First Peru suprised me positive. Around Lima was a wonderful three-laned highway! Good condition, nicely paved, all beautiful road. The only problem: Nobody ever explained the Peruvians how to use a highway. The consequence: Everyone drives left. This again caused, that people take over from all possible sides and a decent chaos is created. For slower cars it makes totally sense to drive left and block all the traffic behind, because you get passed only from one side and you move with maximum speed. I can understand this. Human behaviour always makes sense.
Planless Gauchos riding into the chaos
I drove with two Argentinians, who kindly gave me a lift to the other end of the city. We were sitting in a rusty piece of junk to cross Lima through the rush hour. Driving directly into hell. What seemed chaotic on the highway, escalated exponentially within the city and turned out to be pure anarchia. I drove through a lot of different shit holes, but this city reached a whole new level. Generally every crossroad we passed while honking and screaming towards the cars around us. Ruthless and always in hope not to bump into anything while moving forward. Some truck tried to push as aside on the anyway much to narrow street. “Puta Puta”, the Argentinians screamed out of the open windows.
The bigger junctions where conducted by policewoman on podiums. They were standing with masks and glow stick on their unreal galleries and waved alternately the 5-laned traffic through. Underlined was this scenery by the aggressive sounds of a thunder whistle, with which they tried to restrain the huge traffic. Every gesture was clear and determining. A sight of behold, which might be one of the most impressing experiences for me in this absurd city. Traffic lights have been nothing more than decoration. Absolute chaos, but somehow it worked. Fascinating. And while we where waiting in the traffic jam, we could buy everything we needed from those nomadic salesmans which you need during the rush hour. Food, sweets, drinks……just not weapons. Beside this I recognized: Lima smells strong. Sometimes like shit, sometimes like food, sometimes like flowers…whatever, it smelled all the time. This is how I imagine a modern Ankh Morpork.
At some point i asked myself: What the fuck are we doing here? Luiz, my last ride, said, that the highway was leading through all the city and….well….yes….we were totally lost and stucked in the middle of this moloch. At every stop we took the chance to ask the drivers around us where to go, which turned out to become kinda running gag between us. “Preguntar Taxi?” “Claro!”. Haha. The best was: The poor Argentinos asked for the way, the other driver answered and while we drove of looking at each other, always the question came up: “Did you understood him?” “No, did you?”. Poor Argentinos. Nobody understands them and they do neither. This turned out to become difficult.
Or main problem was however, that they asked for a wrong direction and we ended up in a suburb of Lima, which was probably as big as Berlin and definitely not part of our way. So we had to go all the way back and cross Lima again. I took over the orientation at one point, after i realized, that there was a city map of Lima in my atlas. 2,5 hours later we have been back on the Panamerica. Survived Lima during rush hours. It was a nice experience somehow. In its own way.
23:52 I was waiting on the next Peaje and catched a ride with a truck. 30km to then next Peaje? Claro. Movement is movement. I passed out in the truck and woke up one hour later, when we arrived at our destination. I guess it was more than 30km. Falling out of the truck I took position again. It was 01:00 in the night. According to my gameplan I had to catch a nightlift far north now. Looking back made me become desillusioned. I was behind Lima, which was a big milestone on my way to Bogota. And allthough I was CONSTANTLY moving in cars and trucks during the last 24 hours, day and night(except for 30 minutes waiting time). Allthough this great performance I had only 800-1000km behind me. Hitchhiking as it should be, but this seemed to be the fastest possible moving. I knew, if I go longer distances the whole tour counts and not only sections. You might lose the battle, but still can win the war……and then Lucho came.
Night creatures and other animals
Lucho, who was named originally Luiz, passed me at the Toll-Station and while doing that, he looked somehow suprised and did a confusing gesture. I guess he was curious what i was doing there. So he pulled over, we had a small talk where he was going, he said 500km north. What a big distance for this slow roads and this area. “500km?”, I asked disbelieving. He agreed to take me. My night ride was there. Yay! We cleaned the car, made some space for me. I would stay for the next 10 hours with him and these are exactly those kind of night rides I am looking for. And exactly those who I enjoy the most.
Lucho was a crazy guy. He remembered me of Vitaly, some Romanian fellow, who gave me one a ride from Kopenhagen to Hamburg, also during the night (maybe I should write a Vitali feature one day). His car was stuffed with apartment furniture, clothing and other things. He was looking at me with a mixture of enthusiasm and insanity and weared a white towel around his neck, like a boxer during the fight break. he was working for a chinese company and was an engineer. Responsible for drilling. I could hardly understand his Spanish, he spoke very fast. But he was extremly perceptive and intelligent. He was lecturing about the different spanish languages and how they developed within the different cultures and he showed me a lot of different good music. Every little thing draw his interest. it was somehow a bit scary, because he was so freaky and aware at the same time. His questions were very precise and he did not let off until you gave an equally precise answer.
We drove through the deserty coast area and aside the road were little houses with a laterns in front of their entrance. Illegal gas stations, explained me Lucho. But that was a secret. The laterns were a hint, that you could buy gas here. It became a very long night. I felt asleep. the kind of sleep that overtakes your mind and pushes you into the dark unconcious state. Your head falls forward and you start to drool on yourself. It is basically the only sleep that I have on a big tour like this. Sometime during daybreak i woke up slowly and Lucho asked, if I am hungry? We stopped at a small restaurant and he ordered some fish and some rice for us. Lucho invited me, while telling, that he felt asleep two times while driving this night. I decided to stay awake from now on.
Where you talk about the Wolf, there the Wolf is!
I observed with great interest Luchos mixture of insanity and acuteness, while he was dealing with people. In the little restaurant, he ordered something they didn´t had and it took them a bit longer to serve us. he constantly pestered, called the waitress and said with a disgusting smile: “You want me to come back, do you?” He had a really annoying behaviour, but somehow I was fascinated. Next stop: Gas station. The woman had no change and had to organize money from somewhere. Same game. He was screaming politely at her, why they have such a shit service here and why there was no water on the toilets. They started talking. he explained me, that this woman only earns around 200$ per month. Afterwards he became a bit more friendly. And there was water outside of the building, where we could wash our hands and faces. While washing a construction worker was shouting towards us. I couldn´t understand. But Lucho constantly provoked him, like evryone around him and while we drove off something like “para tu madre” came out of his mouth. He fleered at him and we drove off.
One more time police control. After corrupt several policemen before, Lucho said already: “Oh, this is going to be an expensive travel for me.” and he laughed hysterically. But this time we had problems with the paperwork. And if there are problems, after giving some money to the police, it means you are in deep shit! Long discussion, Lucho had to get out of the car and get to the police jeep. I don´t know what happened then, but probably it became expensive. A very entertaining night ride came to its end. Around 12:39 we arrived in Chicuaya, northern Peru. Again abit slower than expected, but I did a big step forward.
A small truck stoppe 8 minutes later and took me two hours further north on a road which runs 200km straight, without any civilization and only one junction in the middle of nowhere. At this junction i got dropped. There was a little restaurant where i could get new water, cigarettes as well as some snacks. While waiting at the junction, there was a woman sitting, who hopped from one bus to another, selling street food. Around us was onyl sand and garbage. After a while another woman arrived, got out of a bus, started sitting on her plastic box of food and emptied her pockets from all that plastic bags and junk inside. The wind blew the plastic bags across the street, half dancing, half rolling they were carried into the desert to finally stuck at a random bush for the next 500 years. A somehow sickening sight.
First i catched a Toyota, then hitchhiked a Taxi from Puna to Sullana and convinced a Mototaxi to take me to the end of the city in trade off a cigarette. Meanwhile i arrived in back in the jungle. The air was humid and hot, cars hardly stopped and i transpired like in Brazil the last time. Around six in the evening i got my expected evening ride towards Tumbe, the last city in Peru, a few kilometers away from the ecuadorian border. Again everything went like I worked for it. We should drive for 5,5 hours. Small truck. In between stopping for dinner. Fish again, combined with some ice-cold water and my driver invited me. Anyway i had no more than 8$ in my pocket and didn´t spend any money during the last 24 hours. Border near, Ecuador i am coming!