August 16, 2010 GMT
Week 20-23

Since we’re now technically out of Asia, I thought we’d also include a generalised summary of what we’ve thought about Europe and Asia so far:

Europe: Pretty straight-forward. Wish we could have spoken a few more languages between us, yet we managed. Outside England, there is more of an acceptance of bikes, and people are in general welcoming and interested in our trip. Living expenses have got progressively cheaper the further east we have moved – the petrol has certainly got cheaper, but the quality has declined. And the eastern-bloc countries may think they are becoming more Western, but only in a bad way - bad service and crap food abound. And there must have been a run on curtains from Ukraine onwards, as none of the hotels seemed to have them! I think it’s because they seem to be wearing them.

Asia: The temperature has varied enormously - It was hot and humid for a lot of the time – not conducive to comfortable riding when you’re not dressed in shorts and flip-flops like the locals, but I couldn’t bring myself to travel like that – perhaps I’ve seen too much gravel-rash to do that! But then minus 10 in Mongolia wasn’t much fun either. In many places, the locals had nothing, but would still give you half of it, if they could! And yet we’ve also felt ripped-off in many places – there always seems to be 2 prices – one for the locals, and one for the foreigners, and we’ve stuck out like a sore thumb ever since we left Europe. And in some places it was blatant (Kazakhstan).

July 18th – Singapore still. The owner of the hostel, Jegadish, invited us out for a meal with his lovely wife, Viji. They wanted to hear our story, and we were happy to tell them. We managed to right all the wrongs in the world as well. It’s surprising what a couple of Singapore Slings can do for you.

July 19th – walked to the Harbour Front, but not a lot to see apart from the cable-cars up above, which decided to stop as we were pondering whether or not to take a trip on them. So we walked back through Chinatown and to Fort Canning Park and looked round “The Battle Box”, where the British surrendered to the Japanese in 1942. Very educational. And another entertaining evening with a couple of Aussies (mother and daughter gardeners Rhia and Bowie). We’ll be seeing them again in Sydney I hope later.

July 20th – set off back to Malaysia to get flight to Australia eventually.

July 21st – landed in Perth. What a change. It’s just like being home – cold and grey – and how wonderful after the temperatures we’ve had lately. We’re both knackered, and after finding the hostel, we fell into the nearest café to get steak, chips and salad. We’ve been dreaming of this for weeks – we’ve lived on noodles, rice, gristle and suspicious unknown and unnamed fruits for the last 3 months, and we’ve both craved meat, potatoes and vegetables, and that was the nearest we could get to it. Bliss!

July 22nd – when we shipped the bikes, we were told we needed an address to send them to – a bit tricky I think you would agree, given we’ve never been here before and know no-one. But Mr BMW dealer came to the rescue, after a couple of begging emails. They were brilliant in allowing us to get the bikes delivered there, so we’re intending to get them both serviced there as well. They are both well overdue for a bit of TLC, and Bob’s regulator probably needs replacing after the problems that started in Mongolia. We went to the workshop to introduce ourselves in person – Ewan and Charley were on video as we went in the shop, so that was a good sign. The blokes there were very helpful - thanks to Jonas Goulden and the service team at Auto Classics in Perth.

July 23rd – an email from the shipping agent in Singapore tells us there is a week delay – the bikes are still sat in Singapore port. Think we’ve been here before.

July 24th – have done a bit of sight-seeing in Perth, and it’s a lovely place; very green, very laid back, and comfortable – or perhaps it’s just that at last we can understand everyone (mostly!). It’s a very cosmopolitan place – lots of different Asian and Indian faces when you’re people-watching. But prices have increased from what we’ve been used to, so that’s a bit of a blow. Left Perth for a bit of west coast – went to Scarborough and had fish and chips! And treated myself to an International Daily Express – the first English paper I’ve read since March. You’re all having a heat-wave and drought back home as I understand it. Weather here is great – it’s winter and it’s still a balmy 20 degrees. And we’ve just come from the beach. Also heard my first kookaburra.

July 26th – fed up of sitting and doing nothing much around the hostels, so decided to hire a small car and get out into the countryside. Had a run to the Airport first to hand over our motorbike Carnets to the shipping company. That should make things easier when the bikes eventually get here – in theory at least. Before we left on this trip, it looked like the Carnets were mandatory and we wouldn’t be able to get into countries without them – in reality, this is the first country that has asked for them. So that was a grand each well spent, not. Then had a run through the Swan Valley – loads of vineyards around there, and a chocolate factory, so Bob was very happy. Very much like the South of England in places, only warmer. And all the place-names are British, which is a bit disconcerting e.g. Guildford, Henley, Warwick, Stirling. It’s no wonder us English seem to like it here – it’s all very familiar and comfortable. We’ve heard more British accents than Aussie, since we arrived here.

July 27th – up early and went north to the Pinnacles. They’re in a National Park, and are limestone ‘outcrops’ – all to do with erosion and stuff. The Aborigines think of them as ancestors hands -very eerie looking. Came back via the ‘Sunset Coast Tourist Drive’. Filled in a day anyway, even though it rained every time we got out of the car!


The Pinnacles in Nambung National Park.

July 29th – we’re fed up again, and wanting to be off touring – so much so, we’ve started to run on a morning, just to fill in some time!

July 31st – caught the bus back into Perth, and then a train to Fremantle (Perth’s harbour). That’s where the bikes will come into allegedly. Had booked a hostel for 3 days, but it was really grotty and derelict-looking, so we told them we only wanted one night. Surprisingly, it was Bob who put his foot down with a firm hand – I said it probably looked better inside. I was wrong! Had a walk around town just to get out of the dismal place, and picked up some local tourist maps.

August 1st – moved to another hostel about ¼ a mile away - to the Old Fire Station, which guess what, is the old fire station. A much better place, and more lively. The hostels in Australia seem to be full of workers, rather than backpackers, which changes the atmosphere of the place. They use them as cheap digs, and some have been at this hostel for 2 years and more. Lots of British and Germans here, as well as the odd Aussie. Met a young Austrian bloke who’d just been across the Simpson Desert on a Kawasaki that he’d bought in Sydney. He’s the first ‘adventurer’ we’ve met since we started this trip back in March. Although we were told we’d just missed a Swedish couple doing an around the world trip, who were here 3 weeks ago.

August 2nd – on the tourist maps we picked up, we were intrigued by the “Submarine Ovens” down by the Maritime Museum – I didn’t even know they baked them! But we decided to go and take a look around anyway, and it was a submarine Oberon-class called “Ovens”. Very educational and the tour was done by a Brummie called Mick who had served on subs in his younger days. Another spot of culture, followed by the Maritime Museum itself.


The Submarine Ovens.

August 3rd – met up with a lady that my Mam and Dad met back around 1976, when they were on holiday in Crete. She is originally from Bishop Auckland, but had moved to Perth with her family in her early years. They’d kept in touch with her via Christmas cards and letters, so it was nice to meet up again with Barbara and her husband (who is originally from Stradbroke in Sheffield and still had a really strong accent). We’ve been amazed by how many people we’ve met over here with some connection to Sheffield, or the North-East – the world isn’t as big as you think sometimes. We also had a tour round Fremantle Prison (now an attraction), which was very entertaining. “Porridge” was mentioned more than once. They were going on about how small the cells were, but we’ve been in smaller hostel rooms!


Where Bob belongs - H.M.P. Slade down under.

August 4th – can’t get over how many wild birds we’re seeing and hearing. We’ve had kookaburras, lorrakeets, cockatoos and now 2 pelicans. (This is how bored we’ve become – reduced to being excited about a pair of wild birds.)

August 5th – moved hostel again, back to Perth this time in the vain hope that when the bikes are released, we’ll be able to get to them quickly, and get back on the road. The newspapers and TV are full of the impending elections for Prime Minister – but the media over here are not under the same restrictions that the UK media work under. Libel and slander doesn’t mean a thing over here – they tell it like it is, and if you don’t like it, tough. There’s an advert currently on TV that basically says “Mr X can’t be trusted – he’s lied to you before and he’ll do it again” – what a change to the British system – refreshingly honest. The TV has lots of imported British programs on it though – you could easily be back in England.

August 6th – decided to get the ferry over the river, and have a day at Perth Zoo. The Australian Bushwalk was very enjoyable, enabling Bob to get up close and personal to a kangaroo. We’d only seen dead ones by the side of the road, so far. No Skippy impressions please – we’ve done them all. Bob was amazed at what a wombat looked like – he’d obviously never seen Flying Doctors!


A wombat - about the size of a corgi.

Got a call from the Shippers at Fremantle asking us to fill in some Personal Effects forms, as they aren’t covered in the Carnet apparently. Wanted us to go and collect the forms – had to remind them we had no transport, since the bikes were still stuck at Customs. More delays, more frustration. Decided a 4-litre box of wine was the best thing we could do - at least we wouldn’t care for a while. Well that combined with “Grease” and “The Living Daylights” on telly.

August 7th – tried kangaroo meat – very tasty (farmed and not road-kill).

August 12th – bikes are now in Quarantine, awaiting inspection. We have an appointment for Monday 16th, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be released then. How boring is it to be stuck somewhere with no money to enjoy the finer things in life? We’re doing a lot of hanging round parks and gardens, just to kill time and get out of the hostel.

August 16th – moved hostel again, closer to the centre of Perth and the BMW place. Finally got some news though – the bikes have got through Quarantine, and as soon as we can pay the invoice, they’ll be delivered to the BMW dealers. Joy unbounded. Looks like we could be on the move in the next day or two.

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