First the me­chan­ics, then the dé­cor

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Although Mar­tie was keen to get the dec­o­rat­ing done, the bus frame­work had been badly ne­glected and bat­tered, and the floor was vir­tu­ally rusted through. This had to be ad­dressed first.

“Be­fore we could do any­thing, Gert had to make sure the bus was wa­ter­proof, rust-free and struc­turally sound. This in it­self was an ad­ven­ture. We all got stuck in – even Ger­rit, who was only eight years old at the time,” re­calls Mar­tie.

“The ren­o­va­tions were sup­posed to take three months and my very ca­pa­ble and tal­ented hus­band as­sured me there’d be no drama or prob­lems.” Un­for­tu­nately, these things al­ways take longer than ex­pected – whether you’re ren­o­vat­ing a bus or a house. With the bus, three months turned into 18 months of ex­ten­sive me­chan­i­cal re­pairs, rust re­moval and spray­paint­ing, plus fur­nish­ing of the in­te­rior.

Mean­while, the bus was given the nick­name Wange (‘Cheeks’), a ref­er­ence to the distinc­tive rounded front fend­ers of a Bed­ford bus – and Gert got his code 10 driver’s li­cense.

Gert tack­led all the me­chan­i­cal re­pairs him­self and now its ADE Mercedes 352 engine is as good as new. “The engine block, crank­shaft and sump are all that re­main of the orig­i­nal engine,” says Gert, who also did the spray-paint­ing with two friends. The only time he called in pro­fes­sional help was for the re­fur­bish­ment of the engine’s sub as­sem­bly and the prep work for the spray-paint­ing.

With all the nec­es­sary re­pairs done, Gert and Mar­tie could start equip­ping the bus to suit their needs.

“The quotes for built-in cup­boards and fur­ni­ture were sim­ply be­yond our bud­get, so Gert did it him­self,” says Mar­tie. “I got the white Swedish-look liv­ing space I wanted, even though the project re­quired quite a bit of prayer. I think the prayers were more about me need­ing pa­tience than any­thing else!”

The fam­ily’s first trip on the bus was to Stru­is­baai in Septem­ber 2015. Although it guz­zles a litre of diesel for ev­ery 6km, Gert wasn’t jok­ing when he said it was a bar­gain. The bus is cur­rently in­sured for about R350 000 – more than dou­ble its pur­chase price and re­pair costs.

“Three years on, we have a beau­ti­ful mo­bile hol­i­day home. It goes where we want it to go and the kids re­ally en­joy fam­ily va­ca­tions,” says Mar­tie. “The best thing is that we can stop wher­ever we want to and I have my own space with my uten­sils and pretty things, no mat­ter where we end up.

“On ev­ery trip, I’m cre­at­ing my own lit­tle world. It wouldn’t be the same if we’d paid some­one else to do the ren­o­va­tions.”

Gert had to re­place large sec­tions of the steel pan­els, so he re­moved the win­dows too. En­tire side pan­els and rub­ber seals were also re­placed.

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