Flushing out a tourist trap

Janet Urquhart

Spoiled American that I am, there are certain creature comforts that I take for granted. Toilet paper, for example. An actual toilet, for another. Flushing action.

I fully expected to rough it on a sea kayaking/camping excursion in Baja, Mexico, but our portable loo, tucked behind a dune with a view, was far more accommodating than, say, anything in downtown Cabo San Lucas.

Is this a subtle sign of anti-American sentiment south of the border ” feed us wonderful, hot tamales and then hoard the toilet paper or deny access to the restrooms altogether?

It began with our arrival, where a line of women waited to use an airport restroom that featured several stalls, one functioning toilet and no paper.

Our first stop, a quaint bed-and-breakfast in La Paz, offered clean, inviting bathrooms, but the proprietor provided one spare roll of precious T.P. for five women staying three nights. Yeah, right.

I was willing to chalk that oversight off as a fluke, but further developments only fueled my suspicions.

Nature called at the La Paz bus station, where a stern woman held the key to the restrooms. I managed, “el bano, por favor” in my pathetic Spanish. She tauntingly dangled the key from a finger and rattled off something I couldn’t understand, holding up toilet paper in the other. I nodded. She stingily rolled off seven squares and demanded three pesos (about 30 cents). Now that’s a healthy markup by any standard.

Desperate gringos are probably putting her firstborn through college.

Our next stop, a small hotel in Todos Santos, offered a spacious, clean bathroom and ample toilet paper that we were more than welcome to use, but not allowed to flush! I smelled a plot. Well, I smelled something.

Cabo San Lucas is a tourist trap like no other place I encountered. Huge cruise ships disgorge thousands of tourists who spend their day wandering the waterfront in search of public restrooms. They don’t find any.

Caught far from their staterooms, they succumb to bladder pressure and venture into one of the many watering holes that line the marina, just so they can use an otherwise-off-limits restroom.

After ordering the requisite beer at one such establishment, a waitress escorted me through a veritable maze behind the place to a locked, prison-style door. Personnel behind the steel bars checked my voucher from the bar and admitted me into the porcelain inner sanctum.

Toilet paper, three pesos. The relief, priceless.

Janet Urquhart will bring her own next time. Her e-mail is