Back on the road south I was determined not to celebrate my 27th birthday with a melting frosty fruit covered in sweat in the passenger seat of the troupie. We gunned it back to Coral Bay, on the Ningaloo Reef coast, south of Exmouth. Ningaloo is known for being the lesser-known, but superior sister of the Barrier reef (kind of Pippa to Kate Middleton if you like). We’d already visited Coral Bay on the way up to Broome, taking a glass bottom boat out for my first ever snorkelling experience! Amazing!

 

Without a doubt this was the best thing we did in Oz. For about $50 and 2½ hrs we were taken out to two different sites to splash about the pristine cauliflower-esk coral with turtles, reef sharks and masses of nemo-esk fishies. It was awesome. On the way back through, we decided to do a bit of our own exploring, but the coral had just recently spawned, and the water was a bit more, er, cloudy. Dirty reef. None the less it was a great way to bring in my 27th year, with an awesome dinner and lots and lots of drinks to boot. And my birthday present? My own flippers and mask of course! Ever practical.

 

It kind of signified a brief end to our very chilled out status in Oz. The next week was a bit stressful as we needed to get BOB ready for his cruise across the Indian Ocean to Singapore!

 

Not only had we caked on an extra tonne of red dirt by detouring through every puddle in Western Australia, but the kamakazi insects had sort of ‘baked on’ to the body work now, taking us about 8 different washes to reveal that gleaming shade of KTM orange again.

 

By comparison, getting the car ready was easy, versus understanding what needed to be done to move it out of Australia to Asia.

 

The shipping agent we were recommended turned out to be totally useless. They must’ve assumed that we’d done this before (?!), as they offered no advice as to where to take the car, what to do with it, what kind of paper work we needed, who needed to get what stamped by customs and what we could expect when/if the car arrived in Singapore. At a time when we desperately needed handholding through the process, they struggled to return an email, answer a question or even let the freight company know that we were coming. It was such an amazing joke, that we even ended up having to google the measurements of a twenty foot container the day before shipping, only to find that BOB with all his attachments was about 20cm too high for the container he was meant to be travelling in!

 

Spending about 5 hours in a public park dismantling the rooftent, roofbox and jerry cans from the roof and tetris-ing them inside the vehicle was a real low point of the trip thus far, not to mention our relationship. Luckily we got to spend our last weekend in Australia staying with one of my Dad’s army mates in Perth, Kevin (Uncle Kev). Kev was endlessly helpful in getting us organised, keeping us calm and ensuring we were suitably boozed at the end of each day. He even drove us to the airport when it was all over. Top bloke. After dismantling the car roof, our final test involved driving through a BP car wash to make sure we were less than 2.2 metres. Oh yeah, we had to let the tyres down, and the car wash nearly demo’d the snorkel…

 

Monday 4th April was the day we needed to drop the car off to the freight company in Freo. The agent had advised we needed to get a mechanic inspection done for insurance purposes, which we managed to have done pre 8am that day. In hand, we went to the ‘drop off point’ and parked the car, complete with its “AUS” sticker on the back – a requirement for the Carnet De Passage. We had no idea what to do with the Carnet; did the shipping company need to get it stamped on our behalf? Did it come with us or the car?

 

We walked into the office, stressed.

 

“Hi, we’re here to drop off our vehicle for shipping on Friday”

 

Silence. Blank faces.

 

“Cargo Online have organised for you to ship our car from here to Singapore

 

More blank faces.

 

“Are you a shipping company…?”

 

“Yeah. Who are you?”

 

“We’ve been working with Cargo online, and they told us we needed to drop the car here today to be shipped. Do you know about it?”

 

“Nup.”

 

This incredibly useful dialogue continued for a while, until the female receptionist called cargo online and gave them a good humoured mumsy ear bashing. Twenty minutes later we were somewhat closer to getting them to take our car, albeit we were even more reluctant to hand it over to a bunch of people who appeared to have no idea what they were doing, and had no concept of customer service. I can’t explain how sick I felt that we were about to hand our most treasured possession over to this useless bunch of douche bags. 

 

As it transpired, no one knew what we needed to do with the Carnet to get it stamped for export, and the Customs hotline seemed to be diverted, of course. We sped over to Customs HQ at Perth International Airport (over an hour away) only to be served by the biggest burliest customs woman on the face of the earth who barked and growled at Joe for ten minutes about leaving things to the last minute (there was no point explaining why). Despite the abuse, she had no clue herself what the document was or what needed to be done. We were super worried they would ask to inspect the car, which, with everything stuffed into the back, looked like a bomb had hit it.

 

Customs have a habit of employing the kind of female creatures who would eat their young. This one was no exception. She seemed to take great pleasure in leaving us hanging over the inspection, and didn’t hand back the stamped Carnet until she’d had round two on why we were the most irresponsible, stupid beings on god earths for rocking up the day we needed to fly to get it stamped. The point is she stamped it. BOB was cleared for export. We were almost there. We drove back to the douche bags to hand him over. Final paperwork was completed. They asked if we wanted “ropes or straps” we asked what the difference was. What a stupid question that turned out to be.

 

The shipping experience highlighted to me why not many people choose this kind of adventure. The logistics aren’t geared to the tourist industry, they’re purely loopholes in the commercial side, and as such, there’s little existing information on ‘how to temporarily export your car’. The shipping agents we were recommended were apparently helpful for our friends who had done the trip a year or so ago, but they weren’t forthcoming with information at all, and most of the time we just felt like we were stabbing around in the dark. The pinnacle was not even ensuring that our vehicle would fit in the container, and telling us to rock up at the freight company without even telling them we were coming.

 

I was utterly disappointed with them, as the only time they managed helpful information and timely responses was when they sent us the bill.

 

But, we had no choice then. We handed over the keys (I was weeping on the inside) and called a taxi. That night we flew to Indonesia – a holiday sans BOB to recover from a few days of high tension and stupid logistics.