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The ablution block blues

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This month Caravan & Outdoor Life magazine’s resident caravaner and outdoor cooking guru, Linda Roets, takes us through her secrets for surviving communal caravan park ablution blocks.

Do you also find, when you chat about holidays with non-camping friends, that their first objection to the camping way of life is the lack of an en-suite bathroom? Sometimes, I must admit, I secretly agree with them! Like most women, I think my only problem with camping – and it’s a minor one – is using the communal bathrooms at campsites.

If the caravan park you’re staying at has above-standard ablution blocks, then there’s no problem. However, if you’re staying in one of the older resorts, then, let’s be honest, the ablution block is quite possibly enough to put fear into even the Grim Reaper’s heart! And then there are those campsites where management and staff’s interpretation of the word ‘rustic’ means no cleaning and no maintenance. I have no problem with an ablution block that’s genuinely rustic.

If the facility in question has a thatch roof and holes for windows looking out onto dense private bush, then, as long as it’s supplied with abundant hot water, fresh soap and towels for the handbasins, and gets a good clean twice a day, I’m all smiles. But if the bath is in such a state that it can’t be cleaned any longer (not even with industrial-strength cleaning equipment and staff wearing face masks), and the floor tiles are so broken as to be a danger to life and limb, and the basins leak brown water, and you end up feeling dirtier coming out than when you went in, then, well, honestly, that’s just plain disgusting. Yes, I’ve actually stayed in campsites with ablutions that answer to such a description.

As a result, in order to survive these perils, I’ve developed a few tricks of my own over the years to make it easier to face caravan park ablution blocks. Firstly, if there is a bath, then you should go there fully expecting that it will no longer have a plug and, like me, keep a spare plug in your bag.

The bath is often left grubby, so it’s usually avoided by the other ladies, with the result that all the gals line up and wait for their chance to nip into the next available shower. To avoid the queue, I keep a small, light plastic jug and some bathroom cleaning wipes in my bag. This means I can jump the queue, head for the bath and, after giving it a quick wipe and rinse, lie back to enjoy the luxury of a hot bath – no waiting! The jug then comes in handy for rinsing my hair with clean water too. Aaah, the luxury of it all!

My number one ‘make life more comfy when camping’ item is my own small, hand-towel-size bathmat, which I keep with my ablution stuff. This gives me the comfort of knowing that no matter how grubby the floor of the cubicle is, I have somewhere clean and relatively dry to stand. Back at our campsite, I peg the mat to an out-of-the-way guy rope to dry for the next shower.

Lastly, I also pack some talcum powder: the lavender baby variety is just lovely. A sprinkle of powder helps one get damp skin into a track suit much more quickly on chilly winter evenings in draughty ablution blocks!

This article appeared in the July 2013 issue.

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