From 1953 until 1968, the Tasmanian government ran the Green Coach Line service to country towns. Now due to the curse of travel sickness I have dreadful childhood memories of being a passenger on those wretched buses. The Tasman Limited train was completely different, quite exciting really. I’ve always preferred rail over road.
As for travel on Tasmania’s old Bass Strait steamers….forget it. No stabilizers in those days. I feel for the people whose sea crossing began with this stomach churning incident in 1950;
I recall our only destination on the Green Line coach was Deloraine, where my mother’s people lived….about thirty nauseous miles from our farm near Ulverstone.
Horror of horrors, I was once feeling so sick that my face became as green as the body of the bus. My mother had to ask a little girl about my own age to swap seats, so I could sit by an open window. The look of death that kid gave me has remained with me forever. Well, excuse me, it wasn’t my fault!
Another enduring but equally awful memory is from about ten years later.
Unusually, I was returning home from Launceston by myself one winter evening (the reason for the visit now escapes me). The coach stopped in a remote location near Elizabeth Town to pick up a passenger. It’s strange what images the mind retains. It wasn’t raining, but the woman’s hair was wet ….from a last minute bath I guess. She was painfully thin and a bit shabby. I have a feeling she said she was going to the hospital, to visit her sick child.
This careworn, middle aged woman sat beside me and in the darkness she poured her heart out to a naïve, impressionable teenager. Among much else, she told me her husband was an alcoholic. He wasn’t violent, but sometimes he mistook their wardrobe door for one opening into the toilet, and peed all over her clothes. I was so shocked and upset by this that everything else she told me paled into insignificance. It was impossible for me to imagine anything more soul destroyingly dreadful. I was also struck by how badly life could turn out.
FURTHER AFIELD….MORE BUSES
In the mid 1980s my husband Rob and I were travelling down the east coast of America; via Amtrak, rental cars and on a couple of memorable occasions….. Greyhound buses.
Oh dear, we endured one interminably long night in the South. It was like Midnight Cowboy, with one poor fellow down the back coughing up his lungs and half of the rest smoking.
The only light relief was when we finally alighted at the coach station and were waiting for a cab. Another coach rolled in and a young man got off carrying his belongings in a plastic washing basket. He was dressed in shirt and tie, but his pants were about six inches too short. To our amusement he asked a question about accommodation in town, drawling apologetically, ‘Excuse me for askin’, I just got off the burss.’ This became a long-term catch phrase for us He said he was a real estate valuer, which seemed so unlikely, but presumably it was true.
Fast forward to the 1990s. I was in Hong Kong with Rob, who was attending a banking conference. One day we went out to New Territories to visit the Kadoorie Experimental Farm. From Tai Po, with its amazing produce market, we caught a rickety bus out to the mountain site. On the way we passed an elderly lady sitting in the hot sun with a crate of chokos for sale. There was not a soul in sight and even if there had been I couldn’t imagine anyone paying for bloody chokos. My heart was breaking for her. I told a long suffering Rob that if she was still there when we came back I’d ask the driver to stop so I could buy them.
Three hours later we were approaching the spot when a miracle occurred. The old lady was handing a bag of the fruit (are they even fruit?) to a customer. Oh my God, the relief!
I live in the Blue Mountains now, and if I go to Sydney it’s usually by train. Sometimes when there is trackwork, the trains are replaced by buses. It’s a two and a half hour trip and as you might imagine, I always feel a little uneasy at the prospect.