I was in Malta on a holiday recently. Malta is a small island located in a strategic position near the entrance in the Mediterranean Sea, with five thousand years of history. Fortresses surround the old main cities with difficult roads inside.
Public transport is by bus outside the walls and across the countryside. New buses replaced the distinct and old shaky vintage ones in 2011, which were also a tourist attraction. The new service was supposed to be accessibly friendly with low floors and wheelchair dedicated spaces.
Our first day
On our first day we headed off with high expectations of the public transport. We had maps and numbers of the routes. The bus stops were clearly marked and a bus came quickly. However, despite our waving, it just went straight past. This happened again with the next bus. It was full. When the following bus stopped, a queue of people started piling on.
Driver we have a friend in a scooter, a wheelchair, my travelling mate called out.
No room, replied the driver,
the bus is nearly full.
Chatting in the queues
Everyone used buses, locals and tourists alike. The summer season had finished, the bus timetable had changed to winter and buses now ran three minutes later. That sounded frequent enough, and yet there were still not enough. The buses did not look very modern either.
We had many conversations with the friendly locals while trying to get on a bus. Once we told them where we were from, we heard about their many relatives living in Australia. They were all keen for a chat. No one seemed to be too concerned about the full buses. That is just the way it was. No one seemed surprised to see me scootering around either. I was just one in the crowd, nothing unusual.
Many bus scenarios
One day when at the bus stop, a bus did stop with room in the front. Friends could see the metal ring in a floor panel by the door, and they lifted it and folded it down to make a ramp. Up I went.
Lady in a wheelchair, free up the space, the driver called out. The aisle had two to three people standing in it. We jostled the scooter into the space.
Many buses later, there were many different scenarios on all the different routes. These included the metal ramp ring falling off, the ramp breaking into pieces as I went up and mostly having to lift the scooter on ourselves. Quite often the driver stopped the bus on the road and not near the footpath, which made the ramp angle too steep to ride up.
By the end of our stay, we managed to see all of the island of Malta by bus. It really was the best way of getting around, once you were on one. However, by the end of the holiday we did not want to see another bus.
Buses in Victoria
Back home in Melbourne, I catch trams regularly but I have never caught a bus. I am interested to see what others say about catching buses in Victoria.