Motos: Second Class Citizens

Everything we learned about the roads in Chile and Argentina has now changed. First you have to understand that in Peru, there are basically two types of motorcycles; very small bikes between 75-125cc, and enclosed three wheel machines called Moto-taxis, which supply the locals with taxi services.  Both are considered second class citizens.

a-toll-bypassNeither of these motorcycles keep up with the speeds of cars and trucks, so they are relegated to usually driving BESIDE the road on the shoulder. it seems that most of the the cars are annoyed with our big Harley’s when they see we are driving in the lane with all the “real” vehicles and not on the shoulder where we supposedly belong.

Another thing, no one in Peru drives with there lights on during the day (and many don’t even bother to turn them on at night!). They do flash them periodically… either to say hello or to warn us there are coming our way (usually very fast). Since our bikes are much faster than many if their vehicles on the road, we find that we are passing slower vehicles quite often, one thing to be aware of is the vehicles coming toward you that are also passing. Several times we have come across a vehicle coming toward us in our lane. Even the slow moving trucks pass each other and since we are moving much faster than the locals expect traffic to be moving, is suspect they misjudge how quickly we arrive coming toward them. Our  goal is to stay very alert; be ready to use the shoulder.

One nice thing is that much of the time, the shoulders of the road are paved 3-4 feet wide. You can take advantage of the fact that motorcycles are expected to use the shoulder and move to the shoulder without major fear… Several times when the traffic has slowed to a crawl, the shoulder becomes a second or third lane for us.

Lastly, in southern Peru, there are no toll roads, thus no toll booths. But the further north you go, the more frequent toll stations become.  And because motorcycles are considered second class driving citizens, you DO NOT drive up to the toll booth in the lanes with the cars. We made that mistake only once, they literally didn’t know what to do with us. We tried to pay, but they refused to take our money. They pointed over to the far right and we finally figured out that motorcycles do not count and thus they do not have a motorcycle toll amount. Instead, they had us back out of the lane, turn around and go to the far side of the lanes where we could follow a dirt path which they expected us to use to go around the toll station.  (and we were just sure they were yelling, “and don’t let it happen again”, as we sped away.)

Overall, in Peru the traffic patterns are much more random and more chaotic. Speed bumps are still an issue here like they were in Argentina and you have to be constantly vigilant.  I start watching immediately for speed bumps whenever I see a sign that the speed is being reduced and especially when entering an urbanized zone or when coming to a bridge. Yesterday we went thru a town where there were two kinds of bumps, big bumps painted yellow with warning signs ahead of them and smaller unmarked unpainted bumps. While they do have signs warning you are entering an urbanized zone, they do not have any indication when you are leaving one.

Today we depart Peru for Ecuador.  We will still keep our eyes posted for all the unknowns; mostly speed bumps.