I have the bladder of an eighty-five year old incontinent invalid coupled with the bathroom awareness of a cantankerous toddler traveling under duress. It is an unfortunate trait that proves to be quite an impediment to travel, especially cheap long distance third world bus travel.
I try to remember to take precautions to limit the agony; well it’s more that Amy reminds me before every departure, but most of the time I just don’t need to go. Sometimes I am lucky and I try to purge every possible drop of urine to the point of straining a phoffa valve prior to departure.
Despite these preparations without fail five minutes into the journey with the gentle bounce of the road my bladder is as full as an un-milked heifer with calf.
There have been some very uncomfortable trips recently. The final stages of bus ride from Cambodia to Laos were by far the worst. Admittedly, it was made much worse by my vague ineptitude. It was about the seven-hour mark of the thirteen-hour journey and I had relieved myself only half an hour earlier at the bus stop. Despite this the first signs of impending bladder movement began to rear its ugly head. I did a reasonable job sucking up the pain for the next hour or so. But it wasn’t long after we had past Stung Treng when the cascading yellow waters of Urine Falls were consuming my every thought. By the nine-hour mark my eyes were desperately scanning for any kind of vessel capable of holding the torrent of piss barely contained within my straining bladder. It was about then that the strange box in the back corner of the bus caught my eye and I identified the onboard toilet. Needless to say, it was a discovery that provided much joy.
Our recent overnight bus from Luang Prabang to Hauy Xai would have been a terrible trip anyway: fourteen hours, overnight, the worst seats on the bus and three hundred and fifty kilometres of windy, pot-hole ridden semi-paved ‘highway’ but it was made much, much worst by the fact that there was no toilet onboard. We had been assured there would be by the smooth talking ticket agent but I guess that is the way of the world. The bus stopped every three hours to allow passengers to relieve themselves in the bushes or on the side of a building. Most would say this a very reasonable schedule for breaks, but my incontinence is far from reasonable.
I have taken to drinking as little as possible while I travel. I probably shouldn’t drink coffee prior to travel but in reality my bladder is so infinitely minute that it wouldn’t make any difference. Still, I spend two hours out every three dreaming of yellow falls. The only consolations I receive from this unfortunate situation are the moments of great relief when a piss held too long is finally released. That moment is one of life’s simply joys.