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.
Over time a dog owner gets to look and behave like their loveable pooch. They take on the character and often the hairdo. Well, do you think that applies to VW owners also? Almost daily we are approached by complete strangers, in a supermarket, library, restaurant, or just walking down the street… “Do you guys own that VW parked over there?” At first we would get a little alarmed by this but now we know our famous icebreaker ‘Pumper’ has stimulated someone else’s curiosity and greased their imagination, often recalling some youthful memory of ‘back in the day…’!!!
It’s a treat to see the expressions and hear the excitement as we get into a full blown discussion with these once strangers and now close friends. And when they realize the ground we have covered in the last 4 years they are in awe, and inspired to hit the road. Almost always they have a few shots of Pumper on their phone and eagerly show us as if we have never seen her before!
This is a large part of the fun for us… To stir the imagination of others and bring a smile to faces… This inspires us also. If we could all do that on a daily basis with just one other person… ‘Just Imagine’. That would be about 6 billion happy events each day… The world would have to be a better, friendlier and more peaceful place for everyone.
The Maine coastline has been a treat to our senses with countless small coves and fishing villages, all the free camping you could ever want with million $ views of ocean-scape’s that leave one tingling with joy!! The people in these parts are so incredibly warm and welcoming…: ‘Come park on my drive…’ ‘Come see my cottage…’ ‘Let me interview you for a book I’m writing on the hippie era…’ ‘Come aboard this brand new $3 million sailboat we just finished building…’, all random and unforgettable meetings as we wander our way north east toward the Canadian Maritime’s on our quick road trip before we head south for warmer weather.
We’ll just tease you with a few wonderful images of the East Coast, fog and all.
Question is… Does Pumper look more like us, or do we look more like Pumper? Probably a bit of both, but that’s fine. We are very happy to look more ‘Hippie’ just wish we weren’t offered drugs quite as often… just the thought of rolling up to the Mexican border carrying a stash!! Early in our travels we used to hold our breath at border checkpoints in case there might be some residual ‘stuff’ stashed ‘back in the day’ that a well-trained drug sniffing dog might find. We breathe easy now, content with our vegetarian and alcohol free diet along with strong preferences to non- GMO along with gluten / dairy free days. Odd? Not the way we see it and with the robust variety of free thinking people we meet we seem to just fit right in!!
Call us crazy: taking flight in a ‘Tin Can’.. A pretty red and white one at that. We of course adore Pumper: Our home for over 3 years. And yes is it the most incredible rush and vibe to look at her and know that, well … this is our life, as simple as that! No running water, electricity, flushing toilet (hang on its starting to sound rather third world’ish, even to us!) And yes.. No shower!! no cable, T.V. or cell phone… Just don’t take our computers away!! Everything we own and need to exist and live life, refreshing to feel so free, so unburdened by life’s trappings!
‘All who wander are not lost’. We are having too much fun and meeting too many beautiful people to have our wanderings cut short. So we continue to trek on. To explore and live each day to the fullest with no expectations but with every effort to leave a positive footprint in the heart and souls of all we meet, and a loving hug to the universe with a healthy dose of kindness to the planet.
Off to explore more fishing villages, walk the beach, poke around in rock pools and soak up that east coast charm… So this is retirement, we’re loving it!
Lobster? Pass thank you!! Does that come in Tofu?
Moose? Would love to snag a picture of one of those beauties as long as it does not choose to do battle with Pumper!!
“Wilde Beast” Think I snagged me one of those already looking at the sight of Steve’s new beard!!! HELP!
Peace and Love… inspiring travellers.
A deal was going down! We were half expecting a police officer to suddenly appear to take us to the lock up. Sitting in the arranged place… a secluded lot near the market, as this alternative kinda guy 50 something in a faded tee shirt and weathered leather jacket approached Pumper looking around suspiciously as he slinked across the road, taking in the area and the people in it, not disguising very well the muted smile on his face…
“Yeah sure” he replies. “Do you have the money”.
“Yeah, was it 75 or 80”.
With that he slips the camera lens from inside the leather jacket and hands it over.
“What were you doing buying a camera lens online at 4.00 a.m.”? said our new friend Daniel.
“We had a fire alarm last night and had to evacuate the apartment building. Couldn’t get back to sleep. Decided to shop online.”
Scored a new lens and made a new friend at the same time.
Just 2 weeks earlier we were parked in a spot nearby in the ByWard Market in Ottawa in the annual classics car show with thousands of locals and visitors to Canada’s capital milling around taking in the multi-marque beauties on show. Lots of happy people enjoying Pumper with many recalling their own experiences in or with a bus ‘back in the day’! ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlgfCJilCZg )
No shortage of things to do and events to attend in Ottawa in the summer.
Problem is summer in Ottawa is clearly not long enough to reasonably fit everything in. There are so many conflicting events that you have to make a choice. No brainer was the annual Bus Fusion (http://busfusion.com/ ) with over 100 buses for a 4 day campout in spite of the rain which was enough to keep us fair weather campers away for all but a day.
Another no brainer was the annual Ferrari Festival in the popular district of Ottawa known as ‘Little Italy’. Everything Italian and Ferrari here! But we didn’t get to take one home… posing with another Old Italian beauty was the best alternative!
It’s the weekend – another decision: Now let’s see, is it the Dragon Boat Races, the Yoga Festival, the Fringe Theatre Festival, The Jazz Festival, or the Summer Solstice International Aboriginal Arts Festival, and probably more festivals we didn’t even know.
Taking to our bikes, the easiest way to navigate the city and avoid the extortionate parking fees, we head for the Pow Wow that attracts aboriginal people from across North America. Little did we know!!!
We have travelled through over 40 countries in the last 4 years; we’ve lost count, and searched out cultural events to help us experience those countries and their heritage.
Who would have thought, right on our doorstep… The Pow Wow takes some beating. Dancing, singing and drumming are all central parts of the North American indigenous culture and to hear the pounding of the drums with the shrill and curdling vocals while the ‘First Nations’ peoples of all ages dance, moved our hearts, stirred us to the stomach, and made our eyes well up.
A delight for our senses, the sounds and vibrations, the vibrancy of the traditional garments all hand and home-made… no stores carry these outfits, and the passion energy and vigour put into the dancing singing and drumming.
Shame society today doesn’t embrace and celebrate the traditions and original peoples of this great continent.
Such a warm family event with respect for the elders that modern day cultures can’t imagine. The MC’s continuously relating the traditions, music and dance to ‘good’, and the ‘respect’ for ‘Mother Earth’, for each other, mankind, and the animals and plants, all in harmony with thanks to the creator.
For us a spiritually moving event… Look for a Pow Wow in your area and treat your senses and soul.
We have much to learn from generations past in all cultures, before society implodes upon itself under man-made stresses.
Talking of the ‘Un-real’ world: Since we arrived back in Canada time has flown by. We have decorated and furnished our apartment in the city, and quickly realized that although it’s been terrific to see friends and family we are missing our life in pumper on the road. In our travels we are so often asked how we will ever settle in one place. We always say “… we don’t know…” Back in Canada one thing is for sure… we really don’t know!!!
You know our motto: ‘our plan is to have no plan’! Well, mostly that’s the way we live. But some things have to be schemed, so already we have our sights set on the road this fall before the snow flies in The Great White North.
Born to be wild… and perhaps a bit crazy! Maybe coming to a stealth camp site near you!
Peace and love… in NA aboriginal style!
With Wendi back in the welcoming arms of Josh and Simone back in Canada and getting much needed healthcare and restful sleep on a real bed, the drive from Athens to the United Kingdom was not going to be a whole bunch of joy! Still suffering from the bronchitis that had now decided to completely eradicate the voice, it was sure going to be fun… not!
With great anticipation the container was opened and there she was shining back at me brightening my world. Batteries re-connected … a few visual checks in the engine compartment… this was the moment of truth… a turn of the ignition key… our trusty and faithful Pumper sprang into life and within a few minutes of warming up was purring. Laying heavy on the mind; the intent was to drive to the UK to sell her before returning to Canada. Depression began to set in to add to my health woes.
Well it seemed like a good idea: the old Veedub buses sell at a premium in the UK and we would save the $2000 to ship her back. Maybe it would be fun shopping for another in NA and fixing it up! Hmmm! We already had a couple of prospective buyers awaiting our return and it looked like the import and transfer of ownership would be a breeze.
You can’t trust the weather in Europe in April…it was bloody cold and Pumpers heating just wasn’t up to the challenge of keeping me warm from Athens to the UK. With good old Canadian thermal underwear that fortunately Wendi had persuaded me to bring along and was buried in the bottom of the clothes bin, gloves, my Nepalese hat and a hoody, and sucking throat candies all the way, I shivered the journey in 7 days including a stopover day on the coast of Northern Italy with Wendi’s bro. Man do we have it good in North America… the highway tolls paid to Italy and France were extortionate… surely we now own part of those countries and the Alps on the border where I almost needed a mortgage to get through the tunnels.
On Route: Attending the Men’s XXXL convention where BFP’s (Body Fat Percentage’s) are not on any sort of scale recognizable to attendees at this plush conference. Trays of food leave the buffet with aspirations for the Guinness Book of World Records for the height one can pile spaghetti, french fries, or any other culinary fare being served on the day. The occasional salad is seen but it doesn’t fool you, it always accompanies one of the mega meals. Second servings and or dessert? – Mandatory unless someone really doesn’t have a sweet tooth; they attract a scornful look from their associates.
To make everyone feel at home the waiters and servers at the buffet would quite easily qualify for this convention, they apparently like their own cooking. It would be a toss-up as to which of the two groups would win in lbs. /Capita.
But wait… I’m not at a fancy Convention Centre in Vegas or London or Prague, or other Go-To city in the world. I’m on a boat! The ferry from Greece to Italy and these XXXL delegates are all Truck Drivers living it up at the finest 5th Wheel Truck Stop anywhere. More like a 5 star cruise, the truckers must really love this stop-over, and it’s like a social gathering, seeing their buddies weekly all protecting this plum route. Not bad, drive to the port and enjoy the next 26 hours cruising the Aegean Sea. Greek, Italian, and French groups I can detect, but I might as well be in Babylon with all the languages that I hear. Even the PA system makes announcements in 5 languages.
But the weight excess is more than slight, Knowing I will be jumping into Pumper in a couple of hours and driving the same roads as these professionals, it isn’t comforting to reflect that most drivers behind the wheel of these monster trucks and tandem trailers are high potential heart attacks waiting to happen, cholesterol coating their arteries waiting to trigger the time bomb. I’ll be extra aware!
But, the 26 hour ferry ride every week or 2? Life ain’t all bad for these guys. During the tourism high season they get plenty of competition for the amenities, (which includes a swimming pool and poolside bar), from the throngs of Europeans that use these ferries to shave 5 days and half a dozen EEC border entries and exits en route driving to Greece. But in April tourists are few and well outnumbered by the juggernauts… the trucks… and their drivers!
Driving toward Bologna in Italy the polizia car pulled in front and hung a stop sign from the window! Only 10 minutes earlier I had reflected on only being stopped by police once throughout Europe and even that was an excuse for the young French Gendarme to study the bus.
Obeying the sign following the police car into the motorway service area; K, here we go! In pretty good English, “Can I see your license and vehicle documents.”
“Would you like my International license also officer?”
“Yes and insurance and passport.”
He spread the documents across a table in his trunk and began to study them while his partner looked around the bus for anything that could be construed as illegal.
“Why do you have a UK passport if you live in Canada?” … explanation…
“How can you have a vehicle registered in the US if you are a resident of Canada.” … “No officer, Ontario is in Canada.”
“Where is the expiry date for your registration?” … “On the reverse of the document.”
For 20 minutes these diligent cops grill to try and figure out the story. From Canada? How did you get the bus to Europe? Where have you been? Are you English or Canadian? Where are you going? Etc. etc.
The documents are returned “everything in order” I enquire. “Si, tutto è buono”.
“Un momento.” “Can I take a picture of your bus…!” … “Of course you may.”
Circling the bus snapping images galore… then asks if his partner can take one of the 2 of us.
“Love to.” “Can you take one with my camera please?”
Suddenly this went from a very serious road check to an all-out ‘love in’.
10 minutes further on the highway, there they were again checking out a truck on the shoulder but on seeing Pumper approaching they wave vigorously as we fly by flipping the peace sign.
Just South of Paris, warming with a hot chocolate in a service area, we dodge a bullet! Someone tries to break into Pumper destroying the door handle in the process! Fortunately they were unsuccessful or frightened off but it could have been worse. A broken window at those temperatures would have done me in!
With the bus all but sold to an amazing couple of Veedub fanatics 30 minutes north of London, Wendi and I had an emotional skype call… ‘What were we thinking… sell Pumper? … are we out of our minds?’ ‘The memories of the last 40+ months and the 30+ countries we have driven, are worth way more than any premium we would get in the UK market. Seller’s remorse! It was such a hard thing to let the buyers down, but you know… ‘VW is not just a marque, it’s a family.’ I know they forgive us.
Pumper is somewhere on the Atlantic headed for NA, as re-united we work to establish a base in Ottawa… thinking already about an East Coast of Canada road trip later in the summer.
Peace and love… and travel on our minds!
What a time to get sick as a dog… two days before our sojourn to Northern India and Nepal a flu bug laid me up like never before. It is just a matter of time before the virus is shared on the family plan. What to do… cancel the journey? Hang tough? We’d been waiting so long to make this trip; it was something we had to do. Off we trek to ‘carry-on’.
We’ve not had a good winter on the health front. Countless bouts of food poisoning, doctors, hospitals, took the shine off and affected all the great things we hoped: visiting an Ashram, yoga, volunteering. This last bout of sickness just about capped it all off.
We originally planned a full schedule around Northern India and Nepal. Invariably when we plan it goes up in smoke. Paring back our travel to Delhi, Varanasi, Kathmandu, Mumbai, we already felt cheated out of experiences we had dreamed of. The way we were both feeling after a few days… we didn’t give a damn. Before we even reached Varanasi the flu bug had us both laid up and wishing we were just in a comfortable hotel with medications and tissues at hand.
Staggering around, to not miss the chance of a lifetime experiencing Varanasi and the colourful and memorable ceremonies and rituals of the Ganges… Varanasi is the complete spectrum… Hindu rituals at full throttle. Sharma’s usually with little or no clothing, doing very strange things with their penises, blessing anyone and posing for the cameras for a few Rupee’s. We’re not convinced by most of these characters sitting around smoking hashish in the nude. Seemed like an excuse to get high, cavort and be exhibitionists.
Walking along the Ghats that smell more like a male urinal in a baseball park, there are the funeral pyres with human remains going up in flame, with funeral attendants who sell the mourners the precise amount of wood to ensure their deceased loved ones are completely incinerated, then shovelling the ashes into the Ganges. The same river that, Indians by the thousand, and the occasional visitor for ‘the full experience’, enter to wash away the bad things in their life. Is it possible they’re getting more ‘bad things’ from the water than they are washing away? We’ll pass on that thanks very much!
The narrow streets of Varanasi laden with garbage and smeared with cow shit, fighting both humans and bovines for space, vigorously solicited to buy anything and everything you can imagine. The integration of life with cattle is most bizarre, as people go out of their way to touch the buttock or tail of the beast for a blessing. Safe bet that absolutely anything you touch in this environment will most likely have some trace of bovine faecal matter on it.
But there’s a business to be had… the ladies that spend their days scooping up the shit with their hands, forming it into patties , drying it in the sun, and then selling the dried patties as fuel for the street food vendors, and the more basic restaurants. Don’t touch that hand rail; it was used by one of the shit scoopers on the way back from rinsing her hands in the Ganges!!! Not a nice picture. Germ phobic? If we weren’t before we probably are now!
We had intended to use Kathmandu as a base for excursions to other more remote parts of Nepal and to see the mighty Himalaya’s. Imagine our disappointment spending most of our time in the guest house nursing what had now become for both of us full-on bronchitis. Pity the poor buggers in the next room listening to us cough all day and night! Chance to visit a hospital in another country, where it was fortunately confirmed we did not have Pneumonia.
Kathmandu, a little like Northern India but with far less garbage, cows, and cow shit to compete with. We found the Nepalese to be more relaxed and easy going, less aggressive, and more welcoming. The fundamentally Buddhist environment has been strangely integrated with Hindu which gets a bit confusing in a temple where a Buddha statue sits next to one of the myriad of iconic Hindu statues. But it works… ‘Om mani padme hum’… there is a very spiritual feel to the Buddhist temples with the worshipers and monks, who are definitely not exhibitionists. Nepal is a place to which we would return.
Bundling ourselves to Mumbai to cough for another couple of days, and prepare for our trip back to Athens to be re-united with Pumper. We conclude after such a bad winter for health that we should take a break if not discontinue this hard core travel. Wendi’s auto-immune illness and some of the symptoms together with a few new twists suggest we need to resume a more ‘normal’ lifestyle. The logistics to make this happen are complicated and would make this posting far too long, but given the circumstances Wendi returned immediately to Canada, and I to Athens to begin unravelling 3 ½ years of life in Pumper.
Is it the end of ‘Living The Dream’? We don’t believe so. The proverb says, ‘Every end is a new beginning’.
Peace and love… and new directions!
Time to venture out of Goa to see more of India… Beep beep: And to test our resolve all road signs are in Hindi in these parts!! Say what? With little in the way of a map, we resort to identifying towns on signposts in Hindi and based on the approximate distance we are from that town, looking for the town that has ‘…the double squiggle and dot above the line and a horseshoe shaped thing at the end’!!! That’s fine until we run across an abbreviated sign or, the name of the towns change based on the local language!!! Grrr, this gets confusing. We revert to looking for the sun to get our direction seems like the only navigation option available.
So ‘why don’t you ask someone the direction?’ you say… LOL. If you can get someone who understands your question the chances are they guess at the right answer just to not disappoint you. Should anyone inform you that you go …’straight’!. You may as well consider yourself lost. There is no such thing as ‘straight’ on the road systems of India, and you can guarantee within a very short distance you have encountered another split in the road where you again scratch your head and… look to the sun. Just as well the sun shines all the time otherwise we would be in deep doo-doo. Goa’s neighbouring states of Maharashtra and Karnataka are a different world. We are a great novelty in the countryside and small villages… getting plenty of smiles, weird looks and friendly greetings… fills the spirit with JOY!!
Undaunted by navigation challenges and road conditions, we make an 8 hour drive in a rental car to Hampi to see the expansive Hindu temple remains that are sprawled across the unique rocky terrain. Roads in India have a nasty habit of going from basic to non-existent!!….. We are not sure if the Hampi road was the worst we have ever driven but it is high on the list. It was as if only half the budget was available so they paved the road intermittently! We were changing from smooth highway to bumpy, potholed, dirt track every kilometer or so.
We had no time to lose, racing the train to reach Hampi first to have the best pick of sparse accommodation before the sensible tourists that took the train arrived and snapped them up. It’s not like there is a lot of choice and the hotel rating system stops at about 1½ Stars. We were fortunate and snagged a room that did not have cockroaches, at least that we saw, and had a fan that effectively kept the mosquitoes moving, having had no trouble bypassing the broken window screens.
With a planned 3 night stopover our plans get swiftly scuttled, yet again the dreaded effects of wonderful Indian cooking and sub-standard hygiene lay us both up. Seems like all anyone talks about is food poisoning and stomach problems with visits to the hospital for re-hydration, followed by “De-Worming” … no it isn’t just dogs that need to be de-wormed! “Humans should de-worm every 3-6 months…” said the doctor. It just gets more and more nasty doesn’t it? So both suffering the after effects, we are off to chill-out with a ‘Master Reiki Healer’.. We will see what wisdom and healing we get!! Positive vibes all round as we “tap” our thymus gland and get into full “Reiki” groove!
Worms / Puke / Diarrhea.. how delightful, does that make for the most divine dinner conversation or what???
Having not subjected ourselves to enough stress and grief we head off on another road trip to experience the real India, the smells and delights, colors that permeate every fiber of your being… India Full On!!!
Stopping for a mini roadside break we happen upon a tent village. Basically it is a bunch of corrugated metal sheets and tarpaulins that provide shelter to people that have zip to their name… except a gazillion children!
Crayons and markers in hand, thinking it would be really neat to give the kids a treat, we are swarmed… clawed… mauled, suddenly face to face with complete desperation, thinking… “Stupid Gringo Tourists we are”, feeling a greater need for the kids’ education than the fact that they probably don’t remember the last time their stomachs were full!! We helped… by heading for a supply store for a mega bag of rice and taking it to the tent village… awesome!! You can‘t imagine the joy to see those mothers faces!! They would hardly let go of your hand as they blessed us. Perhaps that sack might see them through their desperation for a few days.
Once again the roads challenge us. It is hard work getting launched from one pothole to another as we inhale dust and grime and avoid obstacles… like hey it’s a good day when you only have a “FEW’ near misses!! Side mirrors hitting as cars and bikes pass is counted as a near miss! Otherwise the stats would be off the chart.
We climb into the mountains of the interior on the scooter and find a real pleasure in the relative coolness of the air as the temperature on the coast is now daily at 37 deg. C. Monkeys and brightly colored birds and butterflies everywhere , warnings of Landslides and mega worrying drop offs of thousands of feet. Yikes! The brief relief of the mountain air is short lived as we once again bounce our way down the mountain roads getting hotter and more tired by the minute.
If we are not suckers enough for this grueling travel routine we head off on mini road trip number three… South Goa and the delights of the much raved about Palolem and neighbouring beaches. Another 2 ½ hour slog in the crippling heat that hits full force on a motorcycle, with dust and grime in every crevice imaginable and un-imaginable. If the travel isn’t bad enough the conditions of the accommodation in these off the beaten track places leaves much to be desired. What is wrong with us? Are we insane? Do we really want to sleep on a mattress built like a board?
Palolem is all about “beach hut living” but our days of communal bathrooms are soo way gone and we opt for a 2 min walk from the beach for solid concrete walls, private bathroom, rock hard mattress… for the stupid price of $12. And most critical in all of that… CLEAN!!! But you can’t have it all at those prices… supply your own toilet paper and soap. But advice to any traveler of this great country: never be without toilet paper and hand sanitizer if you want to survive!! Public washroom etiquette: there is never any toilet paper, rarely running water, soap or towel out of the question!! So when you are chowing down on your next meal, think long and hard about the questionable hygiene of … well almost anybody! Wash and scrub away… germaphobic?.. hell YES!!,
All this as we contemplate heading to northern India and Nepal to wrap up our 5 months on this continent… Really we do question our sanity!
On a perkier note it’s been 4 + months and only one cockroach sighting… northern India will surely balance out the numbers but for now that along with only one snake sighting… And not even a handful of mosquito bites… Better on that count than we would expect in Canada! Just 1 police stop on our bike… no bribe just a great tip on a really stunning secluded beach and a ‘take care and drive safe’.
Not to mislead you there is lots of corruption… it is rampant, even on the beach where the police who “pay into” the force pocket money on every bust of the Hawkers who are hard at work slogging up and down the beach working to feed their families… while providing a great service to tourists. So yup if you have $4,000 – To $10,000 handy, you can buy yourself into the police force from a recruit to an officer, and the right to pocket every bribe or back hander you can get your hands on!
While we are talking money grabs, OMG: The ‘Happy Clappers’ are men wearing makeup and dressed as women in Sari’s that visit all the local businesses and ask for payments at the threat of placing a curse on the business and its proprietor. Theoretically they are Eunuch’s but that’s questionable! They clap on the way in to identify themselves. But here is the thing: all the businesses pay them so they can be blessed!!! Sounds a lot like protection money! But superstitions are deeply entrenched and nobody wants to rock the boat.
That’s India, … just the way things work.
Peace and love… and Clap Clap Clap … Bless you!
Beep beep… beep beep…. Coming through!!! Beep beep.. and we are all coming through!! Signs on the back of trucks and buses welcome you to “HONK” and everyone does!!! Horn use mandatory! Mayhem… motocycles and scooters in waves, trucks billowing black exhaust, Tuk-tuk’s cutting in and out, and pulling U turns. Oohhh for silence but with 1 ¼ Billion people, you don’t come to India for that!! But it all seems to work.. all the chaos, you very quickly learn to blend with their kinda thinking: No rules apply!! Drive wherever you want. either side of the road and may the best man win.. and never mind the cows or pedestrians or any other obstacle… all adds to the fun of it! The death toll on the roads here is frightening.. oh well such is life as we set off with the wind in our hair and the sun baking our golden skin.. it aint’ all bad and no worries about the dreaded “Black Ice”!
2 months in India and back to vibrant “Third World Living”… a long way from Europe. Ferry rides that make you shudder packed solid with people and bike’s, nightly power cuts, daily battle finding and working with internet service that sucks!! (Do they really provide technology support to the Western world?). Non existent etiquette of forming lines in stores or anywhere else a queue might be appropriate. Space is a premium in India, one gets used to competing / fighting for every square centimetre. Frustrations abound!!
Bugs and critters.. pigs and monkeys are fine… not so much cockroaches on steroids (our bags could be packed PDQ if they even think of crossing paths with me); The not so little rat-like things called Bandicoots, that are about as big as a small cat!!. We hear them screeching at night… I inspect the cracks under the doors and pray they do not like to squeeze through small places; The ongoing battle with ants that suddenly appear in a dense procession across the counter top at the slightest presence of something to devour; snakes and spiders… let’s not go there! The killer spray is on hand for all!!
We have been introduced to the concept of the ‘Traditional Indian lawn Mower’ .. delicate little Indian women dressed in colorful sari’s sitting on the lawns hand picking each individual blade of grass, sipping from the garden hose to keep cool in the blistering sun… and what do they gat paid.. maybe less than a $1 a day!! Our condo complex security guard lives on the job. Painting his manicured nails while working back to back to back 24 hour shifts, rarely getting relief. We keep him well fed with cookies and coke and other goodies and exchange English and Hindi language lessons. Not sure it improves the security but maybe he’ll put on a little weight! Dust and dirt is everywhere… but the sari clad ladies with their one-handed feather brush sweeping technique at least keep the dust piles moving… even if it is never picked up!
But what is life if not an adventure.. filled with suspense, thrills, magic, misery!! Take the good with the bad: Days that suck and you want to scream and run for home.. (Oh yeah right… we have no home!!); and days that indulge our senses.
Looking at the big picture we have been spoilt to have the most awesome 3+ years… a gift of one incredible breath-taking moment after another. The most wonderous meetings and treasured friendships… our hearts “Bursteth” with JOY!! … (Most of the time!!!)
“Auntie! Uncle!”… a customary term of respect from younger Indian nationals… we enjoy so much the greetings on our daily beach walks. 2 young men bounce up to us, hand in hand (of course) in their ragged old underwear substituting for swim wear, Just loving life with hearts so massive and soo full of joy, not a penny to their name.. we have so much we can learn from these people! We love these encounters… “Hello Auntie and Uncle, where from?” “Canada” we inform, well that just about does it, we are Stratospheric.. if you are not British or Russian you are ‘something else’!! The read is they are not at all crazy about Russians, who’s government have some sweetheart deal that enable them to flock here… even menus in restaurants are in Russian! There are the Russian beaches and shacks, and lets just say the Russian blend with the Brits is not so HOT… Humans never seem to find the easy path to embracing differences!!
Beaches known to be ‘National’s Beaches’ are soo much fun to walk: literally thousand’s of nationals standing around in and out of the water, grown ups jumping in the shallow waves like children, wide-eyed and screaming as they enter the surf fully clothed, camera’s trying to discreetly capture us strange-looking visitors in our swimwear, the occasional bold person that comes straight out and asks us to pose in their group picture… This opportunity is one of those “Pinch Yourself’ highlights where we all giggle.. We teach them to throw the Peace sign and a blast is had by all!! Then there are the Russian Page 3 “Thong Wearing” Model Types who throw themselves around in the water doing the most provocative “poses”.. OMG the Poor Indian guys can hardly contain themselves!!
Christmas and New Year have rolled around.. New Year on a Goan beach and place of hippie lore from way back… gotta do that one time in your life.. the joy of the Nationals who have such appreciation for things un-Indian, they play and jump with the innocence of children in total wonder at the magic of it all as we launch Chinese lanterns and fireworks over the Arabian Sea..! The most fun was wearing our santa hats riding the scooter around town for a few days.. the smiles and laughs and people who would ride up alongside wishing us a Merry Christmas… having mastered the art of sitting “Side-Saddle” on the back of the scooter in true local style, impressing even myself to death (now just learn to ride the bike!!!)
The grimace on Steve’s face was enough for me to clear out of the tattoo parlour PDQ and head for a café… He had signed up for a “Biggeee”! Art work had taken more than 2 weeks to perfect… This was it “The BIG One”!! ………….. A tribute to “Pumper” and our Odyssey plastered on his right shoulder in full blazing glory.. awesome!! Fortunately we caught the little spelling error on the license plate.. it almost read “HIRPIES’ instaed of “HIPPIES”.. now how cute would that have been!! Our artist Mokesh in Calangute ( www.goatattoocenter.com ) did us proud… we have art work for a follow-up, and another in Nepal with a Kathmandu artist… OMG, what are we like!! Our kids must shudder and shake their heads!!
We are in serious plan mode. As enjoyable as our visit to Goa has been with our many new friends, it is time to explore and adventure and “DO” India!! Northern India and all of its cultural delights and no doubt horrors… A must… zip across the border and spend time in Nepal… I can hardly believe it.. NEPAL!!!! One month trekking around India’s less travelled regions.. survival mode thinking kicks in… a quick prayer “please keep me out of all hospitals and I will be eternally grateful!!”
Meanwhile Pumper rests in a container in Athens, missing us as much as we miss her. Temperature in Athens was barely above freezing this week, makes us shiver. Pumper is probably quite pleased not to be fighting for every square centimetre of the road, dodging potholes, and sucking in India’s dust at 35 degrees centigrade. Spring is around the corner!
शांति और प्रेम… Peace and love, Hindi fashion…