Friday, February 20, 2009

Driving: Peru Part V

When we first moved here, we didn't own a car for about six months. It was liberating to live somewhere where it is EXTREMELY easy and CHEAP to take taxis everywhere. I would say at least every third car is a taxi (note: this is not a fact, just a mere, but I think realistic observation). It was a great way to learn the streets, learn Spanish from reading the billboards and practicing what little, terrible Spanish I had those first few months with taxi drivers. We never had to worry about parking, finding something or getting lost. All you had to do was hail down a taxi, negotiate a price (no meters here - you can go about anywhere in the city for no more than $6) and jump in.

After six months of using taxis, wanting to run multiple errands at the same time, and wanting to get out of the city during summer vacation, we decided to buy a vehicle... And we fell in love with this: A 1981 Toyota Landcruiser.

And our house... Oh, I'll miss it!

It was fun - 4x4, it didn't matter if it got banged up a bit, and really, I don't think anyone would have stolen it. However, it was a bit lot bouncy and had no A/C, which turned out to be miserable in the summer. We decided to buy a new car a few months into the pregnancy because we decided I didn't want scrambled eggs in my womb and a carseat wouldn't work with the jump seats in the back....

So, we bought this...
Okay, I would NEVER drive this vehicle in the states with the current tint job. This car looks straight out of LBC, but it has it's benefits: it keeps the car cooler, the sun out of Max's eyes and it makes us feel better (that sounds terrible, but true) ignoring beggars at the intersections. It is an extra dark tint, one that you needs a special permiso (certificate). One we don't have a license for, because it's $200 per year, and we can bribe the police for about $5 if needed. That's a whole lot of bribes to make up $200. I haven't had to pay a bribe on the tint, though John has. But, I have been pulled over and hassled a little, but the police here have been extremely nice and send me on my way, even though we are breaking the law.

Okay, now so you know what we're driving (oh, so important)... On to "driving in Peru"...

To some (ahem, my mother), being in a vehicle in Peru, especially Lima, is a white-knuckled affair.

Some people think it's down right craziness.
I, for one, like it. There are "rules", but they are mostly guidelines. I've seen less accidents than I have in the states, and feel safer because people are driving a WHOLE lot slower than in the states.

You can be the "lost driver" and fit right in, easily reversing down a (side) street or taking an (illegal) u-turn where ever you deem necessary.

Lines in the road are mere guidelines... Frequently you'll see a three-laned highway made into four lanes by drivers, but it works.

Drivers are in and out, which is unnerving at first, but you just drive defensively and let them in and out, as you are also in and out. Rarely do you see angry drivers, even after being cut off.

As soon as a light flicks green, someone (sometimes multiple drivers) will honk their horn to get everyone moving.

It's amazing to see the makes and models of cars on the roads, anything from top-end Mercedes to a car that wouldn't pass anyone's emission standard yet is still running - sometimes with side panels even missing.

My two favorite things about driving in Lima:
  • Coasting over 5 lanes where the Via Expresa and Javier Prado merge
  • Getting an open window at the Ovalo (de Muerto) and sliding across seamlessly to Av. Las Palmeras
The things I hate most about driving in Lima:
  • Taxis cruising for customers and botching up traffic (I realize they need to make money, it's just frustrating sometimes)
  • COMBIs (mini-buses that are unregulated that seem to multiply like Gremlins) which are all over the city cutting in and out of traffic with lack of regards to others
Unfortunately no photos or videos really can put driving in Peru in perspective (otherwise I would have tried to include them for those of you who haven't experienced the chaos). It's wild... sometimes annoying... definitely entertaining... and truly a very Peruvian experience. One in which I will miss in some weird way.

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