Living on the Green Tortoise is a unique experience in itself and is as much a part of the trip as the places you visit. The people you are with and how you eat, sleep, clean and pass the time are all part of it.
There were 23 of us on the journey plus our 2 drivers. Our drivers were a great couple of guys who guided us well. The rest if us were widely varied bunch dominated by people in the early 20’s but including a couple of parents and their 17 year old son and a 55 year old New York lady. The group came from all over the world with Brits, Kiwis, Aussies, Germans, Japanese, 2 Americans, a Canadian, a Chinese and a South African.
Most of the food was cooked in the kitchen stored on the bus. On arriving anywhere we were to eat, it was a practiced drill to set up the 4 tables, the hand washing station, the dish washing station, pull out the coolers and get a large pan of water onto boil. At almost all meals there would be a team chopping up fruit or vegetables, whilst another team would set up stoves. One of JT or Ted would lead the group through the preparation of the relevant dishes according to their own recipes. The menu was mainly vegetarian and the meals were unfailingly good. For some reason Ted & JT have got the idea that Brits don’t like spice!!!
After a meal everything gets cleaned and packed up again. For his dedication to the dish wash station Marcel quickly became labelled Kitchen-Bitch, a term that would stick when Cam bought him an apron with that name across it. The kitchen seemed to work well with everyone pitching in and no one getting ill or going hungry.
The bus has no toilets or washing facilities so we depended on what we came to at the roadside. Pee stops were mainly taken at garages with rest rooms when available, however in the mornings these tended to stretch as people took to brushing teeth and washing hair despite the need to get going. I have no idea what the owners of the facilities thought when 23 people of varying nationalities invaded their toilets.
Showers were used whenever available, normally being open air ones beside beaches, or stalls at National Park campsites. Only really at Bryce Canyon & Zion did we not have the opportunity to shower when we really wanted/needed to.
On a couple of occasions, most memorably at Miele point, the toilet was a spade plus a couple of toilet rolls. You just had to go and dig yourself a pit somewhere quiet and fill it in afterwards.
Most nights were spent sleeping on the bus. It appears somewhat of a miracle to get everyone bedded down with 23, how it is with a full compliment of 36 I can’t imagine. The whole back area of the bus is one big sleeping platform, with the tables either side midway forming another series or beds top and bottom. In addition the front area can become another platform but was never needed on our trip. Finally 6 bunks hung down from the ceiling on a set of chains so they could be raised out the way during the day.
You could sleep surprisingly well with the main disturbances being the bus coming to a halt and extremely bright garage forecourt lights.
Other night we would sleep out in the open in mats pulled off the bus, the only problem with this being when you are aware a raindrops landing on you. The other surprising thing about many of the camp outs in the west was how cold it got at night, close to freezing and well below the dew point. I remember waking up one morning and noticing the dew has formed streams on Kylie’s sleeping bag.
Passing the time
There were several occasions when it was necessary to travel for long distances during the day. There were various ways of passing it aside from the obvious sleeping and chatting.
Cards : started off with sensible games like hearts and rummy 500 before degenerating into far more fun games such as Arsehole with a series of made up rules and forfeits. These included administered spankings, the feeding of chocolate covered strawberries without using any hands to drinking shots from someone else’s navel. Probably the funniest was getting Cam spanked by his mum.
Balloon sculptures : It turns out that JT has made a living making balloon sculptures and held a workshop one long afternoon. His stuff was amazing, everyone else was lucky that it didn’t burst.
With Marcel being designated Kitchen-Bitch it wasn’t long before others had similar handles :
Kylie – Spank-Bitch – for her dedication to those forfeits in the card games.
Carmen – 2nd-Bitch – for attaining this post almost continually in the card school
Katia – Spider-Bitch
Kayte – Princess-Bitch
Ken – Beer-Bitch
Thomas – Danger-Bitch
Julie – Mother-Bitch
Brooke – Tall-Bitch
Marie – Missing-Bitch
Cam – Burnt-Bitch