.
- Move to a hotel. If you’re doing budget accommodation and living in a homestay environment, please book a hotel for a couple of days (for day 3 and day 4 of Nyepi) so that the family can perform the required rituals around their home.
As we would wish each other a “happy new year”, the Balinese have a similar greeting for Nyepi.
Feel free to wish any Balinese you meet with during the six days of Nyepi with
“selamat hari raya nyepi”.
Nyepi pronunciation sounds like this:
sel-uh-MUT h-AH-ree RYE-uh n-YEP-ee
You will definitely bring a smile to someone’s face!
Why You Should Experience Nyepi
There are a few reasons why I think Nyepi is an amazing experience and shouldn’t be avoided if you’re travelling to Bali.
A Great Attitude to Life
The gentle Balinese culture is often overwhelmed by the high level of tourism, crazy traffic, their misunderstood “attitude” to street dogs and poverty.
And while we look at culture as things that include cuisine, traditional clothing and history, religion isn’t always something we look closely at, I guess because we all have beliefs of our own.
But religion often offers a unique insight into a country’s culture as well as a people’s life perspective and Nyepi in Bali is an excellent and accessible example.
No matter where we’re from, finding balance in life (whether you use those words or something else) is most people’s goal. Personally, I can appreciate how Balinese Hinduism sees no bad in shadow, no good in light, the universe just is.
It would be hard to have that common modern victim mentality if we could all accept that shit just happens in life and nothing bad is ever directed at us personally.
Discounts and Packages
Sadly Nyepi puts a lot of travellers off. Bali relies heavily on tourism which drops dramatically in March mainly due to the day of silence with everything being closed and an there’s an attitude of “losing” a couple of days of vacation.
The truth is that these days many hotels and resorts offer not only discounts but Nyepi “packages” to make your stay during Nyepi more comfortable!
Airfares to Bali during the Nyepi period in March are also heavily discounted!
As Nyepi is the time of year that brings focus for every Balinese to cleansing, forgiveness, introspection and the banishment of all bad things, it’s a wonderful environment to show kids an example of a positive perspective on life.
A New Insight
There are layers to every culture and sometimes you have to spend at least a month or more in a country to uncover some of the nuances of their culture.
Understanding and experiencing Nyepi can open your eyes to many parts of the Balinese way of life that may seem strange to us.
I mentioned the lack of road rage before as an example. But you will see it, the gentle good will if you like, in the way the Balinese speak with each other, You also won’t see Balinese arguing, Bali In Bali’s chaotic busy centres like Kuta and Seminyak for example, it’s much harder to see past the tourism activities like sightseeing and shopping.
Should You Travel to Bali During Nyepi?
Without a doubt Nyepi is a unique cultural experience and personally I think if you’re going to be in Bali for Nyepi you should embrace every part of this beautiful festival.
Because Bali is so close to my home in Australia, just a 3.5 hour flight, it has always been my R&R away from work and technology and a place for me to re-energise in a more natural setting. I love Nyepi time because it “forces” me to disconnect even more from technology and I get to spend my time more meaningfully.
If you love culture then of course Nyepi is an amazing experience!
And if Bali is one of those countries that’s just a little too far away (and normally a little too expensive) then the deals around Nyepi would make it the perfect time to visit.
So my answer is a wholehearted YES!
A personal essay
The white side of mixed culture – an open conversation
As a white Australian I wish I knew more about our Aboriginal peoples and their culture.
I consider myself lucky to have grown up in quite a few remote areas around Australia which gave me way more opportunity to learn about Aboriginal culture than most cityfolk.
My first introduction to an Aboriginal, to my mum’s eternal embarrassment, was in a shop queue. I think I was about 3 years old and I reached out to quickly swipe my finger across the dusky dark skin of the kid in front of me and then surreptitiously checked to see if the “dirt” came off.
Forever cemented in my 3yo mind from that point on, was that people come in different colours. My young curious brain, untainted by the ugliness of “race”, instead absorbed the concept of “variety” – people came in all sorts of shapes, sizes and colours.
My next big “aha” moment came in another town during my very first year of schooling.
Traditional landowners visited the school, bringing with them stories of initiation rites, walkabouts, bush tucker, hunting and gathering tools, dot painting and the concept of living in harmony with nature.
At the age of five I had been exposed to a whole new world (without even having to leave the country!), to self-sufficiency and to living a conservation lifestyle!
A couple of years later, another town and another school, and this time I was a white minority. But ten year old kids, no matter the colour, are just kids. We played sports together, walked home together, explored the local beach together. When you’re 10, it’s not the differences you look for, it’s the similarities – “hey I’ve got a bike like that too!”.
High school had me moving to the big city, barely an Aboriginal in sight compared to my first 13 years of life. And with that came an abrupt end to my Aboriginal education and the beginning of my education on racism.
Ok no, I tell a lie…
My introduction to racism came at the age of nine, driving into a new town and overhearing my dad commenting to my mum – he had to make sure we pulled into the white side of the pub we’d be staying in for the night.
The white side??? Australia had racial segregation back in the 70’s.
Actually it still does when it comes to remote Australian pubs – an ugly side of Australian politics that’s had devastating effects on our indigenous communities. Sadly I suspect that racial segregation is the best management of a totally fucked situation created by the government’s attempt to buy Aboriginal votes with alcohol back in the 70’s. Ask my mum, she’ll tell you all about it!
Anyway, moving to the city did provide me with new insights into Aboriginal culture though – city Aboriginals are not like country Aboriginals.
Where the majority of Australia’s white population (80%) lives in our cities on the coast, the majority of our Aboriginal population lives everywhere! There are over 500 tribal regions that cover the entire country.
So country Aboriginals, this is just my personal observation by the way, have access to their tribal communities, land to walkabout, hunting, elders and storytelling mostly unfiltered by white people. Their culture is strong in remote Australia and they seem to cross seamlessly between theirs and white culture and back again. Shy smiles of bright white teeth, bilingual with a community mindset, never an individual one.
Sadly all our cities are built on Aboriginal land. The tribes indigenous to these regions still have their culture but with 20 million white people lumped on their land, sacred sites ignored, their culture must feel alarmingly displaced. Desperate to hold onto their culture, their own heritage more often than not now mixed, flooded in sheer numbers by a completely different culture, they are arguably disconnected, more tight knit and perhaps a little less friendly in response to white indifference.
Which is not to say that city Aboriginals are unfriendly! They are as friendly to you, as you are to them …
Aboriginal culture is undeniably earthy and beautiful:
- The giant serpent of their Dreamtime stories created all the landforms
- They don’t know how to be selfish, everything they do is for the community
- They’ve learned to survive off a harsh and seemingly bare land with ease
- Their art is not only colourful but tells stories through symbols
- They live in harmony with the land
- Family histories are passed down in stories only to family
- They have complex social systems
- They have their own justice system (which in some remote regions, white police will defer to)
- They are very respectful of each others land and the sacred connections within them
- Each tribe has their own stories and history that aren’t spoken of by other tribes out of respect
But there are some things we just can’t learn like Secret Women’s Business.
Even as a woman, there are things I can’t ever know about Women’s Business. Why? Because as an outsider I won’t necessarily respect the sacredness of the secret … and inadvertently tell someone who shouldn’t know.
Sometimes I wonder if this is part of an unknown cultural blunder I made when my dad died.
All cultures have different perspectives on death and the dying. Aboriginal and white European perspectives are VERY different. I’m not sure if my blunder came from Women’s Business, differing familial expectations or because there are aspects of death not discussed in Aboriginal culture.
My dad’s partner in the years prior to his death, was an Aboriginal elder who was raised in a white mission. When dad was in palliative care, I recall wondering what I should and should not be doing and what I should or should not be asking his partner to take care of, in a cultural sense.
In European culture, there are expectations on the oldest child (me) to mitigate the physical and emotional load on the family when a parent is dying or dies.
At the time I was sensitive to there being “expectations” in Aboriginal culture as well but had no clue what they were! I had no idea how to be culturally respectful of dad’s partner while he was in palliative care and after he died. All I could do was pay her as much respect in white tradition as possible … but I know somewhere along the way I blundered. I don’t know how because I’m ignorant of the cultural differences and I didn’t know how to ask about death, when there are aspects of death that are taboo?
I also often wonder why we have no Aboriginal studies in schools. Although a photographer friend of mine currently living in the Pilbara, told me recently that there’s been a push for cultural studies in schools up that way. Something to be celebrated absolutely but it should be nationwide!
We are a country that has taken to opening school assemblies and even parliament with an Aboriginal “acknowlegement of land” speech without even knowing what we’re paying respect to!
The damaging results of our summer bushfire season could be mitigated if we practiced the land management advice of our indigenous people.
I will always remember the day a full blood elder, as dark as can be, initiation scars across his chest, long grey beard, sat across from my class of 6yo’s and answered our childish questions with gentle tolerance. I think even as young as I was, I recognised some serious wisdom sitting across from me.
I know I was lucky spending my formative years in remote Australian towns.If you get out somewhere remote and spend some time there, you’ll see Aboriginal culture from a whole other perspective, especially the smiles!
Perhaps I’m being too hard on myself.
But because I’m insanely curious about other cultures, I feel like I’m missing out on an amazing culture here at home.