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!