Frantic Trip Prep

So now the decision had been made to go to Australia next, there was suddenly lots to do. Sticky notes with stuff we still have to do cover the wardrobe. For each one we tear off when it’s done, another two get put up.

The only thing slowing us down was the surprisingly inefficient German bureaucracy. To register Pippa in Germany and in Aidan’s name, we first had to register Aidan here. By law you need to register yourself within two weeks of moving in… but you can’t get an appointment to do so for at least two months! In the end we went to a Bürgeramt in the far east of Berlin, where no one wants to register anyways. After telling us off the appropriate amount for not making an appointment, the receptionists gave us a number and Aidan became a Berliner within half an hour 🙂

Next it was Pips’ turn. The normal TÜV can usually be done at the motorcycle garage. But the TÜV guys who come over to the garage to do this, cannot usually do a Vollabnahme, which we needed to register Pippa here, so we’d have to push her all the way to the TÜV place. Luckily we had already got to know the mechanic at a close by garage as he’d been helping us out with a couple of the repairs on the bikes. So he took pity on us and said to drop Pips off there and he’d sort it out. We totally expected Pips to fail first time since the TÜV is supposed to be super strict. Oh well, at least we would have a definitive list of stuff we’d have to repair for a second inspection.

But it seems she behaved herself and she passed with flying colours! Whoopie 🙂 That had to be celebrated with a shot of Brain Oil on ice!

This time we’d been clever and booked the appointment for registering Pippa months ago so she got her shiny new Berlin number plate in no time.

The Aussie visa is super easy to organise. You just apply online, no fuss. Luckily we didn’t have to do the expensive full medical examination. But they did want a chest x-ray. Maybe because we had been in India so long? It’s really easy. They are connected to certain hospitals via an online system so you just turn up and then the results are sent straight to the Australians. No need for posting stuff back and forth. The super nice lady at the hospital reception found a cancellation for us and so we were x-rayed within a few days and the visas came through that evening 🙂

Then began the search for a shipper. Having read about a few past shipments posted on the HUBB, I was shocked at the prices these companies were quoting! We were told harbour costs can mount up at the destination port, but at over double the price, flying the bikes was out of the question. And then they wanted 500 Euros for each crate. Finding your own second hand is not so easy, because Australia insists the wood is treated and certified not to contain any worms or insects.

Days of research and a great tip from a friend in Bulgaria later we found a RoRo company. Not the cheapest at first glance, but since we could take the crate and the potential cost increase (should the box be a tiny bit bigger than initially anticipated) out of the equation, it definitely seemed like the best deal.

I won’t bore you with details of all the paperwork we had to organise… Carnets, insurance, that kind of stuff. Suffice to say, it kept me very busy. And then we had to get the bikes “show room clean” of course. Australia doesn’t want you to end up importing any kind of bugs, seeds, dirt and the like, that could upset the delicate balance of their unique island ecosystem. Quite understandably so. But it does mean a lot of hard work for us. After all we hope to avoid having the bikes fumigated by Australian customs, since that can get pricy.

So we got going, spending the next few days taking fairings and tank off, scrubbing centuries of dust from every cable, corner and gap. Then we took over a cubicle at the do-it-yourself car wash and spent an entire day satisfying its never-ending hunger for Euro coins, spraying down the bikes, scrubbing them with sponges and tooth brushes till we were finally told to move along, late in the afternoon.

Back home we did some last minute preparations to the squeaky clean bikes. Pippa’s voltage rectifier was moved to avoid frying the battery when it gets too hot, like Seven’s had done in Georgia. We built new tool rolls out of drain pipes. Spares, tools, zip ties and tyre levers were strapped to the bikes. Lea got some hand guards off a NX650 that sort of fit and a wind screen made out of an old DVD case. Not to forget all the decorations and stickers of course. Now we were finally ready to go 🙂

The ship was to go from Bremerhaven. And rather than have the bikes transported there in a van, we decided to go on a little road trip.

We stayed in Bremen for the night, meeting up with friends for a refreshing beer after the long ride and Silva made a couple of new friends.

The guy running the very scruffy but charming Southend Hostel is wicked. A rider himself, he’s been traveling loads by bike and has lots of stories to tell. Of course he found a space for the bikes in the hostel garage, which has video cameras everywhere. The hostel itself doesn’t so the safe had been stolen from reception a couple of nights before… Priorities! He also happens to be a lorry driver, so in the morning he gave us directions to a place in Bremerhaven, where all the lorries go to get cleaned.

The guy who runs the wash station was more than happy to let us give our bikes one last scrub and jet down. Just as well, they were covered in bugs from the ride so a bucket of nasty chemical insect dissolving solution was provided and the soapy water jet cleaned off the rest. Our bikes have never been that clean! And all that for a mere two Euros per bike. Sweet!

We dumped the tooth brushes and sponges in the bin and rushed towards the harbour. The deadline for dropping off the bikes had crept up on us. Of course a cop car decided to spin around follow us that minute. The last thing we needed was to be stopped for a broken light or something. The girls would miss their ship! So we crept through town, double-obeying all rules and speed limits, waiting to be pulled over any second.

Finally they drove off and we sped towards the docks. Before we knew it, the paperwork was stamped, a van was found to guide us to the storage hanger and we left the bikes next to two Harleys. That’s it. Done.  It’s kind of scary to just leave them there. The rest will be done by the shipping company and all is out of our control until the boat arrives in Australia.

A little doodle we were given at Paule’s Metal Eck

Now bikeless we walked the long way through the harbour and back into town. There is something really cool about harbours. All big, mechanical, colourful and built for machines and ships, not for man. I love it! Makes me want to work on the docks some time.

We took a train back to Bremen and met up with our friend again. He is my godmother’s son and apart from when we visited them at the beginning of our travels, I only remember him from when we were kids. He gave us a lift to my godmother’s place and a barbecue, lots of catching up and giggles ensued. We stayed the night to continue the conversation and laughter over breakfast and then lunch, before hopping on a coach back to Berlin.

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