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Scratch that…

In the last post, I talked about borrowing Mikael’s car and taking it out on the road. Scratch that. Took it to the shop and there is a lot of stuff wrong with it and we can’t afford to fix it so I just went in a few internet cafes and looked for posts on the boards there (that’s where people stick fliers for cars for sale, or people looking for rides or people to share fuel costs) and found a guy who was selling a nice car (relatively) for about $2200 AU (about $1650 US). I arranged a meeting and got the scoop. He’s a backpacker from Switzerland who took it around OZ for about 10 months and is leaving soon. Included in the price are two tents, a stove, all the cooking stuff, disk man, car setup and some other stuff and is also registered until September which includes liability insurance (so I’m all safe and sound). The car also runs on either natural gas or gasoline so that saves money on fuel (you guys think you have it bad…here it’s close to 5 bucks a gallon). We took it for a spin and I negotiated him down to $1700 AU ($1275 US) and then called the government to make sure everything was legit. All we have to do is write a paper saying we transfer ownership and when I get to Sydney I have to register it in my name (and then sell it shortly thereafter). I figure I can sell it for what I bought it for, but even if I can’t, I have still saved money on bus costs. To do the trip I want to do here, it would cost me about $1500 bucks in transportation costs. I can’t lose! I just hope it doesn’t blow up, but it seems like a decent car and he told me all the stuff he had to do to it. Life is all about risks.

So anyways, I’m gonna buy the car in about 30 minutes and set off tomorrow for Adelaide. It ought to be pretty cool. I also got my CHINESE VISA today!

Right on. It takes up a whole page in my passport which is kind of concerning seeing as I am running out of pages (what a problem to have). ALSO, I found out about my boots that I left in New Zealand. They are going to mail me brand new replacement boots! Can this get any better! I’ll have them ship them to the American Express office in Sydney and they will be waiting for me when I arrive.

So anyways, I’ll post some more when more cool stuff happens. Mikael is giving me this huge water tank for driving through the outback. That way if I break down I’ll be okay. Like they say here, no worries mate.

Roo’ chasin’

The woman next to me in the tram smelled like processed garlic salami. The kind you get in the big tube and cut for your crackers and cheese. I quickly moved. I have this theory about smells. If the smell makes sense, I.E. the woman next to me was eating processed salami and I could see it, it might actually smell good. It might even make me hungry. But the fact that she didn’t have any salami on her, and she was old and weird looking, made it not make sense. And then the same smell that could smell good in certain situations smelled ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTING.

So anyways, I’m back in Melbourne. What have I been up to these past few days? Well, you may remember Mikael, the Swedish guy I met who worked for the hostel I’m staying at. He has a car, and wanted to do the same trip I did up the coast. So we threw some stuff in his car (he has a tent and stuff) and took off up the coast. We got pretty far the first day and made it to the 12 Apostles and the next day, headed up to The Grampians national park where we saw some really cool Australian country side and wild life. There were kangaroos all over the camp site and tons of other animals and birds all over the place. It was really awesome and the sunsets were incredible. There is something just so Australian about red desert dotted with Eucalyptus trees and just a few clouds in the horizon as the sun lays itself down. Absolutely incredible. Mikael and I got along great, and had a great time traveling together. It’s really cool when you travel with someone and everything works out well. Swedish people are cool.

So anyways, Mike and I concocted a plan. He has a car but can’t go with me on my tour of Australia. But he won’t need his car for about a month so I am going to get it certified for him (you have to get it certified before you can sell it) then borrow it for about a month. When I get back, he will be able to sell it because it will be certified. So my plan is to go to Adelaide, find some people willing to share gas costs and then head up the center of Australia, through the outback, to Ayres Rock, then Darwin, then head back down the East Coast. It should take me about 35 days or so, assuming, of course, the car doesn’t blow up (in which case, under our agreement, I have to fix it up and somehow get it back to Melbourne). You gotta love adventure. When I got to Australia, the customs lady asked me a few questions.

“So how long are you in Australia?”

“I’m not sure. Maybe a month and a half.”

“Do you have your plane ticket leaving Australia?”

“Nope. But I printed out my bank balance to show that I have sufficient funds.”

She looked it over and nodded in approval.
“Where are you going to stay?”

“I’m not sure yet, I’ll just find a hostel somewhere.”

“What are you going to do in Australia?”

“I don’t really know. Just kind of feel my way around.”

“……so you really have absolutely nothing planned, do you?”, she asked with a look of confusion.

“Nope”, I replied with a smile.

And she let me pass.

So today, I just got done applying for my visa to China. I was reading up on it and it looked like a daunting task.

Do it 3 months before you leave your home country.
Have a printed itinerary from your travel agent.
Type a letter of intent.
Americans must fill out two applications with two passport photos attached.
You must wait four working days (which I didn’t have).

I did it all. I made an itinerary based on hostels and sights from my lonely planet, made a letter of intent, had some passport photos made and filled out the applications. I took the tram (where the salami woman was) to the embassy and stood in line for an hour. They took one of my applications. They didn’t ask for anything else. And for $20 bucks more, it will be ready tomorrow (bringing the total up to $100 bucks for the 90 day, double entry visa)! Right on. I’m all set, just gotta go pick it up. I then stopped in at a travel agent and found out that my ticket to Beijing was only going to cost about $700 bucks. Right on! Everything is going perfectly. In a few days, I’ll have my own wheels (assuming the car inspection goes well) and have Australia all to myself for a month, then head down to China for the experience of a lifetime (yeah, I know. As if what I’ve done so far hasn’t been).

This is cool.

Me: Australian for “yank”

Well, after wandering around Christchurch taking care of loose ends (mailing stuff ahead of me to China, sending postcards, buying some stuff I needed, cleaning out the backpack and throwing some stuff away) I woke up at 2:00AM this morning, had breakfast, chatted with an old drunk homeless guy in the front of the hostel for a little bit and was picked up by a shuttle to the airport. When I arrived and tried to check in, I was informed that I didn’t have a visa to Australia and needed one.

“But they always took care of that for me at the airport.”

“Nope, you need to apply. Here’s a web address. You can go over to the internet terminal and apply online. It’s instant”.

One credit card charge of $20 dollars later, I was instantly approved for a visa (hmm…ripped off maybe? Sounds like a very complicated and intense qualification process).

“WILL CASEY COBB PLEASE COME PICK UP HIS BAG. CASEY COBB. PLEASE PICK UP YOUR BAG”, I heard over the loud speaker. I had left my bag at the front desk – after all, I’m in New Zealand.

I walked back sheepishly. The security guy looked pissed. Ease up buddy, at least it put a little excitement in your life. Being a security guard in the New Zealand airport would be like being the sheriff of a small town. Nothing ever happens. Ever. Except sometimes some drunk stumbles into somewhere he’s not supposed to. Then there’s BIG trouble.

So anyways, I got checked in, sat around for a while then checked in. The next thing I knew, I was in Australia. I had smartly printed out my bank account balances before hand so as to avoid any hassle for not having an exit ticket out of Australia, so the whole process went down without a hitch. After using the bathroom to freshen up and pondering the “Deposit used syringes here” sign (Australia tackles drug problems with facilitation and treatment which reduces AIDS/infection disease rates rather than ignore the problem like my homeland), I called a hostel I picked out of my guidebook with a free airport shuttle service and was informed that the shuttle was waiting not 20 feet from me. I then got my name on the list and met Michael, a guy from Sweden, who was the shuttle driver. He helped me out with brochures and advice while we were waiting for others and then took me to the hostel with two other English chicks. I checked into the hostel, had some lunch, and here I am. I’m getting really good at this.

I’m really tired but don’t have much time here so I have to get as much as I can out of the little time I have. I am planning on only being here for about a month (with 15 days fudge factor) so I’ll be running around quite a bit.

It’s just a matter of keeping up with myself.