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    Bus Travel In Colombia

    “Every self-respecting Kiwi does the big OE at some
    stage, here is a story direct from South America”.

    - Lucy James - 16/1/97

    For those Kiwis who have ever complained about public transport in New Zealand, a bus trip in Colombia might be just the ticket to end your fussy ways.

    From the outside, the buses have been painted in the same bright, festive colors that are present in the traditional dress  of the locals. On the inside, the driver's seat is surrounded by baubles and tinsel framing gaudy pictures of the Virgin Mary and Jesus; a nativity scene suggesting Christmas year round. The INTERCITY could definitely use a few pointers on attractive packaging from these guys; the more eye-catching the bus is, the more passengers it will get.

    But beware, for this merry facade disguises a bus that has been condemned and resurrected more times than Jesus on the Cross, of which a plaster version swings above the driver's head.

    There is no such rule as one backside per seat; four people can and will squeeze onto a two-seater bench. If you are lucky enough to secure a seat you will soon learn that your lap is not sacred. People left standing in the aisle will unburden their luggage onto you and you can literally be left holding the baby.

    Just when you think the bus capacity is filled, people climb onto the roof in amongst the cargo. They don't get a discount however, because they have the best view. The goats, pigs, and chickens also prefer the roof when travelling on buses, so sticking your head out the windows is not recommended.

    When the bus starts and people cross themselves it is time to worry.

    Two things become obvious as you go along. A little extra padding goes a long way, owing to non-existent seat cushions, rough suspension and unpaved, rocky roads. Also, the only toilet stops on a long bus ride coincide with the bus driver's or bus conductor's bladder control. Either don't drink or share your water rations with the driver. ( I did not know suffering until I had a full bladder on an eight hour bus trip through Colombia!)

    Or you can pray for a flat or delay. No picking up the cell phone and calling for extra parts or help over there. You wait as long as it takes for the driver to perform innovative repairs to the engine using wire and electrical tape, but when they push the bus to the side of the road this is your signal to start walking to the nearest village. My advice: expect delays and take plenty of food.

    After the trip is over, when your bottom isn't so sore, you remember the Colombian's chatter, song and laughter, and realise that the torturous ride has become an unforgettable adventure.

    Published with permission from NZine