16 February 2014

A country bus experience

The terrain in our area is perfect for growing grapes and the countryside for many miles around us consists of high rolling hills that support steep fields of vines. Many of the roads are narrow with sharp curves and steep drop offs. These roads are frequented by semi trailers carting equipment for the wine industry as well as tankers full of wine in bulk and trucks laden with bottles of local wine for distribution. Add to this, public transport in the form of buses and motorbike riders who think they are Valentino Rossi and you get a fairly worrying picture of our roads. So far we have survived in our car, although one must constantly watch for drivers cutting corners and trucks that need 1.5 lanes to manoevre. More recently, we have had cause to experience the bus system. First impressions were perhaps predictable, with our 8.40am bus to Acqui Terme arriving 15 minutes late. As we boarded the bus, the female driver launched into a loud but friendly explanation of her morning so far. It seemed that her trip had been marked by many spontaneous stops including one concerning a letter that lay white and limp on the dashboard. Eventually, after demonstrating an appropriate level of interest and concern, we paid for our tickets and found a seat halfway down the bus. I marvelled at Italian bus culture as I watched 8 other passengers board and sit in the first 3 rows, as close to the driver as they could get. There ensued a very lively conversation involving all 8 passengers and the driver about the stops and the letter. A few minutes later we were travelling out of Canelli and along one of the aforementioned roads. At the first stop in a small village at the top of the hill, a lady stood up and walked to the front of the bus, mumbling and complaining all the way. The driver stopped the bus, said something back to the lady and watched her disembark before recommencing the trip. There was a short period of silence while the driver turned the bus into a steep descent. But this was the calm before the storm. As we gathered speed down the valley, the driver launched into a diatribe. My limited Italian didn't allow me to understand much of it but my knowledge of body language told me a lot. She was certainly riled about something! I watched as she yelled loudly, taking a hand off the steering wheel and gesticulating wildly across the windscreen. As the bus hurtled down the valley, I struggled to hear what she was saying but I watched in even greater horror as she took both hands off the wheel, stretched them high and low, made wide circles around the cab, even turned around to assess the level of support of her 8 passengers! I closed my eyes for the remainder of the descent. At the bottom of the hill, the driver stopped the bus at a crossroads in the middle of nowhere and half the passengers disembarked. Not knowing what was going on, we adopted the "wait and see" position. Within a few minutes, another bus arrived from a different direction. This bus announced its destination as Acqui Terme. We scrambled out of our bus and joined the already offloaded passengers as they boarded this new bus. We eventually found ourselves at our planned destination...albeit 15 minutes late and a little more highly strung than when we started...


1 comment:

  1. This reminds me of a day at the Milan train station. While we waited on the platform for our train to Zurich, there was an announcement over the loud speaker system, and everyone else promptly left the platform. We considered our plight and decided to follow them, and eventually ended up at another platform where our train was waiting. MD


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