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
El border crossing supremo in record time… done and dusted in 45 minutes with a friendly joke or two about our Classico Kombi and the Classico Esposo (hubbie). We swear by: ‘A little Spanish takes you a long way!!’ And our Spanish capabilities return quickly in time of need, we thought we were starting over but it floods back when you need it.
Then up to speed rapido on the Mexican driving standards or lack thereof! Yikes.. no such thing as “lane” or lane change for that matter! Indicating? What’s that!!! So Steve had no sooner congratulated me on expert driving through the big city of Monterrey than… CRASH / BANG / WOLLOP!! Day 1 .. Yep, poor old Pumper picks up her first road scar!
Bugger… Steve telling me not to stop while he and a taxi driver yell their version of things while hangin’ out of their windows… when you can have an argument in another language you know there is more than a rudimentary understanding. Not great on a Major Carratera! So, as one would, the taxi driver cuts across and pulls up leaving us stranded in the middle of the road… dare not even glance in the rear view mirror to see what is hurtling towards us!!
Craziness: doors are locked and Steve with strict instructions that under no circumstances is he getting out of Pumper… preparing for this to get mucho ugly! But of course before you know it, Esposo (that would be Steve!!) is out on the bloody road. No longer am I worried about Pumpers war wound…. will Steve’s body parts be strewn across the highway? Will I be scraping him up off the asphalt?
After much debate the taxi driver is convinced… or worn down… that we both were to blame and messed up, and we should be responsible for our own damage. We offer our sincere apologies and depart with trepidation… half expecting Policia or amigos to appear somewhere down the highway… What a way to start!
Great, a ‘cuota’ (toll highway)… We bee-line for it paying the toll thinking it is sure to buy us a hasty escape with nobody on our tail!!!
Wild, fun, crazy, or what? It turns out we were clipped on the back end where someone (esposo!) had put a scar a couple of years ago that we were planning to get repaired this winter, so it could have been waaay worse.
Iimmersed in the ways and customs of life south of the border, a caravan (convoy) of ‘Quebecois’ R.V’s drive by… the super plush variety… big and expensive! So do they take time to wave and acknowledge a fellow Canadian??? Some do… mostly NOT!!! Wazzup people? Hellooooo! We are all Canadian last time we checked.
Cruising through the barren high deserts of central Mexico we are captivated by the mountains that appear from nowhere and rise dramatically before us… striking! Just wish it wasn’t so wet and grey. Thankfully, we were not caught out taking an exit ramp too fast, unlike the ‘doble semi remolque’ (tandem trailer) hanging precariously over sure death below and the driver looking down crossing himself with a prayer or 2 of thanks! In the next 6 months how many accidents will we see? Plenty for sure!
And yes the fun begins and to quote Oprah Winfrey: “Lessons often come dressed up as detours and road blocks”. We embrace life’s little detours and road blocks as we find often at those times real jewels in life are discovered! The anticipation of all things new, the cultural exchange, and wonderful adventures in store. Meeting many new people and just being open to share the groovy hippy love that Pumper oozes! Problem is, in Mexico driving a VW bus is like driving a Chrysler minivan in Canada or the US… nobody cares! The whole hippie persona and history doesn’t hit the radar.
Federalies (National Police ) and the military are high profile and possibly a tad intimidating as they brandish high power weapons and don black face masks as if prepared for war. We flip them all the peace sign, after all they are all sons and daughters of some proud Mexican Ma and Pa, just trying to survive, and in these parts, eat and create a happy life for one and all!!
Close of the day: as dusk closes in we find a one stop mechanico shack on the roadside just about as rough as it gets where Victor and his wife with their 6 young kids eke out an existence helping motorists in need. Good for an $8 oil change and lubrication of the front end, aaahhh Pumper is going to be feeling the love!! A few pesos for the two young sons who were right in there helping Papa bringing big grins to their faces, and we call it a day at the next Pemex gas station… one of the more luxurious, beggars can’t be choosers. We camp down for the night all cosy and full of anticipation at the thrill of getting to the artist community of San Miguel Del Allende in the morning: a quaint cobblestone historical town in the mountains. Now we’re talking! With the next few day’s visits planned to some of the oldest and most beautiful towns and villages in Mexico high in the Sierras’.
Butane stove is on for egg and coffee as Steve gives Pumper her much needed tune up after slogging it up and over 3000 metre mountains. Not much we can do for the scars but move on knowing how much worse it could have been in ‘many’ respects!! I am relieved not to be sitting in a jail in Monterrey pleading innocence!!!
Reflecting as we venture into the depths of Mexico where US and Canadian governments warn us not to go, like sanctioned terrorism committed by our elected for less than honourable motives. Don’t they stop to think how these messages play back to the vast majority of Mexicans that are trustworthy, loving and family oriented, struggling to survive on an economy that depends heavily on tourism? In contrast to the high profile destinations of coastal Mexico where the locals have grown to accept and attract our presence with exuberance and warm greetings, in the remote towns we are struck by the suspicion toward the few outsiders in their presence, “… who are these gringo’s and what do they want with us?” We just hope and trust that our greetings, well wishes, and interest in their history and customs improves their view of strangers from the North. Judging by the beautiful rose positioned carefully on the bus as we slept one night, we think they approve. Don’t believe all the propaganda folks you may miss precious life experiences. This rant could go on but we’ll save some for later.
We are connected to everything and everyone in the universe…
“I am because we are.”
– Tenet of the South African philosophy, Ubuntu.
Peace and love… from not so scary Mexico.
There is not much that gets us in the groove at 5 a.m. but the 25th annual Pasco County Bug Jam in Dade City Florida had us revved up in high gear… and it didn’t disappoint!! These guys know how to put on a Show!!
650 plus VW’s and many more groovy souls feeling the love, the atmosphere was electric! You could feel the love pulsating in your veins!!! You had to be caught up in the joy of all things and people VW!! The sticker on Pumper says it… “ VW. Not just a marque, it’s a family” “VW no solo una marque es una familia”.
Meeting new and old, it was one big happy family, eager to share the love, swap notes and parts, and immerse in one super massive awesome, crazy entertaining VW fest ever. Old time, long-time friends from Pensacola . Yehhh!! Thanks Wild Bill and Linda for suggesting we take a detour to Dade City!!
We even met ‘Dreamers’ that have followed the blog for years that we had never met in person. Darn great treat that was! Randy… go get that bus and hit the road!
Elvis thrusting his hips and serenading the crowds, sky divers, hoola-hooping, and tattoo contest … not a minute to spare!! It takes time to digest 650 super examples of every VW imaginable. Had a list of 6 that we could have purchased on the spot!! Now that took discipline!!
( Nope, Steve did not win the tattoo contest.. But he sure looked Mighty Hunkish front stage all things exposed!!!)
Special note about Christopher Kuster www.paintbyteeth.com an amazing artist / car enthusiast who produces cartoon images of vehicles while holding the paint brushes in his teeth since suffering a swimming accident that left him quadriplegic… Now that was the tattoo we wanted! Think we will be asking him to paint our baby for us, time we had a sticker with Pumper on it.
Must mention Christine and Doug with their beautifully painted 69 Bus. Two old hippies that could teach the world a thing or two about values and what it’s all about! You just have to adore the soul of some people that know exactly what is important in life. We are so thankful again for the reminder of how treasured life is!
So many more people we could mention … This is what life on the road is all about!!
Capping off the day was the interview with the local press!!! Pumper is famous in these parts it seems!! http://tbo.com/Local/CommunityNews/beetle-lovers-swarm-to-pasco-bug-jam-20131110/
To Carol and all her team that busted their butts to put on the most spectacular show… We love y’all !!!
Our sojourn down the east coast beaches paid off with some nice beach days soaking up the sun and ending in quick visits with great friends from Ontario, Lorraine and Art in Melbourne FL, and fellow travelers Antonio and Jessica and the twins, in Kissimmee that we first met in Mexico, then in Vegas and India.
Making a dash across the country to Texas and the Mexican border getting honks and hollers all the way… the VW culture is alive and well in the U.S.A.!!! We feel bad about just whisking through Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas without dropping in to see the many friends we have made on earlier trips but these bloody ‘cold fronts’ from the North do not sit well with us sleeping in Pumper… Could use a little global warming about now. Correction… the sleeping is fine but seeing your breath as you scramble to get dressed in the morning is not our idea of fun! But hey, loving the price of gas down here at 80 cents a litre… Rocking and rolling!!
Hitting Texas we get a fb message from Jason Rehm of www.bodeswell.org fame. Jason, Angela and Bodie we first met 4 years ago in Mexico when we had started our odyssey in an SUV and trailer, they had just started their journey in a 71 Bus. Now that was the way to do this road trip… they inspired us… we turned right around, went back to Canada, sold the trailer, and bought Pumper, the rest is history. So the fb message said something like ‘we are in Galveston, where are you?’ 2 hours later we were sitting around exchanging notes about the last 4 years.
November 14. The 4th anniversary of Living The dream. Just reminds us again how small this world is and how closely connected we all are.
“Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted!” John Lennon.
Mexico here we come for some serious ‘Time Wasting’.
Peace and love … just a ‘few degrees of separation’ from you!
Depending on the day, we are thinking, or dare we say “planning” to further explore South America, Mexico, or sailing the Bahamas. Then we drift into some small eclectic town and meet a variety of cool interesting people whose journeys have been shaped by life’s changing events… and our thinking changes again! This is the blessing of our chosen existence on the road… as strange and foreign as it might seem… We find daily a connection to other souls who relate on some level.
“The mind is everything. What you think you become.” …Buddha
Inspiration can be found in the most un-expected places! Our eyes are opened and our thoughts challenged by what we feel are divine interventions!! …and believe us, there are days we really need “intervention”!
Folly Beach, South Carolina, is one of those places that has a freak gravitational pull… its own special kind of karma where folks you feel super blessed to run in to, seem to turn up at every corner… 5 days later still rolling with the karma and soaking up life in this beach town on ‘The Edge Of America’… Almost feel like part of the fabric. Great beach walks and lolling around topping up our tans and attempting to steal internet access which to say the least is sparse.
At ‘Bert’s’ the one stop village shop (‘… we may doze but we never close.”), we put our money in the karma jar for gratis coffee… all day! Like please, can you believe that??? We are immersed in the sub-culture of the place… Some people just make your head spin: they shouldn’t be that intelligent or freaky or psychotic or whatever… but it sure is entertainment… philosophers, historians, prognosticators, artists, schemers, and dreamers, that all express their well-founded views on life or anything else that happens to come up in conversation around the picnic bench. And then there is Hank and Pam who have had more than their fair dose of challenges, yet it’s an incredible gift to just sit, listen and absorb… and learn from salt of the earth genuine people!!!
On the road again: Lost and loving it ….That groovy feeling! Winding our way down the US East Coast, staying ahead of the cold weather migration and dropping into numerous small town US coastal haunts, finding places dotted along the coast, on sand spits connected by ferries and just a hurricane away from oblivion, we reflect on our time at home in Canada this summer. Our kids who leave us welled up with pride and joy. Great to see them both just such amazing human beings… The spectacular miracle of our sister-in-law recovering well from a lung transplant… Our good friend David in the battle of all battles. Now if all that doesn’t put life in perspective…
The flip side to life’s challenges’ and adversities is the superb thrill it can be, the immense opportunity to explore places and things, and meet people. Living in Pumper, what amounts to a tin can calling card, a magnet for people,… one does a lot of learning and exploring!! Life can change in an instant!! The good, the Bad and the Ugly… But it’s truly what you make of each and every opportunity. Even the ugly suckers!
Bang, bang, bang !! .. And that would be a very un-friendly sounding South Carolina State Trooper announcing himself at 2 a.m.! Not quite sure if he was trying to put a dent in the side of the bus or just give us a good scare. Steve in his best proper British accent asks him to produce some I.D. before opening a door, ( not sure that won us any brownie points!). The rather abrupt officer promptly asks Steve to produce his I.D. and informs us that there is no camping at our beloved Folly Beach. What? We thought this was OUR beach!
With pajamas on thank goodness, we have watched too many police shows to be stupid enough to sleep Au Natural and dragged from the vehicle by some overzealous cop at 2 a.m. naked as whatever!!! After a prolonged wait the officer returns from his car presumably ascertaining we are not felons or pedophiles or worse. But seriously… no letting up, we are given our marching orders! Never mind our coffee date at Bert’s in the morning… This fella obviously has no conscious awareness of how karma works. The charm and obvious delight of Pumper was for sure totally lost on this guy but we were thankful for a warning and not a ticket for goodness knows how much!
First ‘no-go’ for boat ramp parking, such a shame as it was rather the most delightful place to call home for a few days!
We rarely pay for overnight parking and we seem to have all the angles down of potential ‘Stealth Parking’ locations. In 4 years this has only happened twice before: once it was met with great humor and interest when to the police officers surprise a couple of old farts appear from the bus rather than a couple of young joint smoking hippies. The other with the most kind and obliging officer who promptly told us that as much as he regretted moving us along, keeping the Ohh so powerful local councilor happy whose home happened to overlook the area we were parked, there would be no problem just moving two blocks to the nice ‘Environment’ boat launch on the waterfront!
Always love a win / win: all happy and we can all sleep well… But guess they have to keep the bloody riff raff out of town!!
“We must let go of the life that we have planned so as to accept the one that is waiting for us!!”
Peace and love … living on the Edge.