El Vocho En Peru

Posted on March 22, 2012


It’s been nearly two years since I was in Peru but I think about the country constantly.  I found a peace and happiness there that I’ve never had before.  I found a country full of life, a proud people full of culture and history, and most importantly a second family.  One day I will return.

Some of my best memories are those from Peru.  I can remember the dust on the streets of San Isidro, the crisp air in the Andes, the cuy-cuy-cuy-cuy of the guinea pigs in the mornings as they sniffed around the huts, and in the towns I remember the vochos.  Peru is why I got re-interested in aircooled Volkswagens.  I had seen them before in the US-there was a corner in town where two or three old bugs would always be for sale.  I’d always wanted one as a child but my parents told me that they were slow, noisy, unsafe, and ugly.  They were right.  So I forgot them and, when it was time for me to drive, I ended up in a W124 Mercedes followed by a W202.

But Peru took me back to a simpler state of mind and a simpler lifestyle.  No cell phones, little TV or internet, 90% of my days spent outside.  A Mercedes in Peru would have been ridiculous.  But a bug, a vocho, was perfect.  And so it made sense that I saw the Mexican and Brazilian made bugs daily in town, their rattly little engines carrying them up the steep grades of the mountain passes often packed full of items and goods.  I fell in love with the simpler life I found in Peru and, in turn, I fell in love with the vocho and everything it embodied for the people of South America.

It was cheap, simple, reliable transportation.  When they broke they could be fixed with simple tools and cheap parts.  Or failing that bodged back together on the side of the road with bailing wire and chewing gum.  The vocho was everything you needed in the rugged rural areas and nothing you didn’t.

So when I returned to the United States I found the man who sold the bugs on the street corner and I bought one.  There’s a rosary hanging from its rear view mirror and a small card with a drawing of Jesus tucked behind the VIN plate on the dashboard much like the professional drivers in Peru.  Sometimes while driving along a hilly road I pretend I am back in the Andes piloting a vocho stamped “Feito no Brasil,” some Hector Lavoe on my radio, a bottle of Inca Kola rolling around on the floor, and a case of Cusquena on the rear parcel shelf.

That daydream will eventually become a reality-I left a piece of my heart in Peru and I will return.  For now all I can do is look at photos of my beloved bug in my beloved country.