Tour bus operator Anders Eriksson has seen it all, whether its lions on Africa’s savannahs, Peru’s ancient Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, or a straggler caught short in the Himalayas.
In 1969, eight friends from Sweden decided to travel the world in a 12-metre Scania bus from 1953.
Anders Eriksson, founder of travel company Rosa Bussarna (Pink Caravan), says: “The choice was between a Scania or a Volvo. We asked various bus owners and they recommended a Scania for its reliability.”
In the end only Eriksson and one other friend went through with the trip. They left Sweden with 25,000 kronor and 400 pairs of clogs and returned 4,000 kronor richer after selling the clogs and picking up hitchhikers.
“Back then there were a lot of hitchhike
rs and we charged them by the day. Some of them rode with us for four weeks, others for four months,” Eriksson says.
Neither of them had technical skills.
“We had a wrench and a screwdriver with us. But there were Scania workshops in Turkey and Iran even then. In Iran they didn’t want money as payment for diesel, they would rather get a pair of jeans,” he recalls.
“More comfortable than your average tourist bus”
After seven months they returned home and in 1972 Eriksson started up his company. His bus of choice was a Scania. Eventually all the buses were painted pink – “a happy colour you don’t easily forget”.
Today Rosa Bussarna arranges 1,500 trips per year all over the world.
“Twenty-five people travel together in a bus made for 50. We have removed some of the seats and put in tables, making it more comfortable than your average tourist bus,” Eriksson says.
At night the bus converts into a tent, with passengers sleeping on mattresses under a tarpaulin pulled over the roof.
“Mattresses, not thin sleeping pads. It is just like sleeping at home,” Eriksson says.
400 kilos of spare parts
Eriksson has been driving Scania buses for 43 years and the company today owns 32 buses, including 12 in Africa and 5 in South America, 4 trucks and lots of spare parts.
“Normally we take 400 kilos of spare parts with us on a trip and one mechanic,” he says.
Once during a trip to Africa the crankshaft broke on one of the trucks and it had to be towed by bus to a campsite 497 miles away. It took three days to get a new crankshaft from Sweden.
“A lot of people didn’t think it was possible to change a crankshaft at a campsite, but we had a good mechanic,” Eriksson says.
Eriksson has many stories to tell from his travels.
“One time we took a bathroom break up in the Himalayas. After 10 minutes we kept on going. At our next stop, a restaurant 87 miles away, this waiter comes up and asks me whether I am Anders. ‘You have a phone call, it is important.’ ”
At the other end of the line was a man they had accidentally left behind at their last stop.
“He said, ‘You left me while I was sitting behind a tree.’ In the end he hitched a ride with an Indian family with nothing but his underwear and clogs, and a roll of toilet paper,” Eriksson says.