As far as I can tell you can use your horn to say any of the following things on the roads in Peru:
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1. Watch out, I’m behind you.
2. Get out of my way.
3. Hurry up.
4. Slow down.
5. (To pedestrians) Don’t cross.
6. (To pedestrians) Cross.
So pretty much for any occasion…
The roads in Arequipa are interesting to say the least. I’ve tried hard to see whether drivers do follow any rules but as far as I can see people seem to make up their own. These include cars lining up side by side to turn left onto a main road (rather than waiting behind each other); pulling out of junctions directly into oncoming traffic and veering around buses which stop frequently for passengers who flag them down (no bus stops here for mean drivers to sail past).
I am assuming that there is some kind of seatbelt law, as many of the drivers wear their seatbelts draped across their chests but not actually plugged it – as though they are merely a fashion accessory rather than a potentially life-saving device.
Being settled in one place for a couple of weeks means I have been able to experience a lot more of the day to day life in Peru and one of my favourite parts of the day is the journey to and from school.
The bus we take is an old yellow school bus from America. After flagging it down, the next task is to squeeze yourself into a spot. Usually all of the seats are taken so the trick is to try and wedge yourself in as securely as possible, as the bus drivers have a tendency to carry out emergency stops (either to pick up a passenger or as a result of another car pulling in front of them.)
Standing for the duration of the journey isn’t too bad for someone short like me. For once in my life I’m about ‘average’ height here in Peru. But for one of our volunteers who is 6ft 7ins, it can get a bit uncomfortable as he has to stand with his neck at an angle for the whole journey.
The ride to school costs 20p and usually takes about 45 minutes. However it’s good to allow more time as it’s not unusual for the bus to stop to fill up with petrol on the way, often only about 40 soles worth (less than 10 pounds).
I love people watching during the journey. The bus is always filled with excited school children, who like to shout ‘hello, goodbye’ at us; women carrying huge bags from the market, with their babies strapped to their backs in colourful blankets and people in smart suits going to and from their jobs in the city. We’ve already met a few characters, including a man who requested that the bus driver changed the cheesy Latino pop music for his Mick Jagger album before proceeding to tell us, in the Queen’s English, how Mick had changed his life.
After two weeks something tells me that I’ll never be able to figure out what the official rules of the road are here but I’ve definitely had fun trying to work it out.