It never ceases to amaze me every time I jump in a taxi or combi, especially in Lima, how adventurous and wild the driver takes on the road. Street signs and traffic lights are somewhat more of a suggestion than a strict rule that all must follow. They all dart in and out of the lanes without looking.
And don’t think that pedestrians have the right of way. This is not Ann Arbor, or any other city where the number of people outnumbers the vehicles. Frequently I have found myself waiting ten minutes on the corner to cross the street, or just quite as often, darted out into traffic only to come quite close to the oncoming car.
If you don’t own your own car, taxis, combis (minivan bus), colectivos (a shared taxi that follows a set route), and buses (the size of school buses) are everywhere. Taxi prices are completely arbitrary and totally dependent on who is asking, who the taxi driver is, what time of day it is and where you are going. If I, a gringa American, ask to go anywhere remotely touristy – like Miraflores – my “price” for the taxi is definitely different than a Peruvian who wants to go to the same place at the same time.
Not only are taxi prices dependent on the person, each taxi driver thinks they know the best and fastest way to make it to wherever you need to go. Because of this, I have never taken the same route to and from the airport, Miraflores, SUs offices downtown or any other place I’ve been in Lima.
In Iquitos driving is a little different. As I’ve mentioned before, since there aren’t as many cars – more motorbikes and mototaxis – driving is even more fun. People still weave in and out of each other while on the road and I usually have to hold on tight, especially when it is Gene driving his motorbike.
Because Iquitos is on the river, the majority of transportation occurs in boats traveling on the many rivers that meet at the city (including the Amazon). The same rules apply on the river as the road, which means there really aren’t any rules. Various sizes and shapes of boats, some as large at the Amazon Hope or as small as a canoe, dart in between each other, trying to make the least amount of wake, but to get to the destination as fast as possible.
Last week, I was returning to Puerto Alegria after spending a day in Iquitos with all of the Girasoles boys and a team from Pennsylvania. We had a busy day touring the neighborhood and market of Belen, swimming in the lake at the Quistoocoha Zoo, and laughing at the movie Era de Hielo 3 (Ice Age 3) that we all went to see at the movies. It wasn’t until after dark that we departed Iquitos for the 45 minute journey. What amazes me that even though it was completely dark, and at some parts, we had torrential rain, we managed to safely make it back to the house with a tiny little flashlight. The journey took way more than 45 minutes, almost double the time, but it was definitely an adventure.