Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Photo East Point Darwin

On the road again

So, car: all new tyres, new swivel bearings in the front hubs, new handbrake cables, renovated rear drums, new universal joints on the rear drive shaft, new dual battery monitoring system (thankyou Opposite Lock Darwin for replacing our broken one with no quibbles or charge ($480!!), winch overhauled and now working again properly, brakes and load proportioning valve (I know I know, I had no idea what it was until the Haynes manual explained) all bled and car underside sprayed with protective coat. We've also bought a new water container and a bit more serious recovery kit. Next is Litchfield park then on to Kunanarra then the serious bit the Gibb River track. Four wheel drive only and closed during the wet season because the rivers are too deep to cross. We think it is now open so time for some serious adventure. I think we're as prepared as we can be but we've joined the AA just in case!! Perth is 4859KM away and we want to be there by my Birthday if poss. It's going to be remote so if you don't here from us for a while don't panic and we've also got a text messaging system set up with Matt and Max letting them know our itinerary and making contact when we can.

Hippity flippin hooray we're youngtrippers again!!!!!!

Photo Local kids East Point

Photo Make a wish

Photo Kym's Birthday

Photo Us

Photo Concentrate

Photo Corporal Eirinn

Photo Brigadier Kym

Photo Sgt Major Max


Without the company of Matt, Max and Eirinn there's little doubt we would have torn each others throats out and or withered and died under a huge pile of forms. We've been sharing the same campsite as them and hopefully have been helpful to them when their shifts cross and we can look after Eirinn. They've been having a bit of a stressful time recently aswell with a dodgy motor and a dodgy garage but between us all I think we've just about kept our sanity. Eirinn certainly can't help but cheer you up with her incessant chatter and 4 year old's lust for answers to everything. Now we're on the move again we will certainly miss them but thankyou guys for keeping it real.

Photo Bower bird nest

They build this amazing structure then decorate it with shiny objects which you can just make out lying in front of the nest.

Photo Woolers


Six weeks later and we're still in Darwin. Now Darwin's not a bad place, it's hot, sunny, vaguely cosmopolitan in a sort of "this is what we think cosmopolitan is and we're happy with it" way, maybe innocently contrived best describes it. It has history! It was the only city in Australia bombed during the WW2 and don't you know it. There are the remains of the old town hall fenced off and pride of place near the water front but difficult to get excited about when the house your tenants live in in Taunton is older. And of course there are the indigenous people, the Larrikea aboriginals. I'm not in the mood for a rant right now but the topic will come up sooner or later, it can't fail not to.

Anyhow six weeks later and we're still in Darwin. Welcome back to the 1st world and all it's associated bureaucracy. The department of vehicle import approval with who we lodged our application in March 2009 have finally got it right just this week. We now have the paperwork we need and the car is now registered and road legal in Australia without our Carnet. The Carnet can now be returned to the RAC in the UK and our bond against our house can be released.To say we've been banging our heads against the wall would be an understatement. At one point one of their advisors told us we would have to take the car out of the country and bring it back in again! Fortunately we found one voice of reason who could see that the catalogue of errors was down to them, and finally granted our approval certificate which arrived last week (and had to be sent back 'cos they'd got the chassis number wrong!!!).

Photo Eastpoint Darwin

Friday, 16 April 2010

We've done it.

The scary part was next. We had to arrange with customs and quarantine to meet us at the container when it was opened and have our car inspected. This was the bit Troy had already told us about. It costs au$120 for the booking fee which includes the first half hour of the inspection, ever half hour thereafter is $90 and most inspections take two hours!! We all arrived at the containers at the same time (Sveinn, Adam and Nicky and ouselves) and the first thing we did is pop up the lap tops and show them the photo's of the vehicles in various stages of undress. They were impressed.. good start. Exactly one and a half hours later they'd finshed all three vehicles. The yard marshall said he'd never seen three vehicles all cleared in one day let alone 1 1/2 hours, testement to Troy's good name and Kym and the others fastidious cleaning skills I'd say. Brilliant. We have our home back again and on Australian soil which I guess kinda means

WE MADE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Photo Wendy, Eirinn, Dave, Me and Matt

Photo only a little one

Photo Nazarrena

Photo Shutting up


Matt and Maxine Wooler are old friends from years and years ago (I used to skate with Matt when he would've been still at school and Id've been 18ish. Sometime in the early 2000's we fell out of touch but I had heard that they had moved to Australia and when he appeared on Facebook a couple of years ago we got back in touch. He knew we were planning to move to Australia so when he and Max and their daughter Erinn (with a thing on the E that I can't find) left Newcastle (New South Wales not Tyneside) to tour around their new country for a while he sent me a message to see if we were in Brisbane yet. I think we were in India at the time! But what did come out of it was that they had work in Darwin (both nurses) and would be there when we arrived! So to be met at the airport by Maxine and Erinn and driven back to the house they were looking after was the nicest thing that had happened to us in weeks. They all must have thought I'd turned into a zombie as about all I could manage was to sit on the sofa and read for two days. The Dengue hadn't completely worn off. Even more admirable of them was the fact that Matt's parents were over from England and staying with them in a two bedroom flat that they were looking after. We've said thankyou many times but I'm sure they still don't appreciate how much we needed that.

Photo Yep that's what we said OMG

Photo Any seeds in that?

Photo Day 5

Photo $25 a day!

Photo Extreme cleaning

Photo Kym used enjoy cleaning

Photo Adam and bike.

Photo Nicky pre fever

Photo Still couldn't cheer up!

Photo Not happy

Photo Before

Photo After

Photo Sveiin's Landy


Holy crap, you have no idea of how stressful it is to watch 4 blokes tear into your car/home and rip everything out. I was as helpful as I could be but it was obvious they'd done it before so I went to help Kym with washing everything we owned! By now Nazzarena had found us (she'd been out of the country) and we met her at the end of the first days cleaning at her house. We are probably the worst guests she's ever had! Both of us were absolutely knackered even to the extent we could hardly speak. But it was a lovely meal! The following morning began ground hog day, back to the yard and back on with cleaning. By now the car was empty and being steam cleaned inside! All day at it and by the end of it I was feeling more than tired. We got back to Nazzarena's just about managed to eat and I had to lie down. The next morning I could hardly move, I'd had a restless night and woken up with the sweats and bad dreams frequently. I had some breakfast and a cup of tea but there was no way I could get to the yard. Off Kym went and I spent the day feeling sorry for my self. The following day after another bad nights sleep and a lingering feeling of malaise Nazzarena arranged for me to see one of the UN doctors. All appeared well but it was pretty obvious I wasn't. Even my temperature wasn't ridiculously high but then I'd taken a paracetamol before so this was potentially masking any fever. He told me to buy a thermometer and record my temperature overnight and let him know the next day the results. Two hours later it was 39c and obvious that the drugs had worked. So back on the paracetamol every couple of hours. It brought the temp down to 38c but didn't really stop me feeling rubbish. After a better nights sleep I really had to get back to the yard to see the re-installation of the drawer units and various other bits (tent spare wheel carrier etc). Doing something kept my mind off it for a while but by the time the sun was high in the sky I was back up to 39c again. Still at least everything was done. Kym had worked like a trooper and kept tabs on everything so all was ready and into yet another container the car went, along with Adam and Nicky's bike.

Photo Sveiin from Bjorkland

I've already told him that Iceland have taken it too far this time in the Cod wars using volcanoes to cripple Europe.

Here we go..

Back to Troy. He scared us to death with talk of Australian quarantine regulations and the lengths you must go to ensure your car is spotless then scared us even more by quoting US$750 for doing it. We bargained him down to $450 by virtue of the fact that we would be helping with the cleaning and a deal was struck. Nazzarena's (the Italian girl) phone was still not answering so Troy very kindly donated his yard office to us for the night which is how we ended up sleeping 10feet off the ground in an airconditioned shipping container. We'd already got a quote from Perkins shipping (Darwin office) for the freight to Darwin but the quote was out of date so we went to the agents SDV in Dilli and they quoted us about $200 cheaper, bonus. We got back to the yard to start the cleaning to find an Icelandic Landrover and Sveiin. His engine and gear box had recently blown up and he'd been towed from Kupang to Dilli driven from Iceland without shipping once before now with his wife and two year old daughter. He came through Iran and China the two countries we couldn't. Anyway after introductions he asked us if we minded him asking how much we were quoted for the shipping? He said that SDV had given him the same quote but that Perkins office in Singapore had quoted him almost $500 less! After a quick e-mail to Singapore we also had the same quote and Sveiin had saved us a heap of money. On top of that Adam and Nicky had a quote for their bike and we said to them that if they came in our container we would do it for less than their quote. So it turned out to be the cheapest shipping we've done yet! Which made up for the cleaning..

Photo They still got me.

Photo Home briefly

A little history

I'll use that as an excuse for a little segue into a brief history of Timor. Not easy. Odd place and it's hard to get a definitive story but, and please feel free to put me right. The Portuguese have been trading here since the 16th century and have had run ins with the Dutch right up until last century when they decided they would only have the eastern tip of the island. The Japs briefly had the island in 1945 but the Portuguese were straight back into their bit after the war, soon the locals decided they didn't want the Portuguese anymore so they were allowed Independence in the '70's I think. No sooner had they done this than the Indonesian government saw their opportunity and promptly marched in and occupied them. This went on for quite a while, guerrillas fought with the Indo army and thousands and thousands of people ended up dead until the rest of the world stepped in. After a referendum in which the majority of East Timorese voted for total independence the Indonesians ceded and as a show of peace donated a 27m high statue of Jesus, the 27 being significant as it represented the 27 states of Indonesia (cheekily East Timor was the 27th!!!!). But a local militia who supported the Indonesian occupation kept up terror tactics and so more and more people were still ending up dead and TROTW stepped in again (mainly Australia) with proper war stuff and cleared out the Militia paving the way for East Timors first elections and their recognition officially by TROTW as a country. Sounds like a great place for a happy ending eh? Sorry. In 2006 ish some disgruntled locals decided that the first elections were just a show piece (with a little justification it has to be said) and that they weren't happy with the Government in place. I suppose having lived with the gun you tend to think you work things out with the gun, hence a political dispute turned into attempted assassinations, coup's and more bloodshed until, you guessed it, TROTW stepped in and presided over new elections and saw in a new government. Since then things have been reasonably tickety boo. There are still bloody hundreds of UN vehicles about the place though and not an insignificant number of Australian army vehicles patrolling. The whole place still feels slightly under siege and the barbed wire and high security everywhere do nothing to make the place feel welcoming. And they all speak Portuguese!?

International interest in the country is obvious when you drive along the main esplanade and count 19 foreign embassies!! Yep 19 and we're not talking shared office space we're talking huge posh buildings! China, US, Korea, NZ, Aus etc etc. Cynics among you might be wondering why the interest in such a tiny bit on the end of a huge archipelago that is the gateway between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific and has huge reserves of natural gas and oil.

Photo Flag

Photo Everywhere

Photo Troy


Can't remember if I told you but when we were on Bali we met an Italian girl having a row with a taxi driver? Anyway, long story short she works for the United Nations and had offered a place to stay for us. Trouble is she wasn't answering her phone, all was not lost we had things to organise such as shipping and cleaning of the car to meet Australian quarantine rules. Troy logistics was a name we'd been given and it wasn't long before we were sat in the office of Troy Adams a big jolly extremely useful Darwinian. He basically gave us the full run-down on what we needed to do and how to go about it. He couldn't take care of the shipping for us as Perkins shipping have pretty much got Timor tied up and their agent on Timor wasn't him but he could help us with the cleaning as he prepares all the vehicles for the Australian Defence Force on their return to Australia.

Photo You're not normally allowed to take photo's at customs!

Photo Welcome to the Democratic Republic of East Timor

Photo Nearly there

Timor Leste

Back again and in Australia but I haven't told you how we got here yet so you can wait for Australia. I think we were at the border from Indonesia into Timor Leste last time I typed. Great border. We've seen some borders I don't need to remind you, but this was without doubt the least official looking border we've done. The Indo side was slightly more so than the Timor side and unusually for Indo they were pretty quick and efficient (when they opened). Lot's of chat, lot's of farewells and we waved good bye to our country of residence for the last 5 months. The first we realised we'd reached the Timor side was when a man in a uniform stood up and waved from behind a desk in a thatched hut. This was the passport check next was the slightly more official portacabin where we paid for our visa and had our Carnet stamped and that was that. An hour later after a scenic coastal drive we we're in Dilli.

Photo And you too...

Photo Mum

Photo Gran

Photo Timor

Photo Timor living

Photo-Last fill up in Indo