I have two musings rattling around in my head. Neither of which would make a complete post so I will mix them up a bit. First a bit about tropical flowers and plants. Second about buses.
Mark and I have always enjoyed gardening however indoor plants were a nemesis. Thank goodness Mother Nature did most of the work in the garden. Sunshine was plentiful and when there was not enough rain our sprinkler system would come on. The house plants were not so lucky. We would water and care for them but not with the attention they needed. It was more like, Uh oh, that one is getting droopy, better toss some water on it. The tropical plants with their pretty colors and unique leaves always grabbed my attention at the nursery. I should have known better than to buy plants that needed more sun than our shaded windows provided and more than occasional watering. Traveling in the tropics for several years now, we’ve seen these beautiful plants grow without a care. Seriously…without anyone caring for them. I see the same plants I killed thriving along roadsides or in vacant lots. The plants that do need attention still get less than we gave ours and thrive in their native climate.
My guess is readers of this blog would rather not see a lots of boring pictures of busses to go with the text. Instead I thought I would add pictures of the beautiful tropical plants we have seen here in Tahiti. In recent posts Mark has used many of our favorite pictures that we snapped on recent excursions. I was able to scrounge up a few we have not yet used. I don’t know the names of all the plants but I am pretty sure we killed similar ones back home.
We depend on public transportation and foot power. Every country we visit the system is different. Most have a basic website, many have none. To be honest, the people who live there know how it works and most tourists rarely use the bus so there is no real need for a fancy website.
We have been on many different types of vehicles that call themselves buses. Converted school buses on their last legs, minivan buses with capacity of 6 filled up to 10 or more and even pickup trucks converted into buses. In Tahiti we are thrilled to have modern, air conditioned coach buses. Ah…the good life! As with any new location we visit it took a few rides to learn the routine.
The routine is pretty much the same wherever we go. Obstacle one, find the bus stops. In some countries we have visited there are no stops. A person simply stands on the side of the road and eventually a bus will stop. Other places there are stops but they are not well marked. In Tahiti, the stops are designated with a bus sign and often has covered seating.
Obstacle two, is the bus going where we want to go? This can be tricky. In some small countries we have visited the buses are privately owned and the competition is fierce. The driver or conductor will tell a person they are going wherever you say you want to go. It might take hours to get there going the wrong way around but you’ll eventually get there because it is an island. We learned to glance at the passengers as we ask the driver. They will often be the better source with a roll of the eyes or a shake of the head as a mild indication that we should wait for another bus.
Obstacle three, how to stop the bus. This can be as confusing as catching the right bus. Sometimes there are actual bus stops but the driver will only stop if signaled to do so. There have been times when the correct method was to bang on the roof to stop the bus. Often there is a doorbell that might or might not work. Another more common method is to yell out at the driver as the stop approaches. We watch and learn.
We have found that riding the bus is a great way to see the island and learn our way around. As we ride we see where the hardware and grocery stores are located. We can also see sights that we can visit later by bus or car. Mark loves riding the bus. All buses. Big, small, cramped, he loves them all. I enjoy all but the cramped, over stuffed buses. I’d rather walk. 🙂
When we first arrived in Tahiti we had several different experiences while learning the bus system. The first bus we rode had big red buttons scattered throughout the bus. Just push the button and the bus will stop at the next bus stop. Easy enough. The second time we rode a different bus number on a different route. There were no big red buttons to push. Uh oh. As we approached our stop, I made my way to the front and asked to get off but the driver did not stop for the next four stops. He finally stopped and everyone on the bus got off. Ok, that did not work. What did we miss? It was a mystery until the next time we took that route. A kind passenger heard us talking about how to get off and showed us the secret hiding place for the button. Mystery solved.
Our third trip we felt we were getting the system down. We felt more confident, we knew the bus number we needed and the stop we wanted to get off. We even understood how to stop the bus. This particular driver was very cheerful as we boarded and paid our fee. He took in our obvious touristy appearance and asks where we are from and if we are enjoying our stay in Tahiti. In English, he then asked where we would like to go. Later, the driver pulled over at the stop across from the marina without being prompted. Saying over the intercom, “Ok guys, this is your stop. Have a nice visit in Tahiti!” What a nice guy.
We have a lot of fond bus stories but I think my new favorite story is from last week. We needed to visit a store that was much to far away to walk. We were not completely sure where to get off the bus. As we boarded the bus, Mark asked the driver if the bus could stop near the store we needed to visit. The driver was confused by Mark’s pronunciation in French so Mark tried again. The driver nodded happily. We paid the fare and sat down. About 15 minutes later the bus pulled over at a bus stop outside the airport and opens the door. We watched patiently as no one got off the bus and no one got on the bus either. The driver then said something in French over the intercom. We looked at each other confused. No one got off. Then, he said it again with a bit more authority in his voice. I am not kidding when I say that everyone on the bus turned and looked at us. A person behind us said in broken English, “This is your stop. It is the airport.” We politely asked to stay on the bus. The bus driver took to the road again, glancing back at us with a confused expression. Apparently, if you are a tourist, your final destination is always the airport. About 10 minutes later we saw the store and pushed the big red button for the next stop. The driver gave us a relieved look in his mirror and pull into the stop. Moral of the story, don’t believe everyone when they say they understand your bad French. Second moral to the story, keep working on the French lessons.