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.