Friday, April 17, 2009

The tale of transportation

In Mexico, there are two choices: you are either rich and travel by plane or you take a bus. When in Estonia we're used to having one (crappy) bus service everywhere, then in Mexico the price of your ticket depends of the comfort of the service. They have different classes up to a very super-duper deluxe service, which was unfortunately way out of my price range. But since the price difference between 1st and 2nd class was surprisingly small, i got intimately acquainted with the 1st class buses. And when i say 1st class, i actually mean 1st class. Really nice and comfortable buses, the seats recline very low so you can actually sleep, not just attempt to. In the same time there's about 80 cm distance between the seats, so even if your front neighbour pushes his seat maximum back, you will still have more space left than in Estonian buses in normal upright seating to begin with. There are many small wonderful features and extra perks that made me choose 1st class over 2nd and all those features & perks become very important when your bus-ride is in average 10-13 hours long. Like saving some 50 EEK and lacking toilets in the bus, seems very quickly very meaningless.

I think you can cover the whole Estonia in about 5 hour bus-ride, so it's hard for Estonians to imagine being 13 hours cooped up in the bus. But here in Mexico the distances are so vast, that such journeys are normal. First time i heard that a bus-ride from Oaxaca to San Cristobal de Las Casas is 13 hours, i almost had a heart attack. I mean, i knew it was going to be long, but 13 hours ??! It's like my flight from London to Mexico City and there i had a wide choice of TV programs on board to pass the time plus catering :). I just couldn't wrap my head around the concept. Well, at that point i was thinking that 13 hours in the bus was going to be my biggest problem. Boy, was i wrong :).

I'm a girl from "The Land of Flatness", our biggest celebrated hill is about the size of a football. Southern-Mexico on the other hand is all mountainous. And i'm not talking here about driving up and down one hill after another, no. I'm talking about making cork-screw circles around them and this way for 13 hours straight. I'm not kidding when i tell you that it was a pure miracle i didn't throw up on my first mountainous bus-ride, considering that i was all the time on the very verge of doing so. By now i've already worked out a way to survive these trips, which is Darwinism in it's purest form, if you ask me. But that first 13-hour-mountain-escapade was a sheer torture! The most amazing part for me was that nobody else seemed to have problems with the winding roads. Was i really the only wobbly weakling in the bus or were others just great actors?

So, today, 4 long mountainous journey later (all adding up to about 28 hours of wobbliness) i now offer you my tips for future bumpy bus-rides:

Avoiding / managing Mexican bus-ride nausea :)
1. crank up the AC, the cold will keep you fresher
2. do not focus on the passing landscape in detail and if possible watch one of those bad movies they show on the bus TV (unless the movie is exceptionally bad, in that case skip it or it will make things worse)
3. drink water in small sips
4. pray to God nobody near you is going to start eating some super smelly home made tacos etc
5. hum a song and concentrate on what you hum
and last and the most important for me:
6. lie on fetal position or on your back :)
I was lucky enough to have all bus-rides without anybody sitting next to me (another perk of 1st class buses, they are not so crowded) so i could really lie on my back taking both seats, watching the ceiling and pushing my bent legs against the window. I did get some weird glances, mostly from Mexican travelers, but they just didn't realize what was on stake there.

And look, a person adapts to anything. Now when i hear that i have a 13 hour bus-ride ahead of me, i try to organize it to be an over-night bus, stock up on water and charge my iPod battery. And most importantly - hope that i can afford a 1st class ticket to that particular destination :).

ADOGL 1st class buses actually give you free water & soda upon entering the bus. They also have a "kitchenette" at the back of the bus for making tea or coffee plus many many other equally nice features. I'm telling you - it's all those extra perks :).


  1. love it! I get motion sickness from walking it seems..... so I know the torture you went through. I had a similar experience in Laos which is also extremely mountainous and where the bus driver goes much to fast around all the corners. I found the only thing that worked for me was taking enough gravol (a strong anti nausea pill from north america which is apparently not available in UK) which pretty much just knocks you out for 10 hours. next time i will give the fetal position a try though....


  2. I did take some motion-sickness tablets also, but it felt i could just as well overdose from then and there still wouldn't be any effect.

  3. Not only free water or soft drinks; some of the better lines give you a sandwich and cookies on trips over 4 hours. The sandwiches are not in themselves worth a special voyage.

    Don Cuevas


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