After arriving in the country in the middle of the night, I walked out curiously the next morning, down to the capital of Apia. A rumbling noise behind me made my head turn, in time to see a big colourful bus pass by; a yellow roof, white, windows, and the lower part was red. A little while later, a completely yellow bus was driving up the road. I had planned to take a bus to the waterfalls in the middle of the island, waited for a while at the bus stop, but as no bus showed up and it was getting really warm, I changed my plans and headed down to the waterfront, and then walked towards the main bus station. Seeing those two buses had raised my interest to see more, and I was not disappointed: there was an array of brightly coloured buses parked at the bus station, surrounded by a multitude of people waiting, disembarking, or patiently sitting on the windowless buses.
The advantage of the bus station is, of course, that the buses stand still, so I had plenty of opportunities to closely observe them. On the side of the buses were slogans - or were they the name of the bus company? - Queen of Poto, Jungle Boys, and Glory to God. Otherwise, all of the buses I saw were unique. I walked around all of them, and often found little works of art on the backside. One had a dolphin painted on its back, another a couple sitting at the beach under a palm tree, watching a setting sun. On the side, one had a girl with a flower in her hair, another a fiercely looking dragon; there were also statements like: Love never end (without the -s). And the front parts were also all different: some had a winged horse on the tip of the vehicle, others had painted flames surrounding the front windows. How I longed to take one of those buses! I spoke to a girl who had been sitting on the bus for an hour, waiting for it to leave: all seats were taken, people were standing in the aisle, but the driver was missing. The windows of the buses can all be fulled opened (lowering them into the side of the vehicle), so there is some ventilation. When the able-bodied driver finally showed up, the first thing he did was to switch on thumping music, and the bus came alive. When he turned the key, the heavy engine of the bus roared, and with a little jump, off it went on its journey through the coastal area of the lush Samoan countryside.
There is no time table, and you should not be in a hurry, but taking a bus in Samoa is an experience not to be missed - which is what I did several times on my last day in the country. Driving a car around Upolu and Savai'i, had enabled me to see many places in this beautiful country, but it had also robbed me of the opportunity to experience busing around, and traveling among the people. How I longed to be inside, whenever I saw one of those colourful beasts on the narrow roads! At the same time, there were hours without seeing any; in some parts, there is only one bus a day, and none on Sunday. When I wanted to take my first bus on the last day, which had to take me just to a suburb of Apia, I gave up after 45 minutes, and walked; on the way back, the bus passed when I was already half way down. The driver stopped at my signal, and I finally had the pleasure to sit on one of the wooden benches, chatting with my neighbour, and listening to the music which was not even very loud. I decided to bus to the airport, too, and when I entered the bus with my luggage, the driver was kind enough to wait until I was seated before he moved on. On the final bus trip to the airport, I was pleasantly surprised to find the charming and helpful lady of the visitor information centre next to me, and had the honour of sitting next to her on the front seat, next to the driver. A little over half way, the driver stopped the bus, and when he continued driving, he did so very slowly, and made a phone call; it was not long before we were all summoned to get off and into another - unfortunately modern - bus. My companion told me this had never happened to her before, and I regretted leaving behind the fancy bus, which had a carpet-like decoration above the driver seat representing the Last Supper - my last experience and sight of the attractive Samoan buses.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Samoan buses (). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Samoan buses.
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