Thursday, January 24, 2008

El Borsino

Fast, diagonal. Driving in Lima, lanes are optional. Corners are especially interesting. Most cars have white and red reflective strips on their sides. The new arrival might be forgiven for thinking this was some display of patriotism, since they are the colours of the national flag. In fact, it is clear on taking to the roads that the reflective strips are as essential as headlights. Due to the unorthodox approach to lane discipline, it is the side of the car that ends up being the part you are most likely to see in front of you.

Even the lanes themselves look as though they are forgetting their raison d'etre; with the faintest of white lines they vaguely assert their presence on the road, a lack of confidence with which all other road users have no problem. It is unclear whether this lack of paint is due to local government neglect or simply overuse from the astonishing frequency and speed of tyres passing over them during the course of the day.

Pedro, my taxi driver, agrees that there is no respect for lanes, and seems to think that the horn (el borsino), rather than being a part of the car, is more of a co-driver. In a similar way to a rally car team, Pedro will concentrate on the direction of the vehicle, whilst el borsino watches the road.

Worryingly, he and most other drivers seem to drive with a kind of serene enjoyment of the chaos around them. It borders on obliviousness. He is far more interested in testing my extremely rusty Spanish with simple vocab such as: the implications of the socio-economic situation in Peru on a terrorist resurgence; whether Lady Diana's death was in fact a conspiracy by the Royal Family; and what I thought of the Falkland Islands issue.

But I am lucky to have Pedro in the driving seat. Aside from the fact that I would never dare take on Limeno roads myself, there are far more unsavory characters that cruise the streets. 'Express kidnapping', as the guidebooks warn, is a popular pastime in Lima. My Spanish teacher, Maria-Terese, tells me that this also takes place in Cusco. There is no predilection for foreigners. Her sister got into the wrong sort of taxi one evening at 10pm. The taxi stopped round a corner, two men jumped in and pressed their gun barrels to each cheek of the frightened girl. They drove to Sacsayhuaman, an Incan site 30 minutes out of town, and stripped her of her valuables, including all money and her ipod. She was left to walk back into the city and was traumatised for months afterwards.

I ask Jhovana and Kari, two sisters I have dinner with in upmarket Miraflores district, how to tell if the taxi driver is genuine. They look at each other and shrug. You just have to look at their expression, says Jhovana.

Back in my taxi, we drive down the Pacific road past two cars tangled up in each other. The drivers are inspecting the damage, again, serenely. Either we have missed the initial reactions or there appears to be no particular concern at the accident. Pedro thumps his horn loudly and lovingly.

1 comment:

david santos said...

Hi Chris
A beautiful place here!
Excellent post!
Thank you.
have a good day