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Published: July 27th 2015
Day 59 Lima, milestone and strange encounters with the traffic police
Distance driven today: 97 miles / 156 km
Cumulative distance driven: 10,705 miles / 17,228 km
Today’s trip: Huacho to Lima, Peru
Almost got big fine by the Lima traffic police for driving our bike on a normal road: yes, but we somehow managed to avoid it
Today we had a short distance to ride, as our goal was to get to Lima. However, we were delayed significantly this morning when leaving Huacho, due to many streets at the center of the city being closed. The reason was the Independence Day of Peru coming up on Wednesday, and the numerous school parades taking place along the streets. When we finally got out of the city, over an hour later, we drove through the coastal desert towards Lima. We intend to stay at the Peruvian capital for a couple of days to service the motorcycle and to do a special one day trip that Christer has been planning for many years (more on the latter tomorrow). Our arrival in Lima also marks another key milestone, as we have now completed 2/3 of the
PanAmerican Highway, and will start riding on the final third leg of the trip on Wednesday towards southern Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. From Lima we have about 5,000 miles / 8,500 km to go until we reach Tierra del Fuego in Southern Argentina.
As we entered the suburbs of Lima early afternoon, traffic got heavy and the roads started to get more and more chaotic. Zoe commented that many of the suburbs we drove through looked so run down and poor, that they reminded her of the shanty towns outside Johannesburg South Africa, where she was last summer. On one occasion, Zoe and I started talking over the Bluetooth intercom about how disorganized the traffic was, and the fact that this was probably the worst case of traffic anarchy that we have seen so far on the trip. In fact, traffic was so bad that I decided to come up with a humoristic description of the situation; I have found that humor is always a good way to cope with challenging situations.
I called it “democratic traffic” since, according to our observations, everybody seemed to have the right to drive everywhere, all over the lanes (if there
are any lanes that is), through traffic lights, at any speed they deemed was suitable, and generally make up any traffic rules they want. In other words, traffic was not like some parts of northern America where some dictatorial department of transportation forces motorists to stay in their lanes, to obey traffic signals, and teaches people to respect other drivers. The traffic here in Lima was truly ‘democratic’ and everybody gets to express their own view of traffic rules, not having big government transport brother directing them. We both had a good laugh at the absurdity of this description.
With this conversation in mind, and just 3km away from our hotel, we got suddenly pulled over by two motorcycle policemen. One of them gesticulated vehemently, and explained that we had committed a serious violation which should be punished with a heavy fine. We of course pretended we did not speak any Spanish at all, and apologetically started to talk back to the police officer in a mix of English and Swedish! He insisted on speaking some sort of fast local Spanish dialect, which I am sure that even native speakers from Spain would struggle to understand. After I was
asked to hand over all the documents for inspection (customs form for importing the bike to the country, Peruvian traffic insurance, passport, and driver’s license), he finally explained our crime. We were driving on an inner city highway road trough Lima together with cars
, and on this road motorcycles were strictly forbidden (WTF). The road he explained, was only
for cars, and no motorcycles were allowed to be on it. We continued to pretend we did not understand, though I have to say that in all of my years of traveling I have never heard of a major road in a city where motorcycles aren’t permitted.
After the police officer repeated the “No se permiten motocicletas” at least five times, I couldn’t pretend any longer that I did not understand anything. So I said “yes, motorcycle”, and I pointed to the police officer’s own motorcycle, suggesting that he too rides a motorcycle on this road. “But this motorcycle is different” he said, “I am a police officer, and I can do anything I want and I can ride anywhere I want” he replied! I guess my approach did not work after all. And just like that, he jumped on
his motorcycle, together with all of my documents which he still had (including my passport), and told us to follow him to the police headquarters to pay the fine we had incurred. I almost panicked for a moment, as I saw all of my documents driving away on a motorcycle, without us knowing the officer's name, or have recorded the license plate.
For a brief moment I envisioned us losing him in the heavy traffic, and being stuck in the country for months, trying to explain to the embassy that some motorcycle policeman had driven away with all of my key documents after having stopped me for driving on a road together with cars. You can almost sense the absurdity in trying to tell this story in a convincing way and not sounding like I have made it up! I struggled to keep up with the motorcycle police officer as he drove fast, carelessly (after all he had just told us that he as a policy officer could do anything), capriciously and generally violated most traffic rules known to mankind. After about 10 min. of following him, he suddenly stopped on the side of the road. He pointed to a tiny road sign that had a motorcycle prohibition icon on it, and said “there you see, you are not allowed to drive your motorcycle on this road where there are cars.”!?! For a moment I expected him to ask us to pay the fine directly to him, just to 'save us' from having to drive all the way to the central police station. Hint: this is code by local police for asking to pay them a bride. Imagine our surprise when, instead of asking us for a bride, the police officer opened his jacket and handed me back all of my documents :-) And just like that, he shook my hand (not sure why exactly to be honest) got on his police motorcycle and rode away.
Tot: 1.61s; Tpl: 0.05s; cc: 10; qc: 53; dbt: 0.0329s; 1; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.4mb