As much as is humanly possible, I avoid the highway bus stop in Lae. It is a chaotic mess of large and small buses that exist in a world of their own. Their drivers, oblivious to the rules that govern the rest of us normal human beings, pay no attention to the needs of hapless passengers desperate to get their K60 kina worth of travel.
The bus stop is always jam-packed with a crowd fit for the riots that never quite happen. The ‘K5 bosskru,’ as they are called, take up the seating and outnumber the passengers in the mornings. Their methods of passenger collection a mixture of flirtations to actions that border on harassment and intimidation.
So on the weekend, I got on a bus to head to Madang for the passing of a friend. It was a sleek operation, avoiding all the K5 boskru and ending up at the service station just as the bus was about to leave. But inside the bus, some of the chaos outside had already found its way in. The walkway of the bus was lined with bags and every imaginable cargo the Japanese didn’t consider when they built Toyota Coaster buses.
The jump seats were worn and broken by the weight by countless heavy, large bottomed Papua New Guineans who sat on it over the course of the year. The bus was ancient. The geniuses who operated the vehicle, had a long pieces of timber placed to prop up the abused jump seats. It didn’t work.
And so a guy and his wife and four kids sat on the row in front. Three shirtless kids occupied the window seat while the guy sat on the broken jump seat. Wifey and a little one occupied aisle seat between dad and shirtless mob.
The bus was full and we didn’t have to endue the long hours of passenger collection as is usually the case – the subject of another blog article, when I muster the courage after this trauma.
So the journey began. Or so I thought. I should have known. We stopped at Nadzab. They think they’re doing you a favor by stopping at markets because “you might be hungry or thirsty.” But who am I to argue? What do I know?
As the bus rolls out from the Nadzab world trade center, some idiot in front lights up a foul smelling cigarette as if it’s her frigging God-given right to frigging do so. I sat in the back, sweating and stinking from the heat, imagining a thousand evil ways to kill her and her poor excuse of her husband. This scene, was repeated several times before we reached Madang at 10pm.
So after a blissful two days attending to a haus krai, another self-inflicted episode of a return trip began.
The bus arrived, I got on, this time in the front seat. Fifteen minutes out of town we stopped at 4 mile Market Madang’s version of the Nadzab world center. The most notable passenger was Mr. Buai bag whose cargo of green gold lined the walkaway in the bus. Chaotic, messy and uncomfortable.
After a long quarantine check at Tapo conducted by a bribery prone aged member of the local “kanda polis,” the bus tried to climb the Tapo mountain. It was painful. I will say no more. Too traumatic.
At 11pm, near Mutzing, we have to stop after one of the back tires went PFFSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS…. It too quit after 12 months of abuse.
It took an hour before the tires were put back on and the bus was ready to go or so I thought. While the crew were fixing the tire, Mr. Buai Man was engaged in some late night transactions. They say patience is a virtue. That’s rubbish! Where is Confucius and the great masters when you need them? They’re all dead from the stress of talking to idiots like the ones I had to live with on the bus.
Finally, the diver, impatient with the Buai Man starts up the bus and insists on leaving immediately. Buai Man gets without a sense of urgency. No sale. A waste of time. Unapologetic.
As the bus takes off, some guy in the back, whose father should have been given a one of those rubber thingies well before his accidental birth, lights up a cigarette as if his smoking rights are enshrined in the constitution. Again I imagined a hundred thousand of ways to do him serious harm.
By the time we reached Nadzab, it was 2am in the morning. The speed of the bus had slowed from that of a struggling beast of burden to that of a pregnant duck ridden by the potbellied driver.
At 2.30pm. Bus stops at the gate. I cursed the rider of the pregnant duck and the smoking rights campaigners and jumped off, pulled out a pump action shotgun and unloaded a few into the tires. Naaaaah. Just kidding.
CORRECT ENDING: “At 2.30pm. Bus stops at the gate. I cursed the rider of the pregnant duck and the smoking rights campaigners and jumped off. The end.”