Misadventures in Bus Travel

Misadventures in Bus Travel

From Master’s in Teaching candidate Lisa Cabias.

I set off this weekend with lofty expectations. I had finished my full control teaching and not only were all of the children alive on Friday afternoon, SO WAS I! I believe we were also smiling, another positive sign. It was reward time! I had planned a trip to Wellington, New Zealand‘s capital city. This weekend was the Queen’s birthday, a three-day holiday.

Intercity bus

Do not leave unattended

I had arranged my bus tickets, room and even a fun surf session with a local guide upon arrival. The surf forecast was five stars! All seemed to be perfectly in place…or so I thought.

Saturday morning was a glorious morning for bus travel. Frosty fields glittered in the sun, low patches of ghostly mist drifted in valleys along the route south from Napier. It was going to be a clear day with lots of sun. I rocked out with my iPod and a lap-full of knitting, flipping through past mornings of early surf departures in my head.

The bus lollygagged through little towns and picked up extra passengers. In Danniverke, a town with a distinctly Norwegian flavor,  the driver announced we were stopping and pulled up directly alongside a very posh looking automated public toilet. Several folks de-bussed, including the driver, who abandoned ship before the line of exiting passengers reached the door.

“Well, well,” I thought to myself. “This is a five hour trip, perhaps I had better take advantage.”  This, as it turned out was a BAD choice.

You see,  if you happen to be at the end of that line waiting to get off the bus AND you would like to get back on before the bus leaves you had better find the driver, wherever he may be, first.

I am a famously fast bathroom-er. I did not allow myself to be side-tracked by the fact that the toilet plays an instrumental version of  “what the world needs now is love sweet love” after it locks you inside. I did not pause to ponder how marvelous it is that when the door unlocks, the toilet flushes by itself.  I was in there for 90 seconds, TOPS.  When the computerized door slid open, there was no bus blocking the opposite side of the street.

This was a problem. I had blessedly shouldered my purse before leaving the bus and was armed with cell phone and wallet — two keys to the kingdom of problem solving. Unfortunately, all of my other luggage, inclusive of a laptop, all my clothing, and my wetsuit, were hurtling toward Wellington. For those of you without a New Zealand North Island map handy, Danniverke is about 250 kilometers from Wellington.

I called the bus company. The lady on the phone was quite upset with me. She would eventually help me solve my problem but she clearly felt that I needed a firm talking to before we could proceed with the more practical aspects of bussery.

“Well, yes, I looked for the driver,” I said. “But he was not on the bus. He said we were stopping. Other people got off the bus to go to the bathroom too.”

Here is what I learned from the bus phone lady:

NEVER EVER GET OFF THE BUS. EVER.

After buying several phone top-ups and spending a lot of time calling and being called, arrangements were made for me to hop on the next bus through town…six hours later. My luggage would be met by expensive taxi and delivered to my accommodation to avoid it being locked inside the train station for the entire weekend.

Let’s have a little chat about things being closed here, shall we? Things like to be closed at odd times in New Zealand. For example, the train station likes to be locked up on a busy holiday weekend. This seems to be a universally accepted thing here, regardless of whether or not the town you happen to be trapped  in considers itself to be Norwegian. During my six hours in Danniverke (9 am-3pm), many shops simply never opened. Some closed at 10 or 11 a.m. for the day. Some were open only after 2pm. Some things, inclusive of the public library, were ambiguously closed — in other words, lots of  people were inside doing stuff, all the lights were on and the doors happily slid open for me but I was informed they were closed. Perhaps this is a tactic to pick on tourists and outsiders, perhaps Kiwis have better family values than Americans with their short work hours, or perhaps the same person who wrote the code for the bus system also devised all the shop hours.

I missed my surf session by several hours, but did arrive in Wellington (finally)!  Sunday was an entirely new day! More to come on my Wellington adventures!

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