I’m sure you know by now that even though there are two of us who make up Shabby Alpaca, I (Celina) am the one who does most of the writing. It’s not because my partner/mom can’t write, it’s because I do. It’s like the seat on the bus is already taken, so she sits in the back….I’ve told her that I want her to write many times, but she doesn’t. I had to take her to Peru to cross something off her bucket list just to get a couple blogs out of her 🙂
My mom has wanted to go to Peru for many, many years and until we went together, I don’t think I realized how important it was to her. I love that I got to experience this dream-come-true and her first trip ever outside of the USA. It was certainly fun to experience these surprises along-side her. I hope you’ll join us for this three part series about the surprises of Peru!
Creature Comforts: The Bathrooms in Peru
As Americans if we walk into a restroom, we immediately assess how clean the bathroom is. If it is not clean we are often disgusted. If we go into a rest room and there is no toilet paper that is the ultimate in disgust. There are gas stations within 10 miles of (almost) anywhere we can go. Our highways pride themselves on having decent rest stops. On the toll roads of the East, you not only get a clean restroom but have the opportunity to get a Starbucks Coffee, a meal and a ice cream if you choose. At the fairs and events we do, most often there are portable toilets that are clean and loaded with toilet paper in the morning. At the end of the day the toilets leave a lot to be desired and the toilet paper is gone. But in the night someone has cleaned the pots and refreshed the paper.
Bathrooms in Peru are just a little different from the restrooms in the USA. First of all they are not called rest rooms. Last thing you could do is rest in those rooms. They are called Banos.We did a lot of driving along the Altiplano, which is high and desolate countryside. Along the way we found that usually a home or business owner will plop up a couple of ramshackle banos for you use as there are no tax dollars allocated for roadside attractions such as rest areas.
Here is how it works: You pull off the side of the road and you will see one or several outhouse type shacks with the words Bano on the door that may or may not be attached. Often there is a woman who is waiting for her 1 soles (about $.30) that you pay her in order to use her Banos. (Our guide told us about the charge to pee but did not go into the actual situation of that peeing. We knew to always have soles in the event you had to pay.) When you enter the door you are faced with a hole in the ground. This hole usually has a toilet over it however, there is rarely a seat. Now that might be enough to dissuade you from using the loo, but you’ve been in a van at 15,000 feet above sea level for 6-8 hours, so you’re going to go. So you do your business cursing yourself that you did not exercise your hover muscles prior to your trip. You frequently are making some sort of noise because you are not done peeing and your muscles are burning. Once you are done, you are surprised to find that not a stitch of toilet paper to be found. But alas you have already figured as much and had your own wiper available. But that wipe should NEVER EVER be dropped into the toilet. Regardless if it is a water closet or a hole in the ground. Waste cans will be along side the toilet for your convenience along with a sign that says, “NO TOILET PAPER IN TOILETS”.
The best place we found was at a road side near Lago Lagunillas in Puno. This place was off the road and was a bit pricey. The cost was 5 soles. I would have given her 10 if she had asked. Again no seats or paper but she did wash down the pot after every use with a bucket of water. Worked for me. We were there long enough that I got to use that one twice.
Besides our many long rides along the Altiplano, we did spend time in cities but the “clean & free” rest room concept has not yet taken off in Peru. In restaurants there were always bathrooms but they most often did not have a seat- so you hover. Toilet paper was rarely included, unless you were paying to use the bathroom. If you do use toilet paper, you do not put used toilet paper into the toilet.
At Macchu Picchu there is one rest room. You pay 1 soles and they give you about 10 inches of toilet paper. All folded neatly by the person in a booth that you pay. Macchu Picchu has approximately 5000 visitors a day and over a million visitors a year. Now I say this so you can grasp one Banos with approximately 5 stalls at the entrance of the park. I would think that everyone visiting must go at least once on average. So assuming that every person goes to the bathroom at least once, they make approximately 5000 soles a day. That equals $1,538 a day in US. I would think they could add a whole lot of stalls and provide toilet paper at that rate. But it didn’t matter to me. I had to pee.
All the wonderful markets we shopped in had at least one bathroom with a person charging for your 10 inches of paper but all and all they were mostly clean. They were usually tucked in away in a corner and slightly difficult to find.
Another banos I went into was very small and when I went to close the stall door I jammed my finger between the ledge and the door. Dang that hurt more than the hover muscles aching. For about a day I thought maybe I had broken my finger but it is fine- thank you for checking!
Any foreign country you go to may have rest rooms with different standards than ours in America, but I never realized the luxury of being able to sit on a pot and throw my toilet paper into the sewer.
The surprises of Peru were endless for me, but if you want to read part 1 of this series about the dogs of Peru, click here.