Thursday, 12 August 2010
LIFT-OFF TO AUSTRALIA
Flying with our bikes and heavy loads was going to be a problem for Leana and myself. Our budget Jet Star flight specified 20 kg of check-in baggage for each of us, which just about accounted for the bikes alone. Our room in Kuta, Bali, resembled a disaster zone as we sorted through our things searching for stuff to dump – but that hardly made a difference. Then, to identify the heavy items which I would be allowed to take as carry-on baggage – yes, I did consider strapping the bike to my back! Once at the airport it was also confirmed that we would need to box the bikes, and a helpful “cyclist” passenger phoned his bike shop who delivered the boxes to the airport for us! At the “check-in” (or is it “weigh-in”) a terrible shock awaited us – even after much begging, wailing, and banging our heads against the walls the excess weight penalty was still 680 Aus $ (about R5000 SA). That was almost double what our non-refundable tickets had costed, and with our non-extendable Indonesian visas expiring the next day there wasn’t much choice but to pay up (thanks again, Leana!). After the 3am landing at Darwin airport I was concerned about perhaps being arrested due to all the apparently “illegal” things in my luggage. However, I was casually waved through customs while (the now poor) Leana had the full search treatment – sniffer dogs and all! By the time I’d re-assembled the bikes dawn was breaking and we had a pleasant 15km ride to the city, mostly along cycle paths. I think Darwin is an interesting little “frontier-type” city with a fascinating mix of locals, tourists (many Aussies), and migrant workers (many Aussies). From what I gather, Australians from the S-E regard Darwin as a “different country” – that’s how isolated this place is. Last night we tried to make sense of it all by watching the humanity from behind a beer at pavement café’s – this lot sure know how to let their hair down! So, now we also have books and maps etc. to help guide us on the Australian leg of our trip, heading South tomorrow from here across the vast “Outback” towards Adelaide. I don’t expect life on a bicycle to be easy on the isolated route, and some pessimists have warned against the demons and dragons. However, I think that the key to our survival in Australia is being able to afford to live – the place is expensive!