The Perils of Using a Shewee – Bus Trip into the Amazon Rainforest
Guest Post by Beverley Lloyd (AKA my Mum)
Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve in Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest boasts some of the highest biodiversity on earth. As a nature lover, this was a must for me to visit. My sister, Jackie and I took a bus from Quito’s southern terminal, Quitembe to Lago Agrio, the last big oil town before the jungle.
Equipped with ‘tinnies’ for the journey and a few extra for our stay in the jungle (alcohol is expensive in the jungle!) we sat in the middle of the bus so as to be far enough from the toilet stench that a seven hour bus journey was surely going to produce.
No sooner had the bus left the station I begin to feel stomach cramps and that 'bladder-squeeze feeling’ that comes with having a period – the discomfort of which only another female would appreciate. Never mind, at least there is a toilet on the bus! Or so I thought… it’s locked. I approach the driver’s assistant sat next to the driver and politely ask for a key to the bano. ‘No bano’ he rudely informs me. No problem thinks I, smug in the knowledge that I had come prepared for this scenario equipped with a Shewee and empty bottle. For those unfamiliar with what a Shewee is, well, it’s a device to enable women to pee standing up even if wearing trousers.
As a music festival enthusiast I had used a Shewee before but had not anticipated how much more difficult it would be to pee in a six inch gap between my seat and the seat in front whilst surrounded by Latin Americans, with the lights on. I maneuver myself into a comfortable position as possible and attach the plumbing. Despite my desperate urge to relieve myself it is not easy for a female to ‘get flowing’ as squatting seems to trigger this action. Eventually though the flow starts. The wonderful feeling this produces is short lived, as I feel warmth running down my legs and am forced to stop mid flow. Never a nice experience.
Jackie finds my discomfort rather amusing and burst into raucous laughter, which draws the attention of everyone on the bus. As my clothes and seat are soaked in pee we move to the back of the bus where it is more private as well as drier and less smellier.
I’d never wet myself using a Shewee before so thought maybe I was using it the wrong way round. Turning it round was much more comfortable as the longer bit of the tubing was not poking into places it had no right to be. Success. My bladder empty I gave a big sigh of relief, changed my leggings and relaxed into my seat. Jackie relaxes also and puts her feet on the seat in front and settles down to sleep. The miserable and rude bus driver’s assistant gestures rudely to her to move her feet then settles himself down right behind us in a bed at the back of the bus. The lights are off now and we try once again to get some shut eye.
Before I can sleep I need reassurance that my bumbag with my passport, phone and $30 is safely around my waist. I was very tired by now and slightly annoyed that it wasn’t there. I can’t feel it around the seat or on the floor either – oh shit it’s not there. We spend the next hour or so frantically searching around the bus, groveling on our hands and knees among the feet of sleeping Latinos. It is likely that I left my bumbag on our previous seats, where a man and woman now sit having boarded shortly after we moved from there. They got up so we could look there but there was no bag.
Horror was setting in – we tried to wake up the driver’s assistant who was asleep behind us in a bed, behind a curtain but despite our cries for help he was very annoyed to be awoken and muttered several (probably) profanities at us before rolling over to continue his sleep. The bus eventually came to a stop to refuel and people started getting off, including the man who was sat in the seat that I had peed on. The lights are on now so I put my hand down the back of the seat – I don’t feel anything at first but keep digging around until I feel what I think is a strap – it takes a while to pull out as the gap is very tight. Eventually my bumbag is released – relieved I look inside – my passport is there along with my phone battery, but the phone and $30 has gone. Bleary eyed from lack of sleep it takes a few seconds to dawn on me what this means – the man and woman sitting in these seats stole my cash and phone and took the battery out so it couldn’t be called. I go straight to the bus driver ‘telephono, robo, policia por favor’ I say figuring that if you add an ‘O’ or ‘A’ to the end of English words it won’t be far off. He looks at me for a very long time so I repeat ‘, telephono, robo, policia por favor.’ I’m pretty sure he knows what I’m saying but is reluctant to do anything. A woman listening says something to him that I can’t understand and he goes to pull away. ‘No’ I shout ‘policia’ to which he points to the other side of the highway - and there to my astonishment are about a dozen police officers.
Everyone is hauled off the bus and searching commences. So many people have a Samsung S4 but I’m thinking no sneaky thief is gonna stand in line and wait to be searched if they’re carrying a stolen phone – they would have hidden it somewhere on the bus. Back in the bus a policeman is already searching, he has found an empty wallet (probably from a previous robbery). I show him where we were sat – he rummages around and hey presto pulls out my phone, minus the case. Joy. The search is called off and we continue our journey. The driver’s assistant was not disturbed throughout all this and continues his sleep in the back of the bus. We eventually nod off – in our drowsiness we hear the sound of beer cans bursting as we career around mountain chicanes at breakneck speed, but we are too tired to care.
When the bus stops the next morning I open my eyes to see the floor flooded in beer and pee – our beers had exploded and the bottle containing my pee had spilt. The grumpy driver’s assistant looks at the deluge and grumbles something before stepping over it.
It’s 4.30 am and it’s fair to say we have felt, smelt and looked better. A short taxi ride into town and we are dropped off at the Hotel de Mario, where we have arranged to meet our tour guide at 9am. The hotel is in darkness and the town is deserted except for some shady looking characters, prostitutes and a street-food seller. Thankfully he is very friendly and lets us rest on his plastic chairs near the roadside. He tells us the hotel will be open around seven – we are absolutely knackered and stinking of piss, beer and general filth so we fit in nicely with our present surroundings. The street seller speaks French so conversation is not quite so limited and the time passes quite quickly – he drinks lots of very strong alcohol that looks and smells like white spirit. He tries to tempt us with some but oddly enough we are disinclined to burn our stomach lining and after the horrors of last night, in this seedy town feel the need to keep our bleary eyes wide open to ward off any further impending disasters.
Our tour guide is late and then we have to sit around Lago airport for another hour waiting for a couple of Russian tourists, followed by a two hour bumpy car journey to our canoe launch. It’s a further 2 hour canoe ride down the Cuyabeno river which is beautiful but couldn’t do it justice given our present state.
Finally we arrive at Jamu lodge deep in the jungle – but no rest yet – our guide Pedro takes us down river to Cuyabeno lake where I eagerly jump into the cool refreshing water and wash off all the filth from the night before as the glorious Amazonian sun is setting.
Guest Post by Beverley Lloyd (AKA my Mum)