Christmas eve, the morning we left Kuala Lumpur and dropped all our panniers and bags off to BMW, we finally found out what was wrong with Streak. The engine management system no less – think of it as the heart and brains of the bike. Pretty major. The part has to be ordered from BMW in Germany and calibrated for Streak. With Christmas and new year holidays, the factory is closed for the next couple of weeks. As the part would then take another couple of weeks to arrive, we decide we need to tackle the problem from South America or our trip will be delayed too much to get back to Europe in time to claim half our Carnet de Passage cost back (with two bikes, this equates to the cost of one bike, so not insignificant).
It felt very strange walking away from Streak and Storm for over a month, like leaving our babies behind. It also felt very odd walking with our jackets on (we had to bring them back to give them a good wash in a washing machine) but with sandals rather than boots – very odd, your brain keeps telling you it’s unsafe and you should be wearing boots (not what are you doing wearing a heavy jacket?!!).
Leaving Streak and Storm behind brings to an end the first half of our Round The World trip. Wow!! Who would have thought?! The 2SlowSpeeds, cautious and relatively inexperienced riders, have ridden 21,500kms and made it unscathed to KL. If nothing else, we have shown any one can do this if they want to. We had no great skill, just the desire to do it and love of travel and each other.
Now no more riding, unpacking, packing, hand washing and looking for somewhere comfortable to sleep for a while. And we will be seeing friends again. The butterflies of excitement are showing up… But so many thoughts and questions are swerling in our heads! How will it feel like being home? Will it feel like home? We’ve only been gone 15 months, but have our friendships survived unchanged or how will they have changed? We have so many things to organise, will 4 weeks be long enough?
Arriving back in Australia in Sydney on Boxing Day confirmed for us that Australia is home.
Yes, we are resident in Manly Queensland again, the gates swing open, up the driveway and we are at our front door. Fifteen months on the road and we open up to a familiar but unfamiliar world. Glen and Robyn, who have very kindly looked after our interests while we have been on the road, collected us from the airport and took us back along familiar roads to our home of 16 years.
While it feels comfortable to be home, we have felt like we were in a hotel, all the drawers and cupboards being empty, nothing anywhere as we had packed all our personal possessions before we rented the place out in 2013. A legion of boxes we had packed in September 2013 confront us downstairs and we have no idea where anything is! We are still living mostly with our hand luggage and a few items discovered by accident. As we are only here for four weeks, we plan to unpack as little as possible, assuming we can find it in the first place!
Getting home in the middle of a RTW trip is slightly strange, normally home is the start/finish point, not the middle of the journey and if we had undertaken a normal RTW we would be relaxing with the journey over. Here, we are focused on shipping the bikes, spares ordering, planning and catching up with all our friends in the four weeks we are here. We found getting to grips with over a year’s mail was made less daunting by Robyn’s diligent sorting and prioritising each month. Even though we had tried to move all the snail mail to email, there are many organisations that have only changed over since we have been away.
As we travel around Brisbane with the roof down on the MX-5, it is interesting to see the interplay of our memories and our visual senses as brains are furiously matching the two images. From time to time we know that there is a mismatch but have to think hard to identify what the difference is. A house has been raised, a tree chopped down, a new appartment block built. It’s an interesting process to go through.
Our to do list over the next 4 weeks kept growing the first week we got back but is under control:
double GP appointment each, blood tests, eye tests, order new glasses, book cardiologist for stress-test, buy new medication for next 6 months, buy new fridge (old 17 year old one died when we got home), organise air conditioning repair (also died shortly before we returned), organise mammogram, organise mobile and internet credit, organise new vehicule insurance, organise new travel insurance, liaise with shipping agent in Singapore about various options to ship or airfreight our bikes, complete insurance claim paperwork for various losses and medical expenses we incurred over the past 12 months, renew post office box, follow up with several organisations to get all bills online, buy new spares for Streak and Storm like new oil filters, wash and re-waterproof our jackets, look for new boots, look for new gloves, and of course try to see most of our friends at least once.
A couple of days after getting home, we found out that a developer has been working very quietly and very hard at getting approval for a 5 storey block of 95 appartments and shops across the road from us. We found out that the cost of clearing port charges in Buenos Aires comes to AU$5000. All a bit much to take in. We feel drained. So many things to work out. Should we look at selling now? Should we look at shipping elsewhere or backtrack – backtracking is the least favoured option and only comes in as long as needing to be considered as an option and immediately dismissed. Should we just fly back to Europe in July/August? That question needed to be asked, considered for … 2 seconds, and dismissed. Still, so many questions and things to be considered and actioned.
We are glad we had a blog and many friends followed us so we didn’t have to go through the whole trip over and over again, but interestingly, a few questions have come up several times, such as:
What was your favourite place? We don’t have a single favourite place, but many places we would love to return to, mainly to see friends we made there again. We both loved Iran, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. When we think of these countries, we think of the special moments we spent with so many wonderful people. See photos below. We will cherish these photos even more as the box we shipped back from Dubai was raided by thieves somewhere and we lost brochures, receipts, maps, a dead iPad and most sadly of all presents from our friends in Uzbekistan.
Did you have any problems? No, not really. A few tough riding days, only one puncture, a smashed brake fluid container, a throttle problem on Anne’s bike, that’s it.
Did you ever have any problems with the police? No, never. We were fined twice but justifiably.
Were you ever in any danger? Never. Except from crazy drivers.
Did you take anything to defend yourself? Common sense and luck, that’s all. And thankfully, our Guardian Angels.
How does it feel like being home? As mentioned above, it is good to be home but it doesn’t quite feel like home. Most friends were away when we arrived and were unaware we had our mobiles reconnected within a couple of days. So many to call, so many to organise to see but so many things to organise that the social calendar has had to take a bit of a back seat. All in all, it feels like being in any city we’re travelling through, but not home although sleeping in our own bed is wonderful and having a washing machine pure luxury!
Do you think you will be able to settle down? We think so, we can’t imagine ourselves always being on the move like some travellers we’ve met or read about. We have many plans for when we get home!
Do you think you will you want to keep travelling? We won’t want to stay on the road, but travelling will always be something we enjoy doing. In future, we would rather go to a single place and stay longer, to get a good feel for the place and have time to enjoy and explore it more fully.
How far and how many hours did you travel every day? On average 7 hours including 2 hours’ rest spread over the day. We tried to have 3 riding days, then stop for 2 or 3 nights in one place.
Did you miss anything? Friends and family – especially the general chit chat you have with friends. Anne missed her perfume!! And a washing machine.
Did you get tired of wearing the same things every day? No, although Anne enjoyed buying new trousers and top as a change.
How often did you camp? Not often enough, just 6 times. But we are looking forward to lots lots more in the Americas.
Will you write a book? Yes, when we get back.
Are you enjoying being home? Oh yes, most definitely :-). Seeing friends again has been absolutely wonderful – we’re doing our best to see as many as we can before we head off to South America.
– Anne & Anthony