The Astounding Travel Adventures of a Miraculous Fellow

Five Days to Machu Picchu: Day Three — “The Shithole and the Death Bugs”
November 16, 2008, 1:02 pm
Filed under: Peru

My exhaustion having subsided after a glorious ten hour sleep, I awoke fresh, unfrozen, and ready to take on another day of walking around trying to figure out where the fuck Machu Picchu was.  I mean, don’t they have maps in this country?  Why are we walking around for five days when we could just get online, Google map it, then hop in a taxi?  Talk about backwards…

Campsite #2.  No snow, thank the Lord.
Campsite #2. No snow, thank the Lord.

This morning we woke up in a beautiful valley in the midst of a bunch of forested mountains.  The day before we went from freezing cold glacial mountains to jungle-mountains and rivers, and it only cost me the peace of mind that comes from knowing you will never be able to utilize your knees for the rest of your life.  A small price to pay.

After yet another marvelous breakfast, I stretched, retired my hiking jeans, threw on a pair of shorts, and started walking.  Our guide Paul told us that today would be an “easy day” of hiking, where we could just hike the six hours straight without a lunch break so that we’d arrive in the early afternoon to our lovely campground called “La Playa — The Beach.”  This sounded like a tremendous suggestions, and our group wholeheartedly supported the idea of pushing through lunchtime to have a leisurely afternoon on a beachfront river where we could bathe for the first time, relax, read, and nap the day away.  However, as is the case many times in life, our imagination was flat-out, completely wrong; and Paul, although he was a very capable, responsible guide, was totally full of shit on this one.

With dreams of beach lounging and scrubbing off the the accumulated three day funk from our bodies, our crew hiked off with a youthful spring in our step.  Eschewing lunch turned out to be a wonderful idea and we quickly trekked along in record time.  After a simple day of slight up-and-down hiking through warm weather along a beautiful jungle river, we arrived at La Playa not long after noon. 

How quickly our dreams of the Wonder Campsite disintegrated.

We walked into a small town with four or five little stores that were clearly designed for the numerous hikers that passed through to Machu Picchu.  We turned into one of the small encampments of wooden houses, and were careful not to step on the chickens, roosters, or dogs charging around in the small open grass area.  Our tents were crammed together into a tiny area with the meal tent stuck in the middle, which made it nice if you wanted to fall out of one into another.  Paul must have confused the look of puzzlement on our faces with a look of satisfaction, and congratulated us on arriving at La Playa.

Now, on the previous three days, the process of human waste removal was either performed in nearby rocks, bushes, dark fields, or the makeshift tent latrine that had been erected by our porters.  While the tent latrine may sound kind of gross, it came with a cooler-like toilet that had an actual seat, and was thus not too bad. 

On this day however, things took a turn for the worse.  There, on the outskirts of the tents (read: 4 feet away), was a little shack.  In this shack was a hole.  Not just any hole, mind you, but a Shithole.

For those folks who have not had the pleasure of Third World excrement disposal, toilets are a real crap shoot.  Pun intended.  And, in the case of La Playa, the Shithole in the ground was a literal crap shoot, because there was no toilet seat to sit on.

So, as a tutorial for the uninitiated, I will outline the technique for utilizing this mechanism:

1. Open “bathroom” door, close it, come to the realization that there is a hole in the ground to shit in.
2. Stare at the Shithole, and psych yourself up to go for it.
3. With self-motivation achieved, stare a little more and try to figure out the dynamics of getting the shit from your butt into the Shithole.
4. Lower pants, bend over Shithole, then realize possible negative outcomes of this scenario.
5. Remove pants.
6. Bend over again, gradually getting closer and closer to Shithole, until you are relatively sure you will not just shit on the floor next to Shithole.
7. Shit on floor next to Shithole.
8. Curse.  (“Shit!” seems to be an appropriate response).
9. Now, with a little practice under your belt, clear the rest out, most of which lands in Shithole.
10. Size up the situation: can you get out of bathroom without kicking “the miss” into the Shithole?  If no one will see you: run.  If you cannot escape: close your eyes and kick it in.
11. Wipe, throw it in the Shithole, pour water down Shithole to clean it out.
12. Put pants back on.
13. Rub shit shoe on nearby grass.
14. Breathe.

Simple enough.

Luckily for me, I had to go bad enough that I did not have time to analyze the situation.  So, I followed steps 1-14 above, and left the bathroom a more worldly man, knowing that I made it out of the Shithole without shitting in my pants, on my shoes, and without the door blowing open as I’m awkwardly grabbing my ankles and bending my knees like a praying mantis with no pants on, cursing as my discharge misses its mark.

After that fun escapade, it was time for the beach.  As we found our swimming gear and got ready, we began to notice the abundance of small gnats that were swarming our campsite.  At first, they just seemed to be an irritant that flew in your face and landed on your skin.  Then, upon swatting one, the bloody mess and hole in my leg alerted me to the fact that these were no simple gnat.

They were Death Bugs.  And they were everywhere.

In the mad scrambled for bug spray that defined the next two minutes, our group managed to endure over 803,273,014 bites.  These little fuckers were voracious.  They bit at will, and when you killed one, 312 took its place.  So, we resisted the urge to climb into our tents, assume the fetal position, rock back and forth whimpering, and sleep until the following morning.  Instead we bathed in bug poison and hit the beach.  While trying to figure out where this infamous “beach” was, we were led by a local girl through someone’s backyard, where we were greeted by a little kid taking a dump.  Only he didn’t have a Shithole.  After the uncomfortable situation of walking past this little scamp in his backyard, it only got weirder when he picked up his waste product and moved it around to another spot.  Hmm…I just kicked it with my shoe when I missed.  I’m clearly not a local.

After tramping through a soccer field and clambering down a small cliff to arrive at the beach, we realized a few sad truths:

1. “La Playa” was nothing more than a rock-covered bank of river;
2. There were far more Death Bugs near the water;
3. The river was flowing from a melted glacier, and topped off at about 33 degrees.




So, our choice was simple: get in the Arctic water to escape the Death Bugs who were undoubtedly sharing their Dengue Fever with us, shriek like a three-year-old girl when your unmentionables went underwater, rapidly clean the filth off our bodies without getting hypothermia, try not to be swept away by the fast-flowing current, then get out only to be feasted upon by Death Bugs because we washed off the repellent.

I’m pretty sure I had more fun in the Shithole.


As our blood was drained by the Death Bugs on the walk back, we realized that it was only 1 PM, and we had the rest of the day here.  Thus, there was only one thing left to lessen the pain of “The World’s Worst Campsite”: drink copious amounts of beer.

And this we did.

All the way through the afternoon, we drank beer.  As we played cards and the nice lady who owned the house tried to build a “smoke fire” to keep the bugs out, we drank beer.  As we almost asphyxiated from the “smoke fire”, we drank beer.  As the sun descended, we drank beer.  Then, miraculously, as it became dark, we noticed that we must have drank enough beer, because the Death Bugs were gone.  To celebrate, we drank beer.  Throughout dinner and going back-and-forth with the English people about how much better American English is than English English, we drank beer.

Dance Partaaaaay in the Middle of Nowhere

Dance Partaaaaay in the Middle of Nowhere

Then, suddenly, without warning, a dance party erupted in the dirt streets of the town.  Then, suddenly, without warning, a handstand contest broke out in the dirt streets of the town.  This apparently was not a normal occurrence in town, and the locals all came out to watch the weird gringos clumsily gyrate about to music, then walk on their hands up and down the street.  Throughout it all, we drank beer.

This place wasn’t so bad after all.

Then, as our mood got better and better, someone noticed a shining gem in the darkness.  In this town’s defense, it did have one thing going for it that we had not seen in three days: electricity.  And, this strange glowing light coming from the neighbor’s bar was like a beacon calling us towards it.  As we opened the door to this small building, we understood: the Lord had put us through enough hardship, and He had placed a real, flushable, seated toilet there specifically for us.  Hallelujah!  Even those of us who had cleared ourselves out in the Shithole went into this beautiful contraption just to sit there for awhile, smiling and flushing.

That night we all slept like drunken babies.

And all was right with the world.


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Your blog is hilarious! I’m going to MP in 2 days.

Comment by Diane

I did the same hike last year. That toilet was not fun. I was fortunate to have pouring rain at this stop so you could tell what was mud and what was… Anyway great blog!

Comment by Tim

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