Life in Mexico is slow, simple and often humorous leading to adventures that occur when you don’t know the language, don’t know customs, and aren’t clear who to ask or the answer given.
The tale begins with our decision to go to the mega grocery store in San Miguel. To get there, one has several options:
- Walk, but that is a hot hike of some distance.
- Taxi, but that costs about $50 pesos
- Bus, and that is about $7 pesos ($4 pesos with any identification)
We selected the bus, since we hadn’t used this mode of transportation in the 2 months we have been here, and we felt the need to add a bit of excitement to our lives.
We got directions (in Spanish) from a local to ‘bus central’, which is a corner where buses that go all over the city stop to pick up and deposit passengers.
If you are really lucky where each bus is headed is written on the window (in white paint that is washed off hourly as buses change their destinations). We understood that the trip one way might take up to 20 minutes, depending on the traffic, the number of stops, etc., but hey, we weren’t in any hurry, so who cares how long it takes?
There was one other gringo on the bus, and she had been in San Miguel for about a year. As we exchanged pleasantries she explained that she takes buses often, sometimes getting on a bus with no destination in mind just to see where it goes. It was a great way to see the city for pennies.
Understand, there are no written bus schedules, no written bus routes, and no written destinations. The locals seem to ‘know’ the mysteries of bus rides, and apparently don’t have a need to write things down, especially time tables.
Our adventure went well as people got off and on along the route, and when we arrived at the grocery store we were on the opposite side of the highway. Most passengers who were carrying empty shopping bags got off but our new best friend said she stayed on until the bus made a U-turn further down the highway and would stop right next to the store. That way we wouldn’t put our lives in danger crossing the busy highway.
Sounded reasonable to us. (We had first-hand experience observing the navigating expertise of native drivers). The bus rocked along, picking up, letting off, and we were seeing areas of the city we hadn’t seen before. What a lovely adventure we were having.
Sure enough, it wasn’t too long (Mexican time) when the driver made the expected U-turn, and then immediately made another turn onto a dirt road.
Uh oh, this was not a good sign. We bounced (literally) along a deserted and gravel road (and I use the word ‘road’ liberally)
for what seemed about 45 minutes. I looked expectantly at the woman who had suggested we stay on this human cargo carrier, and she shrugged her shoulders and said with wonder, “I’ve never been on this route before”.
At long last we came to what apparently was a rural school, the driver stopped the bus, turned off the engine and we sat. No one saying anything, no explanation, no offer of water, food, peanuts, or joy juice, and I could have used some of that. We were in the ‘boonies’, wherever that may be.
After a wait of 15, 20, then 25 minutes the bus started up, people climbed in, the driver navigated a turn around, and we headed back the way we came, picking up people along the way.
Yes, we arrived at the grocery store after a marathon bus ride of about 2 ½ hours, no worse for the wear, but hungry, thirsty, and a bit confused as to where we had been.
As we lumbered off the bus, sighing with relief, we agreed to take a cab home…the ice cream we intended to buy wouldn’t make it on the bus!
I now know why there are no written bus time tables or written bus schedules. Who knows when you may need to pick up some school kids on your way to the grocery store!