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I have to admit. After two weeks in Spain, I was hesitant to go back to Africa to go to Morocco. It was the middle of March and we were well into our 11 month of travel. A road weariness from bad weather and culture shock had set in. The indulgence of Western Europe with its Carrefours full of wine and cheap food that we recognized, wifi on public buses, and a language we had some hope of understanding, was too good to leave. Not to mentioned that in Spain, we blended in.

This last point was a major one in my book. From what I’d heard about Morocco, it was filled with seriously aggressive touts, the kind who see you coming from a mile away, run to meet you, and spend the next 20 minutes trying to get you to buy something with tactics ranging from veiled threats to badgering you into submission. My wherewithal for dealing with these characters was almost gone.

Why go then? Simple, it’s Morocco. It’s exotic. I’ve always wanted to go. We were so close. And besides, it would be warm, like summer warm. The promise of a week of sustained hot sun was very enticing.

In Morocco, the everyday is exotic.

In the end, we drove a car for two hours from Granada, Spain, took a taxi to a bus to a ferry to a bus, walked to a train station, and took two trains for four hours to Fes. The riad, a traditional Moroccan style home, we had booked for the next three nights offered a pick up service, which we gratefully took. Our riad, Dar Melody, was nestled into a maze deep in the old city, the medina, of Fes. We would have never found it if we hadn’t been led their by its owner.

One view from our room in the riad to the courtyard.

As you travel, people give you all kinds of advice. Sometimes we took this advice and sometimes we forgot the advice. (Sometimes it’s really best to forget.)

When we met an American woman from Boston in Amman, Jordan, we chatted casually with her at breakfast about the places we’ve been. (I guess I was only half paying attention. I was too busy suppressing envy over her fresh looking yellow sweater and corresponding cotton chiffon scarf with the subtle matching pattern. Oh to be able to wear fresh looking, well-coordinated outfits again!) In retrospect, I remembered her telling us about visiting Fes. She stayed in the new city. She recommended us visiting the old medina but certainly not without a guide. “You’ll get lost without a guide,” she told us.

This was a piece of advice we conveniently forgot until we were lost in the middle of the Fes medina. (Nellu wants tells me to make sure you know that he did not forget her advice. He purposely chose to ignore it because we don’t do guides.)

I tried to find a good aerial shot of the medina to give you a better idea of what we’re dealing with but I couldn’t find one that does it justice. Do you remember the movie “Labyrinth“? It was like that, crazy characters and all.

Here’s a picture Nellu took of the medina from the rooftop of our riad. You get some sense of the chaos but being above it is relatively calming compared to being in it.

Our hosts asked if we wanted a guide to get around the medina. “Nah,” we said. “We don’t need one,” while thinking, “Guides are for wimps.”

We thought highly of our hosts, a middle-aged French couple with a laissez-faire attitude, because neither blinked at the idea of sending us out into the medina with only a well-worn map and some general directions. (Of course the lavish, included-in-the-price-of-the-room breakfast with two different types of freshly squeezed juice medleys and an ample supply of fresh Moroccan-style breads and spreads also played a role in our growing affection.)

So off we went. Up and down, round and round.

The first time we went out into the mess, we got really lost. We spent much of the day trying to find one of the gates, which we didn’t. We did walk by a very cool mirror shop though…two or three times.

House of mirrors in the Fes medina.

The Fes medina maze  is a very complex, collection of chaotic pathways that weave up and down through narrow spaces between buildings. There are a few sign posts hung from these buildings, but not necessarily when you need them. We walked around in many circles trying to follow the signs.

The alleys are too thin and crooked for cars so traffic consists of a heavy mix of people, carts, donkeys, and scooters, sometimes all descending on an intersection at the same time.

One of the wider, emptier alleyways in the Fes medina.

The medina is also quite large. Allegedly, it’s only four square kilometers. But even when we knew where we were going, it still took us no less than 35 minutes to walk from our riad to the other side where many of the restaurants were located.

The other issue is that the appearance of the alleys will change throughout the day. A “street” looks a lot different when the shops are open and wares laid out than when everything is closed.

View from the outside of one of the main gates looking in. We finally found the gate!!! Photo by Nellu.

Our huge success the first time we went out into this craziness was getting back to our riad. I know this sets the bar low for what counts as a success but to be completely honest, we’d gotten into the habit of congratulating ourselves everyday for surviving. “Another successful outing,” Nellu would say, and then we’d high-five. Dorky, I know. But this is what happens when you hang out with the same person everyday, almost non-stop for a year. And on our first day in Fes, getting home was worth celebrating.

Now the touts in Morocco weren’t quite as bad as I expected. The real touts that is. They shout at you in French, which doesn’t seem as aggressive as English, mostly because I can only understand half of what they’re saying.

What is a little unsettling, however is the roving teenage boy mobs. Their favorite phrase is “c’est fermé” or “it’s closed.” We found this comical because they obviously assumed they knew where we were going. We didn’t even know where we were going. In most cases, we were just wandering around trying to see what we could find. Yeah, sometimes we were looking for specifics but we certainly weren’t going to trust them.

Telling tourists something is closed is a popular scam all over the world. Most often it’s used to redirect you to shops or attractions where your new, kind, altruistic tour guide is getting a kickback for bringing people in. In Morocco, the kids use this tactic to get you to follow them on a wild goose chase that ultimately ends in tip extortion. The longer they lead you around in circles, the larger the payout they’ll demand for their time.

It was easy to ignore these kids during the day when many shops were open. But on the way home from dinner, their coy practices shift into intimidation tactics. They can smell the fear and will follow you, heckling you.

We got really, really lost again the first night coming home. A pack of five or so boys started taunting us.  They said a few insulting things in English—I doubt they even understood what they were saying. These are the moments I am really grateful to have Nellu with me. He makes a good bodyguard and goes from zero to angry man so quickly. His protection instinct is primal…and somewhat belligerent.

Medina lighting. Many of the alleyways were open to the sky. Those that weren’t had this kind of illumination. Photo by Nellu

Our bullies eventually left us alone, and we found our way back.

The next night, our last night in Fes, we realized where we had gone wrong and why we had gotten lost. Ironically, it was because shop owners had  closed the doors to a bazaar hall that had become our leading passageway to the restaurants. I wish the kids had been more specific when they shouted “C’est fermé.” I would have understood them if they said, “La porte (the door). C’est  fermé.” But I guess specifics would severely impact their business model.

What’s closed? The door is closed. A little more information would have been infinitely useful. Photo by Nellu.

It took us two and half days to mildly master the Fes medina and even despite the roving teenage mobs, it was the best part of our visit. Another successful outing! High-five?

~ Molly


Ah, Tel Aviv

We arrived in Tel Aviv after a 45 minute puddle jumping flight from Amman, Jordan on February 24th. We were mentally prepared for no less than a strip search at the airport. We had heard horror stories from other travelers about getting through Israeli immigration. Our extensive travel and our cache of electronic equipment had to make us prime suspects.

And of course we had Nellu’s looks to contend with. His best friend once described him as ambiguously white, Arab, Hispanic. Sometimes it helps us blend in.

In India, a friend told Nellu that he looked, “Kashmiri.”(When I eagerly inquired about the possibility of also possessing an exotic look, this same person shot me down. “Nah, you just look American.”)

And sometimes it makes us stick out. In Jordan, everyone thought Nellu was Israeli. In Israel, there was a good chance that everyone would think he was Arab. He was also still sporting what he called his “Africa beard.” I had started to wonder whether he was hiding anything in its thick brillo-like bushiness, I can’t imagine what immigration officials thought.

I actually thought a lot about what immigration officials might think. We got two passports before we left to help us navigate the touchy political ramifications of getting an Israeli stamp. Apparently, there are certain countries that will not allow you to enter, and others who will just give you trouble, if you have an Israeli stamp on your passport.

Similarly, we had also heard stories of dual citizens getting grilled because they had chosen to enter on one passport over another as if there was something sinister about their preference.

Should I just hand them my blank second passport? Certainly, that would make me look suspicious. Where was I coming from? If I really had traveled so much why didn’t I have any stamps on my passport?  Should I just hand them my primary passport and then ask them to stamp my second passport?  What if they were offended by my request and just stamped my primary passport anyway?

When we arrived, I nervously lined up at passport control. When it was our turn, Nellu and I went up to the counter together. We’ve learned that if we go through separately, we look more suspicious. (In Australia, I was all the way to baggage claim before I realized that Nellu wasn’t right behind me. They had pulled him aside for extra questioning and it didn’t help that his so obviously boring, American-looking wife was nowhere in sight.)

I handed the woman in Israel both my passports explaining that the thicker one was the one with all my travel records because we had been traveling for almost a year and we were coming from Jordan after recently spending a month in Africa but I wanted her to stamp the second one if it wouldn’t be too much to ask.

She couldn’t care less. She showed as much interest in me as a teenage sales clerk working the register at a supermarket. “So which one do you want me to stamp,” she asked, clearly inconvenienced by the details of my life.

“This one,” I said pushing my second passport her.

“And who is this?” she asked gesturing towards Nellu.

“It’s my husband,” I replied simply.

“What would you like me to stamp?” she asked him almost mockingly.

He handed her his primary passport.

Stamp, stamp, stamp, stamp and we were out of there.

In the end, it took us less time to get through immigration in Israel than just about ever other country we had visited. I wonder if things would have been different if we had taken a bus.

But it didn’t matter. We had arrived.

It was Friday night and even though many places were closed to observe the Shabbat, we were still able to find food at a trendy pizza place. We walked around our neighborhood. Tel Aviv reminded us of home, of New York (New York with Mediterranean coast real estate!), and that felt good.

The next day we took a long walk around the city and down to the beach. I stuck my toe in the Mediterranean for the first time. It was just a little to cold to go swimming. We walked down the long promenade down to Old Jaffa.

Street Art at the port. Photo by Nellu

Along the way, we stopped to at a  bar on the boardwalk for beer. To our delight they had several local, microbrews and the bartender let us try a few before we settled on a pint. We had been drinking so much of the same boring lagers, the variety they had at the bar was beyond refreshing.

“This is the best beer I’ve tasted in a while,” I said satisfactorily.

“Which one?” the bartender asked.

“All of them,” Nellu and I replied in unison.

Mmmm…beer! Photo by Nellu.

Apparently more the more religiously conservative set call Tel Aviv the Sodom and Gomorrah of Israel. But we found it pleasant, tolerant and comfortable. I guess one person’s Sodom and Gomorrah is another’s heaven.

Oh, Jerusalem

Strangely because Tel Aviv felt so much like home, we were anxious to move on to somewhere less familiar. Before we left, our Tel Aviv hosts warned us about Jerusalem. I don’t remember the exact words they used, but they implied they didn’t like the taste of it. But we had found a cheap, centrally-located place in Jerusalem with good internet. In addition to using the city as a jumping-off point for the rest of the region, we were hoping to get some work done. And besides, Jerusalem is a major city for three large world religions. We needed to see what all the hubbub was about. Unfortunately, we got off on the wrong foot with the holy city thanks to the bus.

There is bus that leaves Tel Aviv every twenty minutes bound for Jerusalem that takes just under an hour. Easy-peasy, right? I wish. As usual, I made Nellu get to the bus station super early so that we had plenty of time to get our tickets and find our gate to make sure we could meet our host in Jerusalem around noon on Sunday. I really don’t like to keep people waiting.

Because the Israeli weekend is Friday/Saturday rather than our Saturday/Sunday, Sunday in Israel is actually Monday. And it was just another manic Sunday by the bus gate to Jerusalem.

Nellu and I were one of the first to arrive for the next bus. There was no formal line so we moved outside to wait for the bus by the curb as several others had done. A small crowd of people began to gather. There were a few other travelers , foreigners and locals, a few grandmothers, and a handful of young men and women dressed in military garb who appeared to be putting in their mandatory service time for the Israeli army. I say young men and women but I really mean teenagers. Imagine the kids from “Glee,” add military fatigues and semi-automatic assault rifles, and you’ll get a better idea of the characters in this line.

I sensed a little tension in the air but I assumed it was all coming from me. I tend to get a little stressed when there is no order in a crowd. In my mind a crazed mob is always just one push away.

And in this case, it was.

When the bus finally pulled up about three minutes before its scheduled departure time, all hell broke loose. Every person on the curb and those who were still inside the station started pushing for the bus door. All the teens with guns started elbowing out the grandmothers to get to the front of the line.

I was shocked. This wasn’t China. This was Israel.

I would have just stood by and let the crazy people fight for a place on the bus but I didn’t want to risk being late and keeping our host waiting. Divide and conquer was our strategy. Nellu put our bags under the bus while I squeezed up to the front. After some waiting, I got on, and indicated with the help of an English-speaking woman nearby that I had tickets for two.

The scene on the bus was amazingly serene compared to what was still going on outside. I got two seats for us and waited for Nellu to join me. There was some shouting going up at the front and then a few women shrieked and ran to get their bags out from underneath the bus. It looked like the driver was closing the door but I couldn’t tell. The bus wasn’t full and there was still a horde of people outside. I was fully prepared to go into a dramatic rendition of “but that’s my husband!!” and then I saw Nellu coming down the bus aisle.

“He was going to shut the door and leave but I stuck my arm in the door,” he informed me. Nellu’s years of training in catching New York subway cars before they pulled out of the station and the requisite willingness to sacrifice a limb, paid off.

Taking into account the short distance, the frequent schedule, and our ability to communicate for a large part in English, this should have been one of the easiest bus rides of our trip.  But it wasn’t and it got worse.

On the final approach from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, there is a formidable hill. Our bus stalled three-quarters of the way up the hill. Our driver pulled over to a spot on the shoulder and got out to check the bus internals. We sat there for ten minutes. The driver got back on the bus and tried to restart the engine. It wouldn’t start. He got back off the bus to try again. In the meantime, another bus pulled up and a few people ran to catch it. We sat there for another ten minutes. The driver got back on the bus and on the second attempt, the engine started.

We made it to our apartment for the week safe and sound and got Holy Bagels for lunch.

A mirror shot of the Holy Bagel shop. Photo by Nellu.

Our first few days on the ground in Jerusalem, we tried to see as much as we could because when we checked the weather, we could see the rain was coming.

We wiggled our way through the Old City and went to the Western Wall (aka Wailing Wall), where I planted a few prayers for my mom.

Photo by Nellu

I was surprised by how many people actually were crying (at least on the women’s side). And even though I don’t share the same beliefs, it was incredibly moving.

We wanted to visit the Dome of the Rock but by the time we figured out where the entrance was located, it was closed for the day. (We meant to go back but never did.)

Dome of the Rock. Photo by Nellu.

So we climbed Mount Olive instead. We did the Via Dolorosa, which means “sad way” in Latin. It’s essentially the real life Stations of the Cross.

We spent the  good part of a day visiting the Israel Museum, and we still didn’t see everything. The Israel Museum is a fine museum complete with exhibits on Jewish history, the Dead Sea Scrolls, an amazing modern art wing and more. We only left because they closed.

A water and light exhibit at the Israel Museum. Photo by Nellu.

I would say that we had a good enough time doing all this sightseeing. But everywhere we went  in Jerusalem, there was a subtle contentiousness in the air. It wasn’t overt but it was omnipresent. I guess that’s what happens when the self-righteousness of three religions collide. The f-you-and-your-god-I’m-going-to-build-my-rock-on-top-of-your-wall-hyper-turbulent-years of these religions seem to have left the city of Jerusalem in a psychological stalemate. So even when they aren’t throwing things at each other, there’s a thick passive aggression.

Even in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the building on top of the spot they believe Christ was crucified and buried, several of the Christian denominations had to have their own separate section with its own distinct design scheme. I would have thought the Christian thing to do would have been to get together and decide on one unifying theme for the decor. Wikitravel actually describes it as a “warehouse of churches,” which is fitting. It’s like the Costco of Christian churches and every day is the Saturday before Christmas.

While we were there, in line to visit Jesus’s tomb, someone tried to push their way past the patiently waiting pilgrims to the front of the line. Nellu called the woman out on it. Seriously, who does that? Who cuts the line to go see Jesus?

But maybe it wasn’t Jerusalem, maybe it was me. Maybe I was projecting my conflicts about my own religion on the city. Or maybe I was letting the weather get to me. The first two days we were there, the sun was shining. It rained for the next five.

One day mid-week, it looked like the sun was out so we hurried to get up and out of our apartment to take advantage of the nice weather. We weren’t outside for more than 20 minutes before it started raining again. It was like God—who knows if it was the Christian God, the Jewish God, or the Muslim God—was definitely punishing us.

It even snowed.

Snow in Jerusalem. Photo by Nellu.

I don’t remember the Bible saying anything about snow.

We talked about seeing Nazareth or Jericho but the weather literally dampened our spirits. Even though we’d heard that as a tourist, it’s not a big deal to go in and out of the West Bank, our emotional wherewithal for potential bumps was depleted. I could just see us getting into a fight on both sides of the border.

So while we were in the holy city, I did our taxes. And our taxes were so complicated because we liquidated almost everything we could to fund our travel. I also had additional trouble with changes in health plans (HDHP, HSA madness), state residency questions, and the sale of my old employer, which closed a month before we left.  I spent hours of time on the phone trying to track down W-2s from all corners of the globe. But I still had time to go through our taxes three times. And I guess I should thank Jerusalem for that.

~ Molly

I’ve found a new appreciation for the freedom of the road, which makes relocating cars our new favorite cheap way to travel. (If you’ve missed our adventures relocating vehicles in Australia, check out this post.) So when we wanted to head from Auckland on the north island of New Zealand down to the south island, finding a campervan to relocate was high up on our priority list. We used the same services as we did in Australia to look for opportunities – transfercar and standbyrelocs. But unfortunately, we hesitated on a couple of offers and missed our chance. So we were back on the bus.

It’s an 11 hour bus ride from Auckland to Wellington. From there we’d hop on the ferry to the south island. We took an overnight bus getting a pass through Intercity that would cover not only our bus fare but our ferry as well. The Interislander ferry can be tough on those faint of budget.

The Interislander ferry on a rainy morning.

It was a harsh wake up call being back on mass transit after having vehicles all to ourselves. At one point I turned to Nellu and said, “I forgot what I hate most about the bus… other people.”

Our bus driver whose name I believe was Ed sounded like Murray from Flight of the Conchords. And boy did he like to talk. This bus was a milk run bus that made many stops throughout the night. Every time a new group came on the bus, Ed went through the rules one more time, retelling an elaborate story about kicking a man off  because he was smoking and then having to call the police to arrest him because he wouldn’t get off the bus. “It’s tough to see a grown man cry,” Ed said, “But by smoking he was breaking the law and his ticket was invalidated.” The first time Ed told this story it was mildly interesting. The fourth time, it was sad.

But despite the talking and the subsequent lack of sleep, we made it to Wellington, on and off a  ferry, and on to another bus to Nelson. We ran into some trouble as we arrived in Nelson due to flooding there. But after some time and a hitchhike,  we made it to our lovely holiday home on Tahunanui Beach.  We’d have 11 days there filled with friends and Christmas celebrations and a lot of time getting caught up on our work before heading back north for a flight to South Africa.

On the way back, we vowed to snap up any relocation we could. There were no campervans available but we did find a van we could drive from Wellington to Auckland. Certainly, it had to be better to sleep in a van than in a car, even if it wasn’t a campervan.

When you relocate, you never know what condition the vehicle will be in when you get it. Usually, they’ve been cleaned up but our van this time was dirty, really dirty, both inside and out. The man at the desk at the rental car agency bragged that the Hobbit production team had been using the vehicle and dropped it off just before Christmas. It would be a bit inconvenient to live out of the muddy van for a few days but at least it makes for a good story.

It was late afternoon when we picked up our van so we drove for a few hours before stopping for dinner – takeout from a food joint that made everything from Chinese food to chicken burgers – which we took to eat on one of New Zealand’s wide beaches and watched groups of people tailgating and enjoying a beautiful Boxing Day holiday. It’s moments like these that I appreciate most the more we’re on the road.

We drove for a few more hours and settled in for the night at a rest stop. The next morning, we resolved to get coffee at a McDonald’s where we hoped we could use the free wifi and check our email.

This is the point in what should have a very easy trip where everything started to go wrong.

The gas tank was almost empty so we pulled into a station to fill up where we could use the “save 4 cents on fuel” coupons we’d earned at the grocery store. I was very proud of our diligence in collecting these coupons. Even though it would only save $1 here and $1 there,  these were dollars that we could spend on something better.

It had briefly crossed my mind that the van could have a diesel engine and I flipped through the materials the rental agency provided to check but found nothing. Surely the agency would have told us the car was diesel, I thought, and we weren’t responsible paying a diesel tax associated with such vehicles, so we barely thought twice about filling it up with 20 liters of unleaded.

This was a big, costly mistake, one that we’re blaming on the lack of coffee.

We were about 10 km outside of the town of Tokoroa when we first started noticing problems.

“Every time I accelerate, we lose speed,” Nellu said. Our Hobbit-mobile struggled to overcome even the smallest hills. By the time we had reached our McDonald’s the van started to stall. Nellu was able to coast into a spot in the parking lot. He jumped out and checked the gas tank. On the back of the door there was a small sticker that said diesel.

We crawled inside the McDonald’s with my laptop. We’d planned to use the free wifi to research what to do about our problem, but this particular Mickey Ds had no internet. We ordered our coffees (flat whites) and waited for the slow staff to bring them over to our table. Nellu and I both sat on the same side of the table, starring defeatedly over the chaotic scene in front of us.

An older couple sat directly to our left and started playing the where-are-you-from game with Nellu. “Israeli?” the man asked Nellu who was clearly not in the mood.

I was hoping that Nellu would chat this couple up and maybe, by luck or coincidence, they would have not only the expertise but the tools to solve our problem. But he wasn’t feeling chatty and I knew better than push to it. So we sat quietly sipping the coffee we needed to take on the next couple of hours.

Nellu was pretty confident that all we needed to do was get the bad gas out and the engine would quickly recover, but you’d be surprised how few people actually know how to siphon gas. There were two gas stations in walking distance and we checked with both to see if they had the materials we needed to siphon out the bad unleaded. I loudly announced our problem to the woman at the front desk at BP hoping that if she didn’t know how to help us, someone who did would overhear and offer to help. But no dice. Ironically, BP does not have siphoning tools “for environmental reasons” and the guy who usually performs this service for them was on vacation for two weeks.

But there was a car parts store in town where we bought a 20 liter red, plastic portable gas container to receive our bad diesel/unleaded mix, a 5 liter container to fill with fresh diesel and what we thought was a siphon hose. The hose turned out to be a siphon for the portable gas containers and not the gas tank, so I headed over to the hardware store across the street. The woman at the hardware store suggested I should favor a shorter clear tubing over a longer length. We learned later that this was bad advice. The hardware store closed for the day as I walked out with my short tube.

But Nellu and I were resolved. We could do this. We had a few tools. We could siphon out the gas. Maybe this problem only needed to cost us $50 to resolve. We took turns trying to suck the gasoline into the clear tube to create the pressure needed to usher our bad gas out of the tank. It didn’t work. Instead of getting a stream of gasoline rushing through the tube, we got a cupful at a time.

Who knew it’s so hard to siphon gas.

But I learned that gasoline actually doesn’t taste as bad as you’d think. I remember Harry Connick Jr. talking about gagging when siphoning off gas during the aftermath of Katrina. Considering my over active gag reflex, I assumed I would have the same reaction but I’m proud to say I didn’t. Gasoline does, however, have a greasy feeling that sticks with you no matter how many times brush your teeth or rinse out your mouth.

Several people along our tools gathering path informed us that not only did we have to clean out the tank but we also had to clear out the injector tubes or the engine simply wouldn’t work. It would be damaged, they told us. Nellu and I started to lose our confidence.

But as our desperation became stronger, a young couple from Wellington (clearly on vacation) drove past and asked if we needed help. “Do you know how to siphon gas out of a tank?” I shouted.

The man, who we came to know as Scott, parked his car and came over to help while his wife Renee and their five-year old daughter Piper watched. Nellu and Scott tried to no avail to get access to the engine underneath the front passenger seat to check the injector tubes.  This project was quickly spiraling out of control. We decided that it was not a do-it-yourself operation and Scott loaned Nellu his phone to call the rental car company for help. The rental car company referred us to their roadside assistance company with the reminder that we would be financially responsible for what ever it would cost to fix this problem.

The roadside assistance company was zero help. They straight away informed us that it would be very costly to get someone out to help us today since it was still the Christmas holiday. It was December 27th. They found a tow truck for Nellu but the truck operator asked Nellu where he’d like to have the van towed since many businesses were still closed. This guy was clearly no help either.

As we started estimating the costs in our head – the cost to get the van towed, the cost to empty the gas tank, the cost to clean out the injector tubes, the cost of returning the van a day late to the rental agency, we became exasperated. “You know what I really want to do,” Nellu announced. “I want to blow up this van so at least will get our $1500 worth.” $1500 was the amount of money we would be responsible for if anything happened to the car.

Thank God for Scott and Renee who proved to be quite resourceful at our moment of need. They spent over an hour with us, loaning us their phone, and in the end researching and finding someone who would help. They hooked us up with Bryan and his company Tirau Motors motors, a one stop shop mechanic and tow operation that was not only working that day but could come pick us up in about an hour. I didn’t get Scott and Renee’s details. I wish I did because we would have been lost with out their help.

Bryan picked us up as promised about an hour later and we got help from a few random men to push the van in neutral from the McDonald’s parking lot to the street and pulled it up onto the flat-bed. We drove about 30km north to Tirau, where his shop was located. On the way we chatted and learned that it was a very common mistake to put unleaded into a diesel running car, even by people who actually owned the vehicles. I suspected this all along. In fact, I kept telling everyone, “This has to happen all the time.”

It took Bryan less than 10 minutes clear our gas tank. He raised the van up with a lift, unscrewed a bolt under the tank and let the unleaded drain out. Once the gas tank was clear, he filled it up with our diesel and through in some of the diesel he had in his shop for no cost. He then pressed the gas pedal to rev the engine and clear out injector tubes and our big problem went up in a puff of smoke.

We got the shy Bryan to pose for a picture before we headed out. If you have any needs on the north island of New Zealand, Bryan and Tirau Motors are top notch.

Bryan: Our knight in cotton armor.

All the worse case scenarios we had been considering never came to pass. We were quickly back on the road, heading up to Auckland to return our van on time, and even managed to visit Hobbiton itself, the town of Matamata which was used as a backdrop for the Lord of the Ring movies.

Our credit card statement may bear the scars of our bad decision but we’re both really glad we didn’t blow up our Hobbit-mobile.

TIRAU MOTORS LTD TIRAU (The fix) Gas/Automotive $248.51
BUNNINGS – 9432 TOKOROA (Our too short plastic tube) Merchandise $4.05
MOBIL TOKOROA TOKOROA (The replacement diesel) Gas/Automotive $6.12
REPCO TOKOROA 18 TOKOROA (Gas containers, siphon tube) Gas/Automotive $36.26
GULL ATIAMURI ATIAMURI (The bad unleaded) Gas/Automotive $33.43
Total Cost of Putting Unleaded in a Diesel Van

~ Molly

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