|Waiting for the Bus. Art quilt by Jean Baardsen|
To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.
We had intended to make our mail stop in Antigua a short one, yet I was surprised when we managed to keep it down to four days. We put in at St. John's Harbor, Antigua's capital, which is about halfway up the western coast. Our main order of business was to get across the island to English Harbor, and collect our mail. (It was May, but we still had some Christmas mail waiting.) I was all set to go by myself till Ed started writing out a long list of marine supplies, including six feet of wood for new battens. These items were to be purchased at the English Harbor marine store, and brought back on the bus. With such a sizable list, I wanted Ed to go with me, but he wasn't sure he could make the trip. We decided we would both walk the quarter-mile to the bus stop, and if Ed were still okay, he would go with me to English Harbor. His leg gave out about halfway to the bus stop, and I went on alone. He later told me he had stopped six times on the way back to the boat.
|Waiting for the Bus. Detail|
I really enjoyed taking the cross-island bus - it was always an experience. There was no way to get lost, so long as you stayed on the bus. The two ends of the line were the open market in St. John's, and English Harbor at the other end. The buses were a major means of transportation for many of the local people. The taxi drivers advised tourists against taking a bus, claiming that people often brought livestock, like chickens or goats, on the bus with them. Of course, the main reason for their advice was self-serving. A round trip ride from English Harbor to St. John's cost $20.00 by taxi, whereas it was only $1.00 by bus! The closest thing to livestock I ever traveled with was a tub of fish. I did once grab a van at English Harbor that was carrying a load of lumber. Before we went on to St. John's, we drove up into the hills to a construction site to unload the wood.
Most of the "buses" were old school buses or vans, that had lived out their better days in the States or Britain, and had been resurrected for this cross-island run. An individual owned each bus, so there was no schedule. When you wanted to leave St. John's, you wandered around the market area asking "English Harbor?" till someone flagged you on board. Then you patiently waited till the driver had enough customers to make the run worth his while. The buses stopped anytime someone yelled, "Stop!" You could tell people didn't like to walk any further than necessary; often the bus would just be groaning its way forward again when someone else would yell "Stop!" Typical delays: the driver wanted to say hello to someone he knew; a woman had the bus wait at a gas station while she had a jerry can filled with kerosene; the engine broke down. I took one bus from English Harbor to St. John's that broke down three times on the way. The passengers groaned and moaned each time we stopped, and cheered loudly when we were going again.
After my successful trip to English Harbor, we moved Tropic Moon out of St. John’s Harbor, and around the point to Deep Bay.