Written and pictures by April Louise
Why is it that ideas flow to me when I least expect them to come! As I sit in this local cafe, looking out of the window on a fairly busy street waiting for my friend to arrive..... I see a bus stop in front of me. I watch people get off and on in an orderly fashion. My notebook suddenly emerges from my bag as my brain starts to go crazy with inspiration. Just from watching that scene, my theme for this blog came alive. PUBLIC TRANSPORT!
No sooner, my friend (Emily) rocked up, we said our greetings ordered and suddenly we both were talking about public transport. We shared stories and experiences of our encounters and with this bought tonnes of laughter. (This was by no intention at all....we were meant to be having our catch up about general life not about transport!!!)
We both agreed that you just never know what to expect on any given bus (local to long distance), tram, train (local to the high speed Euro Star), aeroplanes, boat, camel (thank you Morocco for that experience) or a donkey (Santorini). Catching public transport not only makes you feel like a local; it creates memories and stories for a lifetime. They are an adventure to say the least!
Here are a few of my stories I want to share. I look back and laugh at them but at the time I’m like... HELP me!!! Let me know if you can relate to any of these stories.
1. Buskers doing there thing in the carriage you're in. (In particular Eastern Europe and South America.) You want to walk down to the last carriage to get some quiet time but unfortunately there are more buskers down there too. As much as I appreciate good music, some of these ‘musicians’ might need a few more lessons in order to get their records out onto the Top 100 Music Charts. Don’t get me wrong, some buskers are wonderful but on a train where the acoustics echo and you just want to be left in peace... no thankyou!
2. Time differences. Some countries just don’t know how to tell the time (Sorry Spain and Peru!). I have been left standing on many platforms thinking I have missed my local bus or train but nope, it’s just late. I’m not even talking about 1 or 2 mins from departure time; I’m talking about 15 mins - 1 hour late. I always remember standing in Southern Italy for 45 minutes waiting for our train to arrive. It just pulls up and when you ask for a reason for the delay they say “no reason.” Oh okay than.
3. Oh lets stay on the time theme for one more minute... why is it that some stations every clock in the building, on the platform and on the transport system is telling me a different time? Maybe someone needs to be employed to check all the clocks on a regular basis. I’m excluding Germany and Switzerland from this statement as they are so on time and have everything perfect down to the last second. Apparently the 9000 trains in Switzerland (cover 2000 miles per day) run with 98% accuracy. I think those two countries should send your clocks worldwide!
4. “I’m a tourist please rip me off and take me on a joy ride” is a sign that I stick on my forehead when I go travelling. Why is it that public transport fares and taxi fares triple as soon as I open the door and get in? I negotiate a price however they just don’t budge. Cheeky buggers. I think I need to work on my bargaining skills so when I go back to Asia and South America, I’ll have more say in the price.
5. Language Barriers. This always contributes to confusion. Even though I have travelled a lot, I still live in hope that I have the right stop, right train, right platform etc. It's times when you are at a busy station wishing you know more than the basic words to get around. Even reading the timetables can send me into mind frenzy. How does everyone else go?
6. Sleeper trains. I’m going to finish with this story. This still cracks me up when I think about it. I’ve been on several sleeper trains and they are all diary moments. From the nice Euro Star to the ‘interesting’ trains.... stories are endless. One story: Karina, mum and I had to catch an overnight sleeper train in Asia. Let’s just say it was an interesting 10 hours. Cockroaches were everywhere; the toilet was a metal hole so when you went it would fall (well hopefully) to the ground below. (Let’s just say that Squatting whilst holding the walls with your elbows in a moving train isn’t the easiest thing to do). And lets not forget about the bunks; they were wooden planks that where just balancing on a light frame (nothing was drilled in or stable) so when you sat up the next person would be flying up to the roof! Then there were the locals cooking their dinner in the corridors. Oh good times.
To conclude, I could go on and on about some of my transport stories and so could Emily. She also reminded me about the people watching, the death stares that people give you when you look at them, how etiquette varies country to country and the beautiful BO that can be smelt from a mile away but that is for another day! In the mean time, I would love to hear about your public transport travel stories. I’m sure you have some funny tales to tell.
Final note, public transport, you might have your cons however you are convenient when I need to get around when travelling. It helps feel like I’m a local (connecting with locals and culture), plus you are filled with adventures so that makes you a writers dream so thank you.