Hello to everyone from sunny Brisbane, Australia,
After a less than fun, long (+40 hours awake) we have once again crossed the equator and are in beautiful Australia.
Before we bring you up to date on the trip down under there are a couple of things we forgot to point out while communicating from Europe. The first is the fact a couple of new, pleasant, cooperative, competent mechanics that joined us in Europe lasted all of about 3 weeks. Since we get little if any information regards the coming and goings of the staff members, we must rely on rumor, which has it, they were to willing to help the riders. I would use the term customers but we have been reminded by the organizer we are not customers but are members of a community!!!! In addition, our group leader left from Amsterdamnot for China, Vietnam etc. to finalize and organize the route and vendors work we were lead to believe was done over the last 5 years.
Well, back to our departure from Koln, Germany. After arriving at the terminal it was a dog eat dog scramble to unload our gear lockers and stuff our things into a bag. We debated on sending the camping stuff home but one never knows, does one? The check in went relatively smoothly and we ended up boarding the plane some hours later than originally slated. It was a rather aged DC-10 with seats arranged to accommodate small people. After scrambling to get seats with at least one space between Mary and I, imagine our surprise to see the staff had a row to themselves, allowing them to stretch out and sleep. Even one of the organizers stuffed animals had a row to itself, once more a measure of the meaning of customer service. I do not think anyone is asking for better treatment simply treatment reflecting the monies the riders paid for the trip.
The first leg of the trip was 9:30 hours with a stop to refuel in Sir Lanka. We were allowed of the plane, a welcome respite and reboarded about an hour later. The remainder of the flight to Canberra (a non international airport) took an additional 9:40 hours.
Arrival was at about 8:00AM and we had to wait some 3 hours to get off and be inspected by immigration and customs. Being at the back of the bus was not a good place to be in this case. Apparently we went into Canberra, as Sydney could not handle our plane, imagine our surprise when we went to the Sydney Airport to fly to Brisbane and the place was relatively deserted. The arrival was spoiled by the drug-sniffing dogs that detected illegal drugs in the luggage. Everyone was surprised to learn grown adults could be so stupid but I guess one never knows. The one rider has been thrown off the trip a move no one is against, and the other is pending appeal.
After being up so many hours and crossing 10 time zones the last thing we needed was a 23km ride to the accommodations. One had to be extra careful to ensure they did not fall prey to fatigue and to be constantly aware we were on the left side of the road. Imagine our surprise to learn there were no buses in the city of Canberra??? Equally difficult to comprehend was being asked to sleep 10 and 12 to a room in bunk beds, this after an extremely difficult flight. Luckily the campground had alternate accommodations where Mary and I could try and sleep away our jetlag without interrupting or being interrupted by others in the room.
The next day was a layover day and we took the opportunity to see the limited sights of Canberra. This is a city designed from the ground up and is extremely efficient and well laid out. They have a beautiful sports training facility that athletes from all over the world use. We believe it is for this reason Australia is doing well at the XXVll Olympics. What are also worth a look are the war memorials and the many embassies around the parliament buildings.
The meals while in the campground were adequate with breakfast being the better of the two.
Following our layover it was off for a 119km ride to a little town called Goulborn. It seemed to us that we were climbing all day and the route was more difficult than it looked, we guess fatigue, along with 35km's of headwinds and crosswinds, did little to make for an easy ride. This evenings camping was on the grass field of the show grounds, with dinner served at the Soldiers Hall some 2km away. We stopped for lunch in the Loaded Dog Hotel for lunch and got to experience the locals up close and personal. We had the opportunity to load 60 bags of sheep manure at .40 cents per bag but declined.
The following morning it was up for a good breakfast, which included hot porridge served by the local members of the Rotary Club. After looking at Tim's route we noticed that the 151km ride mentioned in the previous days route guide had magically been increased to 169KM's. Always being on the lookout for a route that will not satisfy our masochistic tendencies we decided on an alternate route, which was 151km in length. This route was hilly (5000+feet) and very scenic. They had moved our days final destination and had done very little to ensure the instructions matched the route. It was extremely hectic around Wollongong Steel Mill as the workers were getting out for the day. Nothing like a bunch of guys wanting to get to their local pub.
As we were to be met by a friend at 5:00PM and since we were not going to be using the supplied accommodations at the University we asked for towels in order that we could have a shower, imagine our surprise when we were denied same. Asking to be booked into a room where towels are supplied resulted in towels appearing. It is a shame one has to resort to demanding things as good customer relations would seem to dictate an unquestioning affirmation to the request, especially when you are saving them meals, rooms, bus services to Sydney for the flight to Townsville and the flight to Townsville.
Greg finally found Mary and me and it was off to Sydney for a couple of evenings and as it turned out an Olympic event. Our thanks to Greg and Cathy for their hospitality and from Greg, a home cooked meal to die for. We had time to do some sightseeing and Sydney has gone all out to ensure the visitors to the Olympics are left with a good taste. Clean, modern, old blended with the new and some spectacular scenic views. We went to a rowing event and had a great time. The Aussie's sure get behind their competitors.
After a couple of days it was off to Brisbane to spend sometime with Beryl & Peter Malcolm ex-neighbors from our time in Markham. We had a great time got to do some sightseeing in the O'Reilly Rainforest and the Gold Coast. Had a great time catching up on 10 years of activity since their return. Brisbane is a very nice city, modern, undergoing a change in the core area, blessed with excellent weather. A definite must see if you get down under. Our thanks to Beryl & Peter for their hospitality and allowing us to kick back and relax, a welcome change.
We are shortly off to the airport where we are supposed to meet up with the group who are, according to our 6 day old schedule arriving @ 11:35AM. From there it is off on our bikes to Cairns before we head out to Japan.
Stay tuned for our next update, with any luck from Cairns.
Dave & Mary