Monday, July 23, 2007

The TICO Taxi

Here in Arequipa, there are two common modes of transportation. The first is by bus and the second is by taxi. This post will cover taxis with a subsequent post covering the buses.

The majority of the taxis here in Arequipa are made my Daewoo. The model is called Tico and the following is a description of a typical Arequipenian Tico Taxi.

Body: Also known as lunch box or coffin. The rumor is that the designers sketched out the original Tico on a napkin and told the factory to make it that size with out enlarging anything else... much to the chagrin of the rest of humanity. Extensive work was put into engineering paperthin doors that hing on leather straps. Ticos are a moncoque construction so that in the event of a crash the pop can like sheet metal will evenly fold around the occupants leaving a mold of the driver and passengers.

Engine: Again, scaled measurements were taken from the original Tico napkin and a transverse mounted engine with less displacement than a liter of Coke was installed under the hood. The engine is mated to what is purportedly an Honda 125 motorcycle transmission.

Transmission: With the gearing of a Peterbuilt tractor trailer, top speeds of 35 MPH can be reached in seconds as the driver madly races through the 5 speed gear box. This is quite a feet as the 3 pedals on the floor are wedged impossibly between the front left wheel well and center console. Do not try this with size 10 shoes or more than 1 pedal will be depressed.

Gauge cluster: The most unimportant thing in a Tico. The majority of speedometers do not work but they have a range up to 120 MPH even though I have never seem one go faster than 40 MPH. No temperature gauge as the engine is supposedly air cooled. There is a gas gauge but that is always on "E" anyways. I have stopped at numerous gas stations in a Tico only to have the driver ask for 4 Soles worth of gas... the rough equivalent to 0.25 gallons!

Dashboards: No one knows for certain the exact color of a Tico dashboard. All dashes are covered with some type of custom made dust shield, knit cloth, rag, or curring llama pelt. The dash is also the place to display ones prized possessions of stuffed animals, 1990 World Cup plastic figurines, Virgin Marie amulet, and stings of prayer beads which passengers exercise vigorously into a high shine.

Exhaust: No Tico is complete with out a 6-inch exhaust outlet. Whether made of chromed metal tubing or PVC plastic house piping, all Ticos sound as though they are worth a million buck when in reality the only million thing about them is cracks in the front windshield.

Spoiler: Due to the excessive speeds of most taxis, the rear spoiler comes in very handy for puting more down force on the rear wheels and taking away downforce from the front drive wheels. Spoilers also double as hand holds for passengers that were not able to fit inside the Tico.

Ground effects:You would think that starting with a ground of clearance of 4 inches most drivers would be satisfied with the already "low rider" stance of their cars. However, it is evident that many divers take particular glea in leaving behind fiberglass pieces of ground effects, exhaust pipes, and mufflers every time a Tico summits a speed bump.

Seat belts: ?

Front seat: Ostensibly believed to have the most leg room, the occupant of this seat is also the first to be hit by other Ticos, Buses or other large immovable objects which the driver ferociously tries to avoid.

Rear seat: The first people to hit the back of the front seat occupants in the event of a crash. Prior experience with the fetal position and alternating breathing techniques are a must for rear seat passengers.

Roof rack: Used to carry eveything from bed mattreses to 20 foot lengths of rebar.

Wheels: I did not know they made 10 inch rims but evidently they do. Thankfully spares can be had at any motorcycle or reputable bicycle shop. Again, customization of hub caps is another way drivers choose to express themselves. Anything from Spinners to hypnotic spiral designs are employed to give the drivers every conceivable edge.

Horn: An inoperable horn is valid reason to scrap a Tico. Drivers divide their time equally between breathing and honking the horn as if it were some vodo talisman that has the capability of parting traffic and changing red lights to green.

Have a nice ride!

Saturday, July 21, 2007


Good news! I found out on Friday that 1/2 of my shipment is on its way to Pucallpa! My tool boxes and household goods should arrive late this evening at the SAM hanger. I am trying to remember what is in there but obviously I have been able to live with out it for the last 3 months. My dirt bike should be realised some time early next week. It will also be trucked to Pucallpa.

The next two weeks are vacation from language school and I am taking the opportunity to visit a few different places in Peru. I will be traveling with some other SAM missionaries to Ica, Lima, and Puerto Supe during the first week. I will be sure to post pictures of the sand dunes in Ica and the Pacific ocean in Puerto Supe. The second week I will be in Pucallpa taking inventory of my items and hopefully assembling my motorcycle!

Thanks to all of you who have been praying specifically about my shipment. We are half way there!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


In Latin America Futbol (soccer) is the game of choice. Recently the Copa America just finished with Brazil beating Argentina to claim the championship. For the last 3 weeks much of Peru was huddled around the Television as the Peruvian nation team struggled just to make it to the second round. Shops were closed and every available radio set was tuned to the matches. Now that the Copa America is over, I am not really sure what we are all going to do with all our spare time.

I did have the opportunity to visit a local futbol game here in Arequipa. I went with another missionary and experienced a true rivalry as Arequipa played another professional team from Cusco, Peru. The match ended in a 2-2 draw but I still considered it a success due to the fact that we had inadvertently sat in the Cusco cheering section!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

CARNET plus 5

It feels good to be back in Arequipa again after spending 4 days in Lima waiting for my CARNET. On Thursday morning I had an 8am appointment at the Immigrations office. After the obligatory photo and fingerprinting, it was only a 2 hour wait for my Peruvian CARNET.

With CARNET in hand, I headed off to check on the status of my shipment which has been stuck in Lima for the last 6-7 weeks. I talked briefly with Nestor, the gentleman who is handling the shipment, and left him my Passport and CARNET as he was going to be presenting the paperwork to the Port Authority.
Later on that same afternoon I received a phone call informing me that it was illegal to bring my 2001 Suzuki dirt bike into Peru because it is more than 5 year old. YES, evidently there is a law against bringing cars or motorcycles into Peru that are more than 5 years old. I have no idea why, but it's a law.

Fortunately for me, Nestor said that the Port Authority might be able to work around it and "make an exception" just this one time. I was also told that there will be some "extra fees" for committing such a nefarious crime... All that to say, perhaps this next week my meager possessions (which I have paid for twice now in fees and duty) will be on their way to Pucallpa.

Monday, July 9, 2007


Well, this is my first post from Lima, Peru. Unfortunately I do not have very good news regarding my CARNET. The original plan was to spend Monday signing paperwork and getting fingerprinted over at the Immigrations building. Unfortunately, the only thing that happened today was that I found out my appointment with Immigration is on THURSDAY morning. So that means 4 days in Lima waiting around instead of the 1 day that was planned.

Obviously I am very disappointed but from what I hear my experience in not very uncommon. Seems as though many things just take much longer here than we are used to back in the USA. As one of my friends pointed out, "There is a reason Peru is still a 3rd world country"

I take comfort in the fact that God is not surprised by this turn of events. He knows what is going on and He knows I am missing out on 4 more days of language school. I am encouraged by 1 Peter 5:7 "Cast all you anxiety upon him because he cares for you"

Thank you all for your prayers and encouragement!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

New friends

I am off to Lima again. This time I going to finally receive my Peruvian CARNET. My loose understanding is that a CARNET is a one year resident permit that has to be renewed every year. The advantage of a CARNET is that it serves as a valid Peruvian ID and can be renewed in country instead of a 90 day tourist VISA which requires leaving the country. The price for permanent residence includes a requirement of investing $10,000 in the Peruvian economy!

Here are some of my newest friends. I was thankful to get a picture with out loosing a nose... you never know when they might be hungry.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

3 Mile High Restroom

This weekend I had the opportunity to visit the Colca Canyon. A 3 hour drive outside of Arequipa, the Colca Canyon is one of the deepest Canyons in the world. Half way to the Canyon, we stopped at the highest point on our trip. A lofty 3 miles above sea level, my hand-held GPS said I was just over 16,000 feet.

Despite the roaring in my head from a head ache, I was able to take a few pictures of the scenery. I climbed up to a stone hut and was able to determine that it was either an abandoned mining shaft or a restroom for altitude sick travelers. The give away ended up being the BYOP sign inside. Bring Your Own Paper...

Along the road to the Canyon were numerous people selling things and posing in "native" Peruvian garb. Just about everything from knit caps to table cloths is for sale. I asked about these two but unfortunately someone had already claimed them...