Our van was fixed by a god

Our camper van was fixed…by a god!

Chat It's Fate - - Contents - Paula Dear, 45, from Fife, Scot­land

C hug­ging up a steep, wind­ing road in our lit­tle VW camper­van, I frowned.

The van was strain­ing to climb the slope. With a hor­ri­ble grind­ing sound, it lurched to a com­plete stand­still.

My hus­band Jeremy and I looked at each other.

‘Uh-oh,’ Jeremy said. ‘That sounds ex­pen­sive!’

‘Never mind,’ I said op­ti­misti­cally. ‘What­ever’s wrong, we’ll get it fixed quickly and get on our way.’

Jeremy and I were on the trip of a life­time. We’d said good­bye to rainy England and flown to Cal­i­for­nia, where we’d pur­chased our trusty van. Our plan was to spend a few

years ex­plor­ing the vast con­ti­nent of the Amer­i­cas, camp­ing by crash­ing oceans and sparkling lakes, cross­ing empty deserts and travers­ing the mighty snow-capped An­des.

We’d saved up for years, quit our suc­cess­ful ca­reers, sold our stuff and taken the big­gest leap of our lives.


Eigh­teen months in, we’d ar­rived in Ecuador – and that’s where our beloved van gave up the ghost. We had it towed to a garage, where we were in­formed that it needed a brand new gear­box.

‘Great,’ I said to the me­chanic. ‘How long will it take to fix?’

He shrugged. ‘We need to or­der in the gear­box.’

‘How long will that take?’ I asked

him anx­iously. ‘Weeks. Maybe months.’ ‘W-what?’ I said, not be­liev­ing what I was hear­ing. Com­ing from the UK, we take it for granted that parts can be or­dered and cars can be fixed. Not for this van!

We or­dered the gear­box, at eye-wa­ter­ing ex­pense. When it ar­rived, weeks later, it didn’t fit.

We tried again. No luck that time, ei­ther.

We tried con­vert­ing the gear­box to a man­ual one - that didn’t work.

We tried ev­ery­thing. Even the van-maker in the USA said it was im­pos­si­ble.


Mean­while, we were stuck in Ecuador. We couldn’t even sell the van – Ecuado­rian bureau­cracy pre­vented it. Any­way, who would want a use­less van with an ir­repara­ble gear­box?

Nine months passed. By now, we were run­ning low on funds - not to men­tion pa­tience.

‘I can’t do this any more,’ I said to Jeremy. ‘We need to move on.’

So we trav­elled by bus to the Bo­li­vian cap­i­tal, La Paz, to do some vol­un­tary work while we waited.

While we were there, we de­cided to check out the Al­a­sitas fes­ti­val.

Al­a­sitas cel­e­brates Ekeko, the An­dean god of abun­dance, pros­per­ity and good luck. It’s said he saved the peo­ple of La Paz from star­va­tion dur­ing an in­dige­nous uprising and siege in 1781.

Bo­li­vians flock to the event, where ev­ery­thing they de­sire for the com­ing year is sold in minia­ture form. Lit­tle piles of money, tiny pass­ports and suit­cases, small ver­sions of food­stuffs, com­put­ers, phones, you name it. Sugar cube-sized house bricks rep­re­sent a new home, and there’s even a trade in tiny

We were stuck in Ecuador for months

cer­tifi­cates, cer­ti­fi­cer­ti­fi­fifi­cates, as a way of ask­ing Ekeko for a new job, visa, de­gree, mar­riage, or divorce! God­dolls

In among the wares sit lit­tle Ekeko dolls, watch­ing. Some­times he’s of­fered offfff­fof­fered a smok­ing cig­a­rette and gifts are pinned to his pon­cho, to please him.

In a blend of mod­ern Catholi­cism and tra­di­tional be­liefs, Al­a­sitas pur­chases are blessed both by priests and shamans. Ev­ery­one chan­nels their hopes to­wards the final ar­biter, Ekeko, be­liev­ing he has the power to grant their wishes.

‘We should ask Ekeko about our van,’ Jeremy said to me.

He was

half-jok­ing, but I seized on the idea at once. ‘It’s got to be worth a try,’ I replied hope­fully.

So we bought lit­tle mod­els of a VW van, a suit­case and pass­ports for luck in our trav­els, a pile of mini ban­knotes and – just to be double sure – a hand­ful of lit­tle bricks to rep­re­sent our home.

Flam­boy­antly-dressed shamans were crowd­ing the pave­ments, burn­ing coal stoves and wav­ing peo­ple’s minia­tures amid the smoke,

chant­ing and chat­ter­ing. Mean­while in the packed church, a priest was hurl­ing great arcs of holy water over the crowd – lit­tle houses, cars and bags of money were splashed as peo­ple jos­tled along, hold­ing their hopes aloft. We stepped away from the throng into a side street. A woman was sit­ting qui­etly on the pave­ment in a brown hat. Some­thing drew us to­wards this shaman.

We knelt down and asked her to bless our van, to plead with Ekeko for help. She qui­etly chanted, ty­ing colour­ful strands of wool around the van, be­fore hand­ing it back to us.


We went home, made a lit­tle shrine out of our pur­chases, and went to sleep.

The fol­low­ing morn­ing, I was writ­ing in a cafe when Jeremy emailed me.

Try­ing not to get over ex­cited but …. just had an email from a parts sup­plier in hol­land who say she can find us our gear box.

Try­ing not to get overex­cited but…. just had an email from a parts sup­plier in Hol­land who says he can find us our gear­box. The hairs on the back on my neck were stand­ing on end. Who was this guy in Hol­land? We cer­tainly hadn’t con­tacted him. Had Ekeko re­ally lis­tened? It seemed he had, be­cause two months later the gear­box had been shipped out, fit­ted and tested. As­ton­ished VW geeks told us it had never been done be­fore - but we’d man­aged to pull it off. As we climbed into our VW van and drove away from Ecuador, I said a silent ‘thank you’ to Ekeko.

More than 12,000 miles later, we fi­nally pulled into the south­ern­most city in the world – Ushuaia, in Tierra del Fuego. Our final des­ti­na­tion.

We tear­fully glanced up­wards and gave a lit­tle nod to our Bo­li­vian god, who’d some­how res­cued the ad­ven­ture of a life­time.

God of abun­dance: Prayers granted

Trip of a life­time: Saved by Akeko

Back on the road: What a re­lief!

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