It’s been quite a while since I posted something. It’s been on my mind, but the truth is that not much has happened compared to the past months. At least nothing photographically interesting to compose much of an update from!
I was at a bit of a crossroad back in Coffs Harbour, but decided getting a job there was just too unsure and tricky. Instead, I decided to head back to Brisbane, to at the very least not waste money on hostels by staying with Stef and family, who had kindly offered to host me again.
I remembered Hedda, who left us back in Victoria to head to these parts, might still be at an eco-yoga volunteering place near Byron Bay. I figured I might as well go take a look, maybe she would still be there, and I was interested in the place myself. The place is a Hare Krishna community where sustainability, yoga and vegetarianism are keywords.
I didn’t know what to expect when I got there, but everybody was really friendly, a lady that obviously ran the place told me she didn’t know any Hedda, but that I should just join them for a free lunch and I could ask the others.
During lunch I recognized Ethan (on the left in the picture) from some pictures with Hedda on Facebook. He knew her and told me she had left a few weeks ago. We kept talking and he was quite an interesting guy. I told him about my car troubles and wanting to sort that out. He almost convinced me to stay when he told me a story about a friend of his who also felt like the car she was traveling with controlled her life a bit. He was standing on a beach with her, with the car keys in his hands. “What if I’d just throw the keys in the ocean, and you’d just forget about the car?” he said to her. She told him to do it. She then had a whole month to forget about it all until she got new keys and could sell the car, but it was good for her to get away from it, he told me.
That really stuck with me. He almost convinced me to stay, but I knew I just had to sort things with the car out first.
I drove the last hour or two back to Brisbane to get to Stef then, thinking about the experience at the Krishna Village. It just felt like such a positive place, and I was really considering going back.
When I got back to Stef, I took about a week’s pause, to think things over. What to do with the car, what I still wanted to see and do in Australia, what about after Australia and I looked a bit for a job on the side.
(Picture from my Polish adventure back in August last year).
The thing I’ve only mentioned briefly as “a chance at a job back in Europe”, is about me being selected for the second round in Edelweiss Bike Travel‘s yearly motorcycle tourguide selection. They’re a high-end motorcycle touring operator based in Tirol, Austria that recruit a few new tourguides every year. Back when I quit my job, I had spent weeks, months even thinking about a good next job and had sent in my application to Edelweiss, not thinking much would come of it. I was really surprised to get an email from them back when I was still in New South Wales, inviting me over for an interview in Austria. We ended up agreeing I would create a website presentation and video about myself, as well as doing a phone interview with them to avoid having to fly back to Europe for just the slim chance of getting a job.
So for the past month or so, I’ve been going through this process, waiting for the interview and their eventual answer…
In the meantime, I had diagnosed my car and found out the major problem. It wasn’t a stuck valve, that would require the cylinder head to be taken off. Instead, the car must have been running with the wrong valve clearances for a very, very long time, resulting in excessive wear. That little disc, a shim, is supposed to be perfectly flat. It got worn out so much it was ejected from its proper position and the car ran with massively incorrect valve clearances. The point where the shim was ejected must have been what I heard when traveling with Phoebe, when the engine noise changed while driving. This problem was actually simpler and cheaper to fix.
This diagnosis, combined with the fact I wasn’t really offered much for my car putting it up for sale with all its issues (just to see what it would be worth), made me decide I should just invest a bit more, get it fixed, and either keep using it or sell it pending on what I would hear from Edelweiss.
I ended up finding a weeklong job that paid pretty well, thanks to a group on Facebook. A guy (another young backpacker) asked in German if anybody would be up for joining him in removing carpet in Brisbane the next day, and I jumped on it. When he heard I had a car to drive to the place (The University of Queensland) he picked me over a few other interested people. The work wasn’t that bad, the worst was scraping the sticky carpet from the floor in only a few rooms. Most effort went into moving furniture around so we could get the carpet out. I did this for 6 days to make some money to pay for the car parts for the upcoming repair.
I was told by Stef’s mechanic friend, who does the inspection required when you sell a car, that I’d have to fix the oil leak. So when I was halfway through working on the top of the engine, I thought I might as well remove it completely to fix the oil leaks. The week after my carpet-laying job, Romain, a young Swiss backpacker also staying at Stef’s (his father is an old friend), helped me out a bit. Romain is actually a truck/diesel mechanic for a living so it was good to have some backup in this big operation.
Stef’s mechanic, Tony, gave me lots of advice and even borrowed me his engine crane for a few days. I had to buy tarps to cover the engine and car since it rained a lot during that week, slowing down work. It was in this week I did the interview with Edelweiss, which went pretty well. They explained how it really is not so much about motorcycle riding, but more making sure customers have a good time. I told them I’d been doing that sort of thing a bit before when traveling with other much younger people here in Australia.
I replaced the leaking seal; a 20 dollar part that takes 5 minutes to actually swap, but is much more work due to its location between engine and clutch.
I also learned something new: getting the pilot bearing out without a slide hammer (special expensive tool), is possible if you fill up the space behind it with wet paper, and then just knock a pin in it to compress them. Eventually you can get a very stuck metal part to pop out with just some paper, water and a small hammer!
Romain had left by the time I had to put the engine back in (thanks to the rain I was a bit slow), and I had to get Tony his engine lift back on monday. I managed to put the whole engine back in by myself on Sunday, not after driving for another hour to get a simple “clutch alignment tool” that was needed for the job.
I then spent another week or so doing other small jobs and putting it all back together. I had to wait for and get more parts and in the downtime decided to spray the bumpers black to get it to look a bit better.
That week was also when I got the email, offering me the job at Edelweiss! So that meant everything was clear: the car would have to be finished, inspected and put up for sale, and I needed to look into all other matters concerning my return to Europe.
I got the car back together and running properly, and then had to look into what was needed to pass inspection. This inspection is mandatory before sale; the guy I bought it from managed to have me believe it was a good thing he didn’t do it and I should do it myself, but I was convinced I wouldn’t swindle the next buyers like that guy did with me.
While I was waiting for my inspection appointment, I helped Stefan out, whom was at the VisitOz course with me and now also bought his own car, to travel in with two lovely girls. He did the same thing: bought a car without inspection certificate and now had trouble getting it to pass. He ended up not passing twice and is still on the fence about keeping it or selling it. At least he only paid a fraction of what I did, so if he gets no money back from it at all it’s still a cheap way to travel.
A few days ago I saw somebody on Facebook asking about buying a 4×4 car in Brisbane. I told them I’d put mine up for sale soon, maybe they would be interested? It turned out to be a young Belgian couple, the guy had studied at the same university as me and lived in my home town. After seeing the car and me promising to fix some more small things and providing an inspection certificate, they would buy it.
Yesterday I anxiously awaited a call about a passed inspection. I got the call, the car passed, so today we did the sale and they drove off in the Hilux. I’ve really put an extreme amount of effort and money in this car, so I hope they get their enjoyment out of it. At the very least I tried to be as honest and correct as I could, to provide them with a better experience than the guy who sold me the car did.
I got nowhere near what I spent on the car, probably just a little over half (about the same as what I paid initially for it), but there’s no point to keep thinking about that; all in all it’s still a decent price for both me and them, since I also gave them loads and loads of extras with it.
So next up I have about 3.5 weeks left in Australia. I decided I need to get away from spending and worries about cars, so I’m going back to the Krishna Village tomorrow, to do some volunteering there for two weeks, a bit like I did back in Norway in June last year. I’m sure it will make for another great experience!