Saturday, 7 June 2008

On the road again

After what seemed like endless pointless bureaucracy we have the car back and are heading north. We had anticipated a number of hurdles we would have to leap over in order for the car to be legal in Australia but had not realised just how problematic, time consuming and expensive this would be. Not wanting to whinge but here is a little story of how it went.

The day the car arrived in Fremantle the wharf workers were engaged in a stop work meeting for four hours, so little chance of getting the car off the wharf that day. The next day we were up bright and early for our two hour pubic transport journey down to Fremantle where we paid off the shipping company, visited Customs and the container depot whom we had engaged to retrieve our container. Our visit to Customs went rather well after a previously disastrous visit to another Customs office a few days earlier where some idiot stamped our carnet and then told us a whole load of nonsense explaining that we needed all sorts of documents that as it turned out we did not need. Basically the Customs officer in Fremantle was not interested in us because the carnet was already stamped and they did not even want to see the car or the contents.

The following day the container depot informed us that the container would be arriving in their depot that evening. We turned up at the depot the next morning to find out there had been a mistake and it was coming off the wharf that evening instead. Jan, of the depot was very kind and drove us back into Fremantle (about 6 km) and even arranged to collect us in the morning, she lived quite close to where we are staying. We enjoyed a spot of sightseeing around Fremantle which is a delightful old Port town and got chatting to a local who had lived there all his life watching the port change. Incidentally Fremantle was founded by a descendant of the current Fremantle family of Swanbourne, a very small village in England where I went to Primary School.

The following morning Jan and her husband David picked us up at 6.10 in the morning. Funnily enough they had driven from the UK to Australia in the 70’s in a brand new Austin Princess. By 7.10 am we were at the depot with our container being unlocked. The car was in the same condition we had left it in. Next was the quarantine inspection. It all seemed to be going fairly well, everything we declared was passed, the inside of the car was deemed clean enough it just needed a quick hose down and the radiator needed a clean out (we remembered about the radiator after we had put the car in the container). The depot also had a wash pit so David made space for us - there is usually quite a long waiting time for this. As the car was being water blasted still more dirt was coming out of it (how much more could there be?) but not only that, due it’s rather holey nature, dirt was washing back inside the car. Then we had rather a large stroke of bad luck.

We popped off for an hour to get a bite to eat and on returning we discovered that the original quarantine officer had been audited, his superior had heard that a car from Africa had arrived, and our car had been re-inspected and been gone over with a fine tooth comb and FAILED. It suddenly all felt rather hopeless, apparently such cars usually take at least a week of being water blasted and are pretty well dismantled in the process. However we were determined and set to re-scrubbing ourselves too and eventually late afternoon the car was passed, if sopping wet.

We cannot help but think that if we had not cleaned the car extensively ourselves already things would have turned out very differently due to the fact that it all served to make a good impression which interestingly did matter. Next to our car in the wash pit was a car, or rather a wreck, which had been imported from the States and the car was an absolute mess and filthy. We understand that basically the car was being left to rot for a few long weeks to get a clear and strong message to the owner. There were also some huge vehicles for the mining industry which were being dismantled and cleaned.

Unfortunately it was by now too late in the day to take the car to a vehicle testing station and being a Friday and Monday a Bank Holiday Tuesday was the soonest we could get it done. Indeed, although the car is fully taxed in the UK it still has to pass an inspection in Western Australia. Although we finally had the car, we could not use it because it was still not fully legal.

On the Tuesday by the time we had obtained a new permit to take the car the vehicle testing station we did not arrive until mid morning, the nearest one being miles a way in Perth Centre. Again, unfortunately for us they were closing early on this day so after queuing for a few hours were advised to return the following morning. OK, my patience is beginning to wear thin, but of course I am still smiling. The next morning we arrived back at the testing station 15 minutes after it opened and there were already 20 vehicles in front of us. Some people must have arrived before 5am.Funnily enough there were many of the same chaps in the queue as yesterday but with different cars. They worked for the car dealerships and each time a vehicle is sold it has to be inspected, so the dealerships employ people to take the vehicles to the testing station and wait there all day. Oddly enough private vehicles registered in Western Australia only need to be inspected if the registration lapses. This is just absurd- our vehicle has to be tested but an old hunk of junk only has to be if the police find something wrong with it as they are driving around.

Talking to the other chaps in the queue we learnt that the inspections are most rigorous and the vehicle can be failed on the most minor detail. Great. We notice that many of the cars being inspected are in fact being re-inspected having already failed. Finally, after queuing for 5 hours it is our turn. Our inspector is a very pleasant chap from Northern Ireland. “It’s pretty dry for a Land rover” he calls out from underneath, my heart swells with pride after all Gavin’s hard work on the leaks. 15 minutes later it is all passed. We cannot believe it. Our final errand is to visit the vehicle licensing department to pay for the compulsory 3rd party injury insurance.


Today we say goodbye to Ian, Christine and her lovely boys, their hospitality has been wonderful and we set off on the final leg of the journey.