Buses

As most of you know, I do not own a car so travel by foot or public transit most of the time.  I’ve had my share of unique experiences on public transit …. I remember a guy on the #257 express to Horseshoe Bay who had a rifle attached to his backpack and was a tad surprised once we got over the Lions Gate Bridge into West Vancouver when he was hauled off the bus by a swat team.  Nothing quite like that here, but different all the same!

Buses seem to me to be private enterprises, no public transit authority to speak of.  The drivers look like they are not yet 20 yrs old, I doubt they have licenses either.  They have one or two of their pals hanging out the door of the bus looking for customers.  My trip of about 5km is 10 rupees (about 12 cents) and you pay during the trip or as you get off.  The young lad at the door shouts out for customers as he sees people gathered along the road.  He either bangs the bus a few times to alert the driver to stop or start, or whistles.  I have not figured out the procedure yet but for some buses two bangs means start, on others two bangs means stop.  The whistling is a whole other complexity.  There are no formal bus stops, you just holler when you want to get off and push your way through the packed bus to the door.  Invariably the bus continues to move while you hop off (and on) so you have to be pretty decisive getting on and off.

I must admit I have a little anxiety using the buses but the young Australians are here 3 weeks now and are quite blase about it.  I’ll get there! Friday seems to be market day somewhere in between Banepa (where I live) and Kathmandu.  I know this because I arrived at the bus to get to work on Friday, and found two goats with their owner ahead of me.  Hmm, I wondered how this was gonna work.  Simple!  Tie their legs together, toss them up onto the roof and tie the rope onto the guard rail.  The goats did not even blink, they must be used to this mode of transport.

Once I got on the bus, people started piling on.  An old man got on with a bagful of roosters as you do. He sat up right at the front of the bus next to the driver and the roosters were given pride of place.  Far away from me thankfully!  Mid way through the journey one of the roosters decided to make a dash for it.  In one sense I was cheering the little guy on for being so daring in his burst for freedom, but in another sense I realized the very young bus driver was trying to get the squawking bird out of his face with his hands ….. that should have been on the wheel.  We swerved for a few seconds as the rooster flew back along the bus.  City slicker that I am, I just ducked.

Someone somehow got hold of the rooster and it was handed back up the bus to the old man.  I got off soon after  and while I caught my breath, I looked to the roof to check on the goats, sure they were lost back along the road.  Not a chance, they were standing straight, head held high facing the road ahead, like as if this was all in a day’s work. I smiled to myself, braced myself for crossing the road and headed up the hill to work.

About Kate Coffey

After 30 or so years in the investment management industry, 2013 saw me turn my life up-side-down, making my way first to Nepal, then Bangladesh during that first ‘year away’. The year took me on a journey I did not expect, had me fall in love with Nepal and its people, and become inspired at the work of Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC) located in Bhainsepati - 2 hours east of Kathmandu in the Saanga foothills. Since 2014, I have returned to SIRC numerous times, working closely with the folks there in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes. In the past two years, my work in Nepal has expanded to the Bo M. Karlsson Foundation www.bomkarlsson.com and the Spinal Cord Injured Network Nepal. In Bangladesh I marvelled at the strength and resilience of marginalized women who have the courage and audacity to break the rules and make a better life for themselves and their children through microfinance programs with BRAC. 2016-2017 saw me embark on a totally new experience in Sri Lanka, a place I never would have chosen to end up in. It’s the 40C+ heat, big humidity and tropical snakes & animals that scared me! But I ended up love love loving! my time there, working with predominantly Tamil small business owners in remote villages in the north and east of the country, trying their best to recover their businesses and the lives of their employees, after decades of a civil war. My time in Sri Lanka made me realize my hard-earned business skills and experience can really be put to good use! The work the BIZ+ team and I did there ended up earning me International Volunteer of the Year Award in December 2017, presented on Capitol Hill, Washington DC no less. I am currently home on Bowen Island, in the west coast of Canada, shoring up my finances before I head off to who knows where, for my next expert volunteer assignment. This blog initially started out as a travelogue of sorts to keep friends and family worldwide updated while I was off on my travels in 2013-2014. Since then it has morphed into a life story of the many places I have lived and worked and of the wonderful people I have met along the way. I hope you enjoy.
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16 Responses to Buses

  1. curtis says:

    yay for the #257!

  2. curtis says:

    seriously… I have just learned of your blog and I am happy to read you have arrived safe and sound. Bowen Island has changed a lot since you have been gone. You probably wont recognize it on your return. Plus there have been a lot of reports of loud music and rowdy house parties from your old neighbourhood…renters or house sitters I am sure!!! more updates soon!

  3. Miriam says:

    Kate, your blogs make for a wonderful morning reading for me! This one is hilarious! Love it!

  4. jennywest51 says:

    Kate, your descriptions are so wonderful. I’m left with vivid images of the bus experience and am smiling broadly with the joy of it. Thanks so much for sharing in this way. xoxo Jenny

  5. Grace Coffey says:

    Your experiences are a book in the making!! Loving all news and can’t wait for the next update. gxx

  6. Debbie W says:

    Kate, I am laughing out loud! Well you have had lots of previous practice avoiding the swan on Bowen so roosters are no problem for you! Can’t wait to hear about your next bus adventure!
    x0x Deb

  7. Kate Coffey says:

    Glad I am a source of entertainment for you all. You know what I am like with any kind of animal, I was scared to death! Worse than the Lagoon Swan and Emily’s gerbil thingy combined!

  8. bkmiec says:

    I’m loving all the details, Kate. From children’s bright smiles and small hands waving to goats atop questionable buses! When you figure out what the whistling means, let us know! Makes me think of a bus I rode in Santorini many eons ago, with a roof-top overflowing with luggage, and all of us folks (mostly tourists? some locals?) crammed, and I do mean CRAMMED into the inside of that bus, pressed up against each other in a way I didn’t even realize was possible, sweat co-mingling, and then careening at way too many miles an hour along the winding, narrow road with serious switchbacks from the dock up to the villages. Yikes, it was thrilling! (and a bit trepidacious : ).

    Have you had a chance to snap some photos yet? Looking forward to the visuals too! (though your blog posts definitely create vivid pictures!)

  9. Karen Jones says:

    Kate, I am so enjoying reading your wonderful accounts. I look forward to many more. All the best to you.

  10. Tandi says:

    I’m glad I’m not a goat. Or a rooster.

  11. Jan says:

    Thanks for the great ‘images’ and the laugh!!..Lyndsey & I just discovered your blog!

  12. Pingback: Buses – another side to the story | Bowen to Bangladesh

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