Ah, New Zealand. What a spectacular place! Jagged mountain peaks. Crystal clear turquoise waters. Endless sandy beaches. Lush temperate rainforests. And thundering waterfalls.

I’ve just had the pleasure of spending a month there, and I was blown away.

Its landscapes are vast and unspoiled. And I’ve never been anywhere so clean. It markets itself as 100% pure – and I have to agree, it’s pristine!

Or at least, it was. Until I arrived.

Traveling with MS is never easy. No matter how well you plan it, it’s tiring. And I knew this trip would be especially taxing, with two long back-to-back flights and an ambitious itinerary. After a couple of weeks, it didn’t surprise me when my symptoms began to flare.

But this trip introduced me to a new travel partner – a consequence of MS that I hadn’t previously experienced and that I didn’t expect: bowel dysfunction.

As someone with bladder issues, I spend a lot of time in the bathroom. And one of the great things about New Zealand is that there are free public washrooms in almost every community, clearly marked with little blue signs. Once I realized this, it calmed me down. I didn’t stress as much about emptying my bladder, because I knew I could go at will.

“Isn’t this FANTASTIC?!!!!!” I exclaimed to my husband, over and over again. He thought it was really funny that I was raving more about the washrooms than I was about the sights.

Then I was hit by the sudden urge to poop. And we weren’t laughing anymore.

I clenched my butt cheeks together, but I wasn’t too worried, as I knew there’d be a washroom in the very next town.

Except, this time, there wasn’t. And that’s when the shit hit the fan.

“OMG!!! I’ve REALLY got to go! We’ve GOT to find a place to stop!”

I frantically searched the roadside for a concealed spot to do my business, and finally spied some bushes in a scenic reserve. I was hoping for more cover, but that would do!

When we turned off the road, we noticed there was an outhouse in the parking lot about 150 metres away, and my husband logically steered us towards it. But I knew I wasn’t going to make it.

“STOP the car! STOP the car!” I hollered, throwing the car door open and running for the bushes, where I frantically dropped my drawers and squatted. Ah, sweet relief! It was like that food-poisoning scene in the movie, The Bridesmaids, where Lillian resigns herself to pooping in the street – except I wasn’t surrounded by lace and tulle.

It was then that I realized that I didn’t have anything to wipe myself with – nor did we have any kleenex or toilet paper in the car. And the bushes around me didn’t have any leaves.

So, I did the only thing I could do. Standing on a patch of prickly ground cover, I hopped from one foot to the other, as I took off my jeans and my underwear. Then I used my (thankfully large) lady briefs to clean myself up. What a mess!

And here’s the part that I’m almost too embarrassed to tell you about. My panties were now covered in poop and I couldn’t put them back in the car. Instead, to my everlasting shame, I tucked them – as neatly as I could – beneath the nearest bush.

And I’ve felt guilty about it ever since. Pity the poor hiker that comes across them. With a half-life akin to uranium, they will likely be there for years!

It was such a humiliating experience, and the problem plagued me for the rest of the trip (though I never had another miss). It has calmed down since, but it’s given me tremendous empathy for those of you who deal with bowel dysfunction on an ongoing basis. The memory of it haunts me still.

My husband teased me afterwards that they probably had surveillance cameras in the park and the authorities would be coming after me. And I was momentarily shaken when they pulled me out of the line as I was boarding the plane to come home. (Turns out, they just wanted to make a seat change. Phew!)

I got away with it apparently, but that doesn’t make me feel very good.

And so, my apologies to the people of New Zealand. You have a STAGGERINGLY beautiful country – and I’m sorry that I left it a little less pure.

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