Category Archives: 09_Australia 2012/2013

Australia is giving us a challenging start

We thought we will have no real challenges entering a “civilized country” where everything is available again… IT ALWAYS COMES DIFFERENT THAN YOU EXPECT! One thing which is rarely accessible is internet – and if so it is very slow and/or expensive… We hope nobody worried too much in between; we are doing well even though we have to get used to this looooong distances and straight streets over here. This means carrying a lot of water and food, so sometimes we are really heavy and this is challenging on the dirt roads with corrosions and deep sand. We always met people on the road supporting us with water, fire wood, and a place to stay or even with a cold beer or food… We are very thankful for that every time!

I. Two weeks in Darwin before we got our “big lady” – First destination: Kakadu National Park

Incredible two weeks we had to wait until we got our bike out of the shipping yard! The container got lost in the system… Perkins/Toll was not really interested to solve “our” problem and did not communicate anything except when we were chasing them. We spent heaps of money to find out where the problem is, troubleshooting between Toll and Customs and postponing again and again the appointment with the Quarantine Inspection Department. We were just lucky that we could stay all the time in Chris`s place in Palmerston!!! It is a “crazy house” ;-) but lovely and we enjoyed meeting all this different characters and had some amusing days together – cooking, fishing, sightseeing, chatting… Thank you all again for this good time!

Exactly two weeks after our arrival in Australia we finally got out our “Big Lady”! Hurray!!! Unfortunately the Toll guys told us the bike was dropped in the container… One of the panniers was deformed pretty much but except from that it looked ok. What to do? It is hard to say who dropped it in the end… and we were happy to have it back finally.

On the way back to Palmerston we had a stop at the shop where we bought our new rear tire, to change the oil filter and the oil. That was done fast and we were happy to go back and pack our things… Suddenly something was feeling wrong driving on the highway: A flat rear tire!!! On the first meters in Australia and after 36000 km our first flat tire! Australia was not really welcoming us in the nicest way… A motorcycle driver, Bones, stopped next to us on the highway offering his help. We took out our tire pilot which we were carrying the last 11 month. It was not working anymore… probably too old. Kerstin walked over to the next petrol station to get a new one. Meanwhile Sascha and Bones came over to the gas station with the bike but the new pilot was not working as well… grrrr! What to do? We had the new tire home and even a spare tube with us inside the panniers. Bones offered immediately to take Kerstin to Chris` place to pick up the new tire. Said and done – Perfect! Another helping hand named Tony from Humpty Doo joined and in the end we changed the tube and fitted the new tire within a matter of minutes. Now it was time to get some vine and celebrate!

The next day we started to sort and repack all our gears… Remember they dropped our bike: the pannier holder was broken. Luckily a friend of Chris, Trevor, had a welder. In the late afternoon we went there and he was able to fix it. After that we were invited for a vine and we could listen to the exciting experiences Trevor and his wife had travelling and working in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Now it was really time to leave! Our first destination we chose was Kakadu National Park. Late afternoon we arrived at a little nature campsite north of Jabiru, called Merl. We had the opportunity to listen to a slight show presentation by the ranger about the crocodiles which live close by; they differ between “freshi” and the “salti” but anyhow we are not so keen to meet one of them. The next morning we got fresh food supply from our leaving neighbors: A melon, veggies, eggs, ham, etc. which upgraded our meals enormously. We explored the walking trails, were heading for the sunset to the lookout at Ubirr and after dinner at our fireplace we could watch a 3 meter Tree Python in front of the toilets – wow! We got a first taste of the wilderness of Australia.  On the way we were passing thousands of termite hills along the road. To reach the Gunlom National Park we turned into a gravel road when we suddenly recognized that the right pannier is loose – the pannier holder was broken once again (must be the 15th time…)! We fixed it as usually with our transport stripes which we usually use in this situation. Later we reached a beautiful place at the bottom of a waterfall where we went immediately for a swim. And the next morning we climbed the top of it with the sunrise to swim in one of the cool pools up on the mountain where we had a gorgeous view over the plains.

II. Welding service in Kathrine, Kerstin`s Birthday and two different reunions with old friends!

On the way direction south we asked in a little town on the way for somebody who could weld our pannier holder… Next possibility for that was Kathrine they told us, some 100KMs down the road. Finally reaching Kathrine we found the “Cannings Welding” shop owned by Brian. We agreed to come back after setting our tent at the campsite and taking of the gears. When we arrived back at Brians place and took off the panniers we recognized that the pannier holder is broken as well. Brian fixed both within minutes and instead of paying him we got invited to a couple of cold beers while we had a nice chat together with his son and his brother. He offered us to stay in the back of his yard and we could use the toilet and shower of the workshop. WOW how cool was that! Next morning we moved in. Additional Brian welded a big plate under the side stand. A great improvement which makes it so much easier to park the bike even in loose or deep sand – and Kerstin does not need running around anymore to find a stone or anything to put under the stand.

We still need to get used to this big endless roads over here. It makes you easily tired. Along the highway there are everywhere rest areas where you can stay for free. Usually they have toilets and barbecue areas and sometimes well water. In one of these places we met Philippe and Ana with their four small kids; a French family having a “”. We exchanged our experiences at the fireplace while we got served with ice cold beer. To us it was really impressive that they are travelling for two years with 4 little kids – and everybody seemed to enjoy the trip a lot!

The next day was Kerstin`s Birthday… Without knowing it the French kids served us with a tablet with coffee and A CHOCOLAT in the morning!!! How great was that: Happy Birthday!!!

Our last stop in the Northern Territory was a little nature park just at the border to Western Australia, Keep River. On the way we tried to get wine for the birthday evening but in this region they were not selling any alcohol. Hmmm… what to do! It is a lovely place with a beautiful walking track through the rocks which we enjoyed for the sunset. Our lovely camp neighbors, Phil and Sonja from Tasmania, supplied us with water and invited us for a beer and when they got known that it is Kerstin`s Birthday they handed us over a big piece of cake – YUMMY! Now the day felt really like a BIRTHDAY ;-)

We crossed over to WA and as we heard from many people we should not miss our next destination: El Questro, on the Gibb River Road. To get there we had some river crossings which were quite challenging – they were long and full of big slippery stones but Sascha drove through all of them without much of a problem.  From our point of view El Questro is a bit overrated and overprized. But nevertheless we enjoyed the beautiful Emma Gorge and the drive into the sunset. And again we had been very lucky with our camp neighbors, Jim and Barbara, with whom we spend the first evening accompanied by red wine, the second evening our other neighbors dropped us a bottle of red vine. When you are travelling with a car or a camper van it is much easier to carry “additional” drinks. ;)

The Great Northern Highway towards Broome is very loooooooong, mostly straight and sometimes endless… We passed several Boa trees, dead kangaroos and bulls getting eaten by huge eagles, burned landscapes and sandstone formations. At petrol stations and roadhouses we refilled our water bottles and we stayed the nights together with helpful camp neighbors, like Julie and Gary. And as well thank you for all the beer it was a great night!

In Broome we checked in at the cheapest camping. We hoped to get somewhere internet connection and to get information where our old friends, Chantal and Patrick, who we met before in Cambodia and Thailand are at the moment. We managed our laundry, took some hot showers and gave up with the incredible slow internet at McDo. When Sascha was waiting in the front of the supermarket he recognized two people on their pushbikes, one with long red hair, about 300 meter far away: He jumped on the bike and truly: Chantal and Patrick!!! We met the next morning for breakfast at the beach, spend dinner together at their couch surfing or WarmShower host, Max and family, and were chatting chatting chatting ;-) So lovely to meet them again!!!

For us it was time to relax a couple of days at the sea site. We left to the northern part of the Broome peninsula, Quondong Beach. The last 20 km were horrible red loose sand. As we were carrying food and as much water as possible we were really heavy and swimming along the sand road. When we finally reached the beach we jumped of the bike to look for a place to stay suddenly Philippe, from the French family came running towards us. He was staying here already some days together with their friends, Bez, Steve and their daughter Nina. As a welcome we got an ice cold beer and we spend a lovely night all together at the fireplace on the beach. They left the next morning, we felt a bit lonely suddenly… we spend the day fishing (again without success), writing the update in the shade, swimming, walking along the beach… and we are sure we will meet them again one day. And when we meet them again they do not have to worry about beer, food or anything else because than it is our time to give a revenge ;)

Yes, the next day ;-) When we came back to Broome we saw the campervan of Philippe`s family on the street again. They were just going to meet with Steve and Bez before leaving for brunch at the beach front… here we all go again! As well we met again Chantal and Patrick and we arranged to meet for a full moon-dinner at the beach. We love our “travel family”. Still we are struggling to finish our update especially it is not easy to find a place with internet connection even though we are in a city… But we are hoping to finish it today and continuing tomorrow direction south… if the road is open again. Yesterday we heard that the road is closed because of a giant bush fire which went out of control… so we have to find out about that as well today.

So that’s it… going off to an internet café to update the blog and upload all the pictures… We hope you are all fine out there and enjoy your time just like we do!

Cheers Mate ;)

Goodbye Asia – Australia we are coming!!! (2 chapter)

Kupang with a “German touch” and our last destination in SEA: Timor Leste – Dili, Cleaning-Marathon

As we mentioned before we had an appointment for a coffee with a German guy in Kupang. Michael spent a lot of time travelling in his life; private and business wise. When we arrived in his place in Kupang where he finally settled with his Indonesian family, we entered through a big gate his: “La Hasienda”! This will be the name of his hotel which he built up more or less with his own hands, taking in his ideas which he got while travelling the world. Now it is in the last stage and soon he will open it. We were invited to move in one of the rooms which he finished already. So we did and after we recovered from the stomach attack we had some lovely days together in Kupang. We highly recommend to anybody staying in that place if you are around. It is a unique place with a great atmosphere and built with attention to each detail. In the restaurant you will get served with delicious German and Mexican food and at the roof top beer garden you have a stunning view over Kupang, the bay and the mountains. And if you are interested you can listen to many interesting travel stories of Michael!

Of course the day was coming when we had to leave. After a tonic breakfast we left Kupang direction East Timor border. It was a pleasant ride over the mountains passing Soe and Kefamenanu and we finally reached the little border town Atambua in West Timor. After a longer search for gasoline and some shopping we celebrated our last evening in Indonesia with a beer.

The road from Atambua to the border was a little adventure. Or let`s say we were surprised about the road size and bad conditions: a tiny little road full of pot holes passing forest and villages with no direction signs – no interest to show the right way here. The paperwork on the Indonesian side was done within a few minutes and we had to drive a few kilometers through no man`s land until we reached the East Timor border. There it was a bit confusing in the beginning; it was not a real obvious structure, just some containers around. But then we did the visa and the carnet in minutes and off we went. Our first meters in East Timor. Was it different? Yes. Much less traffic, people are walking or even driving pushbikes, less infrastructure and the houses along the streets were just out of bamboo and wood. The road which goes to Dili is more or less along the coast and offers fabulous views of the coastline. In Dili we found directly our “Couch” which was a small compound. It was a flat sharing place of two young Australians who were volunteering in Dili and they currently had a free room where we could move in for three nights. It was a perfect place for us because we could use the washing area outside to get cleaned all our things… shoes, boots, tent, bags, fishing gears, clothes, stripes, panniers, helmets… actually everything! The preparation for Australia started!

7 days cleaning marathon: the bike, our gears and finally us for Australia – becoming a little bit melancholy leaving SEA after about 7 month

Dili is an unbelievable dusty city and we had to ensure that everything which is cleaned immediately gets into clean plastic bags. The first 2.5 days we spend cleaning gears in the yard together with the entire woman from the compound. They were irritated to see a man cleaning in the beginning but after some hours they got used to see Sascha sweating and brushing together with them ;-)

We had been incredible lucky one again! We were hosted the first days in this place where we had space to clean all gears and at the same time we got introduced via Joao, our next host, to Antonio who is running the newest Ford Garage in town featured with the best equipment. Antonio invited us to use his facilities and getting support from his team if we need so! What an awesome offer!!! In Dili they have a pretty big Portuguese community due to the history of Timor Leste. Therefor you get many European things in the shops like wine, bread, butter, cheese, olives… just yummy! Joao who offered us his couch for the last days in Dili is living there since 15 years already and he was a great source of information – interesting backgrounds of the history, the current situation and the path forward. Interesting times for Timor Leste.

We entered the garage Saturday morning where we got warmly welcomed by Antonio and his team. In the beginning we gave a base cleaning with a high water pressure cleaner to the bike and then we started to strip it. More and more parts and screws were surrounding us and we got a slight feeling of fear and wondering if we will be able to put everything back in place in the end… We cleaned every little peace and bit, part and screw and cable… until 12am we did not managed enough and Antonio said we should not worry he anyhow stays longer to do some paperwork. Great! He invited us even for lunch and then we could continue… but suddenly it was 8pm and still we were not close to finish. Hmmm… Again Antonio helped us out while offering that we could come as well on Sunday afternoon. WOW!

Sunday morning we packed everything and continued cleaning the “small” equipment. In the afternoon Joao picked us up and brought us to his place and afterwards we went back to the garage. Our hands were meanwhile swallowed scratched completely black and just hurting. No way out – keep going on! Around 8PM we finished – and no screw was left, hurray! Antonio brought us home where we took a shower and left for dinner with Joao. Perkins, the shipping agency told us to bring the bike on Monday at 2pm. Monday morning we went back to the garage for the last polish. The actual plan was to drive carefully to the shipping agency and clean the tires once again in the container. But Antonio and Joao organized that we get the bike on Joao`s Ford Pick-up – with Sascha and the clean covered bike on the back we drove through Dili – COOL!

When we opened the container we were shocked: grass, sand, seats and even a cockroach! Here we are supposed to put our cleaned polished bike inside??? Complaining about it does not really help us… so we cleaned the container at least in the back part where we have to put the bike. We fixed the bike, finished the paper work and then the truck was already leaving to the port with our container. The boat was scheduled for the next day. GOOD JOURNEY BIG LADY!!!

Now we were pedestrians ;-) Still some small things were waiting for us for a cleaning… but the major part was done. We had a drink and afterwards Dinner at the waterfront with Antonio and Joao in the evening. On Tuesday we prepared a little present for our great helpers, a photo collage of the cleaning process as a memory. The minimum we could do as a reward for this fantastic support!

At Wednesday morning, our last day in Dili, we were heading towards the city center to hand over our present. Suddenly we saw a travel bike, BMW, parking on the street. We went into the footstall to check out the owner. We found Rick from Australia, on the road since more than 2 years now. He just arrived and needs to ship the bike as well to Darwin… A pity that we did not meet earlier! After we said goodbye to Antonio and his team we had a last walk along the waterfront and met Rick at the backpackers for beer.

The next morning Joao brought us to the airport – time to say goodbye to South East Asia! We felt a little bit melancholic! We had an amazing time and met incredible lovely people within this last 7 month!!! However now it is time for something different…Australia we are coming!

The view from the plane was striking and we regret that we did not have enough time to explore East Timor. We need to come back one day…

At 1pm we arrived in Darwin and we walked through without having shown anything of our equipment! Hopefully it will be the same when we have to go through the quarantine inspection with our Big Lady. Australia! Back to the civilization… not sure yet if we prefer this more organized structured and clean environment with rules and regulations ;-) We will see…

Our host came and picked us up to his place in Palmerston. He is hosting around 12 people in his house and garden so we are living like in big community cooking and eating together. Our bike we will not get out before Wednesday because on Monday is a bank holiday what we did not know. Not amusing but nothing we can do about it. It is time to organize all other things and perhaps to do some sightseeing in Darwin. Tomorrow we will go out for a boat trip. One of our cohabitants bought a boat and invited all for a test ride. This will be a nice Sunday day trip!