Getting around the island of Grenada is always an adventure, but never a hassle.
From the day we arrived here, our hurricane season port in the West Indies of the Caribbean, we’ve enjoyed cheap and reliable transportation all around the island – thanks to a fleet of independently-owned passenger vans, which everybody refers to as “busses”. We adore them.
When you need a ride, just hang out by the road and listen for the beep beep! of the approaching driver’s horn. As the vehicle slows, a sliding door opens and a young man, the driver’s partner (the money man, the sidekick), jumps out of the still-moving vehicle to hurry you inside. If all 14 of the factory standard passenger seats are filled – no worries – there are 4 homemade jump seats ready to flip down into the isle – just be sure to get out of the way when somebody behind you wants to exit the vehicle!
There is no schedule. The bus routes (numbered 1-8) provide drivers with general guidelines, but bigger spenders can negotiate a detour. When a bus veers off course, the rest of the passengers wait patiently for the originally scheduled program to continue. Nobody bats an eye.
In the afternoons, when business is slow, the driver might pull over for a social visit with a passerby, or the sidekick may hop out and try to drum up some business or even steal passengers getting on another bus. One time the driver/sidekick team made frequent stops all over town, obviously using their bus route as an elegant front for a marijuana delivery scheme. Delays are expected. Just relax, you’ll get there when you get there, friend.
There’s music, always music. During the weeks building up to Carnival, the drivers play only the aggressive, dance-y, music of Jab Jab (here’s one of our favorites) non-stop and full-blast. These manic tunes, coupled with zippy corkscrew turns and perilous jerks around cliffside bends, inspire white-knuckled fear in visiting passengers, but once Carnival ends, the music abruptly changes, and so does the mood. Post-Carnival, the music gets relaxed and groovy. We nod our heads with slower beats of Soca and reggae (including my all-time favorite soca song) and bounce along the dusty roads, peacefully taking in the scenery.
As we ride along, I futilely will my body to stop sweating on the locals. The Grenadian heat is palpable, and we sweat everywhere, everyday, while locals, often clothed from head to toe, seem unaffected. If they’re not pleased by being mashed in with perspiring sailors, they never let on.
As you near your destination, knock twice, hard against the metal window frame or ceiling, loud enough for the driver or the sidekick to hear. Hand the sidekick your $2.50 EC (approx. $.90 USD) as you step down onto the pavement.
The adventure has come to an end, but there’s always another errand to run, another boat part to hunt down, or another beach to explore down island. In Grenada, getting there is always half the fun.