June 13, 2009 GMT
Power, Corruption and Lies.

4.6.09. Trujillo, Peru

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"You have committed two serious infractions seņor, and the fine, with a receipt, amounts to 375 Peruvian Soles (75 GBP)", barks the uniformed shortarse in the layby (just after the tollgate 150 miles north of Lima*). Bingo! I think, on hearing the phrase "with a receipt". I loathe bribery - it rots people and societies from within, but toss-features - I'm so sorry, the officer - has a point. I was, in fact, speeding, and I do not, on this occasion, seem to have 3rd party insurance for Peru. I meant to get some - truly I did - but it appears I haven't been able to get round to it. So I am - I suppose - in the wrong, and he is - in theory - a policeman (read "armed pickpocket").

I explain that I don't have 375 Soles on me - a massive lie. He asks me what I would like to do. I show him 50 Soles (10GBP). He pockets it. Game over. I feel sickened and ashamed for 24 hours, but - look - I had actually done the crime, and if you're gonna do the crime, hurrah for corruption...

After this incident, and still uninsured, I scheme up a foolproof new plan; the next time I'm flagged down by these fellows, I'll pretend not to notice and sod off quickly. It works! Four times between Lima and Trujillo! It's all extremely exciting, despite the fact that they're not fussed enough to give chase.

Fun though it's been, I do now intend to buy some insurance for the last 500 miles - if only so I can get back on my high horse (which is currently lying down in a deep ditch with its hooves over its eyes) and refuse to pay subsequent bribes.

A little bit of insurance backstory: In Argentina, you have GOT to have it. I had, and I was stopped and asked for it 50 miles outside BA by some very nice, un-corrupt cops. Chile - according to the border chaps, motorbikes don't need it. I was never asked. Bolivia - same story. Peru - well, I guess I'd sort of lost interest in the whole insurance issue by then.

So when you boil it down, a 10GBP bribe covered me for 8000 miles and 6 months of uninsured riding. The game is SO up!

Do you mind if we talk about Peruvian driving skills? It won't take long, chiefly because there aren't any. I have no idea what it takes to acquire a Peruvian driving licence, but I can only imagine that the ability to palm a 20 Soles note across a counter is top of the list. There is NO WAY there's any actual driving involved. Peruvians - particularly taxi drivers - drive like extremely drunk 6-year-olds. There is nowhere in Africa this bad. It requires a a total, and quick, re-think of your riding strategy.

Let's at least try and be fair: it's Lima and northwards where it all goes haywire. Riding out of Lima, I feel Death's ragged talons on my shoulder five times before I adopt a survival technique - do what they do, but faster. 85mph undertakes, insane lane-switching and constant use of the horn and full-beams gets me out of the suburbs alive. Then I'm contending with being forced onto the hard shoulder by some murderous cock in a bus overtaking on a blind bend.

I lose count of how many times this happens between Lima and Trujillo, and eventually get used to it... but I can't help wondering what happens when there isn't a hard shoulder. I suppose people are getting away with driving like this because all the traffic cops are hanging around the tollgates collecting bribes. ARE YOU LISTENING, GOVERNMENT OF PERU? (No, we are not - Govt. of Peru).
Stunning country, really lovely people, criminal police force, shit drivers.

Anyway, Trujillo's beautiful, it's midnight-thirty, the hotel's fabulous and here comes the band. Listen to the band!

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8.6.09 Chiclayo, Peru

It's in Trujillo that my gizzards go frightfully and explosively wrong. Normally as reliable as a Hyundai production line (at producing serviceable turds, d' you see?), they down tools on being asked to process some ordinary-looking supermarket chicken. 36 hours of alimentary malfeasance follow. I'm unable to stray more than 10 feet from a lavatory, a hot shower, 2 rolls of toilet paper, 3 towels and 2 beds (just in case) at any time. The price of not soiling the bed is eternal anal vigilance, and a man's gotta sleep sometime. Honestly, you'd think there was an Oompa-Loompa with a water cannon up me jacksie.

After about 17 sittings in 24 hours, I locate some Loperamide and Chloropraxamine (or something) pills which I bought in Ethiopia exactly 4 years ago. Amazingly, they work. Medics! Brilliant, aren't they?

I take a trip to an insurance office to purchase the necessaries. After quite a lot of twatting about, they decide they can't sell me any insurance because my numberplate has the "wrong" amount of digits in it.
"Bah!" I mutter, and stomp off to another round the corner. "Two weeks worth of your cheapest, bare-minimum insurance, please", I venture.
"No problem seņor: 100 English pounds in total" comes the response.
I blanch visibly, snort, and turn on my heel.
"I'll chance it with your miserable excuse for a police force, you utter robbers!" I snarl over my shoulder as I leave.

The icy fingers of mild concern take hold as I rejoin the highway. What if I chance upon an officer who actually gives a flying crap about the law? Long story short - I don't, and make it across the border having coughed up a tenner and avoided a ridiculous hundred quid fork-out.

It turns out that, in Peruvian bars, a "No Smoking" sign is effective only up until the point that the first customer pretends not to have seen it and asks for an ashtray. Beautiful! Sod you London, with your "yes actually you do have to pay it sir" fines and your "no you really can't smoke here - it's the law" laws.

*If any Peruvian Government officials are reading this and give a shit about the shameful activities of your so-called law enforcers, I suggest you start your investigations here. Hmm. Not gonna happen, is it?

Posted by Simon Fitzpatrick at June 13, 2009 09:44 PM GMT

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