The first step in going to Apia for a day is to have a reason. Without a reason, there is no point in going to Apia nor would anyone understand why you are making the minimum of an hour-long journey over the mountain. This time my reason was irritatingly necessary. There is nothing worse than getting stuck in your work due to mechanical failure. Thankfully Karen and I have taken some time to go through the stores and do some price checks. It seems as though stores in Samoa have no real idea of what things should cost. So there is a mark up of anywhere from 10% to 195%. We will cover that in another post. Back on topic we knew exactly where to go so our routine was pretty simple.
First after getting things ready it is important for me to admire my beautiful wife before heading out with her. Then do a quick money check, 5 tala for the bus. Check up on the plants and be amazed at their rapid progress, and we are off.
Along our 10 min walk to the bus stop we pass by an old coconut farm, which is no longer used. Since the buses do not run on a fixed schedule we always sit at our bus stop for a while. Today we were unlucky enough to actually take the bus. It seems about 70% of the time random people will either give us a ride to Apia or our extended host family will drive by and pick us up.
The bus is old, in fact I do not think it was originally a bus. It looks like a converted dump trucks. Sadly, all of the busses are like this in our area. Since these machines are built for heavy loads there is no such thing as too many people on the bus. Officially the bus holds 33 passengers and 1 driver. That means 2 people to a bench. However, today’s bus has about 4 people to a bench, a few have 5 and there are about 8 people standing. While the bus doesn’t ride low, the tires are pressed flat into the road and going up the mountain is painfully slow. Usually the weather is sunny and warm, but today it is raining. This means the windows are shut and it is a steamy sweaty 90+ degrees inside the bus. As we summit visibility is about 10 ft, people are starting to open the windows for some misty relief and are readjusting their sitting positions for the ride down the mountain. Going up, you just sit back and let the bus haul you along. Going down is a completely different story. If you are lucky enough to have someone on your lap, then you are solidly smashed into your bench. The bench is flat and slick, has no seat belt, no padding, nothing to grab onto, it is simply a bench, with a back. So, as the overweight behemoth plummets down the other side of the mountain around sharp turns and passing cars, you have to do your best to stay in your seat. Whether there is a person in my lap or not I always leave the bus with bruised and battered knees.
Once we reach Apia, everyone eagerly gets off the bus paying the driver individually as he or she leaves. There is no sign on the bus for rates you just have to know how much to pay. Today almost everyone on the bus pays $5 because we all got on in the same district. However, paying for your ride is not my biggest concern at the moment. There is no order or priority for getting off the bus so if you want off, you better get aggressive. I use my backpack to wedge myself into the isle and let Karen by. When you pay the bus driver you have to touch him on the shoulder or arm to get his attention to let him know that you are giving him money. Even though this is the last stop and everyone is getting off expecting to pay, he just sits there as if he were at a red light looking forward as if nothing were different.
To Be Continued…