p1000057.jpgI’m an Irish man in a Slovakian university studying to be a vet. Life was pretty good, yet I needed a camper van to feel complete. You cannot imagine how many hours I squandered searching the internet in vain for the ‘my’ VW, it was like an addiction. But then, when the all-knowing google bestowed upon me the link, www.busdriver.sk, my life would be never quite the same again. This insight occurred in December 2007, I immediately wrote an email to these kindred spirits. Although I was a stranger from a far away land, although I could not speak their native tongue, it mattered little, as I immediately received an incredibly warm and informative reply from my new friend ‘Pandero’ whom answered questions that I had not yet even asked, he was like the alchemist himself!

And so it began. Pandero provided me with the link www.vwbus.cz to watch what came up for sale, he promised me I would have my bus in the Spring. And so it was. It was late January, I was back home in Ireland for the month, I was welding all the hours I could, I needed the money fast, and then it happened.. Pandero emailed me, “i found a beauty”, Pandero doesn’t lie. I followed the provided link and there she was in all her glory, almost too perfect! But perfection doesn’t come cheap, I showed the pictures to my welding boss, he knows how much I want this bus, so he kindly offers to pay me in advance for my Summer work, I have the cash:)

Just one problem, I’m in Ireland, Pandero is in Slovakia, and the VW is in the Czech Republic. None of us know each other, I’m not due back until a few weeks later, yet I know I don’t want to lose this camper. There is an enormous amount of trust involved, I cant physically see the bus, the seller cant physically see my money, I’m convinced the deal will fall apart. Pandero emails me, he says he has everything sorted, the VW is destined to be mine:)

The day of reckoning arrived, I flew back to Bratislava, I finally met Pandero and Majky, his capable and brave comrade. We were no longer strangers, all the pieces were coming together, the Volkswagen planetary alignment was happening! Monday Feb 18th was the chosen date, it began appropriately with some herbal tea from Majky´s camper, and Pandero then skilfully drove us to our destination, Jablonne nad Orlici, Czech Republic. We arrived, I finally could see the bus, there was no questions to be asked, and not just because I didn’t speak the language, but the bus spoke for itself. Peter, the (former) owner was a true enthusiast, and a skilled mechanic, and a gentleman too. He had done everything possible to ensure that this bus would be a faithful and loyal companion, now we just needed to complete the paperwork.

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Time was moving fast, it was already late afternoon, Pandero was getting a bit restless, he declared that it had taken him two days to sort out his paperwork when he purchased his bus in Prague, we had less than two hours… To be honest, I’m not quite sure what was happening, but we raced from one department to another, to a garage, to an insurance company, and then back to the original registry office, I signed my name countless times, and then it was over, we were given new export plates and one months insurance, it was perfect. I think we were all a bit startled at our rate of progress, but there was nothing more to do, I handed over the cash to Peter and he shook my hand and walked away. She was mine:)

I was feeling both elated and nervous, I finally had my bus, yet darkness had fallen, and I was 500 km’s away from Kosice. We went for a meal, it had been quite a day, I was tired, I was honestly very worried at the thought of driving all night alone. I had hoped I could follow behind Pandero and Majky for the journey, yet they were heading southwards, whilst I was destined to take the more northerly route.

The night started off alright, but got a bit scary as the hours progressed, apart from driving on the wrong side of the road in an unfamiliar vehicle (in Ireland we drive on the other side), it was snowing and foggy too, so visibility was very poor. I stopped to fill up just before the border, and she only took 15 litres after 200 km’s, so early consumption indications were good. At the border the police had a checkpoint, but this was fine, just passport stuff, and then it was all downhill on a very twisty road from there for a couple of km’s. There was lots of snow on the road, it was quite slippery, and then this big fucking bus came right up behind me, and I couldn’t brake on any of the bends or I would lose her for sure, and I couldn’t gear down either, as that bus was right on my tail, just about pushing me over the edge… thankfully he eventually got past me, and then i could learn to live once again! My phone came back into use, so I knew I was back on Slovak soil. I had to text home to Ireland, to pretend I was back in Kosice safely, but my phone died, so I needed mains electric. I saw this cabin place, it was almost midnight, but a very kind lady let me in, and I was happy, it would have been crazy to continue on.

The next morning was nice and snowy, but not slippery, as the snow on the road had melted, and as I got closer to Zilina it was fine. I had a very smooth ride home onwards to Kosice, it was like she knew where to take me. On the open road she is an absolute pleasure to ride in, I couldn’t have wished for a better camper, my life is now complete:) D’akujem Pandero and www.busdriver.sk !