Australia Part two Perth to Melbourne
Perth is the first Place we arrive at actually having a home to go to – a positive couch surfing request.
We have a bag full of jobs to be done here – the easiest thing is to collect our new sleeping mats from exped and to find spares for our bike get new tires cause these really are getting shot at now (they are on our bike since we left home) and then we want to try and sort our visa extensions too – so you see – ther is lots to do…..
Ailsa also turns out to be the biggest jem of the Four X Continent. She was born in Scotland, but has lived here for many decades and has also worked for many years with and for Aboriginal people with a nonprofit organization helping people to find jobs. She is an interesting and above all completely straightforward person who welcomes us with the words:” Me casa es su casa (my house is your house)”. She lives just outside the big city in the hills north-east of Perth, but it is just a half hour drive to get from here to about everywhere else we need to go to.
We have found the addresses of workshops and spare parts dealers in advance and right away (the next morning after arriving here) we ride into the city to finally get our problems tackled – I have also found a place where we can buy a new charger for my computer (the old one was broken since Kazakhstan and is actually really starting to get to an irreparable stage) and our new sleeping mats are waiting here for us. With a bit of luck we will finally get sorted in all directions now and then we can then explore the rest of this vast country hassle free from now on (and live happily ever after).
Well as ever – things turn out not to be that simple – and we should know that by now!
While we do find the workshop and parts dealers, they turn out to be closed today - because it is Mebourne Cup day and now we learn that this is a horse race and media spectacle. Every Australian who has a bit of patriotism in him (and this goes for the imported Australians too) sits in front of the TV and / or celebrates – for us this is difficult to understand because not even Formula One brings our country to a standstill of such proportions - well, maybe the World Cup with Germany in the finals can keep up. Here, however, horse racing is a serious thing ... and of course betting. In each pub (the confusing thing is that they are called hotels here even though they do not necessarily offer accommodation as well) run several TV's, so guests can always follow the horse racing, cricket, soccer or Aussie rules football and place bets at the bar while enjoying a beer at the same time.
Anyway, the town is relatively deserted, many shops have not even opened, only with the charger for our computer (in the office for Panasonic toughbook supplies the telly is on and a party is in full swing and we are invited to join) and the sleeping mats we're lucky. The only people seriously on duty today seem to be the traffic wardens – they keep hassling and threatening us with fines for parking in the wrong spots……
The next day Kev and Frank go back to the workshop. They can order new gaskets and other parts here but in the repair department we can only hope for help if we can wait until mid December as they are fully booked until then. The reason for this is that there are many relatively rich people who ride BMWs here (thanks to the mining industry) but few workshops - ergo - the few garages are overwhelmed with work. Phew - now good advice is hard to come by, but we have a date with the local BMW club tonight, perhaps they've got an idea.
While the men were relatively unsuccessful I have not achieved much more - I stayed at Ailsa’s place, with the good intention to do some desk work .... Visa extension needs to be clarified, we need new tires for the outfit and my blog has also been neglected for quite a while, but I just can’t make any kind of headway. The website of the emigration authority is so confusing that I am doing almost a computer diploma trying to find my way around it and then I try to do something simple instead and contact tire dealers. As soon as I give them the size of our tires however they pass me on to somebody else – in this city it seems we can only get either larger or smaller tires, which both do not help us because the larger tire will not fit between the forks and the smaller ones will lower the outfit by that much that we could no longer ride it on off-road tracks – and this is just completely out of the question. One tire dealer at least asks me to come to his place so he can have a good look at the bike and see what he can fix us up with. Well - and as for the blog ... Ailsa and I have too many things to talk about…...
In the evening we meet the "boys" of the BMW Club (internationally the BMW rider is more of an older age and has some slack in his accounts, this is especially true for rubber-cow-jockeys which are members of a BMW club). Here, we get at least a couple of phone numbers and also the promise of being able to borrow a C-spanner a special tool you need to unscrew the exhaust pipe.
The next day we are stuck to the phone again and try to contact the guys of a cafe / workshop project called Spadille (one of the contacts we received from the BM guys). Here you can hire work space and all the tools you need and with a little luck you maybe even find someone who can give a few tips and this is where we would like to fix our bike. The only problem here is that we need to wait until Monday, because on the weekend they have their official opening ceremony - to which we are invited as well now.
First though we have to see if we can stay at Ailsa’s’ place a few more days. I have really tried hard to repay her generosity and help by at least cooking something nice most nights but still she also had to share all our permanent major and minor dramas which perhaps are not always that funny for the audience – like the day when I completely broke down because Kevin had lost our wallet with all account cards and then we had to make all sorts of phone calls to at least cancell the Visa card (which turned out to be completely unnecessary the next day, because everything had been found by a nice guy who was walking his dog when it happened and then handed it all in at the police at first chance….). But Ailsa is a treasure - of course we can stay, at least until the 11th because then she already has new couch surfers lined up in the queue.
The highlight of this week is Sunday - no jobs, no emergencies, no phoning about and organizing stuff. Ailsa invites us to go to Freemantle with her. Her son lives here and there is a party at the Bowling Club to collect funds for a Cambodian school. Freemantle has a very different feel to it than Perth. It’s kind of friendly and has this arty atmosphere. It is the city where the artists – musicians and painters live on this part of the coast ….. Perth is the money place ....
We spend a lazy afternoon and talk with many people at the Bowling Club and then Ailsa offers to be our guide on a tour of the city. But first we need to insert a personal pilgrimage, because here in the cemetery is the grave of Bon Scott - the first lead singer of the rock band ACDC where we want to go and pay our respects. This turns out to be not so easy - the cemetery is huge and divided by religious affiliation, but how do we know which corner we have to look for? At the end of it Mr. Google (who is better than any encyclopedia and even knows more than me) leads us there but first we have to take a few laps of honor until we find some kind of clue to feed the internet know-it-all with and now he leads us straight to it.... We are quite surprised at how small and insignificant the final resting place of the rock star is.
Then Ailsa takes us back into the city center and we absorb the Sunday afternoon atmosphere that we find here: The streets are closed to traffic today, there are people dancing to Indian music, the children are sitting on the floor and drawing chalk pictures on the pavement and the buildings are mostly older –once again I notice that Australians are more British than they think and that this is what England could look like, if there was more space on the island (mind you – the British have got much too busy for such a chilled out atmosphere).
Finally, it is Monday morning and the two men set out for the Spadille (probably a little bit of an Acecafe rip off) to finally get to work on the oil leak on the left cylinder and I take once more a voyage into the endless depths of cyberspace in search of the right page, where I can make an application for extension of our Australia visa - even Ailsa cannot believe what kind of stupid questions you have to answer for that: which countries have you visited for more than 3 months in the last 5 years, list all the relatives who do not live in Australia, have you ever had Visa problems anywhere - should I mention here that we have overstayed our Russia visa and therefore have almost a criminal record in that country? Maybe not - though perhaps it would be in our favor after the last meeting between Tony Abbott and Putin?! To cheer me up a bit, I call the tire dealer in the meantime and find out that we could get new matching tires delivered by a firm called Antique Tires and it would only take one and a half weeks to get them here- since we don’t want to stay for that long we have to try and make it at least to Adelaide on the worn tires.
Kev and Frank are already back by noon– but they do not really know whether they have solved the problem or not and when Kev and I go to the grocery store later to shop for our farewell dinner (I have promised Ailsa a Kerstin-special-fisherman’s pie) the cylinder head happily squirts as much oil over Kev’s feet as it has done for quite a while now ... ..
Fortunately, however, Nick has answered our mails –he is a friend of Paul and Kerry - and lives in Bridgetown and has plenty of workshop space, lots of bike repair knowledge and tools that we can use - so we decide to leave tomorrow - we only need to manage 270 km more with the leaky cylinder head and then – hopefully - we will have the means and help to get it sorted.
Our last evening is fun despite the many unresolved problems - the fisherman's pie is a success and we all have enough wine and funny stories to make it an evening to remember.
The departure from Ailsa is not easy - we enjoyed our time here, although we still have not made much headway in any direction - at least we got our new mats and a charger for the computer and we do know what the problem is ….. , that we can get new tires, but not here and we also know that it will not be easy to get visa extensions.
On the way towards Bridgetown, the landscape changes significantly - it finally gets hilly and there are trees again. We are slowly getting into the wine growing regions of Western Australia and it is also miserably cold - it feels like November at home and despite of the flowering rose bushes you get almost a pre-Christmas feeling and a mulled wine would not be bad ... Kev has actually been right 2 weeks ago when he prophesied -while we felt as if we were going through a giant hot air gun and dreamed of ice cubes and cold drinks - that we would probably complain about the cold once we got to the south ..
Although it is still at least 18/19 degrees during the day after half a year constantly having around 40 degrees this is icy. Nick has a huge garage where we can screw and camp (according to Google translate) and we are glad that we have the new down mats and winter sleeping bag, in which we can snuggle.
Nick, Stacey and their two children are very warm and welcoming and thanks to Nick's inexhaustible fund of BMW parts, and his equally vast knowledge plus his hands-on help we actually finally get the engine oil tight - even if it turns out that it does not only leak from the cylinder head gasket, but is also dripping from the oil filter connection – we even get a new fuel pump connected and the tappets set.
We work on the bike for 2 days and are being spoiled by Nick and his family so I decide to return some of the favors by cooking a goulash and baking a cheese cake - both is indeed not one hundred percent like it should be – you just can’t find the same ingredients like at home but I know now quite well how to improvise and find some supplements for the different ingredients.
Kerry has sent us one of our bank cards here from Tasmania which was supposed to be a Visa card but it turns out to be normal bank card that works on all Visa Plus machines - this is stupid, because we need a proper Visa card to complete the application for visa extension and then to submit it - so we have no other choice but to wait for the new card which is on its way here from Germany .... Frank uses his time here to organize the chest x-ray which is required for the further processing of his visa application. This is to ensure that he does not suffer from TB after his long stays in Asia and spreads it now to Australia - we all find it rather strange because we were all let into the country without health check for 3 months and would have been able to infect half the place and everyone around us had we been ill - well - it is the same here as everywhere, you must not necessarily understand bureaucrats but you have to follow their rules, at least if you want something from them ... ..
While Frank is now slowly moving forward with his visa extension, we still do not have even the means of sending our application off.
After 3 days of intense repair works we should finally be able to move on - Nick gives us an address should we run into some more problems this side of the Nullarbor and he still thinks that we should do something better to stabilize the rear wheel, as once we are on the long crossing of the Nullarbor we will not so easily find help if we are in trouble - his friend Harry in Jerramungup also rides BMW outfits and knows everything there is to know about them. He also has an engineering workshop, which means that he can make something to stabilize our rear wheel reasonably. Nick has mentioned us and our bike to Harry and says we are more than welcome to stop by and Harry will have a look what he can do.
With all the good advice in the luggage both mopeds are packed in the morning, pushed out of the garage, and after extensive farewell to the family, we are about to start ... Nick is ready for waving us off, Franks Rosinante is buzzing already ... .. our Liza does not make a sound!
It's driving me nuts! She has been good in the starting up department for such a long time now and we really thought this problem was sorted…….
After a few unsuccessful attempts and fiddling about with some cable connections here and there we achieve nothing , in the end we give up and move our misfortunate girl back into the garage.
Liza has probably realized that she must here and now do something to feel fit again, because Nick is an electrician and has quickly found the problem - a faulty spark plug wire. Luckily we have one of them in our tool box and now she is humming like clockwork again – Nick also finds a few rickety cable connections which are being soldered and now the cable nest gets nicely tidied up with cable ties.
I guess Nick is now extremely glad when we finally leave and don’t stop again, he will probably suffer nightmares for the next two months in which we, a container of spare parts and a big mess of oil leaks and cables play a leading role.
The weather has finally improved somewhat - we have really picked the best days for repair works with rain and storm and now finally the sun comes out again - it's still cold though - I have to wear the complete motorbike gear with leather pants and even gloves and am still freezing.
The landscape is somehow very British here with rolling hills, forest and grazing cows everywhere
Thank goodness we do not want to ride so far today. Until Margaret River and the campsite that Ailsa has recommended to us in the vicinity, it’s just about 130 km. In Margaret we fill with supplies and treat ourselves to a beer in the warm midday sun, from here to the campsite we are looking for it’s only 25 kms and it turns out to be a beautiful place. We stick our tents in a quiet little corner, make a fire and I conjure us delicious mashed cheesy potatoes with a minced meat roulade - who says that you cannot live well and camp at the same time?
It's so nice here that we decide the next morning, to stay another night and to just once have a carefree day on which we don’t have to worry about anything - I finally find some time to write and sort some pictures, as I have sold two days and they are now ready to send off – well – when we find an Internet connection that is.
We are awake early, it is a beautiful day with blue skies and sunshine. The next National Park that Ailsa recommended to us is about 200 km away. There are apparently toilets and even water so we don’t need to go and fill our jerry can up, but we still have to buy some food and also I urgently need internet to be able to submit yesterday’s work and to see if we have any new mails, because I have written to Bilstein in Australia about our broken shock absorber and also to some tire manufacturers in an attempt to get some sponsorship – well you never know and every little helps. Frank would like to see if he has already received any news about his visa. We stop in Pemberton - the next large town on the map, but once again the place is only worth mentioning on the map - the "town" itself consists of 2 blocks, a hotel, 3 shops for tourists, a petrol station, a bottle shop and a small supermarket - I think there’s a bit of a tendency to exaggerate in what they call town here – can’t see there being any more people living here than in our little home village.
Australia has a population of 23 Mio which puts it somewhere around number 52 compared to all the countries but it is at the same time the 6th biggest country in the world so it is right at the bottom end of statistics in population density (about 3 people per square km) and still there is an almost paranoid fear of overcrowding - well how else would you call the situation? They have changed the status of Christmas island so that asylum seekers who are “stored” there can no longer claim to be on Australian soil and thus enter the country from there legally – hoping this makes it easier to settle them somewhere else (Papua New Guinea seems to be the most favored destination at the moment) and it also seems to be a much favored policy at this moment in time to make it hard to get any kind of visa if you are not of a certain age and country of origin as otherwise the agricultural and services industry would be in tatters ….. . This brings me back to our search for an internet connection so Frank can check the status of his application and the fairly small place called Pemberton
There is a hint of an Internet connection, but is so slow that I only just manage to send off my two prepared mails and also send one mail to Harry and Jane with the request if the three of us can come by at their place, and then the battery of my the computer runs out.
We get a few more supplies (everything here is a good deal more expensive), then we are on the search for Fernhook Falls - another National Park. Most national parks have a camp site which is relatively cheap, but also mostly without water and power. Usually you are required to register yourself here and put the payment in an envelope with number of nights and tent space which you then post in a letter box provided for this purpose - sometimes we cheat, however, because we feel otherwise ripped off enough.
Since we have wasted quite a bit of time with shopping and Internet correspondence we get here later than expected quickly put up our tents, then collect firewood and cook supper on the fireplace with the practical cooking plate. Today we have potatoes with dried tomato cream cheese again (really tasty) and then to celebrate the day we have steaks washed down with cheap Australian red wine in a 4 liter carton.( I find it quite strange that you can get 4 liters of wine for less than a 6 pack of beer - especially in a country like this, which seems to have such an uptight relationship with alcohol).
Once again, we feel privileged. We spend another day in incredible surroundings with a meal cooked on the camp fire that tastes better than in a 4 star restaurant and that although our kitchen would surely have to be closed immediately by health and safety regulation standards and the meat is a little tough. It has gone dark, we sit back, enjoy the cheap booze as if it was Chateau Laffite and the beautiful starry sky that shines through the treetops - musical background comes from the Australian bush concert - funny, some of the native parrots sound more like the monkeys in the Asian jungle – it’s just perfect.
We go to bed with the cockatoos and rise with them in the morning. We still have not even looked at the waterfalls here and then we want to move on, preferably up to Harry and Jane’s place. First however we have to find out if we are welcome and for that we once again need to find either Internet or a telephone.
So after a wander to the picturesque waterfalls we pack everything up, treat ourselves to breakfast and then get on the way to Denmark (again more map than anything else), past signs such as Macintosh Lane, Wellington Reef and the small town of Bornholm, which is located right next to Denmark ....
We find both, a phone box and traces of Internet and thus a return email from Harry and Jane, which tells us that we are definitely welcome - great, we can only hope that this is still the case when we arrive one day earlier than announced and in good spirits we head towards Jerramungup where they live.
The route takes us through Karry- and Tingle Tree forests - you feel quite small between the giant trees and we take a short detour to the valley of the giants to have a look at some huge Tingle trees, the tree-top walk I reject categorically. Firstly, it is too expensive and then I have not forgotten the last experience from Malaysia – I am cured from the idea of doing tree top walks for the rest of my days ......
Although we take our time and try to stay behind a rain storm the dark clouds in front of us keep promising we arrive in the place early and just in time to shelter under a roof with benches and tables before the downpour really begins. Now we have been exceptionally lucky and after the storm we try to find the airport next to which according to our specifications live Harry and Jane. Three times we drive past the sign that leads to the airstrip until we realize that this must be it and follow the dirt road until we stand at the entrance of the airstrip and do not know where to go from here. There is a large hall, but we are not sure if it is part of the "Airport" and also there is a sign announcing a B & B and while we were scratching our skulls a giant with the most impressive white beard, which I could admire in a long time appears, beckoning us in.
Harry is born in the Netherlands, he arrived in this country with his motorcycle over 30 years ago, previously having traveled half the world. He got to know Jane and stayed.
The two then traveled across the continent with their BMW outfit and worked in the sheep shearing business for 12 years before they settled here. Harry started his own business with an engineering shop and Jane his lively small wife leads a B & B and has her own party catering services. We want to set up our tents on the extensive grounds, but that is out of the question - the two have experienced the nomadic life abundantly and know how nice it can be to be able to sleep in a bed for a change. We are welcomed with open arms and a cold beer and feel right at home - these are people like us, with a passion for motorcycling and adventure, laugh lines around the eyes, a homely chaos of chickens behind the house, a semi-finished huge garden with shrubs small sculptures ornaments and started projects in between and then there is a terrace with self-made furniture, and an awful lot of things like rubber boots different kinds of tools and signs with mottos such as "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy". Our first evening just flies by exchanging funny stories from around the world and a lot of laughter.
The next day, Kevin and Harry spend in the workshop where they examine our rear axle problems. In a very short time Harry has quite some ideas on how to improve our outfit and goes straight to work while Jane and I drive into the village buying ingredients for the evening meal and visiting the op-shop (a second-hand shop, run by volunteers who sell things donated by people from the area and all the proceeds go back to the community for the improvement of local life). I cannot help but notice that Jane and I have a lot in common in more than one way (especially in the kitchen). Today I want to cook for all of us and realize that Jane has a large supply of homemade ingredients (just like myself at home) which I can and must make use of.
Actually, we did not intend to stay here long, but Frank receives a message that his visa is extended until mid-May, so he has no time pressure anymore and the repair takes longer than we thought.
One day Jane takes us to the to the nearby Fitzgerald bio reserve in the car and then when our Liza is fit again, we must of course make the dirt road test. So that means a trip together with Harry and Jane in the K-outfit to explore the area and then we get a message from Ailsa that our new Visa card has arrived at her house so we give her this address to send it on to. Of course it doesn’t arrive in time for the weekend so we decide to take up the generous offer to stay as long as we want and wait here for the card so that it does not need to be sent after us again and because Jane has mentioned some projects she would like to do to beautify her garden so we decide to repay the hospitality by giving her a hand to realize some of her ideas. There is mulch to be spread, then we all go collecting rocks and build a herb spiral, a well and a few flower beds and in the end we have big problems to get Harry to let us pay for his work - he has turned a new axle and made a bracket with an additional wheel bearing, which gives the rear wheel much more stability. As Harry can’t be convinced to take any money from us it feels good to have been able to do something for them too.
Our time with these wonderful people flies by much too fast and we leave this place with two new friends, some ideas of places to visit for the way, in my case a lot of good new recipes in the luggage and the hope that we will meet again one day.
On Monday we wait all morning for the arrival of our Visa card which in the end still does not arrive (so much for Australian express post) and then wasting even more time trying to figure out what happened to it so we might as well stay for lunch as well. Then we have to take our farewell pictures and by the time we get back on the road it’s almost 2 o’clock already - we we want to make it to Esperance and Cape le Grande today. That’s 380 kms and we also have to get some supplies in town, which as experience has shown drags on a bit too and it is already getting dark when we reach the National Park. For the first time since being in Australia we see herds of Roos in the fields alongside the road and I had already thought that they must have come close to extinction, because so far we have only seen 3 live specimens and apart from them only the flat variant of the animals on the roadside and promptly we find out why this is so: Apparently, any herd of the cute animals contains a few suicidal members who feel the need to throw themselves in front of any vehicle and repeatedly Frank needs all his luck, as he manages to dodge the large animals and I have to hit Kev in the side so he does not crash into Frank from behind ... somehow he is somewhat inattentive today....
When we finally reach the first campsite in the darkness it is of course jam-packed and Frank gets a bit mad:” I've told you that we should have pressed on more and now we have no campsite and ... blablabla”. The camp host thinks we should go back to Esperance, this place is already always full in the morning, but we maybe could also try Lucky Beach - there's another campsite. Lucky Beach is just 10 Km and we also have no desire to ride back all the way to Esperance. On the one hand we have already paid the entrance fee for the National Park and on the other we have no desire to meet the kamikaze kangaroos again.
The second campsite holds what its name promises and there are more than enough places to set up our tents. It is really cold now and I am actually trembling for a while until I am able to climb out of the sidecar, but there is no way I am going to cook anything now I am absolutely knackered. Today we’ll just have sandwiches - luckily Jane has packed a freshly baked focaccia for us before we left.
The next morning, Kev and I make an exploratory walk to the beach and then we decide to give it another try and see if the first camp site has an empty spot for us as it was nicer there than here. We pack the tent and have breakfast to be there on time but we are held up again, because we are visited by a kangaroo mom with her young in the pouch and she needs a while to understand that we will not feed them (2 young Chilean girls do that instead and get scolded by a ranger).
When we finally arrive at the second place, I am actually convinced that we are too late but there are still two free spaces - I think it's stupid really to first take down the tent, pack everything on the bike and then a few minutes later unpack it all and pitch the tent again ... but I'm still looking forward to spend a day at the sea side. For swimming it is much too cold - even when the sun shines - this is the Antarctic sea and it won’t see nothing more than my big toe ....
Kev is in his element, he grabs his rod and is gone for the rest of the day and I've actually found a good book in the op shop (from time to time I've picked up books on campgrounds - people leave books for others behind and you can take them leaving another book behind instead. A lot of times I've actually only read them because I had nothing better - but this one is actually really funny).
Frank goes on a photo safari - not surprisingly, because with the sunshine the wonderful intense colours of this continent really come out well - and we all have a good day and Kev even manages to catch enough fish for breakfast.
We do not treat ourselves to any more than this one day though, because we slowly need to travel further towards the eastern half of the continent.
In Esperance we stop again, I make the most of my opportunity to go online and quickly upload a few new pictures on face book and check my emails. Of course, our Visa card arrived in Jerramungup yesterday. I have just enough time to send a message to Harry and Jane as to what are they to do with the card and then also send an enquiry to a firm in Melbourne for new tires, then Frank pushes again that we should get a move on (I sometimes wonder what all the hurry is about...but there you go – everyone has their own individual speed they like to travel with and our preferred speed is obviously quite a bit slower.) I don’t have the chance often to get online, because my stick works only in larger towns and when I have the opportunity, I try to do everything I can – mostly a lot has accumulated –like organizing some spare parts, extend visas, do correspondence, try to locate our Visa card...... and I always forget something, which would have been important.
What we need again really is food, because for the next 2000 Km it will be difficult to find affordable shops. We are nearing the Nullarbor, a long road, which for the most part just goes straight across from WA to SA . A part of our way across this vast country where there are a few roadhouses and not much else (the name Nullarbor is from the Latin for null meaning no and arbor meaning trees). Most of it goes dead straight and we expect to need at least 1 week, in the back and beyonds until we come back to populated areas where prices are back to fairly normal again.
For now, we are actually driving through the tree richest area since arriving in Australia until we eventually get to a sign stating that we now will be driving across the longest straight in Australia (not that the few curves we had so far really do make such a difference in the monotony of driving).
We stop for the photo however – it’s one of the must haves.
And so it goes all day, every now and then we come past a Roadhouse over and over again we notice signs leading to the Nullarbor Golf course and as I am always curious I keep asking myself what this might be about so I am glad when I find the answer to it in a tourist information brochure. Right here comes now for everyone’s enlightenment what I have understood: the Nullarbor Golf Course is the longest 18-hole golf course in the world, the first hole in Kalgoorlie, the last in Ceduna (depends on the direction you’re driving) - the idea came as 2 members of the Eyre Highway operators Association (entrepreneurs with motels, roadhouses, petrol stations etc along this stretch) exchanged thoughts about how you could boost business in the area over a bottle of red wine. They assumed that golfers are eccentric (that is what crazy rich people are called) enough to buy a score card at one end of the course for $ 70 and to then drive about 1365 km to each of the 18 holes to play them and then, hopefully, to stay at least overnight if not even longer….. Well I cannot blame them - if you live in such a remote area, then you have to be creative in order to attract tourists, especially since most people just try to cross the area as fast as possible.. The sights of the world's largest slab of limestone (200,000 sq km) are otherwise rather far and few between. You can admire some abandoned homesteads, caves and cliffs - but they are rather rare in the vicinity of the not very homely Road houses .
Well - we do not play golf and don’t want to help business in the area – we are looking for a free 24 hour car park, which is quite nice and make camp. We soon find it but then trouble starts again - as we want move our bike after a change of mind as to where to put our tent, she refuses to start again - man slowly I do not find it funny anymore - every day is something new and then after 10 minutes she starts up again - super and nobody knows why, and if she does it again Tomorrow morning or whenever we stop the engine next time, or if we park on a sandy ground, where we simply cannot push start her.. ... oh well the next morning she starts again without problems and we choose to ignore the problem and only to worry if we have to.
The landscape changes, if at all, only very slowly and still no sign of Nullarbor - we have now, however, less Arbor and mostly straight line - booooring.
On the way we notice that we'll soon be entering South Australia and once again we are not allowed to take fruit and vegetables over the border – for all saints sakes what a performance. Now we really have a lot of vegetables, for I had not thought of this when I was shopping and now we need to get rid of everything fresh before getting to the border. So today we have a vegetable soup with lots of vegetables in it ….. tastes delicious though.
The next day we make it down right to the border, we stop at a roadhouse where I ask, whether we are controlled here, or in Ceduna (as Frank's road map indicates). The girl at the Roadhouse says that the controls will be here for both sides. So we decide to stop for the night and since we don’t want to pay a campground we head down into the dunes where we are searching for a good place for quite a while, because everywhere are No- camping signs and the penalties if you get caught there – are quite steep.
Eventually we find a cozy place and again, as we want to repark the bike – she will not start.
So while I start to cook all our vegetables Kev takes the bike apart in the hope of finding out what is wrong. The tank comes off, all cables seem to be in order, he checks everything right down to the starter, every now and then pushing the starter button and at some point for no apparent reason she runs again - well then let's hope that she still does this tomorrow morning, because this is just such a place where you can not push.
Frank and I cut vegetables like champions and we just have to laugh - that's stupid what we do here - but the throwing the whole (expensive) lot of vegetables in the bin at the border is not an option.
After cooking up all our greens we enjoy our last wine because the grape juice also is not allowed across and watch a thunderstorm that´s raging far away on the horizon.
In the middle of the night I wake up, because the storm has caught up with us - the tent poles bend more and more seriously until they eventually are on top of me and it is pouring down with rain. Of course the rain pushes in where the tent lies on me and everything gets wet.I wake Kev up asking for help and that he closes the window which he does grumbling, and then falls asleep again straight away while I try to move everything onto the mats and thus into the dry - well at least into the less wet - he happily snores again. I try not to think about what we have left out there and where it probably will be blown to.
When we get out of the tent In the morning it looks just like we expected: everything in our tent is wet, one of the poles is split down the middle, table and chairs have blown over and everything is in the mud (of course we have almost no water for cleaning things up again). Slightly dejected we collect everything and at least try to rid the worst of the mud, then we pack the bikes and pray that Liza starts - she does but after about 300 m she stops, again - shit! Kev gets off and inspects the spark plugs when he notices that the fuel hose is disconnected and the juice runs on the ground instead of into the carburetor (I had to refill the cooker last night and then of course forgot to properly fix the hose back on its connection – great, well at least this repair was easy.
At the border we find that Frank's map was right and not the dimwitted cow at the Roadhouse - we have almost 500 more kms to the checkpoint so we could have saved ourselves a lot of work and would have had plenty of time to consume all our vegetables... here in the border town are only controls for the other side….
Today we are having some beautiful blue skies and slowly we actually come to the treeless part of the Nullarbor. We regularly stop at viewpoints to take pictures of the incredible cliffs, but my camera gives up after a very short time, because all batteries are empty, even though I have it charged them on the motorcycle while driving - slowly they probably give up the ghost - like just about everything – since arriving in Australia luck is hot on our heels, but we are definitely faster. Fortunately, we still have the small point-and-shoot camera (even with a functioning battery).
At each Roadhouse we stop in the hope to be able to refill our water containers, but unfortunately it seems as if the refreshing wet is more valuable than gold here. 10 liters cost $ 15, who on earth can afford that? So we keep going and at the end we stop at a small rundown Roadhouse (Nundroo) with camp grounds and decide to spend the night here – we are hoping to charge all batteries, take a shower, refill our water containers and do some laundry , Unfortunately, everything is in place – just not in working order - the small laundry has loads of plug sockets but there is no electricity - so no laundry and also no charging of batteries, the water here is saltwater so we can’t fill up our water containers there is no trace of internet so the only thing we can tick off our list is having a shower (and that is a cold one when I get there)
We each treat ourselves to 2 cold beers from the Roadhouse and have a chat with the caretaker - who is from Hamburg and is trapped in this desolate place with his girlfriend for another 2 years, because their Aussie visa has been sponsored by their boss here in exchange for a contract over that amount of time.
I should not really tell this to anyone, but shortly after 8pm we all have disappeared in our tents – there is nothing else to do here? Also – the trees are full of parrots and we can assume that with their riot at the first dawn we certainty will be awake early.
We have crossed the Nullarbor now, but the landscape is not particularly changing (we were actually quite disappointed because we imagined there to be a much more nothing) - the grasslands have turned to pastures and cornfields as far as the eye can see, it is difficult to find a campsite, because everything is fenced off so we just keep going without looking much to right and left still following the almost perfectly straight Eyre highway along to Port Augusta and Adelaide.
One late afternoon we stop in a village, which seems to be totally deserted, only proof that there is life here is one woman who is hanging up some laundry and a dog - oh yes, and 3 cars all at once, probably today's rush half hour drive past us. We are sitting on a bench in the shade and consider how many people are watching us from behind drawn curtains. I have to think of a saying of my friend Gert: "I have nothing against strangers, but these strangers are not from here ..."
After careful study of our map material we decide to stay in Gawler National Park and so we get back on the road to find the entrance.
Before that however we find ourselves a nice bush camp – this turns out to have been a good idea which we find out the next day
When we get to the self registration point where we see how much the entry and then on top of that the camping fees will be we decide that this in addition to Frank’s very provisionally attached oil cooler (which fell off along the way and got botched back on with 2 tie wraps makes us now turn back again and hop back to the Highway and rush towards Port Augusta.
The places that we come through sometimes look as if they were depopulated by a thermonuclear attack - only huge herds of cattle have survived and sometimes you feel propelled back into the 70s, when rural life at our home also run at a much slower pace. Every village had a small store where you could buy anything from a nail to cold meats,from a frying pan to a box of matchsticks to 15 nails or sweets wrapped in a paper bag ... ..them were the days!!
The livestock industry is eventually replaced by huge grain fields ... all yellow, as far as the eye can see. Port Augusta is somehow not very inviting so we only drive through and decide to take Harry's advice and continue on a road running along a valley parallel to the highway, because the numerous road trains are getting on our nerves. They roar past us in each direction and I actually have to always hold my head, because it gets hit so hard by the drafts from the wind turbulence that it hurts.
The alternative route turns out to be a great choice. The landscape is beautiful with picturesque villages, the houses are made of the local sandstone with a surrounding veranda and we can finally ride a few curvy lines through the foothills of the Flinders Ranges, a chain of mountains which extend quite a way up into the Outback.
We find a small campsite, where we are the only guests apart from on another residential caravan and the owner asks us if we got lost when we stop here.
He then invites us to come over later and to help when he feeds the possums.
They are really funny, but I have to wonder if it is really such a good idea to feed the little marsupials on the camp grounds, because they multiply like rabbits and steal whatever food they can find - because of that we make sure that we stow away everything edible possum secure in the boxes of our motorcycles and into the tent, hoping at the same time that they do not know how easy it is to tear a hole in a tent wall ....
From here we ride on small back roads and through one of the most important wine growing regions of this continent - the Clare Valley - until we finally reach Adelaide. Here we can stop over at Sean’s place. He is a motorcyclist we met on the west coast a long time ago and who also dreams of going traveling some day. He lives in one of the suburbs, and has enough space in his garden that we can put our tents up here. Actually we intended to order and wait for our tires here, apply for our visa extension and finally pick up our Visa card which has been forwarded three times until it finally caught up with us. In the end we only fulfill one of the 3 tasks - while Frank has a new tire fitted Kev and I take the bus to the city center looking for the post office, collecting the letter with our visa card which is waiting here – we are actually quite surprised that it really is waiting for us and there are no more hurdles to take – we can just take it with us now…..
We do however have a new problem now: we discover that we can’t book a crossing on the ferry to Tasmania anymore - December is fully booked and even when we call the shipping company, we only get the information that we can, if anything, be put on the waiting list which is however already full right up to the 15th of December and there is no guarantees that someone drops out. I can see all the chances for a cozy Christmas with friends dwindle when Kerry and Paul have a brilliant idea: they have a friend who runs a trucking company and he actually has 2 free slots where he has enough space on his truck for our bike - it is an expensive way of getting Liza on the island, but still - our Christmas is saved, and we can explore Tasmania on our bike which is what we wanted after all.
We decide to wait with the application for our Australian visa extension right up until the last moment, because after a telephone conversation with immigrations I have learned that it is only important to apply for a new one before the end of the old visa, then you get a bridging visa and my hope is that this saves us over the holiday period and will give us time to sort everything afterwards – should the extension not be granted after all. As for the tires - we have decided to take a chance and try to get to Melbourne on the old ones. There we can pick up the new tires directly at Antique Tyres, thus saving $ 40 delivery fee which is only small coins compared to the money we will have to spend in Melbourne. $ 640 for 4 new tyres plus the cost of fitting them plus 360,- for the ferry of our bike plus 170 for us plus the cost of our visa extensions which is another 360 Dollars per person and then whatever we have to pay for the medical and lung x-ray – have I actually ever mentioned that Australia is bloody expensive?
If we had not met such wonderful people like Shaun and his family in Leeman, Ailsa, Nick, Stacey and their kids, and Harry, Jane and Sean, I would have probably urged Kevin to leave this continent with flying colors. Ok - we have seen and experienced a lot here but we also had an awful lot of bad luck and that can spread a bit of a gloomy mood and spoil the fun - especially at the local prices and then everything from weather to landscape to animals to even fines is simply very extreme - piping hot to bone rattling cold in a few days, for the eye very much same same until subtle changes take place. You have endless straight roads which dull your brain or gravel with bone rattling qualities and at least up to now I am missing Asian hospitality and kindness. There is too much bureaucracy and rip off. - Take for example Telstra, the Australian telecom ..: They have a monopoly, (like the German or British telecom used to have) - they own most of the telecommunication net so you just can’t get past them – that is - if you want to have Internet or even cell phone reception at least from time to time. This also means that they do what they want and that quite shamelessly. With a minimum $ 30 you get 2 gigabytes of Internet credit valid for a month but the net is only working very sporadically – at least as far as we have travelled now so depending on where you are you have no chance to make full use of your credit and when your month is over your remaining 1.5 gigabite credit is gone. You can shout at them, stand on your head or do whatever else you like…..I ring them up and call them bandits….. but they don’t care... ..well actually I do end up with a small victory this once, I keep ranting, telling them that in Europe they would be hung drawn and quartered for what they do and that it is illegal at my home to sell anything (including phone credits) on a time limit and then just take it away without it being legally used up. I rant and rave that much that in the end they give me my 1.5 gigabite for another month – pointing out that this will be the last favor I can expect from them……
We have now arrived on the coast between Adelaide and Melbourne - at the legendary Great Ocean Road ... and it is once again cold, rainy, stormy and with zero visibility. However, we do not want to spoil this highlight and see a little of it, so we stop on the first affordable campground and sit the bad weather out, until the weather improves and we are able to see at least a bit of the must-see views.
After 2 nights we decide, even if it is still quite cloudy in the morning we dare to move on and we are lucky, it is not a day with clear blue skies, but it clears up enough that we can enjoy the incredible views. Every few kilometers there is a viewpoint from which one can hike along the cliffs and I think we actually walk more than we ride today. The Southern Ocean has cut the strangest shapes into the sandstone here, with deep narrow creeks, bridges and arches and of course the 12 Apostles. There are now only 8 rock stacks (the other 4 have already colapsed) standing in a row in front of the coastline and which are being eroded further by the sea until one day they will fall into the water – probably being replaced by new stacks by that time …..
The 243 km coastal road was originally built by returning soldiers after World War I in honor of their fallen comrades and is a popular holiday destination for the Melbournites - we are lucky, because it is just out of season - in a few weeks when the Christmas holidays start (the 6 weeks summer holidays), the cottages and campsites are going to be full to overflowing ....
For the first time we see koalas in the wild - comical creatures that hang around in the trees, doing nothing but eat and sleep – well I suppose they also have sex sometimes…. They have eaten most of the trees empty already and the little fur-balls make quite some noise too. It is hard to believe how loud they are –we meet a German at our campsite who works here as a carpenter – well he’s been doing his trade all over the world including Canada and he declares that if he heard those noises in Canada he would probably see a huge grizzly storm out of the woods next. The koalas are specialized in eucalyptus - a food source that is toxic to most other animals because of the high oil content in all parts of the tree, but the little teddy bears have adjusted their body to this particular food source - They only eat certain varieties such as the local Manna Gum trees, which means that a large part of the forest here is completely bare and many of the trees are dead .... and then they go back to sleep while tourist cameras run hot.
In the small towns through which we keep riding we even have top-notch Internet reception, you can tell that the big city (Melbourne) is not far now - so we are able to even skype with the tire dealer and once with my parents – it is about time that we start to sort all our minor and major hiccups. We have an e-mail from Kerry, the crossing of our bike to Tasmania is secured - she is piggybacking on a truck - now all there is left to sort out is how we will get there...
The unexpected cold spell we have to endure at the moment leaves its traces, I feel my sciatica more and more every day and if this continues, then I will soon need a crane to get out of the sleeping bag in the morning .... Yet another reason to look forward to Tassie - we will be able to sleep in a bed a few nights.
The Great Ocean Road winds along the coast through towns with names like Anglesea (an island in Wales) and Torquay (very touristic coastal town in Devon) - you can see that this is the recreation area of Melbourne, the distance is ideal for a day trip - or weekend getaway, every other shop sells souvenirs, fishing- and outdoor accessories and there are heaps of cafes, hotels, motels, restaurants, take-aways, ice-cream parlors and holiday apartments.
In Melbourne we don’t want to stop for any amount of time. We dash in, find our way through the big city and rush hour traffic to the suburb of West Heidelberg where we have an appointment with Antique Tyres where our Liza will have fitted 4 new shoes. While we have the tires fitted Frank shoots off into another part of the city where he gets, a new sleeping mat, for his Thermarest has developed the same problem as our sleeping mats before - under the extreme temperature fluctuations of this country the glue has dissolved and now he has a big bump in the middle of his mattress on which you don’t sleep very good (he keeps rolling down the sides) and then we quickly get out again - the Great Alpine Road is not far from here and all three of us have to kill a few more days before we can go to our Christmas appointments – so it makes sense to spend this time by exploring this area - after all, the mountains are high enough to find an alpine climate and there are even ski resorts here ... ..
To get to the famous road we ride though valleys that remind us of Wales and Derbyshire, but it gets a lot warmer here and it’s another wine region - so pass quite some rolling vineyard hills - and then I notice signposts which lead to the Kelly tree, or are just called Ned's Road and I suspect that this now must be Ned Kelly's home...
Ned Kelly is kind of the Australian Robin Hood or Billy the Kid and was – a so called bush ranger ... Bushrangers were men who had come into conflict with the law – mostly escaped convicts – and where hiding in the bush or like here in the mountains and mostly living of committing more crimes ….most of them eventually got caught and some executed like Ned in the end.
Ned was the son of catholic Irish parents and his story along with many stories about bushrangers is quite controversial leaving the police and justice system a bit tarnished. It is certainly not possible anymore to paint a true picture of what is real and what isn’t but Ned certainly turned to violence during his life leading to shootings with the police and him being a wanted criminal. Ned had some special armor made which became his trademark - it looked a bit as if he had wrapped himself in tin cans of different sizes - the large Heinz beans with slit for the eyes on the head.
The Australians definitely feel affection towards these men, but to insinuate, that this could possibly have something to do with their history as the descendants of former convicts would not really be fair. The law and it’s guardians of the time were not known for treating anyone with kid gloves and many of the first POMS (Prisoners of her Majesties Ship) were sentenced to deportation and hard labour for not much more than stealing a loaf of bread or a pair of shoes - and this in a country that was unexplored and totally hostile to life in most parts for the unprepared British, Irish and Scottish people brought here….
Some Australians are surprisingly touchy towards the fact that modern Australia has its roots as a penal colony …. I’ve been told it’s not a good idea to ask immigrations whether you still need a criminal record to come into the country…
After a long ride through valleys we actually wind up into high mountain areas – and there are ski resorts, slopes and lifts as well as some stunning views.
It is quite obvious that there must have been a huge fire around the area at some stage – all the mountain tops are full of ghostly white dead trees and the floor is littered with charred bits of wood.
We descend towards the Gippsland lakes and stop a couple more nights in different towns where I finally manage to send off our application for the visa extension and also make appointments in a clinic near Melbourne for the required medical.
At the end of the Great Alpine Road we reach the crossroads from where Frank and we have to turn into opposite directions. In 3 months we have ridden almost 11000 kms together – I am fairly sure he will be grateful to be able to continue without the chaos that seems to follow us wherever we are (and sometimes even infects whoever is with us at the time).
We ride back into Melbourne and I even manage with the help of Simon (a traveler we met in Mongolia and are still in contact with) to get our navigation program working again – thank you Simon!!- and now it is a piece of cake to find our way around this city.
We stop with Ben for 2 nights. He also is a traveler we met along our journey who now lives and works here, saving hard in the meantime so he can one day pack his Africa Twin and let the travel bug take over again. From Ben’s place we find the health clinic, have our x-rays done and discover parts of Melbourne (which is actually not too bad for a city of its size) and when we meet up with Wayne (the guy who will take Liza in the back of his truck and on the boat) at the car park for the ferry to Tasmania. We actually even have our visa´s until the first of August.