The wheels on the bus go round and round!
Las ruedas de los autobuses van vueltas y vueltas . . . !
Like the words of the children’s song, the wheels on the buses do, indeed, go round and round all through the day in Mexico.
We have not had or used a car personally since we left the US. It was a conscious decision to sell both our vehicles along with the house, dogs, cats, and sundry personal items.
The good news is that, in Mexico, you don’t need a car for almost anything. The other appropriate title for this article might have been “The Buses of Barra”. If you have read the blog entries from La Paz last year, you have probably noted my discussions of the buses there.
The system in Barra or the mainland is both different and the same. Town life and especially life for cruisers (those staying thru the hurricane season) here revolves around the bus station. We need it for trips to Melaque, where we bank. We need it for trips to Manzanillo, where we get boat parts, see medical specialists or have diagnostic testing done, and to work on immigration matters with INM.
The trips start from anywhere in town that you see the bus pass by, because they will stop for you anywhere–if the trip is local. Or, you can just go to the station. You have to go to the station for the bigger buses for the longer trips.
This is our local (writ small) bus station in Barra. Three separate long distance buses serve it at about 45 minute intervals. The local short-haul buses come by about every 15 minutes.
They vary in comfort and detail. Some are very rudimentary with molded steel and fiberglass seats. Some have nice cushioned seats with high backs. There is no rhyme or reason as to when or where each type will be. You can tell–once you are familiar which is which by the bus number. One route goes straight to Melaque. Others go through Obregon and El Ranchito ‘suberbs’ or subdivisions. And sometimes, they just turn off the road and head out into the jungle-like coconut/banana plantation near Barra then return to the road and the route. Kind of like the crazy bus ride to Cartagena, Colombia in the film “Romancing the Stone”. Each trip can be an adventure of a different kind.
Sometimes after a rain, in the dirt streets of Obregon on the way to Melaque, you will feel like you are out four-wheeling in a bus and fully expect to either disappear into a pothole or need a kidney transplant before the end of your trip. Sometimes, you simply cruise (not counting the speed-control bumps) serenely in high-backed comfort down the direct route to the station in Melaque. It’s always a toss-up.
So much for the local bus. We use them at least one day per week–sometimes more. No one here speaks English, so knowing basic Spanish makes it much easier to get around. A quick “Bajan!” and the bus stops almost anywhere to let you off. The route repeats so you can just come back to where you got off,if you get lost, and ride the circular route back to where you started. Costs to Melaque or ‘adventure’? Just 7 pesos ( 60 cents US) one-way.
For longer trips like Guadalajara, Manzanillo, Cihuatlan, or Santiago, you must go into the station, purchase a ticket, and catch a larger more comfortable bus. Our longest trip–one we do rather frequently– is our once-a-month visit to Manzanillo. We have been there to shop because they have Home Depot, Sorianos, Walmart, Block Buster, and medical diagnostic facilities. They also have Burger King, movies, a chandelry, and the local version of a Mega store. It is also where the immigration office we have to deal with down here is located.
These buses are larger and more comfortable. Some have restrooms in the back. All are air-conditioned. All show movies while you ride. The ride is about an hour and fifteen minutes … so short movies, generally of the family entertainment variety.
These buses are very useful for re-provisioning the boat (large purchases) because the first stop in Manzanillo is at the Walmart which is across from and near to Sorianos, Block Buster, Home Depot, Sam’s Club, and others. So one stop and you are right where most Americans want to be. Cost 42 pesos (almost $3.50 US) one-way.
When you are done for the day with your shopping for all the things you cannot find in Barra or Melaque, you head out to the Central de AutoBus (the bus station). We were wowed by the station. Mexico has a great public transit system and this is a wonderful local asset. It reminds you of an air terminal and also reminds you that Greyhound may just not be the only bus company in the world. It is just seems like one of the best only if you don’t have anything to compare it to.
The funny thing is that the ride to the bus station by taxi will cost you almost as much (50 pesos) as the ride back home to Barra de Navidad (54 pesos). The bus drops you off exactly where you started the day’s adventuring–right back at the bus station in Barra.
Once there, it is a quick ride by water taxi back to the marina on the other side of the channel.
In all trips to Barra, the day starts and ends with a ride in the taxi-aquatico (20 pesos soon to be 30). They drop you back at the dock in the marina or right at your boat. The speedy pangas are radio-controlled and operate 24 hours a day on channel 23.
This is our ‘driver’ or captain for the day, Manuel. After a short time, you get to know them all.