It may seem stupid, but I just had to devote a whole post (and Facebook photo album) to the buses of Mauritius and Rodrigues. Why? Because they are fucking hilarious. Seriously.
I didn’t notice it at first, mainly because I had a rental car during my first two weeks in Mauritius, but as soon as I got to Rodrigues, I was forced to take note of the public bus system. “Public” is a bit of a misnomer because the buses are all privately owned. Long story short: I think anyone can buy a bus and import it to Mauritius. This means that there is no uniformity of the buses – each one is unique – and they must get them from all over the world (wherever is cheapest) because I was definitely on a bus that had the word “PARANDO” (“Stopping” in Spanish) lit up at the front every time someone pushed the button to get off. I asked a local if they knew what that was and they had no idea. Ha!
So, once you have your bus, then you can apply to the government to get a permit to run a service on a pre-determined route (the routes are all devised by the government and drivers can’t stray from that). Fares are also set by the government so it’s fair for passengers. All the rest of the details are left up to the driver/owner. And that’s where the hilarity ensues.
The buses can be painted however the fuck you want to paint them, and some of the Mauritians and Rodriguans took liberties to make their buses as unique (and hilarious) as possible. You could definitely tell that some of the imported buses had not been repainted (I took a ride on a bus called “Princess Tours”), but for the ones that were painted by the locals, it all started off fairly innocent: one of my first rides was on a bus named “Road Commander”. There was also the “King of the Road”. Then it strayed a little bit to “Angel of the Road” and “Fast Ride”, which is completely ironic because the buses were anything but fast. On Rodrigues in particular, the island is only 11 miles (18 km) long by 4 miles (6.5 km) wide, but it still took nearly an hour on the bus to get anywhere. Why? Because the drivers go slow to ensure they don’t miss anyone (they want the revenue on their bus), and then they stop at some stops and get off to grab a drink, or they stop along the way to have a quick chat with the driver of a passing bus. It’s all very nonchalant and I’m pretty sure I could have walked faster in many instances.
Let’s get back to the names. From there, it just got weird. There were buses named “Lucky Dream”, “Sweet Dream”, “Just for You”, and “Still Loving You”. Is the driver still loving me? Or is he still loving the bus? I’m so confused! There was also a bus named “King of Love” (hahahaha!) but my two absolute favourite buses were: “Lovers Choice” – which sounds like the name of a sex shop – and “King of Rod” – which is supposed to be short for “King of Rodrigues” but they really should paint the whole name on because otherwise it just sounds like a super fabulous gay porn movie. Seriously.
There was a bus named “Knight Rider” – presumably the bus hasn’t been repainted since the 1980’s – and one devoted solely to “Spiderman”. Then there were several buses with airplanes painted on them (dream big!) and one with a ship… aptly named “Titanic” – which only gives me the image of the bus speeding onto a beach and then tragically plunging into the water.
Because the buses are privately owned, the owner-drivers can do whatever they want. For example, they can have all of their friends on board at the front having a bit of a party… with their loud music. Oh yes. The drivers would plug in their smartphones and blast loud French rap (and even some Spanish rap!) while they drove along. It was LOUD. I felt old. It would only get louder in the afternoons when ALL of the schoolchildren would fill the buses. Like, ALL of them. Squeezing 3 into seats for 2 and 4 into seats for 3 and taking up the entire aisle standing. And because you should treat your bus like a temple, you may as well include some incense burning to give your bus a nice aroma.
At face value, the bus system seemed a bit third world, which was not the impression that Mauritius gives off. Looking a bit closer, and despite all of these quirks, the bus system was actually well organized… just slow… and quirky.
Unfortunately, I didn’t take any bus selfies, but I’ll leave with you this one amazing bus that had a mural of a mermaid riding a dolphin painted onto the back. AMAZEBALLS.
To see more photos of the buses of Mauritius and Rodrigues, follow this link: