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Dave Go Round

I am a world traveler. These are my stories.

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Mar '10

Peru is F@#$%^&*ing Dangerous, and other well known facts.

When was the last time you used counterfit money to pay for something?

When was the last time you saw a gunfight?

When was the last time someone tried to kidnap you?

Before today, I may not have been able to answer these questions, but now, thanks to the miracle of the Ecuador-Peru border near Tumbes, I can. This border, between Loja and Piura, is the border I was told was more secure than the other crossing points between these two countries. After an all night bus ride, especially one as uncomfortable as last night, no one is ever at their peak performance level. Perhaps that’s why I got into some of the situations I did this morning. I tell you, if you are ever coming to Peru, stay on the tourist track, by all means FLY into the country, and never ever stay in a car with a man twice your size.

This may all seem marginally sensationalized, and I assure you, it is a bit over the top… but as my memory works, this is an accurate account of this mornings border crossing activities.

While on the bus ride to the border, I noticed a building slide past that said, ‘Migracion’ on it. I thought this was odd, but just laid back until we got to our stopping point a few kilometers later. Disembarking, there were a dozen or so guys with all manner of wheelbarrows milling around and trying to put everyone’s luggage on their cart at the same time. While this was happening a taxi wheeled up and some guy standing in the street asked me if I got my exit stamp yet.

No, I replied, I am heading down to the border.

Apparently, the bus company forgot to mention that the bus ticket I bought to go to the border, did not include stopping at the Migracion building, some 4 kilometers away beforehand. I turned to the busdriver who was still unloading bags and asked him if this was the case. He agreed that it was.

I needed to pee.

I stood around looking stupid for a couple of minutes until the bus pulled away. I figured I had better get going, so I harrassed a price out of the taxi driver and I jumped in the back seat with my bags. As my new friend and informant was opening the front door to get in the passenger side, a familiar sound rocked the street.


I didn’t need to pee anymore.

I couldn’t see where he was hit, but a policeman and his motorbike tumbled into the dust and a rather standardly dressed man, aside from the pistol in his hand, jumped over the collapsing bike and man to make a run for several gentlemen seated along the sidewalk with briefcases in their laps. Quickly, several other forms joined in the rush.

Screams. boom. boom. boom. pop pop pop. Pounding feet. Screaming Women. Yelling men. The roar of an engine.

Two more men fell in the street before my taxi was well on it’s way out of the area. Later, at the border I was to learn that Peruvians are generally thought of as thieves in Ecuador and today was yet another attempt for a group of thieves to get money. The briefcases were moneychangers and each most likely had several thousand dollars in it. The officer wound up in the hospital in a nearby city, I saw the ambulance fly past us at the Migracion building. One of the thieves died before he hit the ground. The others are being detained or escaped.

My guide, standing in line with me at Migracion, unfurled the details of the story like yesterdays pants; dirty, but just old news. I was a little shellshocked, but after hearing Jasper’s drive-by-shooting story, this just sort of becomes another piece of the puzzle that is Latin America. When I tried to hand my passport to the man behind the window, he directed me to the next window. When I stepped over there, the man gruffly told me that the system is down. He then walked away. 45 minutes later, another man walked up to inform me that the system has been down for two days, and I will need to drive another 10 minutes away from the border to find a Migracion building that is stamping passports manually.

For another $5 round trip, my taxi driver agreed to take me there, wait for me, then bring me back to the border. This seemed fair, so my guide and I made to leave. When a Peruvian girl asked to ride with us I tell her to get in and then she is summarily dismissed by the taxi driver and made to go to another car, even though we both had to go to the same building. I spent the next ten minutes hounding the two men as to why in the hell they wouldn’t let another person get in the same cab. It comes down to the same reason those men were shot today; Greed.

The line at the second Migracion building was full of familiar faces from the bus and the first building. It takes a while, but I managed to get my stamps and a taxi ride back to the border. Before crossing the border I decided to change a few US Dollars in for Peruvian Soles. $40 gets me about 112 Soles, and I’m on my way across the border.

Once I crossed the border, a man named Arturo started talking to me and asked if I needed a taxi ride to the Migracion office for Peru. I said, No, but he mentioned it was 4 kilometers to the office. Asking a police officer walking by, he told me it was 2 kilometers. Turning to Arturo, I said, “are you joking?”

“Well,” he replied, “Maybe it’s 3.”

He then directed me towards his cab. After walking about 20 feet through the market, I noticed a large dirt lot with several derelict looking cars in it and almost no humans. I turned a 180 and marched right back up to the street telling Arturo, “No, Thanks.”

Arturo followed me back up to the street chuckling and telling me I was right to be cautious. He then offered to pull the car up to the street and we could leave from there. I told him to do so and walked off in search of another taxi. None presented themselves in the 30 seconds or so it took Arturo to materialize with his driver and car, so I hopped into the back. Remember that I said this; Never put your bag in trunk of a car. Never.

So I hopped in the back of the car, with both my bags, despite the insistence of the cabbie that I put it in the trunk. Arturo asked me if I had the money to get across the border; citing the often written, though seldom enforced border rule of ‘sufficient funds.’ I replied I was fine,though never gave him a specific dollar amount when he mentioned $100 US.

Very quickly, the taxi driver mentioned that he would like to pick up some more people for the trip to Migracion; stating that his taxi was actually a colectivo. I disagreed and told him to keep on driving, but he pulled over at the next corner and two men jumped in the other side. One of these men was gigantic; Andre the Giant.

My large bag was rather uncomfortable between my legs, but despite the insistence of the driver, I kept it close at hand. At the border, I again chose to keep my bag close at hand, a practice I firmly endorse, and entered the migracion checkpoint with bag in hand and Andre close by my side. After a bit of a wait in line, Arturo managed to get one of the policemen to scoot me to the front of the line. Oddly, Andre did not push forward with me, but sits back a bit until Arturo and I round the corner. About 30 seconds later, the big man joined us and the other guy outside. When I asked both of them pointedly if they got stamps, they both agreed emphatically; one of them going so far as to tell me he paid the policeman a dollar to rush him to the front of the line. Once back in the car the subject of sufficient funds came up again, this time in reference to an upcoming police checkpoint; only the amount magically became $200 and Arturo insisted I answer his questions as to how much money I have. I may have been a little slow, but I knew that dance. There were cars stopped a distance ahead of us in the road. I am hoping this is the police checkpoint he was talking about. Arturo is holding the other two guys’ papers in hand and asking for mine. I make my move.

Before Arturo could retract his hand, I had a firm grasp on the migracion papers in his outstretched hand. He tried to pull away from me, but it only loosened the papers enough for me to pull them free. When I looked at both papers neither had stamps. The driver wasn’t able to see behind him and was slowing down for the police control point. I immediately asked why the papers were not stamped and everyone in the car started talking at once.

First I was told the stamps were just for foreigners, then I reminded them that they had just told me they were Ecuadoran. Then everyone tried to tell me that there was an agreement between the two countries. The driver pulled into the oncoming traffic lane and started driving around the stopped cars. Times up.

I popped the lock open on the door and threw the door open and started yelling “Stop” over and over. The driver slowed down a little bit uncertain of what to do and, bag in hand, I rolled out the door. We were about ten meters past the police and the driver pulled over quickly and Arturo jumped out while Andre shut the door quickly. Arturo ran up to me demanding that I get back in the car. I said no thanks. He put both his hands on my bag and said I needed to pay him $30 for the ride; a far cry from the $1 he initially offered. I told him to fuck off and he dropped to $15. I fished into my pocket for the weird money I had just received from the moneychangers and told him I would pay him the dollar I initially agreed upon. As my hand was coming out of my pocket, he made a grab for the money, pulling a $10 bill from my hand and dashed back to the car. The car drove away as I turned around to find the policeman had made it to my side.

As quickly as I could, I relayed all the details (in broken Spanish) to the Officer and he confirmed that they should have had stamps on their paperwork and then said that the police would be looking for the car and the men.

The rest of the day was spent in semi-shock wandering around Tumbes, a horrible scorched border town in Peru. I tried to pay for food with the money I got at the border and was turned down almost everywhere because it was Effing counterfeit! Eventually, I managed to pay for bus fare and a meal with it. I’ll be humped if I am going to take a $40 hit because Peruvians are corrupt. If you are ever stuck there waiting for a bus, go to the Costa del Sol. It has free wireless, air conditioning, and pretty good food.

All night bus rides are never that great, but I managed to sleep a good deal getting in to Lima. I reiterate, bring bandanas when you travel. There are a million and one uses. Lima thus far has been less than exemplary other than I had the best coffee of my whole trip. We’ll see what else happens.


8 comments to “Peru is F@#$%^&*ing Dangerous, and other well known facts.”

  1. Katie Says:

    David! I’m glad you’re safe. Are you planning on staying in Peru for very long? It sounds crazy!

  2. Jo Says:

    That is CRRRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAZZZZZZZZZZYYYYYYYYYY!!!! And oh my gosh. Seriously, what a great tale to tell. 🙂 Glad you survived, but whoo hoo on the fabulous story! Gun fights? How thrilling is THAT! 🙂 Heh. Well, take care, I’m glad you’re street smart! Be safe and I can’t wait to see what other adventures await you! 🙂

  3. Gareth Says:

    Man, you should of took my advice on the border crossing and gone from Loja – Piura completely avoiding Tumbes! Glad you are ok though, enjoy Peru.

  4. Dave Says:

    MAN! I thought that I was takign your advice, but I had written it down in a strange way. I didn’t realize it meant take the bus from one to the other, I thought it meant to go to the border between those two cities. Doh!

  5. Adam Says:

    Wow, friggin’ wild man!
    Have fun and be safe,

  6. Dave Go Round » Blog Archive » Downtime in Peru Says:

    […] the mess at the Peruvian border I really didn’t want to like Peru. I thought I would breeze through here, hit Machu Pichu and […]

  7. Jim Wood Says:

    Find a luscious safe spot to hangout a day or two cause you’ve been through hell. I know your friend is due to arrive down there so you are on sort of a schedule, so achieving that rendezvous with the good old Dave spirit intact trumps missing it for some mistake(s) made.
    I’m stoked about you visiting Machu Picchu.


  8. Roxy Says:

    peru is a place safe but always you have to be take care to the people ;)because always look to people foreign

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