When I first met Nadine, she was playing with the idea of buying a school bus. Her dream was to convert it into a mobile home (think: the South American version of the legendary bus named Further). And this bus would need to be big enough to carry a crew of four, maybe six travelers. She wanted to take the bus through the north of Chile, and eventually Peru and Bolivia.

I was impressed. When I met her, Nadine didn’t speak all that much Spanish. And although she knew how to drive a manual motorcycle, she hadn’t driven a stick-shift car. She didn’t let stuff like that stop her. She had a vision. That vision was some combination of a home with wheels and a community of travelers that could help keep that home rolling.

And I always knew she was going to pull it off. I just didn’t know it would turn out this well. After 4 months of hard work, this yellow bus is ready to set sail.

In honor of their much anticipated departure north, I thought I’d recap the metamorphosis I’ve had the pleasure of observing. I can’t say I had anything to do with the bus conversion. I mostly played the role of cheerleader, and occasionally convinced all of her minions to take surf breaks.

A few weeks after I met her, Nadine Whatsapp-ed me, telling me that she was now the proud owner of a retired micro, a Chilean public transportation bus. That weekend, I came to visit. I had to see it.

I tried to help strip the interior, but I don’t think I had the strength to get a single screw loose. I mostly just stood around holding a hammer. It was raining and the bus roof was leaking. When we pulled back the ceiling, we found an indeterminable mixture of black mud and mold. The scope of the project began to sink in. Spirits were a little low. We didn’t get much done that weekend.

I went back to Santiago for a couple of weeks. When I came back, serious process had been made. Jyri, a Finnish construction worker had joined the team. I think anyone who has worked on this bus can agree—Jyri may be the sole reason this bus looks the way it does. He has spent every day of the last 3 months working from about noon until past sunset on the bus. He’s built all of the wooden furniture, setup the lights/electricity and is to this day, the only person who knows how to drive the bus.

Nadine and the team didn’t feel like they were making progress, but I was impressed. Things were coming along.

In the following weeks, I would come when I could.

There were good times. Our ragtag gang of travelers and Chileans has become a dysfunctional family of sorts. Manuel and Jaime are the two Chileans who let this crazy Australian girl build a mobile home on their property. They are two pretty worldly guys, and are always managing the flow of international travelers that visit their home in Santo Domingo. Since I’ve known them, they have always had a new project in the works—first it was pizza-making, then a 4-story treehouse. Most recently, they’ve collaborated with Inspector Gadget (a.k.a. Diego)  to create their own film production project, Tree House Films, making rad short films about (semi?) professional surfers.

With these three Chileans as our hosts, we’ve managed to share moments that can only be described as t o p a d o. The team took a trip to Mendoza when Nadine needed to make a border run. We held a two-night long baby shower—it wasn’t really a baby shower, really just a diaper-soliciting  party—that ended in Jaime rapping from the second story of the treehouse, wearing a blue wig. We surfed when there were waves. We made sushi twice. We harvested mussels from the rock just off the shore in the beach behind the house. We played charades.

 

 

 

There were bad times, too. But not as many.

And now that the bus is done, I’m a little sad these merry pranksters will be heading north. I’ll miss coming to visit and seeing how the bus has evolved during the time I’ve been away. But I am also proud. They have created something handmade and beautiful. Each piece of wood and fixture has a story behind it. Almost everything inside has been built, not bought.

Without further ado, here’s the grand tour.

There are 4 bunk beds along the back wall, and a huge counter for cooking family meals. The wooden cooking utensils were carved by hand(!)

The shelving was made from recycled vegetable containers acquired from the ferria. The front sofa folds out and turns into a bed. The motor actually works.

 

Congrats to these crazy people! I wish you all the best up north and I have a feeling our paths will cross again in September. I am going to live vicariously through your travels, and you guys should too!

You can follow Nadine and her bus @yellowsubmarinewithwheels and on fb here.

1 comment

  1. Inspector Gadget says:

    I was so sad reading the story, I was remembering all the funny stories. Glad to read ur story Jaime!!! See u soon!

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