Our Trio of Explorers Spend 6000 Miles Playing in the Austrailian Outback
For the third time since leaving Paris on our world tour, the Scnic RX4 takes a boat ride. From Surabaya in eastern Java, we consign our four-wheel-drive on a cargo shipment and pick it up at Perth, on Australia's western coast. Thanks to the Renault-Nissan logistics team, the loading and customs clearance at the port of Surabaya, the second-largest city in Indonesia, comes off smoothly. Ironically, things get tougher upon entering Australia. All the mud and dust accumulated in Indonesia, Nepal, and Pakistan prove to be a real bugbear for the meticulous Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service. For over three hours, a state-approved cleaning service subjects the Scnic to high-pressure water jets, detergents, and vacuum cleaning. The process is so thorough that afterwards, the engine won't start-the sparkplugs have been saturated with water.
Hiccupping, we arrive in front of the vehicle inspection of the Ministry of Transport. We need a special authorization from them because of our French registration plate. We make the queue, only to have a guy in an obviously bad mood telling us that everything needs to be checked from top to bottom. His conclusions, after 30 minutes of inspection: a sticker needs to be put on the back with "Caution-Left Hand Drive," and all the sponsor stickers we have on our windows need to be peeled off. We also need to change the position of our headlights, and repair our rear differential housing that is leaking. We protest, telling the guy that it is going to take us two weeks to obtain the parts to repair the case, and that we have already crossed 25 countries without having any problems.
We are saved by an excellent Irish mechanic at the Perth Renault dealership, who fixes the diff housing and changes the axleshafts in less than three days. He even finds the U-joints to repair the case from a Korean 4x4! We come back to the inspection and a new guy looks at the car. "All right, the car is clean. Do you have your insurance papers?" We look at each other ... "Not yet, we will go and get it once we have your papers" ... "Sorry mate, I need your insurance papers to let you go."
We are starting to boil. We have only a 3-month visa, and we have already lost two weeks in this administrative nightmare. So we begin our search to find insurance. We call roughly 40 different agencies and each time are told, "Sorry, but we do not insure foreign cars." We wonder how exactly will we be able to drive in this country!