I want to take a break from writing about anything ministry related and talk about one of the largest aspects of my life down here in Puno: driving. It’s no secret anymore that I have a motorcycle, and while it helps a lot with our work, I don’t want to get into to that. I just want to share some fun experiences and differences about the driving here in a 3rd world city.
Puno is where I bought my motorcycle and where I learned how to drive one. The picture above is me now where I first learned to drive. The pastor and I bought it, and the next day he taught me how to drive it here on the shores of Titicaca. Pastor said and I quote, “This isn’t the first time you’ve driven a motorcycle, you’ve been doing this for a while.” (We would soon find out how untrue that was.) I only seemed like I knew what I was doing because I had thought the process through in my mind on how to drive it, and just did it when the time came around. Then the pastor said, “You just lack city driving.” He hopped on and we started to go through the unfamiliar (at the time) city of Puno.
I was driving along when the road was blocked off and we had to turn left or make a U-turn. We took the U-turn option but apparently the cop that was standing at the corner didn’t see that as an option. He started yelling at us, to move the bike, and that’s when we found out how untrue what pastor said was, and I froze. Everything I had learned had left my mind in that instant. Then the cop says, “He’s just learning, isn’t he…” Keep in mind that I have my helmet on so the cop doesn’t actually know how white this kid (me) actually is. The pastor argued with him. I didn’t say a word. The pastor got of the bike and continued arguing. I didn’t say a word. Somehow, the pastor got us out of it and then he took the handlebars and we took off. Me about to faint. That cop is sometimes at the station by our house. Sometimes I see him and I think, “Sucka! You don’t even know that this white boy was driving that day!” That was day one.
I’ve gotten pulled over once since then. It was because they were checking everyone, drug tip or something. I handed the female officer my insurance and registration (which are in the name of the pastor,) holding back my American license. She then asked me for my license and I gave it to her, with big letters saying, “OHIO.” She compared the names of the license and the registration and with a confused look and a smile said, “Have a good night sir.” I sped off without having said a word!
As far as rules, limits, and laws here…there are two: If it’s green, go! If it’s red, stop! Everything else is open game:
Do I park on the left of the right side of the street? Can I go right on red? Is there a speed limit? or even a lane? Is this road one way or two way? Turn signals are optional?
Now, there are very few stoplights so you can imagine how barbaric these roads are. I say very humbly that I am a pro now, and very pridefully I say that I am Puno’s best driver. I do everything with an American base, but still like a Puneñan, which makes me the one who does things right, but not alone in my own little world.
You’ve also got two classes of vehicles here: slow and fast. Slow would be combis (public vans that are a bit bigger than minivans) empty taxis, and commercial trucks. Fast would be personal cars, taxis with someone in them, and motorcycles (esp ones that deliver propane gas.)
Combis (com-bees) are by far the worst for one reason: They stop on the right side of the street to pick up/drop off people. They stop in groups. And when they’re done with their business on the right, they dry turn the wheel cranking it to the left, hit the gas, and cut right into traffic. I’ve seen this process a million times way before it happens. You literally have to drive on the left side watching for those wheels being cranked to the left. I’ve laid on my horn on numerous occasions but it doesn’t phase them. You just gotta put on the brakes.
When in Arequipa, I always thought that horns were over used. It’s not true. I now know why they are used so much. People don’t know how to walk. They are in the street not looking almost constantly. They are very irresponsible (Originally I had a different choice of words other than “irresponsible) when it comes to walking. What’s worse is that cars here have the right-of-way!
I love driving here though. To be able to have a motorcycle in South America next to the highest navigable lake in the world is truly a dream for me. It’s one of my favorite things to do here, and I’m going to be sad when it’s over. I drive in the city, not just the outskirts. It makes things easier and life more enjoyable (public transportation is a disaster!)