Published: December 20th 2010December 12th 2010
Flying east back to the west
We arrived into Perth International airport at 10pm local time having spent the previous two days gorging ourselves on delicious Indian, Malay and Chinese food in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. We had absorbed as much of the bustling Asian character of these friendly cities as we could, savouring their multitude of flavours, and storing it up until next time.
We were feeling very sad to leave Asia, collectively it's diverse countries had been our home for the last year, and on the short five hour flight back to the waiting western world we reminisced about the incredible times we'd had. I was nervous about the re-entry to western civilisation and all the changes that we would be faced with. How can Australia compare with our fantastic experiences so far? Will we be disappointed? How quickly will we adjust? With these thoughts swirling in our heads we stepped from the aircraft onto Australian soil and were instantly greeted by the first culture shock...Cold.
Gone were the humid hot nights of sweating in our sleep (although they did return later), it was a chilly 10 degrees here and we hadn't expected it! Still shivering
while we jumper'ed up we were hit with the next huge shocker...Expense. Just a few days ago we had taken a minibus 20km out to Makassar's new airport terminal and paid 8,000 rupiah each (£0.50). Here for the same distance the 'Connect' bus was charging AU$18 each, that's £11!! We were totally stunned, $36 gone just like that, obviously we knew that in Australia things would cost more than in Indonesia but the difference was staggering and tough to swallow.
Upon arriving into a lifelessly quiet Northbridge we again felt the dollar signs pinging as, almost out of money, we painfully handed over $26 per person to the night receptionist at 'Britannia Backpackers'. All we knew was we had to find a van sharpish, otherwise we would be broke in no time! Vans
The hunt started in earnest early the next morning, we brought the "Quokka" ad papers and purchased a SIM card, we trawled the backpacker noticeboards and made non stop enquiries until the credit ran out on our phone (in approximately five calls)! We tried to stay up beat visiting traveller after traveller whose rusted Toyota and Mitsubishi vans looked as though they were about
to fall apart.
So at the end of day one we had made some important discoveries: The Quokka is generally crap and overpriced, there are a lot of travellers and rusty vans out there, and Coles Supermarket is the only place we can afford to eat. The most useful info we found though was that the state library just across the street has free internet access.
Another forum to search meant that our net was now cast wider than our pavement pounding feet could carry us. We had marched all over Northbridge and the city centre, pleased to find that Perth is a cool, relaxed city with an interesting and diverse community, it was just a shame we didn't have much time to enjoy it! So, we now took to the trains. Perth has a good rail network and we were soon buzzing all over the suburbs checking out car yards and private sales alike.
The first vehicle we came close to buying was a Ford Transit, spotted at a car yard belonging to 'Wal' a tetchy seventy year old Aussie, whose skin was as tough and dry as his sense of humour. The Transit was a
huge van with space for a whole apartment in the back let alone a bed, but in terms of being mechanically sound and reliable it didn't score so highly. After consulting with both home and away mechanical advisors we backed away from grumpy Wal and his dodgy deals.
The next possible was a Ford Econovan, it's Irish owner James had been using it as his electricians vehicle and it looked, and to our knowledge seemed, in good working order, apart from a slightly smokey exhaust which James informed us of. But not wanting to get any nasty surprises a few miles down the road, before agreeing a deal we asked an independent mechanic/vehicle inspector to come and take a look. Enter 'Little John'. The night receptionist at our backpackers had recommended him, and I had spoken to him on the phone about other vehicles we'd been interested in but now it was time to meet face to face. He was a chirpy, sincere, fellow and completed an hour and a half of thorough checking under our watchful gaze. The overall report seemed promising until he checked the exhaust. In his kindness he didn't want to upset James and so
kept babbling about how it was "a good car, lovely motor" but whenever James looked away he furiously shook his head and mouthed "No! No!" Another disappointment but a comical performance from John meant we walked away less down-hearted than we might have.
The searching was getting wearing but we found time in-between crawling underneath vans, sitting on transperth trains, or infront of a library computer screen to enjoy some western comforts we'd been missing. Proper cheese in the form of Tasmanian brie and a glass (or two) of chilled white wine soon cheered us up.
By now we were getting very fed up with staying in the hostel, the claustrophobic nature of the kitchen and the horrible price tag were grinding us down. So, every morning we checked out of our room, hoping that today would be the day that we wouldn't check back in. The sixth day of searching led us to a garage which our mate 'Little John' had suggested we give a try, what followed was a pointless two days of trying to make a Mazda or a Mitsubishi fit. But no matter how hard they pushed and we hypothetically compromised the van shaped
shoe just wasn't going to fit. It was time to switch positions and look at the car market. Success Finally!
The website 'GumTree' had become a close friend of ours, we had trawled her online lists and compiled yet another page of notes and numbers to call. Somehow looking at cars seemed easier, there were so many for sale that we could be very specific in our requests. One car that ticked all our boxes was a Holden Commodore Sedan, Australian born and bred, in a fetching shade of maroon. It was 5pm when we called Stewert (owner of the aforementioned vehicle) and he obligingly left the restaurant where he was eating dinner and brought his car to the station to show us. The car looked in great condition, it was a duel fuel car, drove like a dream and to cap it off...Stewert was a pastor. With God behind the sale how could anything go wrong!
The next day for peace of mind we asked our mate John to come and do his check for us. While he bustled around, chuckling to himself at the thought of two backpackers driving around Oz in an executive car
like this, we drank tea in the church with Stewert. Stewert is an interesting and funny guy, he has lived in Australia for 40 years but he let his Chinese heritage show when he and Lewi began discussing the price. Lewi being the skilled barterer that he is you can imagine the scene, Stewert finally says, "Woah you a hard bargainer, I thought Chinese were the best not English!" It was so funny, and with the all clear from our man John, we set the wheels in motion.
Time was ticking on and with our stomaches rumbling we talked finance in the upper office of The Grace City Church. The only obstacle between us and freedom now was Natwest, Stewert had drawn up a contract and was ready to hand us the keys as soon as the money was there. Ultimately due to stupid banking regulations we would not be able to drive off into the sunset just yet, it would take three days of cash withdrawing until the 3.6Ltr V8 engine Beast would be ours. In another display of genuine kindness Stewert deducted $100 from the price to pay for the mounting bank charges, and threw in a
handheld GPS for free. Brilliant!
Finally our task was complete (almost) in just a few short days we would begin our travels again, no van with a bed-in-the-back for us, it would be non stop camping all the way round to Sydney! Now we could feel excited to be in Australia, and having shelved ideas of Toyotas and Mitsubishi's it seemed fitting that we would see this huge country from the comfortable seats of an Aussie Holden commodore.
There are more photos below