Gringo Manaba

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  • December 2005
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Planes, Toyotas and Moto-taxis

Posted by glasscastle on December 23rd, 2005

One of the reasons that we love the city of Carhuaz, high in the Peruvian
Andes, is that is has changed so little over the years. The people look,
talk, dress and act just the same. The same stores sell the same products,
and although the prices seem to go up thanks to the ubiquitous Latin inflation,
we suspect that measuered in work-units, it is pretty much the same.

What new buildings are erected look exactly like those they replace,
since all of the construction, farming, and cooking methods are unchanged
for hundreds of years. The social system and cultural events have
likewise not changed in hunderds of years, although they are ostensibly
quite different from those that existed around here before the Spaniards
arrived.

But one thing that has changed, radically, since we first started coming
here 30 years ago, is transportation. In the 1970’s pretty much the only
vehicles we saw up here were pickup trucks and land rovers. The roads were
in rougher shape, few were paved, and during the rainy season driving a
vehicle without 4-wheel drive involved a lot of pulling and pushing.

There were two buses a day down to the coast, old retired Greyhound
diesels, repainted and renamed, but with the faded profiles of the racing
dogs still on the sides. On the paved highway that ran down the bottom
of the valley, along and above the Rio Santa, one could catch a "Combi"
– an old VW bus that runs day and night up and down the valley, uniting
Caraz, Yungay, Carhuaz and the provincial capital of Huaraz, from where
there were buses to Lima on the hour.

A few years ago we began noticing a proliferation of private cars, sedans,
station wagaons and Asian automotive mashups of all kinds. The roads
were better, and people had more money, or so it seemed. There were even
taxi’s, and all of them looked the same.  They still do,  and
depending on his mood it eather makes the Dowbrigade feel right at home,
or creepily paranoid. For virtually all of the taxis, not only here in
Carhuaz but all up and down the Callejon, and especially in Huaraz (see
photo), are the same make and model; 1994 white Toyota Camry wagons – which
just happens to be the make model and color the Dowbrigade drives back
in the US of A.

Imagine – a whole fleet of White Whales.  Thousands of them were
imported during the early years of the Fujimori regieme, the Peruvian Nisei,
who was going to save the economy by attracting a flood of Japanese investment
(which never materialized) and who is now incarcerated in Chile with
dreams of returning to power after being deposed by the military and living
in exile in Japan.

One of his early initiatives was making new Toyotas available to taxidrivers
on extremely favorable terms, both for them and for Fujimori’s personal
friends who received the contract to facilitate the importation and sale.
Almost all of those vehicles are still on the road, and most of them
are taxis.

But after a ten-year reign as the lords of the backroads and the only
way for most people to get home, other than walking or burros (once everywhere,
now rarely seen), the Toyotas are being challenged by a new and lower-tech
alternative – mototaxis.  There are common all over Asia – we saw
our first one in Thailand a dozen years ago, where they were called Tuk-tuks.
A simple canvas-covered passenger compartment attached to the front of
a motorcycle in a sort of tricycle arrangement.

Obviously cheaper to operate, the mototaxi from the Plaza down in Carhuaz
to the Villa Maria costs 2 soles (62 cents) as opposed to 4 soles in
the Toyota. So some things do change.

One Response to “Planes, Toyotas and Moto-taxis”

  1. Toyota Says:

    check out the car reviews on the toyota when you get the chance