Never leave home on an adventure, without a shower!
‘Better zer vorm trickle, zan zee cold blast’ a German neighbour told me on a camp site in the South of France years ago. I had expressed some discontent at the efficiency of the showers, but he was right. Any shower, at an acceptable temperature is the perfect way to refresh yourself after a hot, sweaty day. In my case then, lying on a beach, but in subsequent years in several fly blown locations around the globe.
My first introduction to the shower that was not a shower came working with some archaeologists in Italy. For two weeks we were bunkered in a disused school with just one working tap. There were shower rooms, but no water. Paul Beavitt, the director, introduced me to his ‘Malaysian’ shower. The trick was to stand in a large plastic washing up bowl with a separate bucket of clean, hot, water. A small saucepan is then used to scoop and pour the clean water over the body. Then soap up and use the dirty water for the first rinse, saving the clean for a final rinse. This system had absolutely nothing to do with Malaysia, where Paul had first resorted to it, but with a little practise was perfect after a hot day.
Some years later working in Libya, we were accommodated in a ‘rest house’ behind the museum in Germa, a grubby little breeze block settlement 600 miles south of Tripoli. The house had a shower room with a spasmodic supply of cold water. As this was to be the base for five seasons of work, funds were donated to install a hot water system. The following year we were thrilled to find they had installed an electric water heater and large hot water tank. Cables were festooned around the walls with connections twisted together in true North African style. Turning the shower on, blue for hot and red for cold..... obviously, produced a healthy flow of hot water from the shower head. The first Archaeologist went in and noises of satisfaction were heard through the door, until a loud expletive greeted the end of ablutions. It transpired that turning the shower on, with dry hands, was fine, but turning it off, wet, produced a lively electric shock!
Perhaps the worst shower ever was staying in an Army barracks in Tfariti, Western Sahara. We had driven 500 miles across desert in 45 degree heat, from the Algerian border, to reach this remote location that was to be our base for two weeks field work. The accommodation was a hastily built shed to house a garrison of fighting men in the desert. Visiting archaeologists were welcome, but had to share the same simple facilities. Water came by truck once a week, Inshallah, and was stored in a big underground tank. From here it was scooped up in buckets and transferred to a saucepan the size of those used to cook Missionary’s in old cartoons. Four soldiers world carry this to the shower room for us to shower. On entering, the first job was to frighten all the cockroaches back into the cracks they came from and maybe even kill a few, then recreate the ‘Malaysian’ shower technique, but with cold, rusty, water. Not bad when desperate!
More recently, in Algeria, three of us had driven the ‘Graveyard Piste’ from Illizi across to Bordj Omar Driss. Four days with only the water we carried. We were very relieved to reach the natural well at Gara Kranfoussa, lower a bucket into the the cool clean water and take an al fresco shower in the very same spot where French Foreign Legion soldiers would have done much the same a century ago.
Against this background it made a lot of sense to buy a self contained shower for my Carawagon. I found one at a camping show and willingly handed over a hundred quid for the complete ensemble. It has a roll up cubicle, similar to a toilet tent, but with a flexible shower tray, a 12 volt pump and a shower head. Erected in a few minutes I put the kettle on and within half an hour can enjoy a fantastic shower in the privacy of my own awning. I’ve had some memorable ones.
The first was a tiny hidden camp site outside Betws-y-coed, offering nothing in the way of facilities. We drew water from the stream, heated it on the stove and had a wonderful shower with soft water. The most recent was this summer in Spain when we camped rough in the woods and showered al fresco using just the pump and shower head watched by a few curious birds.
With a desert trip planned for January 2007 I shall most definitely be taking my shower with me. There are a few wells and given half a chance I shall be drawing water up in a bucket on a rope, heating it over a fire of smouldering tamarisk and showering off the dust of a days driving wherever I end up.
Showering al fresco in Spain this summer.
The isolated desert army barracks infested with cockroaches.