GUS THE BUS Nov 2017- Jan 2018

2017 Nov 21st
After a cursory inspection with Naveena and Koyal, I bought a 1968 Bedford Bus (NZ$23,000) fully converted to self contained home (kitchen with gas cooker, shower/toilet, woodburning stove, 12v fridge etc) which will just need hooking up to electrics and access to water. The moment I saw her (I’m guessing Gus is short for Augusta as vehicles, boats etc are female, aren’t they?) I was in love! I could swear she drove past me in the desert in Afghanistan in ’75, full of freaks headed for Kathmandu offering me a ride. I came home and taking a picture from the website advertising her sale drew this (Koyal added the rosette). Compare it to the photo of the end result (at bottom) and it seems that a vision came to me pretty much fully formed……

Today I also got a reply from my landlord saying we are welcome to put her at the bottom of the garden for the four months in which he wants to use the house. I’ve got a lovely hidden away spot lined up since ages in the hope of something like this. Staying in this garden that i have done so much to create over the past three years will be a joy. And he says we can store all our stuff in one room of the house, and move back in to it at the end of April if we haven’t bought anything by then!!!! It’s the perfect solution.

Nov 28th GUS the BUS
Driving Gus from Auckland’s North Shore to home here out on the Western fringe. Fortunately only an hours journey, as handling six and a half tons of 49 year old machinery with no 1st gear, and without a legal heavy vehicle driving license was one of the most intense experiences of my life. The initial hundred meters involved a steep hill start up to traffic lights with lots of traffic. Hairy…. I was trembling! By the time we hit the motorway I could enjoy myself a bit, and Mike, who was trailing us, told me later that we’d reached 100 kmph (Gus does miles and showed only 45 mph).
Mike guided us into the back garden – at one point we had one inch on one side and three inches on the other to spare between two trees. Reversing her up on blocks to level was a mission in itself, but finally we realized that we needed to remove the blocks, reverse her behind their positions and then roll her forward back onto them.

The moment Naveena, Koyal and I stepped into her we realized we had got ourselves something exceptional. Whoever had converted her had done so with taste and style (delicate pastel shades of cream on walls and matching furniture, fine hardwood kitchen surfaces) as well as with quality (powerful pump and gas water heater, two solid deep cycle batteries, lovely little latest model woodburner). We don’t have her history (the vendors had her less than a year and sold her with every last thing down to teaspoons on board) but whoever looked after her all these years did a good job too as she starts easily and the engine purrs sweetly. Roars sweetly I should say when it come to hills……


Naveena and Koyal drew these when we got back to the house after she was settled into position.


Dec 1st
Fabulous support from friends these days as we start to build a zula (Arabic word, meaning a comfy hang out space) as a lean-to living room. Everyone rocking up exactly as needed and making the job go fast and fun. A simple deck, bamboo uprights, light decking as rafters, which will bear a clear polypropline roof.

(L -R) Stephen Moller, Oliver Kraft and Robin Rawstorne with me and Naveena on the zula deck.

Taken from my to do list:
Add new shelf under sink 570X320; buy storage bins to go under sofa; buy bigger fridge – space available 990X460W X 610D; extend aluminium protection between stove and fridge 560X500H; sink draining board extension 606X372; two curtain rails 1190 for hanging our clothes; install extractor fan.
Order zula awning to fit deck 3160X2500 (; report to solar suppliers (Wave Inverters, Kelston) on what we will need to connect up the four 128W solar panels (donated by our friend Abheer), with our two current batteries.
Order compost toilet and construct shed for it, canvas available in 4500X2100 so dimensions 1450D, 800W with 100 each side of door.
Hook up and bury hose line from the house to splitter feeding both Gus and garden water storage barrels. Run electrics down from house.

Dec 4th
The zula turns out to be160mm too long to fit the only available decent awning which is exactly 3m. Yesterday we rebuilt and got our Balinese statue installed.
I have a list of about a hundred things still to do and am spending a LOT of time under Gus trying to figure out hose and electric connections. Oliver and I are also spending a LOT of time puzzling over complicated solar machinery. We have less than a month to go. In the middle of all this our washing machine up at the house has failed, so vast laundry piles up while we wait for a new one. And Pip our one-month-with-us kitten still isn’t reliable on the tray or cleaning his bum, and demands so much attention. In addition I’ve taken over responsibility for a dozen palm trees that badly need repotting from plastic carriers. Plus the weather is unrelentingly dry and the garden needs tons of watering if all my veggies are going to survive.
It’s 3am now, bit extreme compared to the usual time of 4am that I’ve been getting up and starting work the past week. Full moon boring down on this amazing rural garden. As soon as its light I’ll get in Gus and unscrew the old fridge and cupboard.

Dec 7th
Ross has given me free a load of old lumber that will be good for building the shed for toilet plus a session room for Naveena, to be built away from Gus in a hidden circle behind two apple trees. An Indian guy from Osho Friday meditations has promised me more. For the session room, our international design star school parent Robin Rawstorne sketched out a five-sided design for me in three minutes flat. I’ve decided to build it exclusively with bamboo that we have growing on the property. I’m now researching angles and lengths on the internet.
I’m also helping Steve on his section in Parau (300k looked like a cheap deal but it’s steep, boggy and he’s just found out it’s a special ecological zone, so chopping trees may be limited), putting up a shed. Which he, Desiree and two kids may well end up living in at this rate I reckon!

Dec 11th
Last week Suryo and I got the path to the toilet made (first half a job lot of pavers, second a bunch of free decking) the toilet shed built and drainage ditches filled with gravel dug along Gus’s sides. Steve, Oli and I got the roofing on the zula. Plus once we had removed that 160mm off the deck the awning (bit grey but what to do?) now fits perfectly.
The list of to-dos gets bigger all the time, but the last majors are now the electrics (getting expert advise on hooking up solar panels) plus the bamboo session room.
Every single morning I’m on TradeMe (our local ebay) and afterwards driving down to Mitre10, our local hardware store, where I’ve got really friendly with the staff who all know me by now. The amount of materials pouring onto this site is astounding.

Dec 14th
The amazing humming of thousands of wings from the hive at night as the bees dry out their honey.
Yesterday I created the bamboo door for the toilet; hooked up the hose system; planned out pentagon behind the apple trees with Oli. We just got the first cucumber from the greenhouse. Little Pip the kitten gets in the way of my chain sawing. He’s fearless!

Dec 16th
From my to do list:
Zula: paint entrance; slit bamboos as topping for its low sides; install vertical roofing piece for rain drips over Gus entrance; fix Buddha damaged during transport to site; Velcro canvas behind Buddha.
Gus: rainproof electrics box, drill hole to let mains in to interior, fix broken door lock, mosquito net door,
Buy: electrics extensions etc, hose ends and splitter, white Velcro small hinges for zula doors,
Call: solar supplier re batteries, find 12v electrician for advice

Dec 17th
From my to do list:
Build upper zula stable door using Perspex 100X770; ditto lower zula door in split bamboo 860X770; close gap between door and awning with vertical roofing 1980 X 210W (bottom) 240W (top); mosquito net triangular panel above door to curved bus roof;
Epoxy and paint front Gus roof; cut away tree branches extending over Gus; order more roof sheets; ask Pramod if he can prepare me a nice woodedn board 2000X160 as a shelf food storage in Gus; make bedside shelves (needs jigsaw); repair verandah back at the house; resize Pips food/bed box; test shower.
Buy: washers, bolts, screws, gas canister, 12v bedside lamp and switch, more hose connectors, 25m electric cable, brass hooks for cups.

Dec 19th
It’s been almost a month now. My typical day:
Up between 3.30 and 5. Finish by 6pm. Fueled on coffee, rollies and wonderful food that Naveena brings down.
Current status:
Solar hooked up last week, monitoring it regularly and seems to be working. Thank God for Oli’s brain on this stuff! Zula almost finished, just some mosquito-proofing, and getting the bamboo stable door stable. Outside compost toilet just needs 12v fan connected. New tap and washbasin appeared outside it yesterday. I didn’t even have it on the plans but it just happened once Naveena presented me with the idea of using a lovely wooden salad bowl she had handy. Water is coming from the kitchen sink, but I haven’t had the guts to try the shower yet and see if the gas kicks in to heat the water. Oli needs to complete 12v wiring to fridge and extractor. I need a chicken wire fence to keep Pip in to a controlled area of garden and away from the main house (the little bugger is on such a food trip! He’s at the house cats food like an addict and I don’t want him up there bothering the owners all the time once they move in).
MUST turn our attention to the five-sided bamboo space. Site is cleared but not leveled. Big bamboos need to be felled. Lucky Naveena’s nephew Nir and his friend just arrived from Israel. Let’s see how handy they are…

clearing site for pentagon

Then there’s moving all our stuff from the house to make way for Ron and Saray the owners. Only eleven days left…..

22nd Dec
After one and a half long days Oli and I have the pentagon up. Bit of bracing and fiddling with the rafters and we’ll be ready for the roof sheets tomorrow, Then Nir and his friend Beni can do some more floor leveling and extend the drainage ditch a little. Then canvas, cut out for windows and pebbles for path and we’re done. Still a couple of dozen jobs on Gus, zula etc but they’re mainly minor details.

me and Oli starting the pentagon

Even found time to take Nir and Beni over to Steves and do four hours on his section yesterday morning!

Koyal is reading like crazy. Naveena is serving food and drinks and keeping the ship going like the ezre khai (‘perfect woman’ or something like that in Hebrew) she is, plus packing stuff into boxes and looking for new curtains for Gus.
From my to do list;
secure zula door both open and shut; feed mains into Gus and pentagon; wet ground so Israeli boys can stir mud until floor is flat; buy pebbles for entrance and drainage.
get ready for Giselle, who is coming tomorrow to show us how to harvest honey, now urgent as the hive boxes are full to overflowing.
buy: hose extension, fixtures, roofing nails, tarp, tin snips, new shower head, angle grinder blades, chisel, shelf brackets, tent pegs, honey buckets, waterproofing spray

Dec 24th
Up before 3, clearing living room. Yesterday milestone day: 15kg of honey harvested; roof on the pentagon; first hot shower in Gus; all of us sleeping there well.
Bad vibes emanating: Ron and Saray suddenly email us with mysterious ‘decisions’ that are going to be communicated to us via Robyn the agent. She’s on holiday til 27th.
The list of jobs now extends urgently into fixing up and cleaning out the house, moving everything needed into a tidied-up Gus and the rest into the storage room.

1st Jan 2018
We moved in properly on 29th. It’s been the most exhausting yet creative process of my life. My nerves (and hands – cut to shreds) need a lot of rest now. Good that there’s only tickling about left to do.
It went to a hell with the owners. Suddenly we were dealing with Robyn the property manager demanding $350 A WEEK to live here. Ron silent and invisible. A charged meeting with her, at which she tried blackmail (“if you don’t sign then if you’re not out tomorrow by 5 you’re squatters and the police will remove you…”). I removed myself and let Naveena handle it, and she negotiated down to 240. Ron moved in next day (they even had the nerve to try to come in on 29th a day early!) and hasn’t been seen down here. I’m avoiding the house area totally except early morning to pick up last gardening stuff from compost area etc. What a spineless weasel! Ten days ago it as all ‘thanks mate’ and me playing guitar for his poetry reading at Titirangi library, including arranging a hand drum for him. Now he hasn’t got the guts to face us. Yesterday Robyn texted me to move the van off the driveway. So even such minor things have to go through her now!
Anyway here we are and so happy. Little Pip has settled in and is bringing Naveena so much joy. Koyal is a star and starting to be really keen on helping and doing things like making breakfast for herself.
Last tweaks on the hose system from house to bus, garden and toilet basin – water pressure is the issue and I’m upgrading to the best hose and fittings. Oli starring on electrics and finishing off the pentagon. I waterproofed the canvas yesterday, let’s see how it (and the whole site) handles the first heavy rain……
In the midst of these forty days it’s been SO dry. Garden needing heaps of water. Got Nir onto that and taught him some planting, compost making and general awareness of plants needs. He’s SO keen to learn because he wants to make a career out of medical cannabis back in Israel.
The whole project was fueled on all the friends rocking up to help. And on enhancement, tons of rollies and evening whisky and lemon. Naveena simply stars as hostess, but a woman’s work in never done and I’m doing my best to be supportive on the laundry and cleanup front. Koyal so understanding as she tries to get my attention and I just hurry on by going ‘yes Koylee’ and then not paying any attention to what she’s trying to tell/show me!
Final two days cleaning at the house culminated in a record breaking 2am start for me, taking rubbish and recycling up to the school to dispose of as our bins are full. Council picked this moment to re-introduce bins instead of the bags they brought in two years ago for rubbish. Luckily I hadn’t got them to take our old one away, just had to remove it from the rainwater harvesting system.

final day on the house verandah, relaxing with Mike and Oli

3rd Jan
Funny: I just heard that my father James died on Xmas day after his long period as a vegetable. And my old ‘friend’ Ron hasn’t even been down to visit us. There are echos here of the abandonment and disappointment I felt when James left when I was seven. Ron and his wife are like silent ghosts up there at the house. Last night I dreamed he was begging my forgiveness. James’s ghost?
Right pinky dupuytrons got worse. A crown fell out today. My hands are rough and scratched. Time for some fix ups.
4th Jan
Seems the ghosts have fangs. Just after writing last night I got an email from Robyn. We have 90 days notice to quit. Plus get our stuff out of storage room in house within a week. “Why?” Koyal asks. No answer!
Search for section/property intensifies. Must have Gus access, be flat and sunny and around Titirangi. Hen’s teeth indeed!
Big tropical storm coming today. NE with 125kmph gusts forecast. Let’s see how we stand up to it….hopefully we’re well sheltered here with trees and bamboo.

Gus interior, pretty much finished



Sat 7th Jan
Survived it. Minor drips. A fun drama at midnight as Naveena wakes me up hearing bangs and we go out into the rain to find the solar panels down and Koyal does cartwheels on the lawn while we put them back up. Loads of tweaking on Gus’s gutters, wedges to create a drip line where the zula roof joins the bus roof etc.
Now clearing all the wood and gardening stuff from the shed, trips to Storage King, Op Shops and the school to dump it all off.

Jan 10th
More drain on psychic resources getting the stuff in the storage room in the house repacked and down to Storage King. Mike the hero as usual. Anal Robyn with her lists of minor damage and missing items, trying to squeeze as much as she can out of us. I guess it will be goodbye to our $1650 bond when the time comes to leave.
Finally hit the beach after a month or so. Aaaahhh…

1 Response

  1. Jyoti says:

    Wow! The energy and passion involved in this project is astounding and tangible. Sounds like this must have been quite the challenge in letting go. What happened between this and you guys ending up in Devon?

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