U Turn Cairns
First mission accomplished: We've got a van! After almost a week of checking black-boards, surfing the internet and using our cellphone credits on calling people, who might or might not have just sold their car to another backpacker. People are on their way down to Melbourne and Sydney for the Christmas time now and it's the start of the monsoon season. That´s why every car that has just been posted is already sold the day after (two the latest) if the price is fair and the car comes with the safety certificate and REGO (compulsory annual legislation-check) for at least a few months, this we learned the hard way…

On our third day up in Cairns we had a pretty good opportunity for a van already. We missed it though, we had a few vehicles that we wanted to check-up before deciding (playing it safe) and by the time we figured it out (in the evening) the australian mate (the seller) already committed himself to other customers. At that point we were still quite sure, that we could always get a ride with wicked (= down under budget camper vans for rental) and that it would be cheap and less risky. But it turned out that for less risk you pay out of your ears though. 3500,- Australian dollars is really not a cheap way to travel, is it? After we learned about the obstacles and that we were pretty much stuck at the moment with just a few, very limiting options to go our opportunities seemed to fade. Two guys just didn't show up and after we'd already been spending a few hundred dollars on food and accommodation in Cairns we really felt, sick of this town, which is way to hot and sticky anyway. We wanted to leave!

On our fifth morning in this touristic-hot-spot, we went out hunting for a solution to our growing worry that we would never leave this u-turn of a town. The mission; to check out a few more black boards in hostels and splurge ourselves with a nice snorkeling trip booking into the Great Barrier Reef. (not to be missed!)
In the evening we felt yet again hot and sticky but quite pleased with ourselves. We had booked our Great Barrier-Reef trip (two days and one night on a boat, catching the sun rise over the ocean) and talked to tree potential vehicle sellers. Between 7 and 8 pm we had met two and decided for one of them, we where finally on a roll. :o) The van had all its papers in place, not too expensive ($4650) and came with camping gear, we went for it directly since we learned from previous experience. The guy (a German :)) seemed to be a darling and even promised to pick us up on Sunday evening when we returned from our trip and we would go on Monday morning to the authorities (Queensland transport office) to change the ownership of the van. Feeling relieved we left for the the Great Barrier Reef trip the next morning.

"Exploring the Great Barrier Reef" (a later posting)

On Sunday evening we arrived happy, invigorated and a bit more tanned back on to the mainland again and sure as clockwork our German van-seller André was standing there to pick us up. We parked the van outside his apartment and with light feet and heart we wandered the town in search of a restaurant. Somehow the town seemed much more appealing now when our worries was over. And in the name of our luck we stumbled over a place who was offering meals with salad and a drink for $10. WoolShed, our new favorite restaurant!! After filling our tummies with food and gorgeous chocolate cake dessert for a whopping $1 extra and our heads with some knowledge about gemstones of the region we walked satisfied back in the rain to sleep our first night in the van.

The morning came quickly and we made it to the transport office 8 am together with André. We were so ready to leave! Filled in all the necessary papers (a lot!) and talked to the nice Aussie lady at the counter. When everything seemed to be sorted she glanced at the Safety Certificate (tells if the car is road-worthy) for the car she exclaimed "sorry but this one's too old." Apparently this paper can't be more than two months when you want to sell a car in Queensland. There is different rules about this in Oz, depending of the state you are in.
André had done this checkup in end March, which was not up-to-date anymore. Bummer! Neither we nor him was aware of this. What to do? Swiftly we regrouped and went to the mechanics (Airport Mechanics of Cairns) that André got the Certificate from 9 months ago and asked them for a quick evaluation. And surely they did…not, we was placed to wait for half the day. And then they failed the Safety Certificate on 5 grounds; a small crack in the windscreen, a few small rust holes, some oil under the engine and gearbox that needed to be cleaned, an axle seal to be changed and the lining of the back door was loose… And he wanted whopping $1000 to fix it! We went to get a second opinion and all of a sudden the price went down to $500 and he (Italian mechanic, Neo) would start the next morning at 8 am.

Tuesday, 2 pm our Italian mechanic was done and we went back to the Airport Mechanics to get them to take a second check for the Certificate. The bastard failed us on the rust! After letting us wait for some time he took a screwdriver and pushed it trough the patched holes and said "they need to be welded." …I guess he was pissed about missing $1000 bucks on doing the repairs himself...
We called the Italian mechanic again, but there was not enough time to take care of this the same day. The hope for a quick transaction was slowly fading away, we seemed to be stuck in this u-turn town.

Same time the next morning we were knocking on the Italian mechanics door with reinforcements from a workmate of Christie (Andrés fiancee) Lou, to back us up with some mechanical advice and some Australian common sense, if we needed it. With a promise that we would get the car through this time or we need not to pay, we left Neo to work and went to the local lagoon to cool off and have some breakfast. 2 hours later Neo picked us up at the lagoon, we went to the Airport Mechanics and was expecting the same procedure as last time and every time, but was surprised to no have to wait. He checked the welding patch-work and we got the approval papers. I guess he could not find anything more to complain about. Whoopee!

Funny that Neo and Lou agreed upon that the rust damage on the car was a pretty minor thing. The real mechanical issues like an oil leak, a defect water pump (that the AirPort Mechanics btw changed in March…) and a side door that you hardly can close were not addressed at all by the AirPort Mechanics.

Merry Christmas to ya' all!!
Frohe Weihnachten!
God Jul!

Anette and Andreas

(by Anette)

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