One line ends, another begins


Lamech Kamuza is driving his TOK Coachlines bus down Country Road 21 about 8:30 a.m. when he sees a deer at the side of the road and slows down.

“I’ve seen them so much,” he comments. He began driving the Haliburton to Toronto route more than a year ago. He was at the wheel for the last time with TOK Jan. 31, as the Concord, ON-based company has discontinued the route it had operated for 34 years.

However, Kamuza broke some good news to passengers last Wednesday, telling them Entertainment Tour Travel Inc., of Markham, was beginning a new service effective Feb. 2. [see related story on page 3].

When TOK announced Nov. 6 it was ceasing the run, Kamuza said he was saddened.

“I was getting a lot of seniors that go into the city to see doctors, and stuff like that. I knew there was no other way for them to get into the city.”

‘I’m really glad I’ve had an opportunity to do it’

The resident of Ingoldsby said when his car broke down awhile back, he could not find transport to Toronto. “That experience was very discomforting. I moved from the city up here and I’m used to the convenience of the city. To realize that there’s not a public transit system… a way for people to get around… that was very discomforting.”

He said he took the TOK driving job thinking it would be just a way to make some money.

“I quickly realized it was more than a job,” he said. He understood the importance of providing a ride to and from Toronto for those who needed it.

“I’ve met some awesome people. There’s a few elderly that take the bus from Haliburton… can I say names? There’s Stella, Nancy, oh gosh, there’s just so many. Quite a few in Minden, too. I meet elderly seniors, children, males, females, even pets that come through the door.”

Alana Gordon boards the bus in Norland. She took it up from the city Jan. 12 and was returning from visiting her best friend. “It’s great, brings me here, cheap…” She said the threat of the discontinued service “sucked… because this is my best friend I’ve known forever.” She welcomed news of another operator. “Just as long as I can come back.”

Steven Bergeron sits at the front of the bus, chatting with Kamuza as the highway lines whiz by and snow gives way to green en route south. A transit aficionado, he came from Orillia to take the last run.

“I wanted to come today because I know this route is important. My dad cottaged up here for 30 years at Haliburton Lake by Fort Irwin. He knows how it is up here; how hard it is for people to live up here. So do I.”

Bergeron said he wanted to ride the TOK bus one last time as “it is a little bit of history. It’s also good that there’s another company coming.”

Driver ‘nostalgic’

As we drive through Coboconk, into Fenelon and Lindsay, Kamuza said he wasn’t overly worried when he found out about the line ceasing, believing everything was going to be okay. He will be driving for the new company. He had an opportunity to continue with TOK but it would have meant being in the city more. His family, including his threeyear-old baby girl, are in the Highlands and he likes to come home at night.

The bus continues to Hwy. 35 and 115 then into Bowmanville, Courtice and Oshawa before heading out on the 411 towards Scarborough and Vaughn. Kamuza will then work from the city for several hours before the bus that left Haliburton about 8 a.m., heads back north around 5 p.m.

Stephen and Mieke Foster are some of the last customers as the bus pulls back into Haliburton about 9:30 p.m.

The retirees own a home in Toronto but use the coach to come back and forth to a second home in Haliburton village. They do not own a car. They boarded with backpacks and carts at Vaughn.

“Not everybody has a car,” Mieke said, and Stephen added as they get older, they dislike driving in the busy city. “So, this gets us away from that. The worst we have to do is haul ourselves. It’s not fighting my way through snow.”

Mieke adds, “having the bus up to Haliburton just makes it that much easier because we would otherwise have to rent a car, pick it up, return it on time, fill it with gas. On the bus, you can sit down, do what you want to do.”

As if on cue, she sits down on the floor and does some stretching. The two said they are “relieved” someone else is taking over the route and hope it succeeds.

Kamuza, meanwhile, is “nostalgic.” He tells the story of an elderly gentleman, a regular, who likes to ride up front but tends to cringe as Kamuza makes his way through heavy city traffic, saying, “I don’t know how you do it!”

With the last stop, the Shamrock gas station, in sight, Kamuza adds, “driving for a living… you cannot play around. This isn’t like working somewhere where you can sit down, and take your eyes off the road. You are constantly on the ball, but I really enjoy driving. I’m really glad I’ve had an opportunity to do it.”