The Magic Bus

11 Dec

This was my first sight of the bus last year – that which was to be my home for the next couple of months or so.  We had been on the road, camping and living out of suitcases for about a month by this point so I was looking forward to a few home comforts…..

Understandably, I was a tad disheartened on arrival and, on looking inside, things didn’t get much better. Still, never let it be said that I can’t handle a bit of roughing  it, although those that know me will appreciate my need for a minimum of life’s little luxuries; running water, a loo, comfy bed – that sort of thing. Whilst the first two weren’t apparent, at least there was the prospect of a decent night’s sleep.

The bus (bought from one who had already fitted it out) had the makings of an excellent home and needed only some vigorous DIY and serious TLC. The fit-out wasn’t particularly to our taste  – a bit too caravan – but one thing at a time.  John set about getting the mysteriously broken windscreen replaced, treating the rust and clearing up rubbish from the site, while I busied about restoring order to the interior and generally making it homey. I found some lovely treasures hidden away in the cupboards – hand-made pottery and pictures etc – which I displayed/pinned up. We cut out the horrid blue nylon carpet, which was totally unclean-able and served only to trap sand brought in on our feet, painted the floor and bought rugs.

It came complete with a running engine, generator, inverter and gas geyser. Fantastic but the installation was puzzling, to say the least, and would take some unravelling, so therefore a long-term project. There was a gas fridge and freezer (neither working), gas oven/hob, microwave, an immersion heater cum calorifier and air conditioning. Power is from an extension lead from the nearby house, which is occupied by John’s tenants.

By the end of our stay last year, we’d made good progress and had decided we would ditch the air con, immersion heater/calorifier in the interests of simplicity, (this is Africa after all) and send the fridge off for re-gassing. The jury was still out on the freezer. John had the genny running, though just how it worked needed more figuring. All in all, we were pleased with our efforts so far.

Fast forward to the present…

A bus is not so different to a narrowboat, I’ve decided. OK, so it doesn’t float but it does sink into the sand- nose first, having the effect of tipping the bed, which is crossways at the back, sideways. Most odd to sleep on, making you feel like you could end up on the floor if you roll over too quickly. No. 1 job for John then was to level things up by jacking the bus under the axle and propping it with tree stumps, blocks of wood or whatever else was to hand. Turns out this is an ongoing job as the sand continues to shift.

Another urgent job was to hook up the hammock. Well, you have to get your priorities right, don’t you? And very good it is too – a favourite spot in the shade of a Rooikrants tree.

And, as I had carried a loo all the way from the UK, this was quickly installed too. It was donated by brother Phil and much appreciated. Thanks bro…it sure beats the alternative.

Water comes from a spring up in the mountain behind the bus. Previously we had trekked to fill 5 litre containers for the use of but now, thanks to  lengths of hosepipe that John has connected up and buried to keep the water cool, we now have water on tap. In the bus – over the kitchen sink. Marvellous. John drinks this but as I haven’t the third world immunity that he has, I am still thinking twice about the wisdom of this. We also have a series of outside taps; handy for watering the plants and a good idea when approaching fire season, as we are. Bush fires are very scary things.

There’s no stopping him now. We now have a sort of solar heating arrangement, made up of pipes that zig-zag overground. Ingenious but simple, as most good systems always are.

It feeds an outdoor shower (still a work in progress) that we have both tried and pronounced superb. It’s amazing how hot the water gets in just a short space of time but also cools quickly too when the sun has gone down so timing is of the essence.

We are keen to sort out the garden too – lots of ideas – and have made a start on that. There will be a marvellous braai (BBQ) area for starters, flowers, shrubs, herbs and salad plants. The fig tree at the old house is laden this year so look forward to a bit of scrumping before too long…

There is the odd distraction though, and not just the pub. A baby tortoise (they grow giant ones here too) how cute is that?

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