The difference with Chilean buses…

So as it is up to me to do the real work, let’s get started! ;-) The good thing about me doing the work though is that I get to decide on most articles. :-) So let’s talk about my favorite subject once more: buses!

After (almost :-( :-( ) one year of travelling, we sure have been seeing and experiencing some different buses. As such, buses could be resumed as:

Noisy: Especially in South-East Asia and China it seems that the louder the music, the better! It doesn’t matter that the sound boxes are almost exploding your ears (WITH earplugs, yes, yes, we were prepared…), the only thing that counts it that it is loud, unbearably horrible music and that some young girls are jumping over a TV-screen. And oh yeah, we forgot: the karaoke option should be on! ;-) Or, like we had the “luck” to experience in Myanmar: if they do turn off the sound (which is quite a miracle in itself), they will wake you up at 4 in the morning with a cassette of a buddhist monk praying his lungs out… x-( And, they love to horn: a pedestrian crosses the street? They horn. A dog near the street? They horn. Driving next to another vehicle? They horn. Taking over? They horn. The driver getting bored? They… well you get the picture. ;-)

Overloaded: Especially bus companies in Laos were absolute champions at overloading buses. You think a bus with 50 people is full? Well you’re wrong. A bus is full when it has at least the roof packed with cargo, the middle-path packed with at least 4 layers of bags of rice and then on top of those bags at least 20 people…

Old and ramshackle: Most buses we have been in were VERY old and VERY ramshackle. In Nepal for example, tires get remolded about 20 times before they will put on an new old one (remolded only 15 times so far). We also remember a Chinese bus with inexistant suspension, which made that every time we turned the bus touched the wheel. A very nice and reassuring feeling, especially if your seat is just on top of this wheel… Technical problems were also very common in Laos where once we had 4 (!) flat tires on a 3-hour trip (which made that the trip took 6 hours instead). But it was quite remarkable that of all the buses that were in a pityful state, there was not one that had a broken horn or stereo. Life just isn’t fair sometimes… :-(

Driving freelance-style: Oh yeah, driving freelance-style. We sure have some good examples on this one. A thing they really enjoyed doing in Laos was to drive downhill (heavily overloaded remember) without the motor engine (yes, the neutral position of a gearbox) thereby assuring a real instability of the bus and having to break like crazy in curves… In Nepal, due to belief in fatalism (the belief that everything will go like it is supposed to be and that you cannot change anything about it: in this case, bus drivers believe they will die some day and cannot change anything about it) bus drivers would drive like crazy on the small, bad roads. But we don’t believe in fatalism! :-o A country where you would maybe less suspect the buses to drive freelance-style is New-Zealand, where it seems that speed indications are not a limit but a target and thus if the sign says “100” you go 100 even if you are on a small mountain road and driving a bus and not a Ferrari… :-(

Slow: Buses in South-East Asia were often very slow (especially the buses in Laos and Myanmar) with 200 km covered in 8 hours not being an exception.

Fast: On the other side we had the other extreme, with buses in Thailand and China as the absolute winners! Probably due to their (relatively) good buses and good roads, they were absolute champions at ignoring any speed indication and rattling along thereby pushing their buses to the maximum…

Uncomfortable: Now, being European, it is not always easy to be 15 hours in a bus made for people from China or Laos with an average size of 1.50 meters. As a result we normally did not have leg-space (even when we sat upright), the headrest was too low and the seat became a pretty adequate torture instrument after about 1 hour in between the rice bags. And we are rather small!!!

But luckly for us, in Chile, everything was different.

A little bit wary of taking buses at first (you kind of get to hate them, knowing that you are every-time risking your dear life) we got the absolute positive surprise in Chile: First of all, buses are in a good state and most of the time virtually new. What’s more, tires are new (with profile!!!) and before every big-distance departure a maintenance engineer checks the bus on several points. Second, inside the bus, you can really sleep as seats are very wide, allow to go down in a nice, comfortable angle and there is enough space even for people with long legs. Third: they do play some movies, but the sound doesn’t explode your ears and around 22h00 in the evening they turn of the movies and the light, allowing for everybody to get a good night sleep. But the best thing of all: in the bus, there is a panel showing you the current driver, his driving time (he is not allowed to drive longer than 5 hours in a row) and the current speed (with a beep tone everytime he exceeds the current speed limit). Now isn’t that amazing? We just love Chilean buses! :-)

Vera & Jean-Christophe

One Comment

  1. Posted July 19, 2008 at 23:34 | Permalink

    Ces comparaisons sont très intéressantes et m’ont bien amusé en me rappelant des souvenirs! On pourrait ajouter les bus mexicains, péruviens ou égyptiens pour mettre encore un peu plus de piment!
    Bonne continuation pour la fin de ce fabuleux périple.