It has been about a week since taking possesion of the vehicles. After spending two months without the trucks, it is easy to forget what real freedom and conveniences are like. Daily we have to double our travel time, work out three or four different modes of trasportation and revolve our schedule around timtables. Since leaving the United States, accomodation has not been stationary for more than four days at a time. This feeling is not foreign, but it is something that you never get used to. After this week, all this changed.
We are still on the move, but at least my home is now consistent and comfortable. The tents we received from Marmot are a nice shade called Sunflower. Marmot actually did some research a few years back when they introduced their tent line and found that people reacted best to confined spaces with this color of fabric. This small portable home is about as regular of sleeping quarters as I can expect over the next couple of years. There are no complaints here. Beyond Marmot’s well researched choice of colors are my inflatable sleeping pad, $5 pillows, custom made sleeping bag…thanks Mom, and headlamp as a nightlight that do the trick of giving some peice of mind at the end of the night. Athough I cannot walk around the corner to my bathroom in the morning, the view as I roll out of my tent is a welcome replacement changing from canyons to beachlines to mountain backdrops daily.
As many have noticed from my blogs over the course of the last couple of months, things have not exactly been a walk in the park. Many days my inbox is filled with worried emails and advice to lighten up or chill out. Some emails have even gone as far as telling me that this honesty is unprofessional if the objective is to get more sponsors on board. Trying as the last couple of months have been, they are hands down some of the best of my life. This is an adventure, not a vacation afterall. The months ahead will certainly be rocky like the past, but the amount of knowledge and enjoyment that come out of an experience like this certaily surpass a holiday of mai tais on the beach.
One of the largest hurdles we have had to overcome is the vehicles, their paperwork and the shipment to Australia. This may not fall into the category of enjoyment, but it is a mountain of knowledge about a plethora of different subjects. I am your man if you are looking for advice on the United States DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles), customs, quarantine, insurance, international shipping, logistics, carnet documents, the Canadian Automobile Association, Letters of Credit…I will spare you the rest of the list so as not to put to much strain on the transfer limits of your internet connection. Some of these lessons I enjoyed learning some were not.
The most recent and amuzing of all these lessons is the process of getting our cars off the boat and through customs. As you might expect it was not as simple as showing our passports and paying a few fees. The vehicles arrived on the 7th of April. Being the Easter weekend holiday for Ausralians, they appropriately took a 4 day weekend to honor it…So we waited.
When business resumed on Tuesday, the phone rang with our new master of ceremonies for the circus act of receiving our vehicles over the next few days. Ray, the freight forwarding manager for our shippment, informed us that our appointment with the customs and quarantine officers would be on Thursday…So we waited.
After a quick conversation with the coordinator at ANJ, the unpacking company, we were allowed access to film the unpacking of the vehicles. This was only a tease. The unpacking of the trucks is just the beginning of the receiving process. Nonetheless, a tease like this is still a soothing feeling watching the trucks roll out of the container safe and sound with the engines purring. Even though the waiting continued one more day before taking possession, I slept easier later that night knowing that the trucks waited safely in the ANJ warehouse.
The next morning we rode the bus and train back out the the Sydney suburbs again to finish the process. We met the friendly quarantine officers and oddly enough had a good time talking with them and going through all of our gear to make sure it did not pose an environmental danger to their country. They were quite interested in our journey, which undoubtedly made our time in customs and quarantine much easier. With their authority, they waived us from having to meet with the customs officers at all.
Another handful of hours and hoop jumping passed as we gathered our paperwork from another suburb about 2 hours away, allowed ANJ some time to finish cleaning the trucks and rounded up the rest of the team. It is still a mystery to me why our paperwork was in one place, our vehicles were in another, the manager of this process was over 1000km away, and cleaning the undercarrage of two trucks takes over four hours at a price of $220. At this point I was done asking questions. By about three that afternoon and $2700 worth of unexpected fees later, we were pulling out of the unpacking yard and on the road. We finally achieved our original goal of having our own vehicles and being free of trains, buses and timetables. We have been on the road for over 2 months, but until about 5 days ago, the adventure had not truly started.
Over the last week we spent a few days in the Blue Mountains, drove up the coast to Byron Bay and camped in many gourgeous spots. The comfort of having our own vehicles certainly eases all of our minds. On the contrary the foreign look of our vehciles is most certainly alarming to the unsuspecting Australians as we fly down the road in our unusual looking Toyotas. Between the turning heads and lifethreatening manuevers our fellow road warriors attempt to get a look at our vehicles, you would think that we were driving spaceships down the road. I would like to personally send a thanks to all of these Aussies for the looks and smiles…the is the mobile spaceship that I call home.