After more than 8 months and having driven nearly 32,000kms we completed our circuit of Australia and returned to where we had started, Perth. It’s been a fantastic journey and Australia is a wonderful place to travel around. It was quite strange coming back to Perth as we had not been in a city for months. The last real one was Brisbane, 4 months ago.
Before we arrived back in Perth we had one last sight to see, New Norica is the only Benedictine Monastery town in Australia. We took a tour to hear the interesting story of the Benedictine Monks and how they had set up the town with a thriving farm and flour mill to support it. The town and the lands are still all owned by the monks but there are currently only six of them. One of them treated us to a short piano recital.
We took the tour with some Australians visiting in the school holidays. It felt strange that what for them seemed very historical, for us coming from Europe seemed very normal. Victorian era churches are ten a penny in England but in Australia that’s not so.
Our last night before Perth was spent camping in one of our least attractive spots on the whole circuit, in a roadside stop just outside Perth. The reason for this is we were booked into the MAN garage to have some work done on the truck at 7am the following morning. As we had been travelling there were a number of little issues that needed to be seen to and of course been in the Outback and remote areas there had been nowhere to get these sorted so we hoped to get everything fixed up in Perth. Also at New Norica we had found that we were loosing coolant which was a worry. The garage identified that our intercooler was broken. Fortunately they had the part and even though timings were tight with needing to get the truck to the port they did a great job of getting everything done. We also had new brake disc covers fitted, which you may recall fell off on the Gibb River Road. We have had these come off a number of times so were glad to get the parts and the fitting for free. MAN have accepted these parts are defective so will now replace them without charge.
From the MAN garage it was off to the tyre garage and after a couple of hours the truck was looking splendid with its 6 new tyres fitted, hopefully these will see us back to Europe.
So with everything sorted we headed across Perth to stay again with our friends the Gregsons. On the way over I noticed a rattle on the truck that kept coming in at 20 and 60kmph. I was sure it was the disc brake covers as I am very familiar with that sound. Climbing under the truck though I could not see anything so the next morning we were up early and I had Gilly running alongside the truck to see if she could identify the source of the sound. But no, so I rang the garage. We needed to be at the shipping agents at 11 so had to dash across to the garage. As suspected it was the disc brake covers and after fiddling around with them we were good to go. It was a straight forward process dropping the truck off at the agents and we thought great, the truck is fully repaired, new tyres and all set to be shipped and we could enjoy the last few days stress free with our friends in Perth.
On a trip like this though it’s foolhardy to think things could be so easy. Firstly late on Friday afternoon we got a call from the shipping agent to say the port wanted to inspect the inside of the truck for dangerous goods so could I meet the agent outside the port with the keys to the back first thing Monday morning. This was our fifth shipping and whilst the rules say you are meant to ship empty nobody usually cares and this would be the first time anyone had looked in the back.
Secondly the ship we were shipping on sailed into Melbourne on time. It had been on time at every port since it had left Europe, crossed to the US, transited the Panama Canal and then onto New Zealand and Australia all on time. Great we thought, Fremantle was the next port after Melbourne. Unfortunately rather than the usual 12 to 24 hour turnaround the ship was going to spend 5 days in Melbourne so it was going to be late.
Following the inspection of the back of our truck the agent had to remove some things. Firstly the empty refillable gas bottle. This was a nuisance as it is not a cheap bottle and we can use it when the local bottles do not fit our adapters. The shipping company said it had to be empty which it was as the agent demonstrated by turning on the valve with nothing coming out. But that is not enough it needs a certificate saying it is empty. With all the steps to go through it was easier to just dump it. They also wanted us to remove random food and toiletries but also left lots in. The agent brought the offending items out so the truck was cleared to go. He was also swearing about how pedantic they had been and I suspect we had just been unlucky.
We spent our time in Perth relaxing and taking it easy. Richard and Alina were magnificent hosts and could not have looked after us better. Alina is a fantastic cook and so each evening we were treated to wonderful meals.
One evening was a Russian evening. Even though the weather was miserable Richard was determined to cook shashlik on the barbecue. Clearly to be authentic this had to be accompanied with a couple of shots of vodka and then relaxing in a steam room followed by cooling off in the pool. It was a lovely evening.
On our last night we caught up with some more former colleagues from Moscow. Anthony Sacca, who is originally from Perth, and his wife Katya Osipova were back visiting their family so we all caught up at the local Indian restaurant for a great meal and a good chat catching up with what we have all been doing. It was great to have a child free evening as Hannah, Richard and Alina’s daughter kindly agreed to baby sit and the kids were treated to pizza and ice cream and a parent free evening.
Australia has been a wonderful country and I think it has lulled us into a false sense of how easy travelling can be. As we boarded the plane to Singapore we were sad to leave Australia behind but excited to be starting the next leg of our journey: Asia. Let the challenge of crossing Asia begin.