Sometimes it’s Better to go Behind the Bathrooms…

inca trail squatter

Photo via Rebecca Ahnsbrak

Let’s face it, we’ve all been there…you know…in the port-o-potty or squatter, wondering how it could be considered at all sanitary, trying desperately not to let the bottom of your pants drag on the ground encrusted in lord only knows what kind of excrement from some ungodly amount of people.

When you first come across these piss-holes, you assume it is the best place to go, mostly because it has a door (kind of, usually).  So, you do the balancing act, holding your pant bottoms tight between your knees as you try to squat in the right position – not too far forward so that you spray your shoes, and not too far backwards so that you don’t fall in (yikes) – all the while trying not to breath in even for two seconds.  The best part of the awkward production of course, is how all of this is done in almost complete darkness (because who would ever think to install a light source in these filthy stalls).

It was only one night on the Inca Trail that I actually used the squatter facilities provided for hikers.  In preparation for the trek, I purchased a shit-shovel – as much as I had read about improved facilities along the trail, I had hoped for the best, but really expected them to be what they were; gross.  One of the stalls I entered on the first day had just a small hole in the middle of the floor – more like a drain than a squatter.  I had to look around to make sure this was not a shower, and with no shower-head to be seen assumed that this too was a toilet.

Each group on the Inca Trail must decide on a team name…our group, amused by this whole bathroom facility situation, decided that “Team Squat” was the most appropriate title, and most of us proceeded to squat behind the bathrooms for the duration of the climb – taking cue from the numerous Quechua people seen along the first half of the route.

Peru - Kat2 173e

Of course the Inca Trail was not the first (nor will it be the last) time I would squat behind the bathrooms.  My first “it’s better to go behind the bathroom” experience was at WEMF (World Electronic Music Festival) outside of Toronto, Canada – I’m sure you can imagine how gross the port-o-potty’s are after hour 2 of a three day rave.

Despite their apparent grossness, another reason I have a minor fear of the port-o-potty would be that high school graduation party I attended, at which the single stall was placed on a hill outside of my classmate’s home.  Needless to say, the sloped terrain was a poor choice in location, which would become very apparent when the container began to roll down the hill with someone inside.

While I don’t condone relieving oneself in the middle of a public square (as a number of children I saw in Peru do in the multiple Plazas de Armas), I stick to the belief that sometimes it is better to go behind the bathrooms, and highly recommend scoping out a decent place to do so (especially when spending time in an outdoor environment).

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