Bus Travel

Buses and Mala Suerte

One of the smaller buses in traffic on the carraterra

One of the smaller buses in traffic on the carratera

Don’t ever stand at a bus stop with me. I am mala suerte – bad luck. The local buses generally run about every 5-10 minutes…EXCEPT when I need one! Either the bus is pulling away when I arrive at the bus stop, or I wait a long time before another one shows up.

Believe me. I don’t plan it this way. But it seems that it always happens. This is particularly true if I have some place important to go or am late for an appointment. I’ll wait and wait and wait. I think the buses must sense this and purposely go slow, or their drivers are clairvoyant and like sticking it to the antsy Gringo.

The Mexicans with whom I stand appear to take it all in stride. They know the bus will show up ahorita – eventually. And because there hasn’t been one in awhile, it will be packed to the gills.

I’m getting better about lowering my expectations and my anxiety level too. That’s because every day I live here I shed a little bit of my North American attitude. Pretty soon you realize that the people with whom you’re having those important meetings and appointments are either Mexicans or others who have already adopted a Mexican attitude.

15 minutes late? No problema!

Someone once said: “Life is about showing up.” They never qualified it with today, manana, or ahorita. My ex-wife, who lived in India for awhile, says that for the Indians it could be “the next lifetime.”

small bus SA

Small bus approaching the bus stop outside my house. On my way to Ajijic,

There are basically 3 types of buses here, and you can pretty much get to anywhere you want to go without hassle. There are the fancy Chapala Plus buses that travel directly into Guadalajara about which I wrote in a previous blog post. Then there are the big local buses that also go to Guadalajara, making multiple stops along the way. Finally there are the smaller buses that run between Chapala and Jocotepec. They run along the carratera too, but make side-trips into the villages of San Antonio along the way. They’re usually not as well appointed as the bigger buses, and you get bounced around quite a bit on the village streets.

inside small bus

This interior is rather luxurious for a small bus,,,new plastic seats. What a pleasure!

I never quite understood why there are different prices for the same trip on the different buses. But if I take one of the larger buses to go from San Antonio to Chapala, I pay 9 pesos. If I take a small bus, it’s 7 pesos. The seats may be cushioned in the larger bus (but not always) and usually plastic in the small buses (but not always). In a small bus, the driver usually wears a polo shirt (but not always) and the drivers of the larger buses where white buttoned-down shirts (I guess they appreciate that in Guadalajara). Go figure!

bus stop sign

The sign says: Bus Stop. Prohibited to put garbage here (it doesn’t stop anybody!)

I’m fortunate to have a parada – bus stop – right in front my house. The little buses rumble up the street after circumventing the plaza a block down the hill, and re-enter the carratera a block further up. With an aggressive driver, if you don’t take your seat quickly, you could find yourself tossed onto the lap of some unfortunate abuela and her bag of groceries.

All in all, however, the transportation system works pretty well here…for everyone but me and those poor souls who choose to stand next me waiting for the next bus.

Qué lo vaya bien!

Unexpected Luxury of Bus Travel

One of the things I love about exploring new places is finding the unexpected.

Let’s take this past Tuesday. I had all intentions of getting some work done. But, on Monday evening, my landlady, Vivianne, asked me if I would like a ride to Guadalajara. She had some errands to do and could drop me off downtown.

My iPhone didn’t seem to be holding a battery charge, and after learning online that changing the battery was no simple matter, I had asked her if she knew anyone in our area who could do it. She said that the best place to do it was in Guadalajara.

Right downtown, there is a technology building – five floors of small shops and repair centers. It’s sort of like the jewelers building in downtown Boston, but only for phones and computers.

Vivianne dropped me off across the street, and while I decided to give my phone a little more time before replacing the battery, I got quotes from 180 to 250 Pesos (US$13-$18.50). Given that the battery bought online was between US$10-$12, that wasn’t too bad.

But this post isn’t about my day in Guadalajara. I know I’ll go back because there’s so much to do there, and I’ll write about it at another time. I spent about 3 hours walking around downtown, peeking in the Cathedral, and several other sites. I them meandered through a series of pedestrian-only shopping streets and plazas to the Mercado Libertad, a gigantic 3-floor indoor market that sprawls over a city block.

After a hearty lunch of goat stew, I decided to try to find the bus station. I thought it would be a good place for Vivianne to pick me up. After a few wrong turns, I exhaustedly got there around 2:15.

It was 50 centavos to enter the station – sort of a cover charge to get in. I’ve paid to use public bathrooms, even on Cape Cod. But, this was something new.

Vivianne had run into a few snags trying to complete her errands and would need another 2 hours. Well, I wasn’t going to hang out in a bus station and was too tired to continue my exploration. So, I bought a ticket a ticket for the 3:00 pm bus to Ajijic.

The bus (in the picture above) wasn’t your regular commuter bus. The seats and leg room were spacious. As I sat wearily down in my seat, I was struck with something I’d never seen before.

There was something that looked like a fold-down ironing board attached to the seat in front of me. Upon checking it out, I discovered that is was a leg rest. When this contraption was extended, it turned your humble bus seat, with the seat-back all the way down, into what could almost be described as a day-bed. What luxury for my tired bones and the hour trip home.

Now, I haven’t been on an intercity bus in a long time, yet alone commuter busses. But I’m pretty you won’t find this foot rest on any U.S. busses. There’s not enough leg room.

Any time you visit a foreign country there are always things that make you scratch you head, and ask yourself why they do things the way they do. This was one of those pleasant surprises.

I smiled all the way back to Ajijic 🙂