When I was working in Central & Eastern Europe I was fortunate enough to work with many great Australians. A lot of these have now moved back home and I was hoping that I would be able to reconnect with them during our time here.
Fortunately at our first port of arrival, Perth, Richard and Alina Gregson had invited us to visit them at their lovely house in a wonderful suburb just outside central Perth. Their children, Hannah and Alex, were also great with our kids and helped wonderfully with some babysitting so the adults could go out a couple of times. This was quite a novelty for us, going out without kids. They also have a cat, Vasily who Alisha and Lucy immediately took to.
Of course the reason we had flown to Perth was that the truck was arriving in the nearby port Fremantle. However when we landed it was still nearly another week before the truck would arrive and even then there were a number of hurdles to overcome before we would be back on the road with the truck.
While we were waiting for the truck Richard and Alina looked after us magnificently. Alina is a chef so we were treated to wonderful food every night. She also did some baking with the kids so I hope some of her skills have rubbed off.
We also drank very well and whilst I made a couple of trips to the wine shop I suspect Richard’s wine cellar is looking a lot more empty than before we arrived. It was great to catch up and they were wonderful company. One night we even recreated a little bit of Russia by cooking shashlik on the fire.
Perth is a beautiful, modern city set on the Swan River. The climate is fantastic and while we were there it was long sunny days at a perfect temperature. Near the centre of the city is the beautiful Kings Park where we spent a pleasant afternoon wandering around and enjoying the views over the city.
After not having been in urban areas for so long we are now getting quite settled after Durban, Dubai and Perth. However we had begun to realise that our wardrobe was looking a little thin for such an environment, so we took advantage of Perth shopping to get ourselves a little better kitted out. It was a good job as we had been invited to a works alumni event at the racecourse so we needed to dress for the event. The invitation said race attire. We had no idea what this meant other than we should probably have a hat. In the end I think we were turned out quite well.
We might have looked ok but our choice of horses was not up to our looks. Our first horse finished second last and things did not get much better from there on.
Whilst in Perth we also caught up with Nick and Lee Brasington who had also been with us in Moscow for many years. We had a lovely Sunday lunch with them at a restaurant just near the beach and it was great to catch up after so long.
I also managed to catch up briefly with Andrew Friars for a drink at the yacht club. It’s great to see how my former colleagues have settled back to life in Perth. They live in a beautiful part of the world and seem to have settled nicely. Hopefully we will be back in Perth again at the end of our circumnavigation of Australia and can catch up with them again.
Gilly’s sister Clare was also visiting Perth at the same time so we were also able to catch up with her. She is going to join us for a few days once we are back on the road.
Now whilst we were enjoying ourselves the truck was making its way slowly to Fremantle. To get the truck on the road in Australia once it arrived we had to go through a three stage process. First it needed to be customs cleared, then it needed to pass the dreaded quarantine test and finally it needed to pass a road worthiness test and be given an overseas vehicle license. My shipping agent had given me detailed instructions of each step and suggested I might want to sort some of it myself as it would save me some money and may even be quicker. I was up for the challenge.
The first step was to have it customs cleared. In most countries this is usually the only step and it is usually done physically at the port. In Australia you send an e mail to customs. They replied almost instantly and told me to come over to see them at the airport (not the port) the following day. I did this and they duly stamped my carnet de passage and said we were done. No inspection and customs cleared before the ship had even arrived. What a great start. Next I had to go to the Department of Agriculture over the road to arrange my quarantine inspection. As everything was electronic and linked they were aware of the truck and we made an appointment to inspect it on the wharf. This seemed too easy!
Next I had to find out how I could get into the wharf. You can not just walk in. On ringing the port I was told there was no way I would be allowed in. I knew it could not possibly continue to be so easy. Fortunately my shipping agent knew someone who would be able to attend on my behalf.
Later in the week we knew the ship had docked so Richard drove me to the port and we were able to see the truck through the fence. So near but possibly, still so far.
A couple of days later Richard took me to the port again for the quarantine inspection. Whilst our agent went in to meet the quarantine officer, Richard and I went for a nervous coffee at a beachside cafe. Thirty minutes later we received the call…. the truck had PASSED. All that cleaning and hard work in South Africa had paid off. We just had to wait a while for paperwork to be entered into the computer and then I could drive the truck back to Richards house. Fortunately there was an area to park just outside. I hope the neighbours did not mind.
The next day the we went for the road worthiness test. This only lasted 15 minutes and, other than one scare, again we passed. After queuing to get our permit we were done and ready to go.
We returned to Richard and Alina’s where Richard had already put the champagne in the fridge to celebrate. You see we were very well looked after.
So we are onto our fifth continent. Australia let’s see what you have got!