I’ve been thinking more and more on my assumption that nobody wants to read lengthy blog posts, and this is based on me myself getting bored very quickly and just wanting to see lots of photos with interesting snippets. However, I have more recently pondered two things. The first is that I’m assuming that nobody wants to read about all the little things that are going on day-to-day, and the quirks of being in another country “travelling” as opposed to “holidaying”. The second is that I find that I actually want to record some of this for myself, and the blog is as good a place as any to put it. I can’t promise it will be in any particularly logical order because, as with real life, things don’t happen in a logical order! Please do let me know if you find this post interesting and want to read more.
Add to this something of a building obsession that I want my blog not just to be those snippets which require me to find a single photo as selecting just one photo doesn’t necessarily do justice to some of the experiences. As a result, I’m working on a gallery where I’ll post more photos for those who are interested.
Today, I’m going to start with some interesting facts, quirks, or otherwise in relation to Peru, including: fake currency; taxis, collectivos; and combis; vegetarianism; and dogs. Before you start reading, just a warning again, this isn’t all pretty pictures, it’s just text. Oh, the horror!
Our Spanish teacher in Huanchaco said that something like 30% of the currency is fake in Peru (if my memory serves me). He was also able to show us how to spot fake coins and notes, and how to deal with this if you think you’ve been handed something dodgy. For the 2 and 5 soles coins, that are made in a similar way to £2 coins, one has to look for whether the middle of the coin is a good fit, and whether it’s actually circular. Also, sometimes you can see marks where the forger has tried to force the middle in. For notes, the obvious things like checking for ink that smudges, ensuring that there’s a watermark, ensuring that the holographic strip on the 100 soles note has an “f” inside it, and finally the one we couldn’t understand, checking that there are two lots of four squares on the left hand side of the note with the note value in, and two lots of one square on the right. The last one seems so obvious that one wonders why a forger would make this mistake, but I guess they do!
Thankfully, simply asking “¿Tienes otro?” (Do you have another?) is enough to indicate that you believe something to be fake and require another. Apparently, everyone understands the name of the game here. We were told it was also important not to accept notes that have visible tears as they might not be accepted elsewhere. One handles this with “Esta rota” (It’s ripped), possibly followed by “¿Tienes otro?” if they don’t get the idea initially.
A quick search online threw up a recent article in The Guardian linked below.
Taxis, collectivos, and combis
I’m sure nobody would be surprised to find that taking a taxi in Peru can result in feeling as if you’re about to die in some horrible accident. We have variously experienced cars that seem like they’re held together with hopes and wishes, drivers that feel the need to race anything and everything on the road, changing in and out of lanes at speed, etc, etc. Seat-belts are only required for the passenger in the front, and only then if one happens to be approaching a police car. We try to get the official taxis, but that’s no guarantee of safety. Seat-belts don’t generally exist in the back seats, so one can only assume that the taxi driver doesn’t know that the person who is most likely to be killed should one collide with another vehicle is him, when we head-butt him as you might remember seeing in the elephant-based infomercials of the past.
Collectivos are small, van-like mini-buses and combis are larger buses for around 40 people. Most of them also look like moving death-traps, but I have to say that I’ve generally felt much safer on these than in taxis. It’s quite an interesting experience in that all but the most formal of municipal routes have a driver, and a conductor (for want of a better word), where the latter opens and closes the door (usually whilst moving) and shouts at passers by asking them if they want to get on. He’s also typically in a hurry, so you have to get on quickly, and usually it speeds off before you’ve managed to find a seat. The big, big advantage of these things is that they’re dirt cheap, with short journeys being about 20p, and longer journeys about 40p.
Both modes of transport do incessantly beep their horns, just so that you know that they’re their (yes, I heard you the first, second, third and fourth times, and I’m still not going to get into your taxi when you pull up next to me). I have to admit I find this a bit intense, the noise is just getting too much. Perhaps I’ll start travelling with ear plugs in.
I knew that this wasn’t going to be an easy place to get vegetarian food. However, on the whole, I’ve managed quite well, and only eaten a small number of meals that were either somewhat unpleasant or not particularly satisfying. The rule I have in my head is that the mid-price restaurants are likely to have something I can eat on the menu, but the places that are largely for locals, selling the three course “Menu del Dia” for 6 Soles (£1.20, gasp!), definitely do everything with meat.
What’s turned out to be difficult is getting across the idea of what I’m looking for if I can’t translate the menu, this often being the case when it’s a long list of dishes with colloquial names. So, in one place, I said I was vegetarian, and chicken was suggested. At other times, I’ve asked if there’s meat (carne), been told no, only to find that there’s chicken and ham. What I have begun to learn is that you have to spell it out, “No carne, no pollo, no jamon, no pescado”, and hopefully you’ll get a good suggestion. Beth did really well for us at her local place for lunch that had stopped serving the Menu del Dia when we arrived, asking for something with none of the above, and receiving a yummy vegetable tortilla (it’s like an omelette, but they put some flour in) that also came with rice (as nearly everything does), chips, and salad. I was absolutely stuffed to the point of being I’ll. Beth sensibly asked for a box to take half of it home in.
Whilst I’ve definitely seen some people walking their dogs, many dogs seem to be strays that wander the streets. In Huanchaco, I was told that most of these strays have one family that typically feeds them, but they don’t own the dog. As in most countries I’m sure, if you’re lucky the strays are cute and friendly, and if you’re not, they’re vicious little bastards and you’ve got them going for you as happened with us on one of the walks.
We’ve been told that in some places, the strays tend to chase people and traffic. Even today I saw a dog running down the middle of a busy road chasing a car. At the same time, they seem quite capable of crossing the road, waiting for the traffic to be calm and then making their way across.
We made the mistake of giving a couple of strays some food at the top of the hill where Wilcacocha is situated in Huaraz, and one of them followed us almost all the way to the bottom, where Andy eventually had to get quite loud and shout at the dog a lot for it to run back home. I felt quite upset as it was such a cute dog and very friendly, and perhaps nobody really bothered with it much at the top of the hill so it was just glad of some attention.
What bothers me though is that sometimes owners don’t generally appear to care much about their dogs, not in the way one would associate dog-owning in the UK. This was underlined by Beth posting about a neighbour who’d left one of their dogs out to die, leaving the other pining for its lost friend, which is very sad indeed.
However, the converse of this was the Kaclla Healing Dog Hostel in Lima where they had a Kaclla, which is a hairless dog whose body temperature is higher than most other dogs, and was traditionally used to help with health problems such as rheumatism. Kacllas aren’t generally that social, but Pisco wandered around the hostel, accepting the odd stroke or scratch. Harry, the Kaclla puppy, was quite a different story though, and his owner remarked on how unusual his behaviour was given how social and friendly he was. Harry was absolutely adorable, and provided much entertainment for those of us who were happy just to watch him run around.