“Air Force One” just blew over and LOW… Austin roads are jammed for security… Ugly! Who knew the “Pres.” Was coming to town, maybe to check out the food trucks and all the super delicious grub that could become a rather nasty addiction. Today’s focus? Hitting the “Vegan” truck of all vegan trucks in the north end of town.
It doesn’t take much time landing in Austin to figure out this is the coolest hub in all of Texas and we are in no hurry to leave… Chilling with our homie’s and fellow travelers getting the scoop on all things they consider “weird” and cool about town: yes you can go topless or ride around town in a thong in this uber conservative state of Texas so who knew! On one slight issue do we not feel we wear the badge of honor… We are for sure not tattooed enough for these parts: amazing art abounds on every body part imaginable!
Pumper is a massive hit amongst the liberal Austinites. Not sure how often we were approached in the most friendly manner, even if it mostly amounts to being hit up for drugs
What a pair we are: Now vegan… you hear us groan all the time about the GMO’s, pollutants, and junk that is killing us so we have become the purest of the pure boring olde farts that just happen to dress like a couple of young (ish) cool hippie dudes… Unless you catch us in our Pajamas!
So on most fronts it is great to be north of the border. Aaahh back to the land of excess and pure unadulterated greed… It does pull at our heart strings a wee bit to think how simple life can be and was for the winter months living with so little, yet with hearts full of joyous blessings daily with a kick ass yoga class thrown in for good measure.
Pulling into McDonalds for our morning pit stop & coffee break, nobody questions us parking ourselves for an hour to play on the internet and use the facilities. But this morning we were obviously in a lower income part of town… Sketchy some would call it and many would not have the time of day for the “riffraff” that were there for their free coffee or pancakes, but what a Community! Never have we met such a warm welcoming bunch of people who were delighted to see us. Not only that, they cared so much for each other! These were people ‘being nice’ that had values and warm caring hearts. Wow, a pleasure to see… The simple things in life… while most are happy to tread right over top of others to get to the top of the heap! Lessons in the most basic of humanity… We feel blessed to have these beautiful daily reminders in our lives!
So more of what is so great about Austin: The Nudist Beach!!! Like, yes hello and welcome Pumper to “Hippie Hollow State Park”. “Hav’yall was here afore?” “D’yall know it’s ‘Clothing Optional’?” The kiosk lady enquires as if to give fair warning. “We did hear that”.
Steve wastes no time getting into the rhythm of all things naked as we lay lakeside… But sadly a much depleted lake in this drought plagued area, staggering to see on this level. How weird and strange to see “All Sorts” strutting around naked. Well actually it was the old farts with only jogging shoes on that was the most bizarre. Someone needs to tell them one can be unfashionably nude! The totally open toilets… Why have doors? Weird! Just nice to know you are not going to run into your next door neighbor. Ok, go ahead call me a prude! But having had twin Phil introduce us to this beautiful concept in Germany we were more than happy to get with the program but cannot somehow see us laying in the buff in the park on Parliament Hill this this summer! We Canadians tend to be rather conservative on that kind of stuff!
Austin may be eclectic but the hints of community, togetherness, and the ability to get along are evident. We were uber impressed walking along the trails in town: no painted lines or warnings to keep in your own lane!! Nobody yelling “to your right”, “coming through”, “you’re walking in the bike lane” etc… and displaying disapproval at non-conformance to rules! Canada and most other places: Neatly, if not immaculately groomed trails where people mean business!! No, in Austin people seemingly just get along! Bikers, hikers, joggers, roller bladers, moms and dads with strollers, all in their groove with respect for all others… Just being nice! Love these moments where universe and community click, egos are put away, and rules don’t matter! Well done Weirdo’s!
Off to snack on our new fave delight: “Red Quinoa & Flaxseed” Organic Tortilla Chips (GMO free, Gluten free, 0 Trans Fats!!!) with Steve’s scrumptious guacamola delight.. Life is good if only it was not getting so cold: off to spend 2 nights in a hotel of all things…. approaching freezing… way too cold for the likes of us pansies to sleep in the bus! After all this is April in Texas, what goes?
Hotel… OMG what’s that??? That my dears is a put your feet up, put the T.V. on, grab a hot shower and soak up the high life and even cheat and do a spot of laundry! A real bed. Yehhh!! And queen size at that.. Oh the luxury of it all and after all this excitement we are only talking a “Super 8″ motel! Works for us!
Peace and love… keeping it weird.
You may have received an e-mail… we were having tech problems bumming internet from some place or another, such is the life of nomads. If you follow us through Facebook this is old news! We are really excited… we had an article published in travelmag.co.uk. This was on the heels of a blog on VW Heritage a UK based classic VW parts and service organization. Click on the links, hope you enjoy!
And it’s another winter wrap hanging / chilling at some of Mexico’s finest beaches: The drive North from Zihuatanejo to Laredo Texas was pretty uneventful, …uneventful is a good thing, as we were driving through 3 of the most notorious states in Mexico when it comes to drug cartels. In Michoacán the locals call it ‘war’ and civilian vigilantes are active setting up roadblocks, for what purpose we’re not exactly sure, but they are effective at slowing the journey!
Of course they do this to the chagrin of both the cartels and the police, which in both cases they simply distrust. It’s really killed the tourist industry in some pretty neat places even Mexican tourists from out of state choose not to visit! We are amazed at shocked looks and horror that we are in these parts and warned for our safety .. If only they knew! Ignorance is bliss …as we are now informed that on our journey South in November we slept on the side of a highway in the centre of drug cartel country. And the people we met were sooo friendly!
Other than the extortionate ‘cuota’s (road tolls), vigilante roadblocks, the Military roadblock security checks, and the Federal Police roadblock inspections, and the occasional random Municipal Police pullover (usually for a bribe)…. it was plain sailing… Huh, plain sailing you say? I guess this is pretty intimidating, you would be forgiven for thinking this was indeed a war zone. But with all that, we can usually get a smile out of everyone at the road checks when they realize Pumper is our home and we are good for a laugh and joke as they rummage for whatever in the bowels of Pumper… And watch the delight and amazement at our self-contained “Casa” on 4 wheels. On discovery of my stash of medications, several months’ supply of life support… Now that took puppy eyes and serious begging… ‘all legal’ we appeal to good nature!
A sight to behold in the City of Uruapan was a whole fleet of Police pick-up trucks encircling the downtown square, all armed with gun turrets and plenty of bullet proof shielding, this was really like something out of a middle-east war torn country. Ironically life goes on all around this mayhem and when we asked the local parking lot attendant why they were there, he simply felt this was ‘all good’ and insured the security of the city. What a way to live.
We chose not to sleep downtown that night!!! Discretion is the better part of valour! Found ourselves a quiet little parking lot outside the National Park on the edge of town… And crossed everything for good fortune!
Spending 4 nights in Patzcuaro sleeping right on the city square, the local police totally unperturbed by our presence, what a wonderful experience in Mexican family life as it tumbles out on the square. We joined the morning walkers and enjoyed a little yoga ….We saw dancers and kids parades, seems like they have a festival for just about every day of the year, and with the obligatory stop at every cake shop for testing purposes! Guess that blew our disciplined diet for a few days!
This is what you could call the idyllic life! And the treat of being invited to “view” a boutique hotel run by friends of a friend, … at $390 a night.. Well, we slept very cozily in pumper that night, just imagining!
But the tummy bug hit with vengeance poor Steve jumping from the bus in the middle of the night to do what one does… Made a change for it not to be me, waiting for my inevitable turn! Not fun at all .. After an exhausting few days of getting sicker and weaker we headed for the border.. Time for some good olde U.S. of A. time.
Now how many borders have we driven across? How many times have we driven from Mexico to the U.S.A.? Even we make mistakes…
We did get Pumper repatriated correctly which includes the reimbursement of $200 from Aduana, but… we forgot to get our passports stamped out of Mexico and turn in our immigration cards… Ooops! Could be a problem on our next visit we think.. Minor detail!
Immediately crossing the border into the US you recognize the cultural differences even though the vast majority of Americans anywhere close to the border are of Spanish or Mexican decent… We struggle to make the Spanish / English language cross over.
How refreshing, roads without potholes or topes (Mexican speed bumps), road signs… Nice to get pampered! Oh, and toilets that flush… Toilet paper deposited in the toilet: strange concept! And food choices that makes life much easier! And for sure the reality: Rules and regulations: good, bad, and ugly of it all.
It’s good to be back in the US and look forward to wandering around the state parks and wild western towns in the Texas Hill Country waiting for the 2014 Texas VW Classic car show… It would be terrific, but for the same tummy bug finally caught up to me … now juggling bathroom stops etc.
Rocking and rolling … Life on the road treasured moments, jaw dropping sights and mega experiences. Nothing we would rather be doing! Now, did we just drive past a toilet!
Peace and love … with limitless supply of bathroom tissue!
Days turn into weeks, weeks into months… we’ve been holed up in Ixtapa / Zihuatanejo for 4 months. Where does time go? Currently suffering a real bad case of ‘Itchy Feet’… gotta get out of here very soon, so looks like we’ll be on the road in a few days. We have the daunting task of fitting our worldly belongings back into the bus… where did all this stuff come from? It sure is easy to ‘spread’ into an apartment. Other than an oil change Pumper is ready for the road. Paint still looking good and she is running nicely, and quieter… now that the muffler has been re-installed the correct way. All but had an argument with the muffler shop when they first installed it but don’t argue well in Española!
Settling into a groove was too easy… Yoga 3 days a week, walks on the beach, bike rides on our old clunkers we purchased from a rental store. And meeting new folks: short term vacationers, snowbirds, fellow travellers, and the gringo clan that decided to make this place full time home over the years, when Zihua was the tiniest of fishing villages and Ixtapa didn’t exist but for a stretch of sandy beach surrounded by mosquito filled mangroves and swamps. Not much evidence of the mangroves in this pristine fabricated vacation spot with golf courses, timeshares, hotels, and private condos commanding the best views and access to the beach, countless workers manicuring the grass edged roads, painstakingly painting curbs and borders and the base of every coconut tree white. Gallons of water sprayed nightly to keep the grass green and the less social nightly spraying of a pesticide concoction to abate the mosquitoes from turning this back into a swamp.
In contrast Zihua, now an oversized fishing village with all the amenities you could wish for and plenty of festivals displaying local culture, art, dance, and music. Fundraisers for local charities mostly subscribed to by Americans and Canadians but over the years gaining local, federal, and international support for the causes. ‘Sailfest’ a fundraiser for local indigenous childrens’ education, included a chance to sail for a day aboard the classic Souljournier, the skipper Willy sailing solo and heading for the South pacific, his next leg; a 30 day stint at sea.
Yoga has become a terrific physical and spiritual outlet for us in a studio with a vista of the Pacific just 30 metres down a golden sand beach. Yoga Instructors that have encouraged and contorted the best from us while intensifying our spiritual awareness.
No Yoga… No Peace!
Know Yoga… Know Peace!
Becoming networked with the art scene in town, has introduced us to an eclectic bunch including renowned artists from the US and Canada, living in everything from luxury condos to bamboo tree houses, all urging us to make this place home. You never know! We have a few trips on our list of things to do and more wander lust to work out of our systems before we make a base in this tropical paradise. One long-time resident that landed here some 40 years ago as a young 20 something treated us to a trek through the forest to a secluded beach where beachcombing for little treasures provided a bounty of photographic delights.
For a few months this ‘Thing’ was growing quickly on Steve’s chest. Looked a lot like a third nipple and bled like a bugger! Hmmm, we were kinda hoping we could delay taking action until spring but under the advice of a retired nurse decided to have it looked at… no… removed! You know it’s going to be an adventure working with the Mexican healthcare system! The recommended Naval Hospital directed us to another local clinic where a general surgeon would be on duty, or at least would be if we called him at home. ‘Be there in 20 minutes’… the surgeon appeared carrying his cauterizer machine and 10 minutes later Steve was under the knife. From the decision to have it looked at to having it removed… 2 hours, done and dusted, with the specimen in the lab for biopsy and the results a week later. They don’t bother to measure wait times! All accomplished in the local tongue with barely a word of English, even the biopsy report in Spanish. Benign Haemangioma, no worries! Surgery… $120, Biopsy… $70. Time to remove the stiches? Well what do you do if you are sitting having coffee on the beach with a retired nurse and retired dentist after a yoga class? You toddle off to Pumper sprawl on the rear seat and whip the stiches out in our Surgery on Wheels!
We had the chance to get involved at an orphanage with 14 abandoned and neglected kids, one of them found at the local refuse dump! Arriving with bags of food for a lunch and fruit and veggies to last several days.
To see the contentment of this bunch of mites all looking out for each other, well behaved, polite, no tantrums, no fussing at the table, broad smiles and laughter… was a humbling experience.
Piling them into Pumper for pictures was a riot and when we lifted the pop top the screams of joy must have been heard for miles. Before we leave we’ll make another visit with some medical supplies, and prints of the pictures… should be a hit.
With only a couple more yoga classes, maybe a little more paddle boarding, and perhaps another sail around the bay on our new passion the Hobie Cat, we’ll be bidding this little paradise and our new found friends a farewell… until the next time.
Amor y paz… from a Downward Dog! Ommm!
Eventful month for Pumper. Engine out, the verdict is in… she dropped a valve seat and required drastic work on one of the cylinder heads. Much angst attempting to source parts in Mexico where Vee Dubs are ubiquitous but type 4 engines rare. Virtually all buses / Kombi’s to be found were produced in Brazil. More on that later. So after a few weeks we decided to repair the existing head and hope like crazy the fix will hold up with the rigours of long distance road trips.
Back with us for just a day… seemed like we should take the plunge and get Pumpers bodywork repaired. A few rust spots, a much scarred front panel from all the stone chips of the last 4 years driving on sketchy roads, and of course the dinged up rear corner from 2 driver inflicted wounds (we each owned one of those) and a couple of parking lot scrapes we take no responsibility for.
Didn’t take long to figure that a complete paint job was sooo crazy inexpensive this had to be the way to go even though we were kissing goodbye to the stickers adorning her! We paid just a tad more for the whole thing than we were quoted in Canada for only repairing the rear corner and painting the front. So in she goes for 2 more weeks. In Mexico nothing goes to waste so can’t say we were completely surprised to see all our stickers on the paint shop owners ATV. They must have been painstakingly removed and applied with adhesive, whatever, all those stickers from our travels are a treasure, pleased to see they’re someone’s pride and joy.
With Pumper in the “shop” getting all pretty, we commuted from Ixtapa to Zihuatanejo on the local buses. We have only seen one other gringo couple on the local buses. That tells you something! But for that matter in the last 6 weeks we have only rare sightings of other gringo tourists.. Kinda do feel a little bit like aliens at times! Ixtapa is clearly a wealthy Mexican national tourist destination with convenient proximity to Mexico City. Don’t let the image of an impoverished México fool you, they have their middle and upper classes just like Canada and the US.
Sojourn days are chocked full of delightful experiences that as always thrill and inspire and cause much reflection on the craziness how things are done in various worlds and society’s!
In Canada the USA or England you might be dashing for a bus and despite the driver seeing you frantic, the bus pulls off full steam with a schedule to adhere to… leaving you in the dust. Well not here! There is no such thing as a schedule; the drivers earn money dependent upon the number of customers. They literally trawl the curbside for customers, slowing at every driveway in the hope someone is making their way to the bus! The only problem… the speed of the journey is relative to the number of vacant seats. Lots of empty seats… the journey’s a snail’s pace. Full House… the bus moves at the speed of light. There are a few bus stops which are mostly ignored allowing riders to embark or disembark anywhere they choose. How nice is that, door to door service all for the price of 9 pesos (75 cents) per trip.
On occasion you get a traveling Minstrel who, only at the invitation of a driver, will strum away on an olde rickety guitar often missing a string or two, cracks in the body, and generally in rough shape, (as are some of the minstrels) but hey who cares? For a donation of a few pesos you get some delightful entertainment.
On the little 12 seat Zihuatanejo local bus that more often will carry 20 passengers jammed in, everybody greets with a “good morning” now could you imagine that in a big North American city in rush hour traffic… Just imagine! Try it on your next commute, say good morning as you get on the train or bus! Reckon you’ll be given wide berth for being some sort of crackpot!
But it’s hot, sweaty, weary work the drivers work 12 hour days 6 days a week. We were on a bus recently that doubled as daycare for the drivers three little toddlers, cute as buttons they were but hardly able to stay awake. How focused the bus driver was on the road rather than his little ones heads bobbing asleep, precariously perched on their seats. No problem! Pull the bus over and move them to a seat where perhaps they stood less chance of sliding right out the door or going through the windshield if we crashed. Did the passengers mind this little delay? Not at all… they helped with getting the little mites settled. I know where the drivers focus will be in the case of emergency!! But you smile!!
So Christmas day / New Years Day.. Yup buses all running, stores all open there is no such thing as a holiday here.. Life for most is slogging it one day to the next making enough money to feed the family and live another day. But then again there are plenty of Mexican tourists in the resort town of Ixtapa where our apartment is, that make us look like a couple of penniless bums! The side of Mexico the press does not talk about.. Walking on the beach at night… we have no fear here!
At the Centro market we find a bill on the floor… 1000 Mexican pesos!!! Holy… That is like $80, a crap pile of money to people in the market!!!! How do we find the rightful owner? Had we uttered a word there would have been at least 20 rightful owners at our side in a flash. Maybe give it to a local cop? Cough… yeah sure! Easy decision: we’ll donate it to the orphanage along with money we were planning to contribute to the schooling program to educate the indigenous kids of the area. Hope that all falls into the “good karma” bracket. You don’t see many 1000 bills especially in the market… probably dropped by a drug dealer we tell ourselves to put our minds at ease. … just hope there isn’t some poor family suffering from that loss but it will make a difference in the lives of some needy children.
Another day soaking up paradise, yoga at the beachfront rooftop studio with a parrot squawking ” Hola” to our downward dogs as the dolphins frolicked in the bay: how is one ever meant to focus?
Our only sadness over the holiday was encountering a Mexican “puppy mill”. The most sickening thing, as much as it is reality, the sight of this abuse was utterly disturbing. We are blessed to have friends who are advocates for animals in both this country and others, striving daily to highlight this plight and bring awareness and education. The suggestion they could use some water did get a response, but little good that will do.
Back to the Brazilian Kombi: appropriate to get this blog out today coinciding with the last day of production of the iconic VW Type 2 Kombi, or in North America, Bus. The body is virtually unchanged since the 70’s although the air cooled motor has long since been replaced with a water cooled version. Brazil was the last place of production in the world. Germany discontinued production in 1979. Not too many classico’s here… It is bizarre to see them as everyday vehicles, even a fleet of brightly coloured Kombi taxis in Petatlan 30 minutes out of Zihua.
Guess it is up to fanatics like us to keep the history alive. Pumper’s facelift provides a great chance she will be around for many years to come.
Peace and love… with an icon for the New Year.
Colonial cities, authentic Mexican villages, we cruise South through the central highlands taking in the delights and hidden treasures: striking it rich with three 1910 Mexican revolution parades and festivities celebrated November 20 each year. The towns and villages virtually shut down with main roads closed and every child under the age of 16 involved in perpetuating the memories of the struggle to free the country from Spanish oppression.
A wonderful celebration of music, dance and color every way you turn. The colonial towns scattered throughout the cooler mountains are a far cry from the tourist jammed, blistering hot coastal cities. Yes, Mexico can still be a cultural experience if you venture away from ‘resort central’ along the coasts.
Dropping elevation it’s time to make adjustments to Pumpers carburetors and timing as we descend from the rarified mountain air, digesting on route the volcanic landscapes enhanced at sunrise and sunset. Hmmm, things aren’t sounding so good, backfiring and generally running rough. Not only that but after making the decision not to carry extra fuel we find ourselves on a very long lonely highway driving for hours without seeing a gas station.
Night is upon us and we happen on a tienda where we’re able to buy 10 litres from a plastic bottle to keep us going the next morning after sleeping out front serenaded by tractor trailers engine braking all night. There is no fear of bandits carrying us off in the night… These are just honest to goodness hard working Mexican’s. We feel privileged to be among them, awaking to the cockerels, another amazing sunrise, and a truck load of coconuts parked beside us!
With just enough gas arriving at the coast near Ixtapa / Zihuatanejo, one of those tourist jammed resort areas, we are relieved to do our favourite thing… walking miles of flat firm sandy beach with the ocean greeting us with every wave. But man is this hot! The contrast is overwhelming,… not so much fun camped out in Pumper, you might as well jam us in a Sardine can and fry us!!!
Rolling into a new destination, becoming familiar with the area, and finding suitable digs is anything but a relaxing experience. We promised ourselves we would take a few days to sort this all out but with Pumper sounding like the engine is about to fall out and the prospect of sleeping in her for a week in these temperatures was not going to work… Snap decisions are made at times of stress!
The problem with an apartment that is $400 a month. It comes with issues that need to be sorted, no vacation there! We moved in to the chaos of the place needing painting and cleaning.. BIGTIME!!! Fridge not working, no gas to cook with or heat water. Then we find out some condo owners haven’t paid their fees and the water has been cut off and we could be out of water when the holding tanks run dry. Our new neighbors are kind enough to allow us to bum their Wi-Fi while we get ours arranged, which entailed hanging out the door to get the signal. Nothing like putting the welcome mat out to all the little critters hanging out in the Hood!! No cockroach sightings yet, or for that matter scorpions… Phew!!!
If all those things weren’t enough stress, Pumper is well and truly out of action with no clear solution at hand as we work with mechanics through the language barrier attempting to figure out the fix. Just 3 months ago we dropped $3000 to replace the cam shaft and valves among other things, so being at this point is not a happy place. Let’s leave it at that, and if you are really left brained and want the gory mechanical scoop, you should follow ‘Living The Dream’ on Facebook.
Ixtapa / Zihuatanejo isn’t a bad place to be broken down and without wheels… The beaches are beautiful and we are managing to get our daily sometimes twice daily walks. Our apartment is close to the beach, less than a 10 minute walk, 5 minutes if we ride the old bicycles we purchased from a rental store. The local bus is super cheap between the mega tourist area of Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo the quainter more authentic Mexican town close by. That’s where the yoga studio is… back into a healthy routine.
Leaving home in a white blouse was the first big mistake… we head back to the mechanics workshop. 5 minutes later… sweat and dirt seems to pour from everywhere! Heat and humidity that leaves you wilting in a grungy garage with oil, parts and dirt oozing from everywhere… compulsively checking that I haven’t touched or handled a thing… having just sat on a public bus opposite some guy that has obviously urinated in his pants. Desperate not to make contact with any surface if at all possible. but knowing I carry the essential survival equipment… disinfecting wet wipes!
Steve is again in full discussion with a handful of Mexican mechanics with no English, about parts and specs for dear pumper… it might be super cheap to get the work done here but it sure ain’t easy!! Lordy Lordy!! Thankfully we had decompressed earlier at yoga with a million door view over the ocean… there is no beating that for $10 a pop!
While pumper gets herself sorted and back on the road we travel via local bus…. Always an experience: as riders get on the bus they say Buenas Dias to their fellow passengers… you don’t get that in N.Y.C. Or Toronto! The disco music blares out. Is the driver even old enough to vote? And we pray for a seat near a window where one might gasp just the occasional whiff of fresh, breezy ocean air! Hey, I know that song but not the Spanish lyrics, as Steve serenades along karaoke style!
Fascinating, challenging, invigorating: to survive in this culture … we are for sure not sitting back living a conventional life. This nomadic, vagabonding can be nerve wracking and frustrating and no end of craziness… you question the sanity of it all almost every minute. Yet you can’t help but fall in love with it. It takes a somewhat unconventional person… open to life’s diversities, and for sure flexible. No expectations, an open heart and giving soul, a love of life, and a desire to soak up the cultural differences, to make it all click. A little meditation and yoga helps a whole bunch to get through the rougher moments.
“You are your own master. You are your own teacher.”
Emma. (Our newest Yoga instructor in Zihuatanejo.)
Amor y paz…. Ohmmmm