Thursday, August 28, 2008

Final Sur Motors Update

Well I gave them a call again as it has been about 25 working days since they told me the parts were ordered to be imported. Apparently SeƱor Jose Luis Romero (Jefe de Taller) no longer works for Sur Motors. No idea if he was fired for hiring incompetent idiots to work the desk, or multiple complaints about delays and problems in the taller, or if he just quit for some reason. But he's gone now and we spoke with the new Jefe de Taller, Michael Zegarra.

He said that he just took the job recently (within a few days, maybe even today!) and doesn't know what's going on. He said he will look into what's happening with our car and try to have an idea for tomorrow. He asked us to call back at 9am tomorrow.


So the new guy actually called back (first time Sur Motors has actually called us when they said they would). He said that the cables had arrived. Why didn't they ever call to notify us??! He said that the car still would not start, the battery or alternator must be dead. I was pretty upset by this because there was no way that I was going to replace the alternator for no reason. I asked that they do the electrical tests and let them know that I would need to see them myself if the alternator needed replacement.

We called them back a day later and we weren't able to get a hold of anyone in the Taller who we could talk to. The next day we called again and finally got a hold of Sr Zegarra. He said that the alternator was fine but the battery was dead and would not take a charge. He said they could install a new battery for S/. 240 (Etna brand, 11 plates, 1-2 year guarantee). I was a bit surprised by this price, so I told him I'd call back later to confirm. I did some research online and found that ETNA batteries are a really good brand here in Peru and that the price wasn't too bad. So I called and asked him to install the new battery. I also asked about a discount if I left my old battery with them to recycle, but he said that they don't do that and I would have to pay full and take my old battery with me.

So the next day I called back in the afternoon and he said that the battery was installed and I could pick up the car on Wednesday. I was busy all day Wednesday, so we had to wait until Thursday (today) to pick it up.

We had already settled all the bills in July for the transmission, brake cleaning, pressure system tests, etc. We also payed 50% of the spark plug cable costs. In total we had to pay around $400. So this time we should just have to pay the other 50% of the spark plug cables (S/. 80 or so) and then the S/. 240 for the new battery. We called this morning to check on the price just to be safe/sure about it.

He told us that we needed to pay S/. 3,300+!!!!!!!!!!

I've got no idea what all of these charges are. So I am going to call him back now and find out what the charges are for and explain that we've already paid for everything but the cables and battery.


So we just got back from Sur Motors. Most of the employees there are new now as they have fired many of the previous incompetent idiots. There is also tons of construction still going on for their expansion next door.

First we talked to the parts people and payed the last 50% of the spark plug cables. Kind of a pain to talk to them, then run across the place to the caja (kind of like a cash register), then run back again and give them the proof that we paid. Typical Peruvian thing.

Then we talked to Sr. Zegarra. I guess Sr. Romero had previously forgotten to charge us the fee for fixing the transmission in Lima (Gildemeister). So we had only paid for the local repairs and installation/removal. I had thought that getting my transmission rebuilt for $130 was way too cheap. So the fee from Gildemeister was around $900. Then there were the normal fees for the battery and the labor to install the battery and the new cables.

The only major issue we had this time was the following:
We had spoken on the phone and agreed to an ETNA battery with 11 plates. When I had him open up the car so that I could take a look, it was some sort of battery that looked like it was made with some super cheap generic plastic and no real branding. The only things on it were really cheap looking stickers. It looked like some kind of fake battery they make from recycled crap. The guy assured me that it was ALFA Record brand and that the battery shop he went to said it was the 'best' battery available (better than ETNA). I didn't want to leave the car there for more time while I did some research on ALFA Record batteries, so I made a deal with the guy. I took the car now, but said that I was going to check into Record batteries. If they weren't any good, I'd bring it back and he would swap it with a new ETNA battery for free.

So in the end I guess we paid about what you'd expect. But the work took about a month longer than we expected (if not more). I certainly hope to never have to take my car to the shop in Arequipa again.


Well I couldn't find much online about ALFA Record Batteries. It looks like 'Record' batteries either sold or went out of business due to various issues (some including lead poisoning neighborhoods by their factory in El Salvador). ALFA Record appears to be a new company or a new name for the same company. Their yellow pages add in Peru shows a battery that does look exactly like the one I have now. So I have a good idea that it is actually from that company and not just from some guy's garage where he made it himself.

Anyhow, none of the car websites in Spanish or anything else that I could find mention batteries from ALFA Record. I'm not real happy to keep this one, instead of a brand that I know from reviews is solid and will last. But I do not want to take my car back to Sur Motors and have to deal with them again. So I guess I'll just use this battery and see how long it lasts.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Interested in staying alive? Don't take the bus.

90 percent of Peru bus accidents caused by human error

Living in Peru
Israel J. Ruiz

According to Peru's Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MTC), 90 percent of the country's accidents are caused by human error.

Juan Tapia Grillo, head of the transport investigation center is suspicious of this figure, however, stating that it is almost always the driver's fault.

With bus drivers in Peru being accused of everything from driving over 15 hours non-stop and even driving drunk, serious concern has been raised and the government is slowly taking action.

While the Ministry of Transportation has announced that it is being more severe with sanctions and inspections are taking place all over the country, only two charges have been brought to the country's judicial power.

Peru's Public Ministry is pressing charges against Sol Andino Bus Company and Libertadores Bus Company for irregularities in Desaguadero and La Oroya.

Other than these two cases, there are several dozen "pending" or still being investigated by the country's national police.

Another problem is the amount of drivers bus companies hire. According to Jorge Villasante, the vice minister of transportation, bus companies should have at least two drivers per bus.

Turismo Libertadores has a fleet of 19 buses with only 14 workers on its payroll. Transportes Caplina is reported to have 34 buses and only 48 workers while Expreso Huamanga has six workers for 34 buses.

Another factor in almost daily bus accidents is how old the vehicles are. Buses in Mexico cannot be more than ten years old while in Peru there are buses over 30 years old on the highway.

For instance, 58 percent of the 65 buses run by Tepsa Bus Company were built between 1977 and 1978.

Five hundred people have been killed in 170 highway accidents over the past thirteen months in Peru.


Bus companies and drivers should be checked when leaving every major city (not just Lima). If there are serious violations, the company should be servery punished. If there are large numbers of fatalities caused by unlicensed drivers, the company should be shut down (Civa, etc) and the owners should be imprisoned.

I've had many buses pass trucks or other buses while I was in the oncoming lane and they did not have room or speed to pass. They just bully their way down the road flashing their lights and honking at oncoming traffic in the same lane, forcing it to swerve dangerously off of the road to avoid the bus. There are almost no police on the highways and most of them are only parked in small towns taking naps. The few that I see on the actual highway driving are usually going about 30-40 Kph because their vehicles cannot drive any faster and are about to break down.

If you are planning to travel to Peru, it is highly recommended that you avoid long distance bus travel. There have been many major crashes lately and even with the current push for more enforcement, the fatalities continue to climb.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Alaska tourist hacked to death in Guatemala

Daily News staff and wire reports

Robbers armed with machetes hacked an Alaska tourist to death and seriously wounded his wife in an attack aboard the couple's sailboat in northeastern Guatemala, the woman told The Associated Press on Sunday.

In a telephone interview from her hospital bed, Nancy Dryden, 67, said her husband, Daniel Perry Dryden, 66, was killed by four men who boarded their boat late Saturday while it was anchored in Lake Izabal.

The couple, who are retired, live in the Sutton area of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

"They poked us and stabbed us with the machetes, and they were asking for money, specifically dollars," said Dryden, who was listed in stable condition at a hospital in the lakeside town of Morales.

The thieves were apparently unhappy with the take. "We had a few quetzales (Guatemala's currency), but we had no dollars with us on the boat," Dryden recounted.

The Drydens had bought the boat in February. They were equipping the vessel in preparation for a voyage into the Caribbean and eventually to the eastern coast of the United States.

Dryden said the four assailants may have reached the boat by swimming from shore and brandished long machetes that "seemed liked curved swords."

After assaulting the couple, the men demanded she hand over the keys to the vessel, which has an auxiliary motor. When she didn't - she was unable to tell whether they wanted the keys to the boat, or a small dinghy the couple used to get to shore - the men left, also apparently by swimming.

Dryden struggled over to the boat's radio and sent out a distress call. "I said we need help ... I said my husband was not moving," Dryden recalled.

She said she expects her children to arrive in Guatemala today and plans to be transferred to the United States for medical care.

In Alaska, family friend Dee Woods said the Drydens were experienced sailors. They owned a boat in the 1960s and '70s and sailed to England and in the Pacific Ocean.

"They were real trusting and loving and outright, but they were aware that stuff happens. This is just a freak thing," Woods said. The couple's two grown children, a son and a daughter, live in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. Woods said the daughter had called Sunday morning with the news and asked that friends be notified.

Woods said the couple had planned to build a home in Mexico but while visiting friends in Guatemala, they found the sailboat for sale and bought it.

Woods said recent emails between he and his wife, Mat-Su Borough Assemblywoman Lynne Woods, and Nancy Dryden indicate the couple was waiting out bad weather before embarking on their journey.

"Nancy and Dan were really having a good time," Woods said. "They were really getting into the arts and crafts of Guatemala.

Woods said the Drydens moved to Sutton in the late 1970s, where both couples were members of a small community of friends who spent holidays and birthdays together. Dan drove truck during the pipeline days and went on to work as a private contractor around the area. Recently, he did dirt work on a salmon habitat restoration program on Moose Creek near Sutton.

Nancy recently retired from the state where she worked as a physical therapist.

In Guatemala City, Assistant Police Commissioner Luis Say said the attack is being investigated.

Located near Guatemala's Caribbean coast, Lake Izabal is popular among tourists for its jungle scenery and wildlife.

In March, protesting farmers briefly kidnapped four Belgian tourists at Lake Izabal to press for the release of a jailed activist. They were released unharmed.

This story was reported by the Associated Press from Guatemala City and the Daily News' Rindi White in Palmer.

After traveling to Guatemala and visiting this lake and Rio Dulce just a couple years ago... this story is a bit startling. But certainly from our experience there, it is nothing unbelievable. Everything we experienced and saw indicated that Guatemala was more or less a lawless country. There has been some calming down since the civil wars and rebel fighting, but it still remains highly corrupt and employs an inadequate police force. Highway robberies and murders are still fairly common.

Some other stories from Guatemala are equally startling. One described prisons which were run by the prisoners and the guards just made sure that no one got into the prison. It was used for drug growing, production, drug shipments, blackmail, etc. The guards took payoffs from the prisoners. This wasn't closed down until 2007.

Another story listed the sad figures for solved cases of murders. Numerous articles and stories list the following: "Murder rates in Guatemala are among the world's highest." "There are over 5000 murders in Guatemala per year. Only about 2% of them result in an arrest."