Tuk-tuks, or south American tri-vehicle death traps, as I like to call them are the way to get around here in Pisco. In actuality they are more like rickshaws that you see in India. Some are old, some are flashy and new, but they are everywhere at all hours of the night and day. Honking away your sleep.
Officially in Pisco, they are known as moto-taxis but for some reason or another everyone here ( where I am volunteering) calls them Tuktuks The best way to describe them would be like this. they are very small, round, have a flat nose and three wheels. The driver kind of sits to the left, but more to the middle. Sometimes they have someone sitting next to them, with no door on either side of the front. ( easy way to escape in case of an accident I suppose) Sort of like a miniature volts wagon. Punch buggy bumper car hybrid. The roads, what you learn to call a path with thousands of multi sized rocks, are very bumpy.
They are usually green,red,blue, and yellow. Sometimes you see the rare dirty-golden colored ones. The inside of every tuk-tuk is customized by the driver. Random stickers of cartoons and smiley faces. Religious figuresin the form of playing cards stuck in the windshield. There is always a barrier separating you and the driver made intricritley of rebar to resemble a spider and it’s web. The backseat has doors with a string attached that customarily only the driver should only open. Usually on the outside back of the tuk tuk is a sticker with the name of the drivers wife, girlfriend, children, and deceased family members.
The first time I road in one was a week into being here and I remember the ride vividly. Me Travis( Washington) and Paul(Alaska) were going to Plaza De Armas to pick up some boot-legged, I mean legitimate, movies to watch after dinner. We waved one down in front of the house, this tuk-tuk had enourmous speakers accompanied with flashing lights on the inside .We squeezed in the back.We listend to the typical techo-rreggatone discoteca music whilst I was wondered if I would make it out of this alive. We weaved in and out of the traffic, no speeding laws here guys, trucks and cars seemingly trying to run us over. We got there just fine, incredibly bumpy, might have had a slight concussion, but hey we’re in Pisco.
To my knowledge the only real road laws here are that you can’t have another person in the front of a tuk-tuk I learned this one day going to dinner with my German friend Hanna. We were on our way to dinner, us in the back, the driver and his friend in the front. Suddenly, the drivers friend jumped out. We figured that was his stop. A few seconds later a cop pulled us over and asked for the drivers papers. He then asked why the other guy was In the front. He told the officer that there was no one else in the front. The officer then smelled the drivers breath, and asked if he had been drinking. He said no, and I believed him because I know when tuk-tuk drivers are drunk. ( I’ve ridden in many a tuk-tuk by now). He then asked if he could finish dropping his passengers off, our stop was only three blocks away. The cop kept his papers, and told the driver to go and then come right back. We drove away, and his friend jumped right back in.
The drivers of tuk-tuks in Pisco are all interesting people. They are 50 year old men, 19 year old fathers, 13 year old boys, 20 year old mothers, students, and veterans. Some don’t say anything but ‘ where to’, and then ‘ where’s that?’ Others take the opportunity to talk , whether you want them to or not. They ask the typical questions, where are you from, why are you here, have you been to paracas, do you like Peru, how about Pisco? Want to meet up later for cervezas? I would like to learn English ( then I tell them we have free English classes where I volunteer).
Some just like to sing. And most have speakers that are just as big as the tuk tuk itself. Some of my friends have been in tuk-tuks in which the driver let them drive. Tuk-tuks are essential to the life here and everyone in Pisco uses them.They are very cheap, being no more than a sole cinquenta per ride depending on where you are going.
There’s nothing like this kind of pulic transportation back home, and it is not to be taken for granted. They are always there for you, waiting for you to jump in and share a small experience.