June 25 - July 2, 2007
Welcome to the eighth phase of the Around-the-World driving expedition of the World of Wonders Project. During this expedition we are completing our drive across New Zealand after which we are shipping our expedition vehicle to Australia where we will drive around the world's largest island.
Leaving our Auckland hotel bright and early, we ran through the raindrops to our airport shuttle. Fortunately since it was so early in the morning, we had very little traffic to contend with. We reached the airport in less than an hour and set about getting our bags checked and our documents in order. At one point the airline agent asked us if we had a return ticket. No, but we have a year-long visa and we donít know exactly when we are leaving. OK, but someone else might ask us about it later. Hmmm. But everything went smoothly and we boarded the plane with no problems or questions.
Our flight to Brisbane took a little over three hours and we were able to enjoy the individual in-flight entertainment. We arrived in Brisbane a little late because of high winds, and because we had brought nothing much at all with us (it was all in the truck), we breezed through immigration and customs and no one questioned our one way ticket.
We made it to our hotel via an airport shuttle, only to discover that, even though we had confirmed reservations, there had been an error and the ensuite room we had reserved wouldnít be available until the last night of our four night stay. That meant we had to use the communal bathroom down the hall. Not very happy, but whatcha gonna do? To make up for the error, the owner of the hotel gave us his old cell/mobile phone and saved us from having to buy one. OK, thatíll work.
We spent four very cold days (and even colder nights) in Brisbane waiting for our ship to arrive. Just our luck that two days of rain and then two days of wind accompanied us our entire stay. In Brisbane the people call this wind a lazy wind, it would rather blow through you than around you.
We spent our days wrapped in layers and our nights huddling under blankets trying to stay warm (the hotel had no heat). We spent Tuesday and Wednesday running around Brisbane, making sure that we had all of our paperwork in order. We wanted to be sure that when our vehicle arrived we would know how to do whatever was needed to get it admitted into Australia.
We needed to find out about getting insurance, we needed to get our carnet signed by customs, we needed to find out about getting the vehicle registered and we needed to rent a car to get out to the port (taxis back and forth would have cost us four times as much as a rental car).
Finally, on Thursday morning, we got the good news that the ship had just arrived. Don spent quite a while on the phone, trying to make arrangements for the vehicle to be inspected, but finally, the moment of truth arrived; had we cleaned the vehicle well enough?
Don was so good at convincing the inspector over the phone that we had sufficiently cleaned the vehicle, that the inspector agreed to a wharf inspection, rather than having the truck put on a flat bed and taken to a warehouse for inspection (all of which would cost us even more money than the $90.00 initial fee).
We arrived at the appointed time and the inspector drove us out to where the truck was parked. He immediately crawled under the truck and starting looking for dirt. He then asked us to tilt the cab up so he could look at the engine. Then he wanted to see inside all of the storage compartments and inside the cab. Last but not least, he inspected the inside of the cabin. All along the way, he had been making positive comments and finally he told us we had done a good job and he was OKing us for removal from the wharf. Yeah! Sorry - no photos were allowed to be taken in the wharf area.
We still needed one more document that we couldnít get until morning, so we headed back to the hotel, happy as clams. The next morning, we got our delivery order from our shipping agent and headed back to the port. We turned our documents over to the port authority and were told that we had to pay $72.00 for the truck to be driven the 100 meters from where it was parked to the gate. Sheesh! We paid our money and waited while the driver brought the wrong vehicle. Oh brother. Finally, our beautiful Fuso arrived and we were out of the clutches of the government.
But one more bureaucratic item had to be taken care of, the actual registering of the truck, where it was required to be inspected. We located the closest Queensland Transport office and stood in line with everyone else wanting to get their vehicle registered. Finally, it was our turn and everything went very smoothly. The official knew exactly what we needed and how to handle the paperwork. The only delay occurred when the official indicated that we could only get our permit for the period of time that our carnet was good for. Since our carnet needed to be renewed in January 2008, that was how long our initial permit could be granted for. This caused a little problem as we had already purchased a one year insurance policy, half of which would now be wasted. So we had to buy a new six-month policy and get a refund on the old policy. While Don headed off in one direction to purchase the new insurance, Kim headed back into the city to return the rental car before our 24 hour deadline passed. All went well and by 3 pm we were on our way out of town.
We then had several errands to run including making stops at the offices of our two newest sponsors, Hema Maps Australia and MaxTrax.
We met Peter at the Hema office and talked for more than an hour about ALF and Australia. Peter turned out to be a like minded person as ourselves and it was a pleasure to get to know him. He then proceeded to load us up with nearly every map and map book that Hema had in stock! If we get lost while exploring Australia it will have to be on purpose!
From there, we had made plans to stop and pick up 2 sets of Maxtrax, a four wheel drive recovery device similar to, but much improved over the old fashion sand rails. These will help us self-rescue the expedition vehicle if we get stuck in sand, mud or ??. Arriving after dark, we met Leon and Paula at their home. After talking for a couple of hours, it was decided that we would park at their home until we were ready to head north and start exploring. We ended up having so much in common with our new friends that we stayed for three nights! During the day, we explored the Mt Cotton area of Brisbane with Lean, Paula and their two children, Sarah and Tom. We had a picnic at the beach one evening, and got to see our first koalas at the Daisy Hill Koala Reserve.
Finally, we had to leave, we said our good byes and went to visit a caravan service center. I know, real exciting stuff, but Dometic/Tundra, our fridge sponsor had indicated that they wanted to replace our fridge (again) due to cracking on the walls of the interior. So we made an appointment for tomorrow, and found a nice camping spot near a lake and koala reserve.