We normally self-drive when on holiday. When we were organising our trip to Peru, Paul (the go-to man on South America at Tribes) said “Not in Peru. Definitely not.” We soon found out why . . .
For a start, Peruvians “go for it” – big time. Especially the drivers of the ubiquitous mototaxis, who pull when they please, drive wherever they please at whatever speed suits them and ignore regulations requiring them only to operate in towns.
Then there’s the general chaos of traffic in the towns and cities, which combined with narrow streets and few road signs means that you’re unlikely to get where you want to go unless you’re a local. Even our driver got lost in the middle of Trujillo. Our hotel occupied the whole of one side of the main square, we could see it clearly – from the rush-hour traffic jam on the other side of the square. which was one huge one-way system . . . Round the side streets we went; and again; and finally found the right one.
Out of town, the roads can be good – in which case they are extensively used by Extremely Large (and slow) trucks, whose drivers seem to believe that any other road users are mere incidentals to be disregarded. Potholes are frequent, gravel roads common. Road markings, even double white lines, seem to be there as warnings (as in “this bend is REALLY sharp/tight/long”) rather than instructive (as in “do not overtake”). Cutting corners, blind ones especially, seems to be a national sport.
Pedestrians, dogs, other animals are hazards too – but all of this can be enjoyed if someone else is doing the driving. As can the road-side adornments. Any spare length of wall has a political slogan painted on it. It may be exhorting you to vote in the forthcoming (or just past) election, or simply reminding you that the Such-and-such party exists. Some are faded, others newly (re-)painted. They vary across the country. This one is promoting an individual – Engineer Carillo.
But most were about a party, of which there are many in Peru, only some national. There are individual parties in the different regions, all with a logo, because many electors are still illiterate and vote for the party with the logo of the Inca chief or the llama.
And all of this makes for great conversation with your guide. We learned a lot about the political situation in Peru from our different guides. A lot of it was factual, helping us get our heads round a very different political system. But almost everyone we talked to raised one subject above all – corruption. And although we have very rudimentary Spanish, we could also see that this was a major topic in the newspapers. Which, as we commented at the time, is a good thing. While the press can trumpet the evils of corruption, then a country has a lot going for it.
Photos copyright Leanne Adams. All rights reserved