We have been in top gear the last couple of days, trying to get everything done. We went for our medicals and collected together all the extra paperwork that the Australian Embassy required. Arno took his gearbox out and took it to the specialist, who pronounced it fit after taking it apart and replacing the main seal. He and Hans put the whole thing back together again in a couple of hours. It is so helpful to have a BMW specialist in your circle of friends!!
A visit to the copy shop was also squeezed in, so we could copy all our important documents.
Things are beginning to come together; all the documents we need for the Australian embassy arrived this morning, so off we went to the post office and sent another envelope off to Berlin. Who knows, we may even get our Permanent Resident visas before we leave, mmmmm maybe we shouldn’t book the flights to LA this week after all.
We spent a whole day preparing the crates for the bikes. Arno had got original crates from both BMW and Yamaha a few months ago and we stored them in the garage in pieces. Now it was time to see how they fitted together and whether there would be enough room in them for our bikes, panniers, helmets, camping equipment. We changed a few dimensions to make the boxes as small as possible, took the front wheels out and calculated that both bikes would end up at just over 4 cubic metres – not bad.
We are also the proud owners of a laptop – a Panasonic Toughbook!! A very good friend of ours who is also one of our sponsors found one lying around in his home office and said we could have it! Wow what a generous bloke!! Thanks Micheal!!
Finally this week, we actually sold our wreck, sorry car. Someone actually paid €100 for it, despite the crunching noises and dodgy paintwork. No more car worries, wonderful!!
Highlight of the week – an email from the Australian Embassy, “pleased to inform you blah blah….” They have decided to grant us our visas at long last. That was darn quick!! Just have to wait for Arno’s new passport to arrive, then we can get the visa actually in our hot little hands!
We both worked our last few days at work with big smiles, not just because we were leaving. My colleagues at L&M had collected a few €’s together and decided to put the dosh towards the digital camera that we had our eyes on. Thanks guys, we ended up paying just over half, for a great camera.
Monday – first day free from our jobs, but no rest for the wicked. Spent the whole day packing and crating the bikes.
The preparation that we had already done paid off and by 21:00, when we called it a day, we had almost finished. The bikes were due to be picked up late Tues or early Weds, so no rush.
Phone call 8:30 Tuesday, the truck is on its way, 45 minutes to finish putting the lids on the boxes, and paint the destinations on the outside. We were still hammering when the truck arrived, but the boxes were soon on the lorry and we waved them goodbye. Five weeks until we are reunited in Los Angeles, all being well.
Arno went and picked his new passport up, riding his oldtimer – our only transport. Then we sent off our passports to Berlin. Looks like we will be flying to LA via somewhere in Australia.
The bikes are on their way, but there is still so much to do. We spent the next couple of days packing all our belongings. I was lucky enough to be able to borrow a big van from L&M, and so with the help of friends, we squeezed all our stuff in and then drove it to Arno’s brothers place, where it will stay until after our trip.
Our passports were waiting for us when we got back, complete with the long awaited visas for Australia. It was so good to read the words “permitted to remain in Australia indefinitely”
We cleaned out the flat of our last belongings and sorted out a few last minute things such as travel insurance. All too soon, it was time to hand over the keys to Ingrid who would be moving in after us. We said our goodbyes to Munich, then headed back to Saarland, to spend some time with Arno’s family.
The majority of the work on the bikes was done by Arno, he is more mechanically minded and has lots of experience from his first trip. I helped where possible and tried to learn more about my bike where I could.
Arno’s BMW R100GS PD Classic (Black Betty)
Arno’s bike had had a complete overhaul recently, as she had about 120,000km’s on the clock and has already completed the overland route to Australia. In addition the drive shaft and the cam shaft chain had been replaced at 100,000km.
The Engine was taken apart, the cylinders checked and found to be ok, the piston rings were still within their limits but exchanged anyway. The valves and guides were worn but had no play (amazingly good for 120000km). Willi Wegramf took a look at the gearbox and the drive unit, a few seal rings and one big bearing needed replacing and that’s it! Again surprisingly good for 120000km. The clutch plate we exchanged too, as we had the gearbox out anyway and it doesn‘t cost much.
A little welding and painting followed by a new rear shock absorber and she was ready to go again.
Black Betty was already equipped with aluminium boxes made by Arno’s brother, each with a capacity of around 45 litres and an aluminium plate fixed to the centre stand to protect the gear box. A single seat replaced the normal seat, providing more secure storage space behind the rider. Last but not least a medium size tank bag complete with side pouches, great for keeping water bags in.
Just before the bike had to be shipped, the gearbox had to come out again, as the gearbox exit gasket leaked. Why? who knows. The spark plug cable had a few cracks in the insulation and let water in occasionally, No big deal, but to find the problem took some time. Finally the Carburettor gaskets were replaced, as they go hard after a while.
Sian’s XT600E needed a bit more work !!
The first decision was about luggage, should it be soft (Ortlieb bags) or hard (Alu boxes). After lots of discussion, research and sleepless nights - well OK, night, I plumped for alu boxes, mainly as they offer more security and also more protection for me and the bike when I end up dropping it for the nth time!! I was lucky that a friend had recently sold his XT, but still had a pair of Därr boxes and a carrier system lying around in his garage. Arno got it fitted onto my XT with a bit of adjustment, so saving him the job of having to build a carrier. (Thanks Phillip!!)
Next job was to make a windshield, we had a look at a few bikes, to get some ideas, then drew a template and cut a shape out of a sheet of Perspex. We had to shape it, to fit the bike and make it somewhat aerodynamic, so made it hot over our new Primus multi fuel cooker and bent and shaped it to the right size. We filed it a little and added a rubber rim, (to satisfy the boys in blue - or green) then bolted it on and Voila!! Not a bad result, a bit more wind noise, but a lot less wind (and rain) to my body.
The biggest problem was finding a second hand Acerbis tank to fit, we have already tried 4 :- ( Two of which were long shots anyway, but the other 2 were bought from people who should know better!! Luckily we had made sure that we could return the tanks if they didn’t fit. It Looked like I was going to have to shell out 200 Euros for a new one……………
Well I got away with 180 Euros but the tank came without a fixing kit. Just the excuse Arno needed to go off and get himself a thread cutting kit!! He fixed up the tank, also mounting petrol filters in between the petrol taps and the carb. Now with a few extra spare parts to fill my alu boxes, and a new tank bag, the bike is ready to go!
This is more about all the things that have to be done before you can turn up at the airport and catch the flight to your destination. Preparing ourselves is the easy part!! Having both done long trips before, we know pretty much know what to expect, although for me it is going to be a different experience travelling by bike instead of public transport
Our starting point was organising the shipping of the bikes to Los Angeles. Air was too expensive so we started collecting Ocean Freight quotes from various sources. It was interesting to note that the actual cost of the sea freight was pretty similar (around $80US per cubic metre) but charges for paperwork and documents varied wildly. Arno got a couple of crates sorted out and we played around with crates and bikes, trying to get the total size as small as possible.
The next big project was getting our camping equipment sorted out. Most of the equipment we needed, we already had from previous trips, two new additions however were tent and cooker. Previous trips have seen us squeezing into a 1½ person tent, leaving most of our stuff outside in waterproof bags - not recommended in Central/South America!! So we splashed out and got a Macpac tent for a great price from Sian’s employer Lauche & Maas, the source of most of our equipment.
As for the cooker, Primus won over MSR, and we are the proud owners of a liquid fuel cooker.
For anyone that is interested, have a look in the archives for a complete equipment list of what we started out with.
Technology has changed completely since the last time we both travelled (no email address then!) and we had to decide how much of this tech we were going to take with us. The list of ‘useful’ gadgets was loooong, and our budget small, so some decisions were made quicker than others. eg no GPS, no mobile phone, no pocket PC. It took a lot longer to decide which items to take and more importantly which model etc.
We both already have SLR cameras, but the versatility and possibilities offered by digital was extremely interesting. After a lot of questions at various camera shops, internet forums etc, we decided that the Sony MVC CD range fitted our specs, but not our budget!! Will have to make that decision nearer our departure date. Also a laptop would be very useful, mostly for Arno to write his book on but also to keep all our information on. However, we could live for a good few weeks on what a laptop would cost, so maybe we will stick to good old fashioned pen, paper and internet cafes.
Most of the injections and stuff you need when travelling away from Europe, were still valid from the last time, just one with a shorter life needed doing again. Also learning from previous experience, we prepared a small medical kit, with just the basics. Anything else we can buy along the way when needed.
Staying on the subject of health and in particular health insurance, always a hot potato! Here in Germany, things are quite complicated, private health insurance is compulsory and normally paid from your wages. Paying this whilst travelling would eat a huge hole into our budget and having no insurance wasn’t really an option, so we looked around for alternatives. One possibility is something called “Anwartschaft” normally available to people working abroad for long periods of time. You pay about 10% of the normal premium, your insurance is suspended but if the worst were to happen, it would be reactivated on your return. Our travel insurance was with a German firm and surprisingly contained no exclusions regarding motorcycles in the small or very small print.
Sponsorship is always an interesting subject, something not easy to come by and as is often the case it is a case of who you know. Arno had worked hard at interesting sponsors for his last trip, through contacts and many phone calls. Having secured sponsors, he made sure that they got lots of publicity by doing radio, newspaper and TV interviews and writing magazine articles during his trip.
For this trip, we approached the same sponsors, this time with a presentation and also with different objectives. We were successful and now must organise some publicity along the way.
We left it until the last minute to sort out our flights. This was necessary because of the possibility that we might have to fly to Australia if we got our visas, but I wouldn’t recommend it! There were many alternatives; so called “round the world” tickets offered the best value for money, but then limit you to a years travel - which is not always a bad thing. Another point we had to consider was that we were flying into the US, practically the only country that rigidly enforces the rule that you need to have a return ticket. There are a few tricks to get around this, read more in our September journals.
Well, that’s about it for the preparation we had to do. For us the preparation is part of the trip and, like a long journey, it was mostly fun sorting everything out, sometimes stressful and very occasionally frustrating. Time will tell if we have done enough!!
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