When we got off the plane in Australia, it felt like we’d landed in another universe.
“Are you looking for anything special? Can I help you at all?” chirped a lady at the duty-free shop. We were hunting for an Irish whiskey, a favourite of our Warm Showers host in Perth.
“Yes, we’re, ummmm……”
We were taken aback. It had been so long since we’d had a real conversation in a shop – no hand gestures, facial expressions or body contortions needed – that we temporarily forgot how to respond.
It took a few moments before a stupid grin broke over both our faces and we were able to finish the the sentence. The stupid grin stayed throughout the evening.
Irish whiskey successfully located, we carried on to immigration and customs. Dozens of Australians had warned us about this part. Loads of stories came our way about how the bikes might be put in quarantine, our camping gear carefully looked at, our food confiscated.
We braced for a real grilling and stepped forward to explain why we’d checked ‘yes’ to more than half the answers on the entry form. Medicines, food, animal products, things with soil and goods worth more than $900. We had it all.
“Hello Sir. Hello Ma’am. Where are you coming from? What’s this about medicines? Just your personal supply? Thanks very much. Have a nice visit.”
Wow. That was easy. It took all of 30 seconds and no one wanted to see our proof of onward travel or e-visas, which we’d been told to carry.
Next up was quarantine and here we really expected a long wait and a real inspection. As if he could read our minds, one official saw our bike boxes approaching and quipped with a wink “Here comes double trouble!”
Again though, the whole procedure was quick and easy. A quick look at our food – we both bet on at least one item confiscated but it was all approved – and a cursory glance at the bikes and we were through with a wave and a smile from the guards, who even helped repack our bags and retape our bike boxes. Our camping gear didn’t even get a brief look.
All in all, the Aussies win our vote for friendliest and easiest border crossing of the trip.
If we’re giving awards at the end of our journey, the Aussies might be in the running for a second prize: best taxi drivers.
“Pick me! Pick me!” shouted one man, jumping up and down with a smile and waving us towards his car. “Awww, his car isn’t big enough,” said another. “Go see the Kiwi down there.” “Nah, I can take them in my station wagon,” said a third.
We definitely weren’t used to taxi drivers fighting over us and all our awkward luggage. In the end we picked the Kiwi with his huge van. All the bikes and bags were loaded in on his wheelchair lift. The guy was a joke a minute and told us how he made more money driving a taxi than working as a nurse.
Rikus, our host, also turned out to be a star, welcoming us late in the evening with a drink and a comfortable room all to ourselves – one final reprieve from the tent before we head out on the road tomorrow.
After a sleep, we got the bikes back together (no damage, just a couple small scratches) and headed out for a tour of the town with Rikus. The weather was just perfect for cycling – a little cool with a light breeze – and after so much sweating in Asia we thought we’d died and gone to heaven.
It wasn’t just the weather in Perth that impressed us. They had really neat things like green grass, sprinklers, drinkable water out of taps, rubbish bins and, best of all, a big selection of cheese in the supermarket. We just about fell over when we found the parks had free electric barbeques.
We love this country!!
The only black mark in Australia’s book might be internet access. At $2 for 15 minutes in the tourist bureau, it’s a bit out of our range. If you don’t hear from us for a while, we haven’t been jumped on by a kangaroo. We just haven’t found the library.