Surfing and talking sh!t in Sumatra

I feel like Al Bundy (Married with Children) as I sit on the loo at the Surfing Village resort. On an island off west Sumatra (Indonesia) this toilet is a throne. It is a statement in and of itself: ‘sit here and relax your majesty’ it seems to say. It is a magnificent toilet and I don’t want to get off.

The Surfing Village is a resort like many popping up around the Pacific and the likes. It is charmingly constructed out of local materials in a pseudo traditional design. It is remote, it is exclusive and the toilets are unique.

It is an important consideration whilst travelling. Given how a sudden change in diet can affect people’s digestion it is a place some get to know intimately. I’ve got hardy guts, yet appreciate the detail of a good loo on the road.

In the Amazon, while on a three-week detox diet of pineapple and beetroot, I shat in a deep, narrow hole in the jungle. For privacy, a big woven plastic rice sack had been ripped open and with sticks to hold it upright it made a shelter around the long drop. Mosquitoes bit my bum and when it rained I got wet. But I learned what most of the population in the world already lives by, that squatting is the most efficient way of emptying your bowels.

In Papua New Guinea I tossed sawdust into a composting toilet, it was clean, efficient, and it did not smell. I wished I had one like it at home and swore if I ever had my own loo one day it would be the same.

In the Solomon Islands, planks of bamboo strapped together stretched from the shoreline out to over the sea, where we squatted with our bums hanging over the side. The most curious part were the enormous Angel fish that congregated under the bamboo planks. “They are big because they eat our feces,” said a village woman called Marylin, with a grin.

But in Indonesia I sit atop a tropical toilet of royal proportions. A circular leaf wall about six metres in diameter encloses the area winding outwards like a snail’s shell. There is no door, only a white rope that when placed across, indicates occupation. In the middle of the circle are three giant steps made from the base of old coconut trees. They lead up to a three-by-two-metre deck and placed on the middle is a western toilet. To the left is a seat stacked with magazines, to the right is another similar looking seat but well out of arms reach and it is empty. The space is so inviting that the spare seat might be there for another person to sit on, for a chat. (Apparently it’s not.)


There's always time for talking sh!t on a surf trip

What really takes the cake though is the view. It’s something Al Bundy wouldn’t even have thought to wish for. Between the leaf roof and the spiralling wall is a gap wide enough to sneak a look out at the sea. If you take your time, and trust me you would if  you were here, you can sit on the can and watch your mates get the meanest Mentawai barrels…no shit.

As for the waves, well, we’ll get to that later; I’ve got some business to attend to first.

We’d love to hear from you…Where’s the top spot you’ve planted your bum on whilst on the road? Leave your comments, if you dare…


About Keri Algar

Keri has an insatiable appetite for travel, discovery and surf. You may find her among the happy isles, smiles and empty barrels of Melanesia, or swinging her hips at a Spanish fiesta, underwater in Mexico, on top of the Argentine alps, or at home in New Zealand with her nose in a book. She is delighted by difference - both people and places, and is inspired by those who follow their own path through life with passion and courage.


  1. GAry King says:

    Keri – talking of loos – Thomas has just built us a “medium-drop” at Putuo Island in Kia, Solomon Islands. There is no flat land around the house at our little island, and so the loo is on the hill behind the house. The route to it is like this; walk about ten metres up the fallen log (angled at close to 45 degrees) behind the house, along another fallen log, then a short, slippery track to the ridge, then over the edge of the hill and through the trees to the “throne”. You wouldn’t want to be in a hurry on a rainy night, but in the daytime the view is magic – out over the adjacent islands, mangroves and reefs. As with all things in the Sollies, there is no rush to get anything done, and a leisurely sit on this little baby is great for the eyes and the bowels. Last time I visited, the termites were making a home in the wooden structure, so will have to be watched! Take care.

    • The Backdoor says:

      Ha ha Gary that’s great! I love it, well done Thomas! ha ha. I hope your time in NZ was lovely by the way. And I’m still trying to process your near disastrous boat ride back from the Arnavons…


  1. [...] with embedded shells?) is about as advanced as you’ll find in an Australian bathroom, making luxury latrines is nothing new for Panasonic. For years in Japan it has been delighting derrieres with automatic [...]

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