Peruvian Driving Achievement Unlocked
Day 234 – March 12, 2012
In the (almost) eight months I have been a resident of Lima, Peru, I have advanced through four levels of gameplay here on the asphalt jungle that is the roads, highways, and byways that comprise the city founded by Francisco Pizarro on January 18, 1535.
Level One was accomplished right after we arrived in July 2011 and that involved our first taxi ride. It was then and there we knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore. As our taxi ignored most lane markings and made quick right-hand turns from the left-most lane, this was our first taste of what driving in Peru would be like.
For surviving Level One, I received the Taxi Badge…
…which looks exactly like the red-and-white reflective stickers that adorn all cars-for-hire in Lima (and possibly all of Peru, but I’m not that well-travelled yet to know for sure).
When I took the wheel of my own car back in September 2011 and ventured forth onto Lima’s roads by myself, I unlocked Level Two. The white-knuckle rides in many a Lima taxi showed me the real rules of the Peruvian road and I was confident I would be able to navigate the avenidas and calles.
To date (and I say this as I knock on all varieties of wood), I am accident-free.
For braving the streets of Lima solo, I awarded myself the Steering Wheel Badge.
Despite driving in Lima for half a year, I could not be considered a true Peruvian driver until I passed a certain milestone. In February of this year, that line was crossed.
During the Southern Hemisphere summer, I drove my children all around to their various activities to keep them busy. As I took my oldest son from soccer to pick up his siblings at their day camp, I found myself on a two-lane street at a complete dead stop. One minute passed, then two, then five with absolutely no movement on either side of the road.
So, for absolutely no reason at all, I leaned on my horn and Level Three was achieved.
Here in Peru, the horn is not only the common language shared by all drivers but it is an omnipresent noise on the roads.
Today, however, was my grandest achievement to date.
Today, I drove through Ovala Monitor, a roundabout that has the nickname “The Circle of Death”. Now I have motored around this circle many times before so that was not the achievement. On this particular day, as I was making my around one part of the circle, I found myself at a point where I would have to merge with the oncoming traffic from a major street (Javier Prado for those of you playing along with a map). Usually, I stop at this point and wait for a break in the traffic, but not today.
Today, I revved the engine and darted into the oncoming traffic, much to the chagrin of a taxi driver who had to swerve to the right to avoid hitting me.
(Honestly, I swear, officer, I had enough room. He must have sped up.)
For my driving prowess (or lack thereof), I was awarded by the taxi driver by a vigorous display of his middle finger.
In all my time here in Lima and with all the insanity I have seen on the roads and with all the close calls between cars, buses, and trucks, I had never seen a display of the middle digit.
Personally, I think the taxi driver was upset that I didn’t wave my left hand out my window before attempting my merge.
For this grand gesture and for reaching Level Four, I was awarded the Bird Badge. I would like to show you a picture of this badge, but it’s not appropriate for the office or the house, so instead, please enjoy a snapshot I took in Miraflores of a sculpture that overlooks the beach.
Upwards and onwards to Level Five…