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Traveling in Peru

PERU | Wednesday, 30 September 2009 | Views [512]

SCARIEST moment ever - riding in this thing

SCARIEST moment ever - riding in this thing

Basically, it´s crazy.  The roads in cities are usually paved, at least the major ones, unless they´re stone. Some highways are paved, but a majority of the roads I´ve been on are dirt. Still better than some of the ones I drove on in Costa Rica though! One difference is that they are sooo narrow here! It´s practically a requirement to honk the horn as you round curves...that and lots of praying there´s not an oncoming oil tanker truck around the next curve. Oh wait...that´s happened twice so far!

So, leaving Santa Teresa Monday the 21st, we luckily caught a car as it was pulling away. Of course, that was unlucky for the man in the front seat who got relegated to the backseat with three other full grown people. Darcy and I took the front seat. (not seats.) About 15 minutes into the drive, we stopped and picked up 5 schoolboys who climbed in the back hatch section. Somehow, this isn´t a problem! Another 45 minutes later, we arrived in Santa Maria where a lady called in a spot in another vehicle leaving in a couple hours. We had sandwiches for lunch and played cards while we waited. A couple really cute tiny boys of maybe 3 years came and watched us for a few minutes before running away. Our next vehicle arrived, and luckily we got the first seat in the back of the van for the four hour, bumpy, fast ride back to Cusco. At a police checkpoint, we had to wait outside under a tiny shelter while the driver changed a flat tire in the rain. It was crazy watching him try to shove big rocks under the wheels and drive on them because it was so muddy! Eventually, we got back in, tried to sleep a bit, gave up, and took video of the drive! Made it to Cusco safe and sound.  :)

Driving around the city, most taxis ignore the traffic laws. Stop signs (PARE here) don´t really mean anything unless there is a bigger vehicle already in the intersection. Traffic lights are only obeyed when there is a traffic police person standing in the intersection with a whistle. Oh, and there may as well not be lines on the road. If two or three cars can fit, then they will. If the car in front is going to slow, it will get passed. And people have re-wired their vehicles to make it easier to honk their horns. I kid you not. One car had the horn on the gear shift...no need to move your hands at all!

Oh, it´s not all that scary...my drivers for my Manú trip were both quite good. They didn´t scare me to death or make me car sick, which is fantastic. The also didn´t use the horn all the time or make me feel like we were going to drive off the mountain. At least not too often. With some of the roads, it´s a bit hard not to feel that way!

Oh, then there was the one trip where we actually saw a rock slide. I´ve always wanted to see one. You know you see those signs, especially in the mountains, and wonder...now what would I do if a rock fell here? Well, if they´re already falling, you stop on one side and look across the pile of rocks at the van on the other side and shrug. Then you get out of the van, check to see if they´re just small rocks or big rocks, and floor it while someone stands there watching to see if the really big one is about to fall or not. We made it across safely. Thank God. That was almost as scary as having an SUV pass us on a 10-ft section of road when we were on the outside next to the drop off.

And then there´s just the art of finding a vehicle to get where you want to go. In all these cities, there´s a corner or a block where you just wait for a car. Some of them are private cars where they charge everyone a little and cram in as many people as possible. Not so fun. The better ones are the vans or small buses that everyone gets their own seat for a dollar or two, and when the vehicle is full, it leaves...and not a moment earlier. I´ve been lucky and only waited 10 minutes before, and I´ve been unlucky and waited an hour and a half. That´s just how it works here. Yesterday, I caught a van going toward a city and hopped off at a road that went to Maras. I then found a taxi to take me the 4 km to Maras with a couple other people who had been waiting for who knows how long. We dropped them off in town, and then the taxi continued to take me to Moray...another 9 km away. We picked up a couple Quechua ladies along the way and dropped them off further down the road. I paid a bit too much (but it was so much easier) to have the driver, Raúl, wait on me at Moray, and then take me to Salineras. I´m pretty sure that happens often. It was nice knowing there was a car waiting when I got finished touring the ruins and the salt mine though. Then he dropped me off at the turn off back at the highway. I waited a few minutes with some other folks who wanted to go to Cusco, too, and after trying to flag down some vehicles, a bus stopped and picked us up. One dollar and an hour later, I was back in Cusco!

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