Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Toot ... Toot!

Toot….I’ve seen you, you’re a hundred paces off-. Toot…just in case you’ve forgotten that I’m behind you. Toot…Toot…to say that I’m going to overtake you. That’s one car passed. Tooooooot… I’m a lorry, and yes, surprisingly I am going to pass you, but don’t worry, I’ll remind you in a moment, as you might not yet have noticed the ninety-eight decibels of slimy diesel reek that I’m about to belch in your face. Hoooot…..see, I did warn you. Two down and a whole country to go. Toot…Toot… I know I’m going the other way, but I thought that you might like know that I’ve seen you. Toot…Toot… I know that you’re parked up, I see you’re eating a banana sandwich, still I thought you might like to hear my horn. Toot…Toot… and yes, I do know that it’s barely first light, but I’ve got to garner a colectivo of passengers for that run to Cusco, and no, I can’t help it if the competition are all doing the same thing.

If we had thought that the Boliviaños were a noisy race, we had yet to meet their Perueño cousins. Horns. Klaxons. Sirens. Whistles. Bugles. True, their national road code requires that on overtaking you sound your intention and presence, yet that’s the same code that requires the use of an archaic right-hand turn signal. Strange how one act can prevail whilst the other doesn’t. One lorry was so pleased to see us, that he klaxoned for over a hundred metres to our rear, and was still in the mirth as he rounded the next bend.  Such was his clamorous applause that I took to the verge, only to find he was on the other side of the road. Such a courteous, happy chap.

I hoot for dogs, and gringos on cycles, I hoot for llamas, and stones on the road, I hoot to find passengers, I hoot deliberately, particularly where I’m asked not to.

The insistence and the temper of these intrusions are no indicator as to the nature of the engine invading into my audio space. A yappy effeminate fluting will eminate from a lumbering truck, whilst a full throated bugling might materialise from an underpowered  moto. Even the tricycle rickshaw comes with a rubber bulb horn; fortunately they’re the one vehicle that we can overtake, so ‘when in Rome…’  we reciprocate….with a polite ‘buen dia’.

So when in Qosq’o we do as the Cuzqueños and totally ignore all bleats and blares, the blasts and booms, which is a shame, potentially disrespectful, as sometimes the trumpeting is offering welcome and encouragement. Yet again we’ve accepted the thrown gauntlet, entering into the lists of another Americas city, contesting for road space, jousting with the micros, tilting at the taxi Ticos, combating the barking dogs and the wayward wandering visitors, all in a ferment of simmering monox and a flue of fumes. Blow, blast, blare: blinker what’s coming from in front. Hoot, honk, horn: ignore what’s coming from behind. It’s remarkable how well this strategy works. The bliss of relative ignorance, the joy of selective deafness. We’re still the fastest wheels and the only hand signallers in town.