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September 23, 2012

Australia: Finishing our first leg up in Melbourne and a quickie to Houston!

Getting out of Sydney was tough!  We were leaving behind a familiar bed, it’s so weird how we get used to comforts so quick!  But right outside of Sydney, heading south on the coastal road, were amazing views of the ocean and terrain.  Really one of the most amazing coastal roads we’ve done so far!  Luckily we found an awesome place to camp along the ocean at Booderee.  The campsite was full of animals—possums and bandacoots wandering around our dinner and tent, red parrots stealing our breakfast, and huge kangaroos with their little babies in their pouches.  The best part of the site was the short walk to the most amazing beach!  The 5 minute walk led to a purely, white sand beach kissed with bright blue turquoise water.  There was no one for miles and we had the entire beach to ourselves!  The next night did not prove to work so well for us…!

We pushed on till the late afternoon and found ourselves struggling to find a cheap or free camping spot!  Eventually we got to the outskirts of Corringle Slips National Park which is also on the edge of the ocean.  Ever since we left Sydney there were major warnings of super fast winds and storms.  We took the chance and headed out.  That night the wind really picked up and on the gravel road we got a flat.  Since it was dark, and we were a kilometer from the campsite we rode the bike on.  By the time we got to the site, it was pitch dark and the wind was coming at gusts of 40-50 mph.  We quickly got the tent up, positioning the tent so it was sheltered from the wind (somewhat) by the strong trees.  We’ve been using our tent consistently in Australia, but today we were really happy and impressed by it.  We wheeled the bike in and still had space to cook on our stove despite the rain and wind howling outside.  Big tent, but well worth it!  That morning was also a windy mess.  In the tent, we took a look at our $30 Indonesian tire…I think we jinxed it.  It was too good to be true or really stupid of us to be running that tire on our bike, 2-up, with a huge load well over the BMW weight limits!  After plugging up the puncture (we could see the tire rubber was getting thin), we headed out on our way.  Along the way, the puncture gave away twice more!  The puncture would hold for about 20-30km and then start to bleed out since the puncture was a bit crooked.  We made it to Bairnsdale with 300km some left to Melbourne in rain and high winds.  We were devastated to find out that everything was closed because of it being Saturday afternoon…everything closes at 1pm!   A shop owner told us that there may be some used motorcycle tires in the back of the Yamaha shop.  Luckily, when we got to the back, there was a mechanic closing up the shop.  He was our angel that day.  Not only did he find a lightly used tire, it was the absolute perfect size for our bike!  He took his time to put the tire on and balanced it too.  At the end, we asked how much and he said it cost nothing.  We pushed but he wouldn’t take anything.  Times like these remind you that there are still loads of nice people in the world….Three hours later we made it to Melbourne, soaked and freezing, but into the arms of Punjabi hospitality into the home of Jimmy, Gini, Muskaan, and baby Gurkirat!

In Melbourne, Jimmy and Gini opened their house and garage to us!  We decided to do the 40,000km service on our own.  Yikes!  It took us a few days to complete it and then some.  It was our first time to change all the oils, change the alternator belt, we fixed tool tubes and installed new ones, installed new brake pads, and just kinda went over everything to make sure it was ready for Africa.  We contacted about 50 freight forwarders and visited the offices of a few airlines like Thai, Singapore, and Quantas.  People seemed hopeful at first and gave us quotes like $2200-$2400 but would later come back and bump that quote up to around $4000 after they found we would have to send the bike as dangerous goods.  Most shippers said they couldn’t do it and the airlines told us they wouldn’t take the bike directly from us.  We were getting a bit stressed.  The two companies that were known to do it, didn’t seem very helpful and the quotes were hitting more than $4200.  On a Friday afternoon we were told by a dude at Thai Airways about a freight forwarder.  We showed up to talk to them and it turned out to be the best lead so far.  The lady was proactive.  All the other freight forwarders calculated the volume as 450kg chargeable weight. She figured that if we rounded it up to 500, the price fell dramatically!  For flying the bike as dangerous goods, she gave us a quote for $2600 and for non-dangerous goods, $2300.  So how could we send it as non-dangerous goods?   Everyone else had sworn up and down that we couldn’t do it, but this lady was different.  She pulled out the rule book and found that if we presented a certificate from the dealership (for example) explaining that we had disconnected the battery, let air out of the tires, and most importantly, drained the fuel tank and flushed it completely, we could fly it as non-dangerous goods.  It was Friday, 5pm, and that means no one wants to work in Australia, so we had to put the shipping stuff on hold.

It was the weekend, so we decided to go for a drive on the Great Ocean Road that runs between Melbourne and Adelaide.  It was really beautiful along the entire way, the weather amazing, and the views breathtaking.  No doubt, Australian beaches are absolutely gorgeous.  In the meantime, Nick had different plans for me.  My uncle’s 50th birthday was coming and all the family was getting together in Houston.  It was getting close to a full year since we left.  He knew I missed everyone and in his mind, this was the perfect chance for me to go.  I did whatever prep I could on my end and helped Nick wrap up the bike stuff so he could crate it on Monday.  And Nick sent me off.  It was a weird feeling….I’m going to Houston???  It really didn’t hit me.  It was also made me sentimental to leave Jimmy, Gini, Kirat, and Muskaan…and of course Nick.  Jimmy & Gini gave us such a memorable experience and showed us what Punjabi generosity and hospitality is all about.  They really embody that.  And what can I say about their kids?  The sweetest!!!  I became so attached it was hard to pulll myself away.  As for Nick…I had been with him 24/7 for the past year…it’s weird…you’re happy to see your parents and family but sad to leave your hubby and vice versa.  We had an amazing time in Melbourne, seeing the city, getting the bike ready, meeting the neighbors, hanging out, and getting fed all day long :) We whole heartedly thank Jimmy & Gini for all their help and generosity….I mean if it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I would’ve been able to go to Houston.  But I’m also missing someone to thank….Thanks to hubby for looking out for me and doing whatever in his power to make me feel happy and comfortable always.

 

It felt weird to travel without Nick but I was anxious to get to Houston.  I couldn’t wait!  It was going to be a surprise to everyone!  My Dad and brother were in on it though.  Gary picked me up at the airport and emotions really took over me when I saw him.  I couldn’t believe he was standing in front of me after a year.  Dad had arranged for the rest of the family, Nana, Nani, Mama ji, Mami ji, Vita Masi, Uncle and Gurjyot to come for dinner later.  As soon as Dad opened the door at home, Mom was jumping behind him screaming.  She had a really bad pinched nerve for months that didn’t allow her to move much or even drive.   As soon as she saw me, she was running around like her normal self :)  Later on, everybody else was surprised to see me walk downstairs out of the blue!  The rest of the week was fun but hectic.  I had a lot of errands to run and things to take care of as family from Canada and California started to pour in.  By Thursday we were in full party mode and every night was full of eating, drinking, talking, and laughing.  Mamaji’s party also gave me the chance to really dress up–it had been a year since I had worn heels and a sari!  Five minutes after putting it on, I felt like putting jeans on but I felt this was a rare opportunity for me…who knows when I’d get to do this again!  Here and there was able to meet friends and to be honest I hadn’t had that kind of girl time in an exceptionally long time.  I was happy to know that I still remembered how to drive and directions around Houston!  I have learned though, there are few friends that you can pick up where you left off and others that believe ‘out of sight, out of mind.’  That’s a little tough to come to terms with but oh well…c’est la vie.  I was also happy I got to see Nick’s Masi a couple of times.  On the way I stopped at the pharmacy I used to work at.  It really doesn’t seem like a year to me and there are definitely things that I miss about being here.

But I could tell Nick was missing me.  After a year of constant interaction with each other, making decisions together, always having someone to talk to or share silence with, or traveling to another country but knowing you had someone with you to rely on made it hard for both of us to be apart.  But for Nick, he had to complete the shipping on his own (luckily he had help from Jimmy in Melbourne), I felt bad but he assured me that all is good.  I stayed in Houston for a week, and towards the end it got super hectic as I tried to wrap up whatever I could.   I had to hit the road again, not only was hubby waiting but,  I was feeling it.  That I needed to move on.

Of course it was tough to say bye to everyone, I really did not want to let anyone go.  My parents dropped me off at the airport and my Mom started to cry.  I didn’t want to cry because I knew it would make her feel worse, I had to show her confidence and that it was no big deal and that the world is small, we’ll see each other soon and there was skype, facebook etc.  But as soon as I turned around to get into the security line, I cracked.  I couldn’t hold myself together at all.  I cried all the way through security and turned to wave to my parents at least 10 times.  I cried all the way to the bathroom where I decided I’d better just let myself go.  So I cried it out, I knew if I held it in, if anything pissed me off later I’d be a sobbing mess.  I mean this is so lame, I’m going to see them soon.  What about all the daughters that move abroad? Or how my Mom and Masi’s left their parents for a country and husbands they hardly knew?  How do/did they handle it?  I had to pick myself up, how silly of me… I had a long trip ahead of me.

 

 

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