Friday, December 30, 2011

Da Bus

It is a cliche that the Hawaiian tourism is a somehow elitish. In fact, given the location in the middle of the ocean (the islands are quite distant from anywhere one arrives), the feeling is something exotic. From California it takes five hours by plane, so, it is not exactly cheap just to get there. Not to mention the cost in terms of time and money, if you come from Italy!
Therefore, if you land to Honolulu, what you find is a type of tourism a little snob, walking into shopping streets, tanning at Waikiki beach. In the traffic many limousines can be seen.

Instead, the Kaua'i island is a bit apart from the typical touristic Hawaiian destinations. And the most common public transport is The Kaua'i Bus, familiarly Da Bus (slang for "the Bus").
Unfortunately, if these buses are used by residents, we can not say the same for tourists. I suggest to all those who go on vacation to Kaua'i to ride them, because they are comfortable, cheap, efficient and you can experience better the local customs.

The service, atleast for the trips I have experienced, is very good. Always on time and with frequent departures.
Of course cars are more comfortable, since the bus has to respect the schedule and it takes time for the intermediate stops. But it does not force you to pay attention to driving and you can concentrate on the landscape outside the windows.
The fixed cost of a ride (no matter how long it is) is two dollars (not exactly cheap, if it is a short distance, but very convenient if you consider that you can run around the island). You don't need to buy a ticket before, you just put the money in a box next to the driver. Much more convenient, as we did, is to buy a pass that entitles you unlimited use of all the lines for a month for $25.
In the town of Lihue there are a few lines that make urban service, including there is one funnily named "Lunch Shuttle", scheduledin the hours around noon. It stops at the most common restaurants/fast-food (I imagine that it is used by workers in their lunch break).
Out of Lihue the lines make both urban and suburban service. They go on the highway and make frequent detours in the residential areas, reaching hospitals, schools, shopping centers and places of public utility.

The nice thing of Da Bus is the friendliness of the service. Often the driver use to chat with passengers. Once I heard him singing along with the radio on "It's aloha friday, no work till monday", a very common Hawaiian pop song, and then, addressing the passengers screaming "This is my song, friends!" Happy at the thought of the weekend starting soon. Another typical driver was the one that took us a couple of times in Poipu: a "grandma" with a hat adorned with cute little flowers, driving so slow despite the nearly empty streets. At each stop she announced its name, even if we were the only two passengers, and she knew our destination (they ask, sometimes, for statistical purposes).

Even the passengers are generally relaxed and friendly (what a big difference with Milan underground!), And never fail to greet when they enter, and thank the driver when they exit. There is ervery kind of people: the boy and the girl flirting, the guy dressed like Michael Jackson trying to attract attention, the businessman who does leave the cellphone alone, the grandpa who smiles to everybody who meet his gaze. In any case, most times you end up chatting with someone you meet on Da Bus or at the bus stop before boarding, as if there was some kind of brotherhood among all those who use Da Bus.

It would be nice if the service worked even at night, so one could use it for the nights out. Also, i think the lines should be enhanced to some destinations, for example, there is no bus that goes up to the mountain (that could be because the towns are almost all connected by the highway that runs on the perimeter of the island).
In general the service is very good for the destinations of the locals, but not enough for the tourists. The beautiful Poipu beach, for example, which is on a detour from the highway, has its own line, but the trips are not frequent enough, which forces you to spend a lot of time waiting for the bus.
One thing I find objectionable is the custom to keep the air conditioning at high level. It's advisable to bring something extra to erar, in consideration that, outside, you are always in shorts and T-shirt.
In the front of the bus it is arranged a rack that can hold up to two bicycles. This service (i think for free) is frequently used: the cyclist secures the bike and then rises on the bus. I wonder if you have to reserve this service in advance by calling Da Bus people (if not, what could happen if there are more than two cyclists on the same trip?). Of course the buses are equipped with a lift for handicaps and spaces to accommodate wheelchairs.
The service is perfectly sized (I think this is the reason for the statistics I mentioned above): The seats are often all occupied, but it rarely happens that someone has to stand. Only once it happened to me, during students rush hour, a trip was crowded (but nothingcomparable to public services in our cities).

In short, if you appreciate the atmosphere of calm and comfortable relaxation you can breathe in Kaua'i, Da Bus is the best way to visit the island.

Also for this post, the photos are by Rowena

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