Remember the John Candy movie “Planes Trains and Automobiles”? If it had been filmed in Rarotonga it would have been called “Buses, Scooters and Pick Up Trucks”– and we rode them all.
Where else does the bus driver stop to pick up his breakfast and come back with a load of bananas for everyone on the bus? The food stand owner knew we were all going to church, so she wanted to show us a little love.
“Superman”, one of my favorite bus drivers–with our gift from “Mama”
There are two bus routes on Rarotonga. The Clockwise bus leaves from the center of Avarua on the hour; the Anti-clockwise bus leaves on the half hour. Their only route is the circle around the island that is Rarotonga’s one main road. Although technically there ARE bus stops, standing anywhere by the side of the road and waving enthusiastically works too. And there if there is one thing I have plenty of, it’s enthusiasm!
My other favorite driver was Bob Hopeless, who turns a bus ride into a bona fide tourist attraction.
If you’d like 30 seconds of the Bob Hopeless experience, click this link. If you want more, you’ll just have to visit Rarotonga. And yes, the road was that bumpy, which is one reason I decided against renting a bicycle. The other was bus rides were so bloody much fun!
Maybe in Boston, (at least according to “Cheers”) everyone in the local bar knows who you are; on Rarotonga, it was the bus drivers.
Because we are workers, we get a special red bus pass–10 rides for $20–which almost functioned as an ID badge, differentiating us from the other Pakeha (non-Maori) on the island. Our Global Volunteers fee covers transportation to and from the worksite; any non-work related travel (even going to church) we fund ourselves. Anyway, before too long the drivers were greeting us and they knew exactly where we were headed.
But buses were only one method of transportation. This is a VERY friendly island. Sometimes we’d decide to walk back from school. We’d start off but before we got too far, we’d hear someone shouting our names and we were hopping onto or into one vehicle or another. One day a pick up truck, the next a scooter.
Niki and I jumped out to get ice cream while Patrick (in the front seat) and Willy continued on the last few “blocks” to the KiiKii Motel. My seat was right over the left rear wheel.
Note the water bottle in Willy’s hands; note the disappointed look on the boy’s face. Willy had promised to squirt Niki and me, then reconsidered.
No photos exist of my rides on the back of Engia’s (the principal of Takitumu) motor scooter, but Niki did take this one of me hitching a ride with Bud before our hike up the mountain.
We also got offered rides in regular cars, but what made those trips memorable were the conversations with the drivers. Tora is a Maori who emigrated to Australia and joined the army. He was a military attache to the US army who had served in Afghanistan.
Tora clued us in to the controversy surrounding the upcoming coronation. It seems that a former king had three wives and some thought that the wrong line had been selected to replace the prior queen. He explained that the dissenters would be letting their feelings known at the coronation.
Okay, so NEXT post will be about the coronation. I promise!
There was ONE more method of island transportation that us “three weekers” experienced vicariously. The 10th Annual Vaca Eiva went from November 23 until November 29 and drew rowers from all over the Pacific region: Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia, even one team from Hawaii, and of course The Cook Islands. The racers rowed right by my hotel room, giving me great opportunities to capture the action. Because they all wore event tee shirts and not their team shirts, it was a little tricky to determine who was who. Fortunately, the KiiKii was also home to a Kiwi team and when their supporters started cheering wildly, I started shooting.
The young Kiwis staying at our hotel came in third!
The Tahitians were #1 and 2, but our Kiwi friends did quite well, and were thrilled I had managed to capture the moment for them. And I was thrilled to be able to show MY appreciation for the warmth, friendship and hospitality I experienced while visiting their country by giving something to them. And isn’t that what Global Volunteers is all about?