Have TP, Will Travel

Backpacking & Trekking, Lost Girls RTW Adventure, Packing & Wardrobe, Peru — By on July 19, 2006 at 9:06 pm

Travel has a way of bringing you back to the very basics of life-food, shelter, warmth and um, bodily functions. The sad fact is, Holly, Jen and I have spent far more time discussing the bathroom and what goes on inside of it than any other topic, and we’ve long been baffled by the conspicuous absence of soap, toilet paper, hand towels, toilet seats and in some cases, the bowls themselves, in Peruvian “washrooms.”

We’ve accepted (but are still pretty grossed out) by the certainty that a large percentage of locals, including the very folks who prepare our food, don’t wash their hands after they use el bano. But we just couldn’t fathom the notion that Peruvians were skipping the essential step that involves toilet paper-is it possible that a whole nation of people are walking around without having wiped their backsides? We were desperate to know what was going on, but our questions were not exactly the kind you can ask on a local city bus or to your waiter after he takes your order. “Excuse, me but do you carry Charmin around in your mochilla? Do you use it regularly?”

Finally, after spending three and a half weeks with these sensitive questions burning in our brains, I set aside my pride and approached a young woman in the bathroom of a pizza restaurant in Arequipa. After I delicately asked her if Peruvians must plan ahead and bring toilet paper with them, she misunderstood my admittedly poor Spanish and graciously offered me a few squares from her own stash. Pressing her a bit more for explanation, she said yes, locals do indeed keep TP in their bags.

Lest I think that only women have enough foresight to pack the paper, today I noticed a man on our bus sitting with a full roll in his lap, likely anticipating the next potty break.

We can’t explain how “relieved” we are to have this mystery solved!

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