In 2007 we took a career break from work, rented out our house and embarked on a grand adventure overland to Australia, Yes we had passports, visas, and had all the various medical injections but that was it really. We had spent so much time building the car, sorting the house for rent and paying bills we didn’t spend any time on the important stuff like where were going and how we were going to get there. I packed a pocket atlas and thought that will do! We managed by luck to pass through 17 different countries and after shipping to OZ drove across the outback.
Below is a small extract from our book “Port Out Starboard Home”.
With Chitty sealed in the container, fumigated and bound for Australia, we booked two flights south.
Arriving down under was just overwhelming even if Chitty hadn’t quite got there yet. We had both forgotten how good the Western world really was. Okay, so it wasn’t as flamboyant and colourful as Asia and the Middle East but it didn’t smell and we could drink the water. Carolyn and I stood at a zebra crossing, instinctively we waited and waited and so did the queue of cars; engaged in conversation our sub-conscious minds knew for the last six months crossing the road on a pedestrian crossing had been a sure way of being killed as nobody ever stopped. Beeeeeeeeeeb. ‘Quick, I forgot cars stop here,’ I said, dragging Carolyn by the arm.
Hotel prices were exorbitant in Australia compared to when we were here four years ago and all of our camping equipment was still in Chitty, so we bussed it into town and bought a cheap two-man tent and took to the ground for a week and awaited the customs and quarantine inspection. With time to burn I scoured the internet for immigration and customs information. The more I read the more I wish I hadn’t. It turned out Chitty had to go over the ‘pits’ to become road legal in Oz. This was basically a car inspection like our MOT; without it you couldn’t drive on Australian roads. This was of great concern to us because if Chitty failed we weren’t going anywhere. Apart from the normal lights and brake tests the car must have no oil leaks! There it was again, bloody oil leaks, I was getting paranoid. Oil leaks and Chitty were like bread and butter, Bonnie and Clyde, Fred and Ginger.
Liam Darlingston Jones sounded really posh and he was married to a doctor. I worked with his sister at Marks & Spencer and in an address book packed with ‘oh you must look up etc,’ was Liam’s number. He had visited us at home a couple of years ago when Chitty was being built. He and his wife emigrated under the £10 Pom down under deal and asking his advice about going over the pits was a good excuse for an meeting. Freo, as the locals call Fremantle, has a trendy line of coffee bars along Cappuccino Street, where we joined Liam and he put the record straight. ‘Yeh your right on that one mate, it won’t pass with oil pouring out of the sump,’ Liam said alarmingly, looking over his square rimmed glasses. ‘Fix it, it’s no big deal.’ It wasn’t that simple, leaking oil from the engine and the gearbox was big money to solve, let alone the differentials and transfer box. Everything had to come out, new gaskets fitted and seals replaced and being an old Land Rover there was no guarantee it wouldn’t continue to drip. But more to the point we couldn’t afford it; we would soon wave goodbye to a few thousand dollars. Apart from having cash put by for two flights home and shipping Chitty back to the Isle of Wight, we had planned to enter Australia with about five grand. It was January, we still had six months to last, a complete continent to cross and we were now down to £2,000.