Monday, March 2, 2009

Not all busses are alike!

February 27, 2009
Last month when we wanted to travel in Chile from Viña del Mar to Chiloé (a distance of 780 miles), we decided to go by bus. We had ridden on the Megabus from St. Louis to Kansas City and thought it might be a lot like that. We went to the bus station to buy the tickets four days in advance and chose the Tur Bus Line. The first thing they asked was which class of ticket we wanted – first class with a bed, second class with a semi-bed, or third class with reclining seat. Of course, we chose first class when we found out that for a 14 hour ride overnight we would only pay $50.00 per seat. We chose our seats on a computer screen and were told to show up about 10 minutes before the bus left. Well, it was wonderful. We got on the lower level of a huge double-decker bus and were in a room with 9 large Lazy-Boy size chairs with foot rests that came up and backs that went back flat. There was a bathroom in a separate area between our cabin and the bus driver. A spiral staircase from that area went to the upstairs passengers. As we rolled out of the bus station at 8PM, we were given large pillows and nice thick blankets and immediately served snacks and drinks. The lights dimmed a few minutes later and the movie “The Scorpion King” began on a flat screen TV. Unfortunately for Paul, it was in Spanish with Spanish sub-titles. After the movie we fell asleep and didn’t wake up until the next morning when the lights came on and a breakfast was served. We were definitely sold on public transportation and wondering why the US doesn’t catch on.
Well, that was the first part of the story. In Puerto Montt, we had to transfer to a bus that would take us on a ferry to the Island of Chiloé. We didn’t have a ticket and weren’t sure about the schedules, but when we went into the bus terminal, it turned out the bus we needed was leaving in 15 minutes. We once again chose our seat on the computer screen and then spent the last 3 ½ hours on a regular Greyhound style bus ($13.00 per ticket). By the time we arrived in Castro, the capital of Chiloé, we had been in a bus for over 18 hours.
So, today, we traveled from Ancud (in the northern part of Chiloé Island) to Coñaripe, in the Volcano and Lakes District of Chile – a 9 hour bus trip. We bought our ticket yesterday ($5.25), but could only get a ticket to the mainland and were told we would need to get onto another bus in Puerto Montt. We got on before 8AM and were able to get out of the bus while we were on the ferry and watched cormorants and sea lions in the water. When we arrived in Puerto Montt, I went into the bus terminal and found out that there were no direct busses to Coñaripe, but a bus to neighboring Villarrica was leaving in 8 minutes. Well, we bought our tickets and hurried to it. Thank goodness we had brought along some bottled water, fruit, cookies and nuts. We had planned to eat in Puerto Montt, but wound up snacking our way for the next 8 hours. When we arrived in Villarrica, we found out the microbus to Coñaripe was leaving in 10 minutes and it was first-come, first-served on the seating for the one hour ride. Well, guess who got on last? Paul and I stood in the aisle, by now pretty tired and hot from the lack of outside air. Mothers with newborn babies stood in the aisle, families of three sat in two small seats. Paul spotted a place to sit at the top of the stairwell and later sat on the driver’s console once a mother and baby got off. With all the safety violations, the crazy thing was the sign posted in the front warned people to use the hand rail when leaving the bus!

No comments: