Pay to Pee in Peru

October 8, 2012

An excerpt from the book, I’ve Gotta Pack

As if by magic, 13 mountain bikes had been loaded on to a rack atop the van and when we stopped at the crest of the hilltop, we all unloaded and then a process unfolded of picking out a suitably sized bike, helmet and gloves. As I could see, the route was all down hill and we all admired an impressive view down into the valley below. I put on a windbreaker since it was certain we would be going at high rates of speeds down this mountain. The itinerary from Active South America had promised a “multi-sport” itinerary and on this particular day, that was more than an accurate statement. Rachel gave us about 5 minutes to roll around on our bikes and be sure the brakes and gears were working properly and then quickly we all started heading downward… no pedaling necessary. Single file, we spaced out and picked up speed and of course Steve had found his way to the front and was flying at breakneck speed. My eyes widened as I passed by signs that read “Velociodad 35” thinking that I was exceeding this limit on my bike without needing to pedal. I rode my brakes pretty hard and let Theresa and Steve go ahead of me. The Sacred Valley lay below us as we rolled downhill and a large river and huge sections of farmland with perfect rows created a great patchwork from this vantage point. We fit in a few photo breaks along the descent and the mantra, “it’s all downhill” was reality on this section of road.

After about an hour of this “scary fun” we arrived in the valley at Pisac. I remember 2 things about this town: a pay bathroom and an incredible artisan’s market. For one sole at the public bano, you could enter and an attendant handed you a small piece of “papel de bano” that would only do for a #1. Not sure how much it would cost to ask for papel de bano for solid waste removal? Perhaps 2 soles? But, would just two sections cover it? South American and Peruvian plumbing and bathroom etiquette is a story in of its own and we all tried to follow the rule of not throwing toilet paper into the toilet. In each bano, signs reminded tourists to please dispose of toilet paper into the provided receptacle. Many of us forgot at times, as habits are hard to break. In the words of Ann who exclaimed in her Aussie accent, “ Shit, I forgot, but I am not goin’ in after it!” After the bano adventures, more soles were parted with on gifts at the market. This market was row after row of Andean and Incan crafts, textiles, Alpaca sweaters, tapestries, blankets, trinkets, ponchos, chess sets, journals, belts, bracelets all in very vibrant colors. I was most interested in the selection of fringed sweaters and I started formulating a plan on what gifts I would get for my brother, sister and Mom and Dad and of course for myself.


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