Riding on public buses is an enjoyable experience if one is willing to see the true picture of the island and its people.
The common etiquette to travel by bus in Mauritius, is to go to the bus stop. Make sure you have your umbrella on the dog days of summer and a bottle of drinking water as you can wait for a while. Before 9am and as from 3pm, buses are more frequent but might be crammed with commuters and school students, dressed in their school uniforms.
Once seated, you will have to hand your bus fare which is around 40 to 90 pence depending on the route you decide to take. Make sure you have enough change, this will ease payment. It might happen that you have to stand all throughout the trip if all the seats are taken. High heels might not be practical especially if you have a standing place as you might lose your balance and land prostrate when the driver applies the brakes. Seats on buses are either for two or three persons and on a long journey, being squeezed in between two passengers wearing strong floral perfume or sticky hair gel, can make your trip less exciting. Another stifling experience you might live, is being seated on the sunny side.
Riding on public buses can be sensational when these 15-metre long vehicles with roaring engines drive round sharp bends or overtake on narrow streets. The loud radio broadcasts live programmes in Creole and French and from time to time, hindi songs add to the exotic ambience. Some sing along while they fan themselves with a newspaper to interrupt the humdrum of daily life. Many tourists take the bus for short journeys especially when they do not have to change lines. From the west coast, buses drive to Quatre-Bornes and Port-Louis, the Capital city. The trip to each destination lasts 40-45 minutes during peak hours and an hour or so between 9-1. It is actually a cheap means to travel to the capital city and the bus stations are quite easy to spot. If you are travelling to the south of the island from Port-Louis, you need to get a bus from Victoria Station and down to the west coast or to the north, jump on privately-run buses from Gare du Nord.
Travelling by bus might not sound very glamorous, however it offers an enriching opportunity to discover the island and feel the dynamism of the local culture. From the window, as the bus winds its way through villages and cities, the very essence of island life can be felt. Urbanised neighbourhoods lie next to social housing where all sorts of materials are stacked on top of each other to act as shacks and shelter. Tiny vegetable gardens contrast with hectares of sugarcane fields. Lines of colourful houses by the roadside entertain passengers. Bougainvillea shrubs overflowing fences complete the tropical picture. During summertime, trees laden with mangoes and litchis are veiled with nets to fight against invasive bats. Barefoot kids run through earthen alleys and a few metres away, overdressed girls laugh whole-heartedly as they meet up. The carefree island life sends out a call for a more laid-back attitude.
The colonial past is scarcely visible with the extensive construction across the island. The concept of town planning differs in meaning as you move around the island and eyesores sometimes disrupt the picturesque scene but the carrying and relieving views of scenic routes quickly remind the foreign travellers of their holidays...
By: A.V-TAYER, 31st of March 2017, Mauritius.
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