I’m sure you know by now that even though there are two of us who make up Shabby Alpaca, I (Celina) am the one who does most of the writing. It’s not because my partner/mom can’t write, it’s because I do. It’s like the seat on the bus is already taken, so she sits in the back….I’ve told her that I want her to write many times, but she doesn’t. I had to take her to Peru to cross something off her bucket list just to get a couple blogs out of her 🙂
My mom has wanted to go to Peru for many, many years and until we went together, I don’t think I realized how important it was to her. I love that I got to experience this dream-come-true and her first trip ever outside of the USA. It was certainly fun to experience these surprises along-side her. I hope you’ll join us for this three part series about the surprises of Peru!
Driving in Peru
I wish I could express the insanity of driving in Peru.
We had the pleasure of being in Mercedes passenger van for most of the trip, so we were relatively comfortable most of the time.
In Peru most of the vehicles are hired. There is a terrific amount of tourist vans and hired cars. Most tourists rent and utilize these vans so there are A LOT of them on the road. Most Peruvians utilize this form of hired transport as opposed to owning their own vehicle, so while there are many who are driving in Peru- most of them are hired drivers.
On the trip through the Altiplano the road itself is fairly nice with two lanes of pavement. However, the speed limit is never posted and if you are a driver and you have to get 12 passengers over the Altiplano the speed limit is, well, as fast as you can get them there. So picture 2 lanes of winding hilly roads- similar to Colorado. If I am driving a mountain road here in Colorado I am very careful and only pass when the signage tells me it is safe. Our driver getting us over the Altiplano???? Not so much. Where I might have taken 5 hours to navigate through the Altiplano our driver took 3 hours. So, speeding and passing under unsafe conditions was how we spent our time in the Altiplano. We sat in the back of the van, so we didn’t have to see all the crazy maneuvers. One thing I noticed is there are lots of speed bumps in the streets. I suspect this stops people from going 90 MPH, they have to slow down occasionally to go over the speed bumps.
There are no safe passing lanes anywhere. Nor any rules that I could tell about passing (or anything on the road really). You pass when you want. Just go ahead…pass. Another car/van coming….so…just pass and make it quick. I can’t tell you how often I said to Celina, “I love you, Celina” because I never knew if we would survive the passing. I wanted to be sure the last words I spoke were of love not……………WTF?? OMG WE’RE GOING TO DIE!!!???
I knew we would be driving in crazy conditions so I had a motion sickness patch provided by my doctor. I am eternally grateful for that.
As far as the towns we were in or drove through…. OMGoodness. Peru is very old and the streets are mostly cobblestone with very little clearance for motor vehicles. This does not matter. With the majority of vehicles being “for hire” instead of personal transport, they are schlepping people from point A to point B. They do this as quickly as possible because the next passenger is waiting. My son in law put it correctly: the traffic is chaos but with a purpose.
If you are walking the many very narrow cobblestone streets beware because the cars are also driving those same streets. Pedestrians? Very low on the list of concerns for drivers. You will take your life in your hands if you are a pedestrian- the only thing you need to know is GET OUT OF THE WAY! I almost saw a woman with a baby carriage get run over.
NO ONE uses traffic signals. Horns are the main method of communication for those driving in Peru. I couldn’t quite decipher the code, but it appeared to me that you honked if you were going through. I could not get over the amount of horn blowing that existed in all of Peru. If I honk my horn that means I am mad; someone is not obeying traffic signals or texting or something that I find incorrect. There is no malice in horn blowing in Peru, just part of the drive.
Remember the dogs all over in Part 1? These dogs would gather in the more populated areas, but I marveled that not once did I see a dog that had been hit near the road. Our driver always honked at the sign of a dog that was in or crossing the road – they are treated with the same respect as pedestrians and are subject to the same rule- GET OUT OF THE WAY!
A couple of weeks later and I still can’t get over driving in Peru and the traffic! I think often about how crazy it was!
When we took our final cab ride to the airport from our hotel in Mira Flores our driver was driving a fairly new Kia. He was a very nice man but during the drive I was afraid he had kidnapped us and we were going to market to be slaughtered or traded as house cleaners. The ride was terrifying. We drove through many of the neighborhoods that surround Lima and were rarely on a main road that looked like it was headed toward the airport. It would be like if you asked me to take you to DIA from Castle Rock and we never got on I25. We felt like our driver was trying to beat his own or someone else’s record. At one point Celina exclaimed….”Senor…I have children at home waiting for me. “ He laughed and said, “I am a very good driver.” Not once did I think of Dustin Hoffman while we were driving. Senor got us safely to the Lima Airport, unloaded our luggage and drove on to his next fare without incident. I should mention that the cost of the drive was $16.90 for a 45 minute to 1.5 hour ride. Can’t get an Uber for that around here….
Driving in Peru was a scary experience, but it was actually quite comfortable.
To conclude my three-part series on the Surprises of Peru- I want to go again. As soon as possible. Dogs, Banos, Traffic and all.