transport | urbanism | adventures | pontification
Various former school buses in the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts of Belize
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A highlight of my time in Corozal was a visit to one of the District’s hand-cranked ferries. I was particularly interested in seeing a school bus make the crossing. After talking with some local residents, I understood that the bus from Corozal Town to Copper Bank would leave at 7:00 AM and travel the 5 km to the ferry, from which I could walk back to town. Matthew, a fellow traveler I met in Belize City, and I made it to the town square a bit before 7:00, but the Lino’s Bus we were looking for was nowhere to be found. So we decided to walk out to the ferry.
After we had walked for about half an hour, around the corner ahead of us turned the Lino’s Bus we had been looking for, going the opposite direction into Corozal. I figured it was running late because of muddy roads, and that we would be able to hop on it when it returned to Copper Bank. By 9:15, having endured much mud and little shade, we made it to the Pueblo Nuevo Ferry.
I asked one of the ferry workers who was leaving his shift what time the bus would be returning, and he replied, “about 10:30.” So we decided to wait and watch vehicles cross the river for an hour, during which time we nourished some mosquitoes and helped push a stalled Volkswagen Jetta up onto the ferry.
At 10:30, David, the other ferry worker (who works a twelve hour shift, from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM), came over to us and asked what we were waiting for. I told him about my project and how I wanted to see the Copper Bank bus crossing back over. “You’re going to be waiting a long time; it doesn’t come back until 7:30 tonight,” he responded. He then explained that the Lino’s Bus driver had indeed come back across on the ferry a couple minutes before; unless there was a large crowd needing to get to Copper Bank in the morning, the driver usually left the bus in town and hitchhiked home for lunch.
We laughed at all of the misunderstandings about times, helped crank the ferry back to the Corozal side, and caught a ride back to town in the bed of a pickup truck.
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The Port bus is a slow, bumpy, muddy ride during the rainy season and a great example of the durability of these old buses (and their riders). A 1994 Blue Bird transit style was making the run on the day I rode, one day after some moderately heavy rain. Once we crossed to the west of Central America Blvd., many stretches of the route were more water than road. The bus avoided getting stuck, since there seemed to be enough gravel under the ponds, but it was a slow trip.
Carlos (see below) explained that over the past few years, a government sponsored dredging project at Belize City’s southern deepwater port has interfered with drainage in the surrounding residential areas. Currently, cruise ships dock offshore east of the city, and their passengers are ferried to the shallow Tourism Village dock on smaller boats; with sufficient dredging, the cruise companies will be able to save their customers time and money by docking directly at the city’s southern port.
When possible, I sit towards the back of the buses I ride, primarily to minimize the number of people who see me take out my camera when I photograph the surroundings. On the King’s Park bus the other day, sitting in the back also led to a refreshing surprise. Near the University of Belize, we stopped for a woman pushing a handcart loaded with a cooler up to the bus. She opened the emergency exit door in the back, and a boy who was sitting in the back got out and helped her load the cooler onto the bus. They were having a problem getting the handcart around the spare tire in the aisle at the back of the bus, so I helped maneuver it.
When the bus arrived at its terminus downtown, the woman asked me for some help, since the other boy had alighted earlier. I stepped out the back, and brought her cargo to the sidewalk. She opened the cooler and said, “Thank you, would you like a seaweed?” I wanted to be polite, so I took one of the small unlabeled bottles filled with a thick, white drink. A bit of research revealed it to be a seaweed shake – a chilled mix of condensed milk and cinnamon thickened by the carrageenan from blended seaweed. I tried it and found it enjoyable; I can understand why the drink, which reminded me of a thick horchata, is a local favorite in the tropical heat.
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