Getting around South Tarawa isn’t too hard. There are plenty of buses, well mini-buses. They scream around the single road, overtaking on blind corners, speeding pulling out randomly. As the copper who gave us our security briefing, they are the most reckless drivers in the country. They run from, I dunno – im never up early enough to find out, but im guessing 6am or so and finish up at 10pm. There are no schedules.
Each bus always has two people working them, the (crazy) driver – who’s always a man – and ‘the woman’. She organises the bus fares. She’ll sit or stand at the sliding door, with her head out the window, yelling at prospective passengers where the bus is going – typically to Bairiki or Nawerewere, depending on direction.
Like the rest of kiribati they love music. A lot, not all, but a decent proportion have LOUD music going on. We are talking about disco technic blasting out like a teenager licence plate rattling commodore. There is even a song called “Frigate”, which is all about the frigate branded buses. Yep – a whole song about buses. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter what time, if you get a party bus, the music is on and LOUD! We are often woken up by them, at 6am.
There are a few bus companies, frigate, green seed, among others. I think that the driver and ‘the woman’ hire them for a shift, and swap over around 1-2pm. Some are in good nick, have air conditioning and still have the plastic on the (plastic doesn’t get removed in Kiribati). Others, not so much. The others are falling apart, the sliding door has no internal trimming and the woman either has to reach through the window the open the door from the outside, there’s a rope on the inside which is used as the inside handle or she just has to hold the door closed as it doesn’t latch at all.
There are some really decrepit on, and I cut myself on a rusted step on the inside of the bus. There was onethat got me super shitty (I must’ve been having a bad day) was one where the back of the chair had broken of, and there were two sharp metal backrest supports poking through the top of the seat, as I attempted to support I put my hand down on it, and I could have sworn.
The Kiribati people also have a llove of coloured lights. All their vehicles have flashing LEDs all over them, and they look, well, rediculous. It does tend to make buses easy to spot.
Buses are different here, nothing like anywhere else I have caught a bus, they are nothing like public transport – very individual and characterised by their driver ‘the woman’ team, and which ever USB stick they have plugged into the stereo.