If you want to describe the extremes in opposites we sometimes talk about the day and night, being black or white, the highs and lows of mind altering substances, the politics of far right and far left and the list goes on but when it comes to Jamaica’s private regional transportation provisions we have the ability to talk about anothe type of extreme contrast or experience in travelling.
In this first article I want to share my recent observations and personal experience with the Jamaican minibus service.
Backpacking, student, and budget minded world travellers are very familiar with the transportational standard of local minibus services as regards seating (or in some cases and standing or standing only arrangements), comfort, average speed of travel, punctuality of departure and arrival times.
Well Jamaica is no different. A minibus with a minimum age of at least 10 to 20 or more years and that was original designed to seat for example 25 people will simply not depart from the marketplace Bus Station until at least another ten people have and been squeezed into the bus with just enough space so that half of the skinny of the ‘bus conductor’ skinny body can hang on to the railing by the bus door entrance, with the other half acting like some sort of wind breaker, but as far as I could see having completely no effect on the top speed capabilities of this vehicle.
The aisle that originally existed allowing access to the various seats in the middle and rear of the bus suddenly vanishes. Makeshift planks are now being placed on every row of seats half resting on the two end seats instantly transforming the vehicle into a 25 + + seater minibus. Believe it or not having an additional passenger wedge in next to you like this completely nullifies any sideway inertia momentum. This force can become quite extreme at times due to the fact that Jamican minibuses travel at the same speed around corners as they do on the straight runs, maybe due to the fact that using their brakes could have some possible negative effect on the ecological environmental footprint of the planet…. ( increased production and disposal of brake blocks.. ?) or maybe it might have something to do with a possible slightly later arrival time (already running behind schedule due to later departure time waiting for that one last passenger to fit into the last bit of breathing space left in the bus) .
I love the storage management capabilities these minibuses and I cannot understand why people say there is no place to store your luggage. Despite the fact that the bus is now completely full there is still a large amount of storage space left for your suitcase and it’s staring you right in your face ..………the space inbetween your chest, the back of the seat in front of you and your lap upwards,…. provided of course that you have had the first class luxury of a seat….no sorry of a seated position. And I must say that this arrangement does increase your transport safety considerably due to the fact that you now have the modern services of an airbag in the event of an accident.
This was my actual experience during my last visit to Jamaica when I decided to catch a minibus in the morining as opposed to waiting until the late afternoon for the first Knutsford express service from Montego Bay to Mandeville. I knew what to expect based on previous experience and what I have seen and heard from others and strangely enough I did not have any personally issues with the whole trip, I knew what to expect, it just seemed like the normal Carribean minibus driving trip.
However I did begin to get a bit concerned when the ‘local’ passengers, native Jamaicans that use these services on a daily started reacting basis we reacting to th: bus drivers riding style. Shortly after departing many started of them started openly complaining to one another and the driver for his erratic driving style. One woman was begging the bus driver to stop the bus so that she could get off, stating that she wanted to get to her destination alive and demanding a refund. Another woman was relating how she had been driving for seventeen years with that particular driver and she had never experienced anything like this. Apparently even local people on the side of the road were making disapproving gestures at him for his dangerous driving style.
He was certainly overtaking every moving vehicle on the road including smaller Red number plate Route taxis that are also known for their formula one driving styles. I am quite sure he even overtook one motorbike rider. Well at least he did not swerve from side to side trying to avoid the many potholes…….he just drove right over them at the same speed, one after the other with the accompanying banging of the shock absorbers and woes and cries from the shocked and imprisoned passengers.
And no, this had absolute no effect on the driver, despite all the complaints, woes and screaming from his customers. He just muttered and laughed to himself periodically while overtaking yet another Taxi .The only time he started drive at a more reasonable speed was the final long uphill crawl going up Spur Tree Hill. This somehow had a calming Alzheimer effect on the passengers because everyone went quiet, all the way to the final slightly downhill descent into Mandeville with no one seeming to remember what had just taken place in the previous 2 hours.
We had all paid our 800 j$ ticket and arrived in Mandeville alive and in one piece in record time……so what was all that all fuss about ??
So what is this sharp contrast with ‘Knutsford Express driving experience’ ? What moral did I get out of this experience?
Well that’s my topic and theme for part two and thats going to be for another day.….😃
Thanks for reading.