Getting from a to b in Lima is an adventure by itself. Last week I was invited for a dinner in El Agustino, a district north of the city centre. I took the public microbus to get there. From Jesus Maria in Lima`s centre to El Agustino the ride took about one hour. Jump on!
Todo Méjico! Todo Méjico! The raw voice of the bus conductor trumpets through Avenida México. The cobrador shouts so loud, that it is clear to everybody that this bus will pass all of Avenida México. I jump on, pay the cobrador one sol and tell him to warn me when we reach Parque Huancayo in El Agustino. I grab the first free seat and the bus catapults away.
On the wide avenida, many street vendors, casual people and car salesmen with dirty clothes and black smeared faces answer the cobrador’s calls and jump into the micro. We are driving through La Victoria, one of the oldest and highest populated parts of Lima. La Victoria is the district of Alianza Lima (the football team of the working class), traditional food and la salsa. More and more people are jumping the bus in La Rica Vicky. Just after their feet lose touch of the street, the driver kicks the gas. No time to waste!
On one of the street corners in La Victoria, three women try to get on the van. The first makes the jump and runs to one of the last seats. The second clenches herself to the iron bar next to the entrance door, with her other hand she reaches for the cobrador. The unlucky third cannot make it in time! Sube! Sube! shouts the cobrador. The driver brakes for the woman to get in, and the rollercoaster ride goes on. The women almost fly through the corridor. Todo Méjico! Nicolas Ayllon!
The micro fills up. It can handle about 25 people, of which 18 get a seat. At the turn from Avenida México onto Avenida Nicolas de Ayllon, we pass San Jacinto, a warehouse filled with car parts. (If your car is stolen, you probably find it here. Cut in parts, that is.) The micro is overloaded. Nevertheless, the cobrador keeps inviting the people on the sidewalks. Agustino! San German! Agustino! San German! I am asking myself, where will he put the people? I realize that I am on the point of no return. Leaving this bus here is virtually impossible.
Al fondo hay sitio! To my amazement, the cobrador invites pedestrians to come in. “There is room in the back!” Yes, that’s exactly where I am. Crushed between wracked seats and body parts from other unlucky people. Well over 30 people are on this bus now. I can’t see it, but I imagine the people are standing on the entrance outside, holding themselves to the bus. I see this once in a while on buses passing by, this time there is no chance to check it.
We are racing up north, and the streets get bumpier. The driver doesn’t seem to be bothered at all. He just races on and leaves us bouncing like basketballs in the back. Luckily, about ten people leave the bus at a market in the outskirts of El Agustino (Baja! Baja!). The other passengers sigh with relief.
While I collect myself again, the cobrador comes up to me. “Parque Huancayo, señor, a la derecha”. I dismount the micro completely wrecked, but happy to have experienced the Lima public transport. The ramshackle races away, and just in time I read the sentence on the back, next to the icon of Virgen Maria: ‘Si salió atrasado, no es culpa del chofer!’ (If you’re too late, it’s not the driver’s fault).
Some pictures of buses in Lima: