The Bus and Train Freak

At the Bus Station in Trelew, Argentina

At the Bus Station in Trelew, Argentina

Here in the United States, our intercity ground transportation is the pits. Even Mexico has us beat, with buses they manufacture themselves. Of course, neither the U.S. nor Mexico are any good at railroads, with a few minor exceptions.

One thing about me that you may not know is that I am a transportation freak. I think about public transportation a lot. Two weeks ago, I suddenly woke up in the middle of the night remembering the bus company that took me in 2001 from Reykjavík to Akureyri via the Kjölur route across the desolate plateau that forms the center of the island. The bus I took was labelled Seydisfisbilar Akureyrar. (There may be a few diacritical marks missing: The line doesn’t show up on a present day Google search.).

The funny thing is that I could figure out bus and train schedules almost irrespective of what European language they’re written in. Asking questions and understanding the answers is an entirely different issue.

In Argentina, Martine and I rode long-distance buses between Puerto Madryn, Trelew, and Gaiman—mostly on the 28 de Julio line. They were so far and away better than anything Greyhound has in the field that I blush with shame. Even the verbal interface with the ticket agents in the above cities was relatively easy, until I found out that, on some routes, seating is assigned rather than being asiento libre (“sit where you please”).

When I am in Iceland, if I run into Straeto employees that either do not or will not speak English, I may run into a spot of trouble. But since 95% of Icelanders under the age of 70 speak English, that is pretty much a baroque fear.

As for Icelandic train schedules, there are none, primarily because no one ever built a passenger railroad to serve a sparsely populated island in the Arctic.