Here is my intended route in Peru, subject to change of course. Puno is at the west end of Lake Titicaca,
OK, I had intended to ride my bicycle this entire trip. I had no intention of taking the bus at any point. However, due to circumstances I have had to resort to the bus. It goes back to my main purpose for doing this trip: to have fun. If I realize I am not having any fun I will make some changes. So, for example, when I almost died of thirst and heat exhaustion in the Chaco of Paraguay, I said to myself, “this is not fun”. So I caught the bus out. And in the mountains of Bolivia, where I had to walk my bike 30 km uphill on dusty, rocky roads, I realized I was not enjoying the experience.
I felt that again the past couple days. There has been a lot of traffic around Puno and Juliaca in Peru. Lots of busses and trucks. I have a system where I count the “near misses” that I have. A near miss occurs on roads where first, there is not a rideable shoulder, ie, it is gravel or rocks or sand. In this case I am forced to ride on the road, usually a few inches to the left of the white line. Then if a truck or bus is overtaking me from behind and there is no oncoming traffic, no problem, they usually move over and pass. However, if a vehicle is approaching from the opposite direction, the overtaking vehicle can´t move over into the next lane. Here is a shot of a two vans passing me while a bus is heading toward us in the opposite lane. Notice the gravel shoulder. As you can see there isn´t much room for a bicycle. Bear in mind these vehicles are going about 60 mph.
Another scenario is if vehicles are passing as they approach me. See the sequence of pix below. In this case the bus and van were passing the other van. For these photos, of course, I moved onto the gravel shoulder, but usually the drivers either don´t see me or don´t care that I am there.
When this happens I have two options; 1) I can stand my ground and say that I have just as much right to the road as a motorized vehicle, which would (hopefully) force them to slow down and pass when it is safer, or 2) I can ride off the road onto the gravel shoulder. Now, I ain´t the smartest person in the world, but I am not going to bet my life on the skill and common sense of the average Peruvian truck driver– I go off the road onto the shoulder. I call this a near miss.
More dangerous is when vehicles are passing me from behind. In this case I can´t see them unless I check my rear view mirror (which I do constantly when I am on this kind of road, believe me. Which also contributes to the “this is not fun” factor).
Here is an example of that scenario. The bus is passing the van, leaving no room for the van to move over as it passes me, so again I am forced off the road (at least they honk their horns to let me know of the danger).
The other kind of near miss is when a truck or bus overtakes me and even though there is no oncoming traffic they do not move over to give me some space. In this case I stay on the road, since I don´t know what the driver is going to do. Some trucks have whizzed past inches from my panniers.
So, where is this heading? On the road from Puno to Juliaca, a distance of 45 km, I had 36 near misses. In the industrial world, we track these because statistically, after a certain number of near misses you will have a recordable accident. And after a certain number of recordable accidents you will have a lost time accident. After so many lost time accidents, eventually you will have a fatality. It´s just the probabilities.
So I was trying to decide if I should ride to Cusco, 345 km from Juliaca, or take the bus. If I had 36 near misses in 45 km, assuming no change in the traffic pattern, I could expect 276 near misses on the road to Cusco. Worse, one of those near misses could turn out to be an accident.
Well I did not have fun today and I certainly would not have fun over the next four days dealing with 276 near misses. I´m taking the bus.