Drive on the left   2 comments

Life doesn’t stop when we get off of the boat, although sometimes it seems like it. I’m glad to be staying in a hotel for these few days on St. Kitts but I feel kind of defeated by not being able to stay on the boat. The heat and the bugs were just too much. Even spending the day at the yard to work on Pirat is painful! Today is the hottest day yet and poor Lee is on the boat all alone. I helped him flake the jib and put away a few other things this morning and then I went off to deal with all our laundry. As the formal rental car driver this time around I get to be transportation independent.

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No more pensive poses on the boat, for now.

Transportation is always an issue when you live on a boat. It is one of the first things Lee and I try to figure out when we get to a new port. If we want to do any exploring or errands we’ll need a way to get around! Thankfully, most of the places we’ve visited since leaving the U.S. have fabulous public transportation systems. They are usually cheap and fast, albeit a bit quirky. Back in the states we relied much more on our bicycles and the occasional rental car.

We’ve ridden some wild buses on our journey. There were the independent, and therefore competitive, mini-buses in Nassau that wove around each other in the streets to get to passengers first. There was the high-speed short bus on St. John that gave us a white knuckle ride over the hilly, windy island roads.

The publicos and motoconchos in the Dominican Republic topped everything in terms of passengers crammed into or onto a vehicle. 4-5 people would cram into the back of a standard sedan and two sat in the front alongside the driver. Motoconchos gave rides on the back of their motorbikes.

The mini-buses or vans in St. Martin were easy to grab on the main streets. They were relatively cheap and sometimes air conditioned!

In my opinion, St. Kitts tops all of these places with it’s wacky public transportation. The island has one main road circumnavigating it and various branches leading out of the capital, Basseterre, to residential and tourist areas on the peninsula. There does not seem to be a government operated bus system but there are dozens of vans that race from town to town without a schedule or designated stops. The best part about these vans is their decorations. They all say something in large, gaudy font on the front of the hood. A few examples are: Up 2 De Time, OOH HOO, Bashment, Sailor, Jigga, John, Kervin… I wish I could remember some of the other ones. There are some really, really wacky van names.

I wish I had some pictures, too.

In addition to the creative naming, these bus-vans often have shiny paint jobs and lots of decals. On the inside, there are three rows of bench seats with fold-down jump seats along one side. The bus driver sits on the right in the front seat, as driving is on the left here. They pick up people wherever they stand by the side of the main road, holding an arm straight out to indicate that they want a ride. Passengers pile into the van, where some kind of music is always playing very loudly. To ask for a stop, people just say something like “Bus stop” or another, totally unintelligible to me, local phrase for the same. I don’t know how the driver hears them over the music.

The drivers Lee and I have ridden with drove really, really fast on the St. Kitts roads. They slam on their breaks frequently to pick up passengers or to allow a car going the opposite direction to get by when parked cars crowd the street. Getting from point A to point B is an exhilarating experience. I love watching people in the vans. Uniformed school kids ride them at the end of the day. Well-dressed Kittitians ride them to work in the morning. Mothers squeeze young children in wherever they can and then sit elsewhere. When someone wants to get off, everyone between that person and the door has to get up, fold up the jump seats, and get out of the van.

We rode quite a few vans from Sandy Point before we rented a car the other day. We never had to wait long to catch one. I think they make up more than 50% of the vehicles on the road. Now that we have a rental car I find myself driving like a van driver! We even started with a mini van for the first day of our car rental since they didn’t have anything else. That van was much, much easier to drive than our current car, which has the steering wheel on the right! I have not had any problems remembering to drive on the left but sitting on the opposite side of the car AND driving on the opposite side of the road is very disorienting. Lee keeps thinking I’m going to run into something on the left (curb side) of the car and I feel like I’m way to close to the traffic on my right. It doesn’t help that the rental Camry is ridiculously wide!

Posted June 9, 2011 by Rachel in Uncategorized

2 responses to Drive on the left

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  1. Sounds like some entertaining transportation – love those Caribbean names! Over here we have just one bus that goes around the town and you can hear it from blocks away with its booming Mexican dance music – and it’s always filled with kids – it’s pretty cute. 🙂

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