Tips for the Traveller in Nepal – Sanitation
There are lots of websites which include excellent checklists for trekkers in Nepal. Here is one. Here is another. In these Tips for Travellers I will focus on items which I had not seen on checklists or will emphasize why some things are particularly useful, with a skew toward women’s concerns.
The first questions I am asked about my travels in Asia often involve either the toilets or the water, so let’s get those basics out of the way.
Toilets: (this is the right word to use when asking about “the facilities”. The word “rest room” sounds too much like “restaurant” to a Nepali ear and will lead to frustration and confusion.)
Here’s the straight dope: Be prepared to squat. Throne-style toilets are not always available. One of our fellow travelers anticipated this and did exercises in advance specifically to stretch her Achilles tendons. Balancing on the balls of your feet while hovering over the hole with nothing you would care to hold onto for support can be tricky.
The typical Nepali toilet room will look a lot like the picture. There is often a deep window sill on which you can rest your pack or personal items; there is a tap with running water used to fill the bucket and to sluice off the floor, hence the floor is often wet. The bucket of water is for washing, and there is no toilet paper. I never figured out once you have washed yourself off (using your left hand only) how you then gt yourself dry enough to pull your pants back up. So I stuck with Western habits and accepted BYOTP as the norm.
- Pop-up sanitary wipes – these come in packages and are much easier to handle in an Asian-style toilet than a roll of toilet paper. Packs of tissues are also good. Paper used as toilet paper does not go down the hole, but into a waste paper basket inside or just outside the W.C.
- Small plastic bags for trash – in case you need to go in the wild, or the basket is outside the W.C., and also to pack out Kleenex, trail mix wrappers, and other trail detritus. You want to leave a clean footprint.
- A sink stopper. You will find a sink at each guest house, but for washing clothes, cleaning contact lenses, etc. you will need your own stopper.
- Panty liners.
- A portable clothes line, clothespins, and biodegradable detergent. You will have opportunities to hang up clothes at the guest houses, but you can’t expect clothespins, and evenings are breezy – you don’t want your backup panties blown 500 vertical feet down the valley.
Water: No, you cannot drink the water from the tap in Nepal. Anywhere. Most hotels will offer bottled water in your room; the more ecologically sensitive will provide a water station for filtered water to refill your bottles. Recycling is very expensive in Nepal because everything has to be carried off the mountains to the nearest facility, which is probably in Kathmandu. The carriers are either heavily laden pack mules, or equally heavily laden human porters.
- Water filter/ UV SteriPen and iodine tablets or equivalent. The water filter / Steripen will take care of 90% of the nasties you might find in the water but the other 10% are really nasty, so don’t forgo the iodine. There are iodine equivalents which do not leave a taste in the water and do the same job.
- Two water bottles – one for drinking from and one for filtering into and refilling from. If you are using a water filter make sure your water bottles are compatible in size – you should be able to screw the filter onto the water bottle securely. You can find running water at most tea houses and it takes only a short time to filter a fresh quart.
Medical treatment: although we occasionally passed medical clinics, usually funded by some foreign organization, we learned later that these clinics are staffed poorly, intermittently, or not at all. Avialable anti-biotics and other medicines are often past their expiration date. Evacuation to India or Bangkok is your best bet if you become seriously ill or injured, but this is very expensive. Best to get your vaccinations up to date and avoid getting sick!
To bring in your own medical kit:
- Sunburn protection
- Antibacterial ointment
- Blister treatments ( Dr. Scholl’s Blister Protection/Prevention pads are very effective in keeping “hot spots” from developing into full-fledged blisters. Most list-makers mention moleskin; I had moleskin but never used it.)
- Aspirin – very effective in preventing altitude sickness
- Ibuprofen for muscle aches
- Spare eyeglasses if you need them. Extra contact lens solution if you need it.
- Eye drops – your eyes can get very dry at high altitudes.
- Any medications which you are accustomed to having available as needed.
But enough of the scary stuff! In my next post we will finally get on the trail!