The Bus/Combi Chronicles: “El Bus de Diablo”

I apologize I have to do a quick fast forward past our arrival back to Lima to share with you my recent journeys on the Combi/Micro/Bus or whatever you want to call them.

The buses

There are actually three/four different sizes of buses:

  • The Micro Combi- “Bus” that is the size of your typical household mini van- that yes you are expected to stand up in if the seats are all full. (I have not ventured into one of these as of yet)
  • The Combi – This “bus” is about the size of one of those rental/ church vans.. yes I’ve ridden this before, several times.
  • The school bus (this is my name for it)- duh.. it’s the size of a school bus
  • The bus- Its the size of your typical city bus – not the one with the extension in the middle.

The combis are operated by a bus driver and a cobrador. The cobrador is the person who lets you on and off the combi and who you pay your money too.  He/she is also the person that shouts the names of the streets that it is going to, to the crowd at the bus stops or just anyone on the street. All of the buses/combis are in competition with each other, all are owned by different companies and even within that company they are actually rented out. It’s a dog eats dog world. That being said each bus is racing the next to get to the next bus stop or crowd of people.

  • The Metropolitano- is not part of the combi system at all – this is city transportation that has one route north and south that is similar to a subway but its on the highway with its own private lane.

Wednesday July 13th:

So Wednesday morning I decided that I would take Metropolitano “Metro” and a combi to work for the first time.  I usually take a cab because I need to be there at 7am. I was told this would take about 15 minutes and I could jump right into a combi and go to the street where my class is. Wrong. It takes me 15 minutes to walk to the Metro. I get off the Metro and take the 10 minute walk to the main street – Javier Prado and meet a large group of people waiting for a combi. The first combi that shows up is completely pack, the next two that come have people standing in the stair well with the door open, and the fourth one that comes fills up in less than 20 seconds. I get on the 5th combi because it is completely empty grab a seat on the left hand side and decide its better to sit in the aisle than next to the window. #WRONG.  The bus was completely over full within two stops, and my landmark was on the right side of the bus I’m sitting – on the left. SMH.  I screamed out “Baha Calle Flores” (let me off on Calle Flores) every 3 minutes so that the cobrador would know to stop the bus. It worked =).  When I arrived to class I learned that most of the combis were on strike that day – hence the combis that weren’t were extremely overcrowded. I should have read this article:

Friday July 15th:

Note the bus driver is reading his newspaper

Friday morning went perfectly fine as I was told it would go. Friday morning leaving the office went ummm as expected but this picture above describes as expected.  Yes, there is so much traffic that my combi driver was able to pull out his paper and peruse it. SMH

Friday evening was a tale all of its own about going to have a class with a new client.

The green and white bus I was waiting for

I wait 15 mins for a particular green and white “bus” to come. That bus never comes so I decide to take the bus that says “Arequipa” even though I know there will be traffic going this way. Of course there was too much traffic and I had to get off the bus and take a taxi. Problem – I had S50 and I know the taxi was going to act like he didn’t have change. I then beg a “Cambia” (money exchange) person to break my S50 and he does =). Jump in a cab to my destination in San Isidro.  I arrive at my destination 5 minutes late of course its a complex of buildings and the one I’m going to is all the way in the back; only to arrive and my student to tell me “I’m sorry, I just got pulled into a last-minute meeting”. SMH
The adventure continues. I walk to the bus stop to go home as the bus I prefer zooms by me. Another one comes 5 minutes later but it wants me to get on at the back door and I was closer to the front, so I walked to the front. The driver of course pulled off. SMH.  A third bus arrives less than 3 minutes later I jump on and the bus is pulling off before I get both feet in the stairwell.  I’d like to name this bus “El Bus de Diablo”.  I got in and there weren’t any seats so I held on to the rails that barely reached down from the ceiling of the bus. I mean I could barely reach these things so I’m not sure how the locals do it (most are shorter than me).  The cobrador shows me someone who is getting up on the other side of the isle and yells “SENTARSE” (sit down). I then Matrix style download amazing acrobatic skills and make it across the 3 feet to the other side of the bus.. Wooh I almost fell.

The arobatic cobrador

It wasn’t just me everyone else on the bus had the same WTF expression on their faces too.   I mean this bus had to be driving 90mph in a 20mph zone (if there was a speed limit).  On top of that the driver is blowing his horn anytime any car or bus in front of him stops at least 5 times my cobrador also is beating the side of the bus like its his drum when this happens or the cars next to us get in our way.  Furthermore, our cobrador is yelling the streets/towns out of the window in the typical fashion along with beating his drum as we pull up to any street corner with a crowd or bus stop.

If I see this again I will remember to hold on with dear life

Today (Monday, July 18th) I spoke with another teacher about my experience and apparently July 15th and December 15th are bonus days here in Peru. All salaried employees receive one month extra in pay on these two days as a bonus.  The buses/combis were rushing to get all of the extra money out there. I was also told that Taxis were charging more (they deserve there bonus too right). That explains it all doesn’t it =)

Here are a few pictures of other buses/combis for your viewing pleasure.

**** my disclaimer.. this has not been edited – have to run and cook dinner =)

7 thoughts on “The Bus/Combi Chronicles: “El Bus de Diablo”

  1. We always take Taxis, buses/combis were to crowded. Also pickpockets who prey on tourist. The only bus we take are interprovincial to Chiclayo (12 hours from Lima) very scenic, though most of the trip is at night.
    The bus company Oltursa is first class, ipads, wifi, movies and 2 meals.

    The airlines is only an hour flight. I like the scenic route unless we are press for time.

    1. We use the larger buses for the most part. Which aren’t too bad – for the most part I can always get a seat. I will check out Oltursa for our next trip. Thanks for the suggestion =)

  2. Hi Erica! I enjoyed reading your blog!
    I remember catching the bus before buying
    my first car when when I first moved to Miami as a young woman. It was challenging but nothing like you experiences! Please be very careful whenever you take the bus.
    Love and miss you, Grandmommy

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