Day of the Blockade. Hitchhiking within the collective Resistance of Peru

Super day in Peru.
Super day in Peru.

The day started promising. The hostel warden of my 2,20€ Alojamento gave me a lecture about how bad people are, especially in Peru and Bolivia. Evil and danger are omnipresent. At some point I couldn’t follow her anymore, she sat down, exhausted from her “the world is going to hell”-speech, and gave me a farewell with a short-spoken “Ciao”. So i entered this sunny morning. It wasn’t far to the border and after the first car picking me up I was there already. Thanks Bolivia. What a nice goodbye.

Hühnerherz streetfood
They day before i ate some nice street food. Later I found out that it have been chicken hearts. Not that bad at all.

Leaving Bolivia, crossing the border, Passport inspection, new Visa, 13 minutes later I was in Peru. Not a lot of traffic, so I started walking. As always. A group of taxi drivers asked me for my destination. “Puno.” “Impossible, no traffic today.” “Why?” “Road closed, social conflicts.” “Oh. Well, thanks for the information.” Road blocked, I thought. Ha! So I have to get to the blockade, walk through, and continue on the other side. I had only 150 km in front of me. Can’t be that hard. The first Taxi gave me a ride to the next town. On my way out of the city a nice Peruvian took me in his China-Car. In that car I understood what was going on. The government wants to privatize part of the area around the Titicaca lake. It’s about resources and mining. Since the Peruvians don’t want that to happen they decided to close the whole road from La Paz to Peru – for 24 hours. We hadn’t even arrived at the main highway when we experienced the first signs of it. Stones and broken pieces of glass on the street, a warning to all that are going from A to B that day.

We passed a bus. I had spoken with my driver about strategies of movement when he excitedly pointed out: “Here here, this one’s going to Puno, just take the bus, it’s much easier.” “Well sorry, but no money.” I had more or less on purpose not taken any money from the ATM in Peru and wanted to start the day without coins in the pocket. The driver, happily excited, handed me 10 Sol (about 2,50€) and braked the arriving bus so that I could jump in. He seemed really happy. I couldn’t turn him down, accepted willingly and soon found myself in the bus. Technically spoken it was hitchhiking.

Today Peru is about destroying and blocking

The bus wasn’t going to Puno, that was clear, but just 40km further to another town, where we would find a connection to Puno. We rounded several stone barricades and headed straight into a village where we found a sudden end of the road. In front of us a barricade of barbed wire and behind it an exaggeratedly enthusiastic crowd that was taking down a street lamp (Type Cement) with ropes, combined forces and a good rejoice for vandalism. A very martial showdown. Bring it down to block the street with it buddies! At first I thought it was a lynch mob ripping apart a sympathizer of the privatizing group. Whilst I was still watching the spectacle with curiosity and ravishment, two women from our bus started to dismantle the barbed wire. Quickly back into the bus and on we go. But we didn’t make it very far since the village people (mostly consisting of old man and women) had already pulled the concrete pillar onto the street. Final stop. A brief discussion, no chance to get further, reverse gear. We have to take a detour through the mountains.

Erfolgreiche Pfählung. Die Dorfgemeinschaft steht vor ihrem Werk.
Successful demolition. The village society in front of their performance.

We continued via small roads. Inside the bus outrage spread. The words “taking pictures” and “denouncing” were heard. In general: The people on strike had my sympathy. They are doing it for a higher purpose, fighting for their rights, i like that. Even if they are overtravel a little. You cannot make an omelette without breaking the eggs… While the discussion was ongoing we were stuck again already. This time in the middle of a small village, in front of us we had a pile of debris and 150 meters behind that the street was torn open. The next blockade. Could also be road works. Another discussion. Finally a farmer showed us a way around that, through even worse “streets” and fields. On the last part of the detour we had to fill a trench with stones so that the bus could drive over it and in the end the farmer received 1 Sol from every passenger for the fabulous escort.

After gravel road we had arrived on the normal street again. Until the next village. Here the community had also proclaimed collective resistance. Of course. The police was already there, discussing. Same game, a detour. Looking for another way. Meanwhile we were in a convoy of 4 cars, including an ambulance car. Somehow we made it through, at one time we had to push the ambulance car out of a field and fill holes with stones again, so that we could pass. At least you could find stones everywhere on the streets today. But also glass shards.

Hitchhiking in Peru means principally paying.

Eventually we arrived at the bus’ final destination, I gave the driver the money I had received and decided to head for the bank and eat something. It was a beautiful sunny day, I was looking forward to the next 70 km and wondered how this spectacle would continue. I got out of the city with a ride from a taxi. After that with two old Peruvian woman in traditional dresses and an even older man. I somehow knew that they would want money. When I got out of the car the old man held out his hand and I gave him my last change. Puh, done. But it wasn’t going to be that easy all day. One mototaxi (three wheels, small cabin, kind of “Alberto-Pizza”-Mobil) was picking up an old woman and she most kindly invited me to hop on. To the next city. In general a good lift and I pointed out several times that I had no money. The old lady however had the voice of a commanding officer, so I couldn’t “not” get in. After we arrived she shortly remarked: “Now pay.” Resistance useless. But I didn’t have any… oh wait, some Bolivian change. Order taken. And the driver was satisfied. I have to add that I don’t get in if it is clear that I have to pay. Here although I got in believing they would take me for free and i didn’t want to be an asshole. I was figuring how hard it is in Peru. Especially today.

Jemand sollte hier mal die Straßen säubern.
Somebody should clean that street.

Again I walked through the city. Jumping onto a motorbike. I asked clearly where he was going. He continues silently. Again I asked where he was going. He took me straight into the pampa to the next blockade. As I get off the bike he asks for money. Again. Damn. Hey, I don’t have change (just paper money) … oh there … another coin. I gave him 5 Sol, about 10 times the amount he asked for, he could easily get a meal for that. For that amount I could have paid a taxi to Puno and he was doing good business riding his bike for 5 minutes. After realizing my generous donation I sympathetically clapped on his shoulder and walked away towards the road block. Whatever. I had no more change and didn’t want to give money to anyone anymore. That was clear. At the blockade I greeted friendly and told them where I was going. I was offered food (first I thought they want food) but continued. The first motorbike stops. We debate. I tell him that I have no money, he says he needs gasolina. 5km further? 1 km further, fine for me. At the end he leaves me standing on the road. Come on… 1km to the next village? No more money for rides today, suckers! Although most Peruvians don’t really ask for money but pitifully point at their gas tanks giving you the puppy-eyed look. Not the usual strategy. Hard to resist.
Two more motorbikes. One understood, the other didn’t. “Sorry man, don’t have no money for you.” Change was gone and I had to keep my principles. But it was okay, he understood. Another blockade, friendly greeting the people. “Why is there no traffic today? Hrhr, I know, I know. Joking. Good luck!” They did not understand my humor. Then I had my most favored ride of the day. Another motorbike. He was going pretty far. He gave me a ride just noting “Jump on!” as I told him the thing about money. Close to his hometown we met his son (the kids also made a blockade, earning some coins) and continued.

High running feelings

We headed for his town and at the entrance we found the yet biggest protesting crowd. About 50 people, ⅔ of them hanging around on the near field, the rest at the blockade. They went crazy as soon as they saw me on the bike. “Amerikanski, Amerikanski!” “No, Alleman.” Shaking hands like a young president, but the situation started to get out of hand quickly. Not for me but for my driver. They thought he was a taxi making profit from the protest. Didn’t want to let him pass although we met at least three other motorbikes that had passed the blockade before. Now they claimed it closed, fucking pricks. I watched them for a minute but then I got off trying to get involved.
He was the most nice driver of the whole day and now he had to take shit from 3-4 upset wannabe-Hitlers. I tried to explain the situation. Somehow nobody really listened to me but I think they understood that he was taking me for free. Pulling around on the motorbike. Small acts of violence, me standing next to my driver, about two feet taller than most of them spreading authority.

In the background a hateful woman, unstoppably bitching from the beginning. In between several people from the field had joined our “conversation” and a handful field-woman started to discuss with the venomous lady. The situation escalated and nobody knows why. I told the newcomers that he was no taxi to generate some support for him. At some point they told me that I could get through, but the motorbike cant. I felt so bad for the driver that I stayed. Chaos was unleashed.

The spiteful lady suddenly had an incredibly huge rock in her hand and – to my utter confusion – threatening one of the older bystanders, finally throwing it at him. As she picked up the next rock one of the wannabe-Hitlers. stepped in. The two of them start to fight. The people from the fields had finally joined the party. Screams, noises and chants from everywhere, everybody watching the situation. Reminded me of the Venezuelan border. At some point it was too much for me. My driver was putting on his helmet, I thanked him and excused me for the situation that I got him into. In a way that all of them could see it. Then I turned my back on them and continued.

Slightly pissed I headed for Puno, walking. My solidarity had been taken down a notch through this pointless despotism. That is really not fair, they should rather continue taking down street lanterns. But 150 meters further at the next road block I was cheered up again. About 15 people were standing around… playing dodge-ball. They spread so much joy that I also felt better. Keep on friends! Vive la restistance!

Abriss. Straßenblockade in Peru
Demolition. Blockades in Peru

I am Hitchhiking without money, Muchachos!

After another motorbike ride I was 27km before Puno. I could reach it before dawn, walking. Although I had been on foot for 4-5 hours already today and they felt tired. A taxi stops. “Where to?” “Puno. come on, come on.” “Wait, I have no money.” “What do you mean, ‘No money’?” “Well, no money. Can I still join you?” He patted his seat as if he was giving a dog a sign to sit down. He started driving, very slowly. He wasn’t sure about the ‘no money’ story. “10 Sol to Puno.” he offered. “Sorry man, no money. I walk and hitchhike.” The concept of hitchhiking is not really present in the people’s minds. Reluctantly he continues driving me around. Three men jump in. “Puno?” “Yes, Puno. 3 Sol.” Damn fraudster, wanted to sell it to me for 10. The men somehow knew me from one of the blockades from before. Told the driver that I came with a motorbike and was walking. Seems there were not many gringos on the road that day. I had build up some reputation.
The driver was definitely no nice person to put it mildly. “You want to walk, you want to walk?”, he asked me. I think he was testing me. Fact is, I really do not mind to get out and walk if he doesn’t want to give me a ride. I don’t want to push anybody. And i am taking it seriously with my “Hitchhiking Around the World”- challenge. Getting more and more bugged by the situation and another paying passenger standing ready next to the street I decided, not without relief, to finally get out of the car and continue walking. I was tired. Every step was painful. But still satisfied to not be riding that taxi cunt. Only 20 km left. Seeing Puno in front of me was encouraging. One car passed, a taxi didn’t want to take me. That was the traffic of 45 minutes. And that even without roadblocks…?? These moments are the trials of patience on my journey. In the end two friendly Peruvians gave me a lift in there China-car restoring my faith in humanity. Puno, there I was. The following day I would go another 80 km north to start Operation Cargo-Train-Hopping.

About the end…

There is one thing missing here. The Death road. Was a day’s ride. In the beginning I thought there would be no traffic. Highlights were a Jeep giving me a ride on the roof. For the Death Road I managed to flag down a taxi to La Paz. We drove only for one hour on the so called Death Road, after that on paved road. Was kind of disappointing. The road is more beautiful, older and atmospheric then the Yungas roads which I did the days before. Principally similar, 200-300 meter deep drop-offs, constantly in danger of death and gorgeous. But since I criss-crossed through the whole Yungas this part of the death road was like the pseudo-cherry one the Black-Forest Cherry-Cake. Afterwards I crossed La Paz in a three hour “I – eat – all – street – food – that – I – pass – since – I – have – so – many – Bolivianos – left”-hike, hitchhiked a truck, again experiencing a blown tire, finally being dropped in Copacabana by a friendly couple where I found the 2,20€ Alementejo with the nice old lady, that painted this terrible evil image of our planet.

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