A Two-Tiered Highway System

Bus Accident in the Andes

Bus Accident in the Andes

Peru is a major destination for international tourism. It can also be a deadly one. While the nation has improved the highway system connecting such tourist magnets as Lima, Arequipa, Nazca, Cusco, and Arequipa, many large towns in the Andes are linked by roads that are unsafe. This is compounded by the fact that not only the highways, but also the long-distance bus lines, are also two-tiered. A point-to-point Cruz del Sur, Oltursa, or Ormeño bus will generally get you to your destination safely; but a second class bus plying the roads between such cities as Huancayo and Ayacucho takes much longer, picks up and drops off passengers whenever requested, and is likely to have an overtired driver who has been at the job for over twelve hours. When that is combined with night driving, inclement weather, and bad roads, the result can be a fatal accident such as the one illustrated above.

According to the Peru This Week website:

Congresswoman [Veronika] Mendoza has highlighted the inequality inherent in the consistent state of disrepair of roads in rural Peru. “It absolutely cannot be that only roads on tourist routes are in a good condition while the internal transport highways that Cusquenos use aren’t being cared for in the same way,” Mendoza stated, later adding that “We also have to consider the additional difficulty for transportation that the arrival of the rainy season will bring.”

Statistics released by Sutran, Peru’s national government land transport authority, reveal that road deaths have risen dramatically in the past year. According to El Comercio, deaths caused by road accidents from January to August 2013 have risen 36.5% compared with the same period last year.

Many American tourists are interested in following the line of the Andes and visiting the highland cities with their spectacular mountain views and native arts and crafts. While this is not impossible, there is considerable risk attached to such an itinerary.

Photo of Serrano Boy

Photo of Serrano Boy

Part of the problem is that, as in other countries that are racially divided, Peru suffers from racism against serranos and cholos, descendants of the Incas and other peoples inhabiting the Andes. We tend to think of the Andean tribal peoples as being the majority in Peru, but that is not the case: The narrow coastal desert zone holds the majority of the population as well as the economical and political power. The result is that the rural Andes are underserved by good roads and public transportation.

If and when my planned trip to Peru takes place, I will be careful to take the first class buses to major tourist destinations—at least until I have been able to scope out the situation myself.