Posted by: mw23 | June 12, 2009

Weak brakes & Tuberculosis

Stories from the Combi receive a double post today, since I didn’t expect to be writing Combi 101 yesterday… but it just kind of happened that way.

We shall start off with yesterday’s Story from the Combi, entitled

Weak Breaks

Peruvian Taxi

Peruvian Taxi

I started the morning by forgetting my lunch back at the house. I had made it just 2 blocks away when my cell rang and I was a bit startled since I don’t know anyone who would call me, let alone at 8AM.  It was my aunt letting me know I forgot the goods – so I ran back to pick it up, lest I face ‘La Rotunda’ again for lunch (but that’s another story). This is about the Combi!

From the intersection at Benavides I was lucky enough to find a combi waiting at the light. I asked if he was heading to La Molina and he motioned forward. *Miscommunication #1: I started quickly walking to the combi in front when he started yelling gibberish at me saying something like “no no get in the front seat”. I dont usually up there but, I obliged. I then happily sat in the front noticing there was a fire extinguisher next to me and I thought “Wow this is a great combi, this seat is securely bolted to the floor (luxury) and they have safety equipment!”. My standards are rapidly deteriorating.

The Cobrador asked me for the fare and I gave him a 2 sole coin ($1.00USD = S./3.00) . The standard fare is S./1.50 to La Molina but he only charged me 1.20, now I thought ‘Crap!’ this is the wrong combi, god only knows where I’m going to end up! So I figured out how to ask El Chofer if he was in-fact heading to La Molina, “Señor, vas a La Molina?”, gruntingly “Si siii”.  Then for a moment I considered giving the correct change back to the Cobrador but realized he would think I’m crazy. When in rome… do as the peruvians do.

The next experience was quite sobering during the brisk ride, the Chofer was really flooring it when we approached the exit ramp off the Pan-American Highway. It was here where I learned that taxi drivers like to stop on the exit ramps so they can drop people off and still get back onto the freeway. So the combi is blazing down the street when all of the sudden the taxi in front stops and the driver-side passenger door flips open! The Chofer slamed on his breaks, but not to much avail. I would give these brakes a safety rating of about 2 stars out of 10, I mean they do work at low speeds and all but certainly not when you’re going 120Km down the freeway. We then narrowly missed ripping off the taxi door and the Chofer was fuming! He proceeded to crank the combi to the side of the road, cutting the taxi off so he could lay out a slue of profanity at the taxi driver.

Lesson Learned: Never forget the combi is an overused, under serviced piece of dated machinery and its very existence is only ever teetering between catastrophic failure and another day’s work.

~Just another day on the combi

And for those still reading, today’s Story from the Combi, entitled


After failing to hail a couple combi’s going the right direction, I finally flagged one down on Benavides. As per procedure, I strained to clearly annunciate “¿Avenida La Molina?”, the Cobrador gave me a motion to enter the bus. I sat down on the front bench. As the combi continued its routine, I observed my seat’s lack of bolts on the rear legs attached to the chassis. Every time the combi slowed down the seat would lean forward, requiring me to compensate. Remember, it’s the little things that matter…

The Cobrador then spouted his usual broadcast to the passerby’s but he started with ‘Aven-AughK-HaugGhuC-glaHK’ in place of ‘Avenida La Molina’. In case you’re wondering what I just typed out, it’s called Onomatopoeia. This Cobrador apparently was suffering from some type of mucasy affliction and of course all I could think about was TUBERCULOSIS.

This is the result, yes of my hypocondriacism but also because the of the Alberta Travel Clinic, which made sure to educate me on the disease before I left for Perú. Tuberculosis is some type of terrible infection of the lungs that can be transmitted via close proximity coughing. Needless to say I opted for staring out the window, taking short breaths…

~Just another day on the combi



  1. I love these stories!!!! I can even picture your reactions in all of them, especially you thinking you are about to get tuberculosis and feeling like you should take short breaths. It reminds me of when someone, well…does the nasty, and you feel like you should not breathe because the fumes are toxic and will somehow harm your health!!! haha…keep ’em coming!

    sister #2

  2. I agree with Nana … I can just see you trying not to breathe while at the same time trying to keep your seat from flipping over… The only thing that I think about while traveling to work – is work…

    Miss you!

  3. hey! it’s me from your lisboa trip….. hahahhaha
    i love your blogs.. but if you think lima is bad.. try living in cochabamba, bolivia…. A LOT WORSE… i ve been here for a year and i totally identify with all your stories.. hahahhahaha.

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