Just under two hours is the flight over the sea of Timor, then, far below, the outlines of Australia appear. The plane is about to land, houses and streets are becoming visible, everything looks like it is a miniature toy world.
I pass the customs without any problems. Australia is very strict in terms of biosecurity, everything must be free of dust and dirt, any organic material is prohibited. For two days I cleaned my bike, it has never been so clean before.They have a proper look at it but the customs officer find nothing to complain about.
The lady who checks my passport asks me a few questions but of course I get the stamp and the permission to enter. Actually, I’m already here, on Australian soil, but the concept of states and imaginary borders makes it necessary that a official must allow me to be here.
This whole process is completely different for the thousands of people who try to reach the australian mainland by boat each year. If the often overloaded and unseaworthy boats don´t sink into the sea, they are intercepted by Australian warships and soldiers of Operation Resolute and sent back to Indonesia and Timor Leste. Or people are arrested and taken to detention camps in Papua New Guinea.
These people are refered to “Irregular Maritime Arrivals” by the Australian Defence Force, as security threats for Australia’s maritime domain. Given this brutal reality, the lines from the australian national anthem “For those who’ve come across the seas, we’ve boundless plains to share ” can only be understood as a satire.
Of course I realize that I`m about to enter a different part of the world. That part of the world which seals itself off in order to avoid sharing its wealth with other parts. That part of the world which decides how other people have to live.
The more I believe myself to understand how the world works, the more I realize that wefrom the “developed” countries, shouldn´t be a model for other countries in terms of our lifestyle and our attitudes in general.
The airport is bustling. It is unusual for me to see so many white people – and their noses are all so big. I guess I was really too long in Asia.Everything is well organized and clean. No one is sitting or lying on the floor at all, nowhere are big piles of luggage, everyone holds his bag or suitcase in his hands.
I assemble my bike and start cycling to my couchsurfing host. The streets are broad and well developed, but there is hardly any traffic. There are bicycle lanes and cars stop for every traffic light. But what stands out the most to me, it’s the absence of people. The city seems deserted to me. I ride through a residential area. Large houses are surrounded by gardens and protected by fences or hedges. It is completely different sight from the one in the morning while cycling to the airport in Dili.
Later in the day I walk into a supermarket. It´s is huge and there is everything. The shelves are full of any product, there are numerous variations. The fruit and vegetable selection is huge, everything looks fresh and perfect. I spend quite a while in the store, just to have a look around. The prices are too high for me to buy much, I have to get used to that, too. It seems to me almost frightening that people go through the supermarket and put random things in their huge shopping cart, without looking at the price at all. Most people here pay with credit card, cash is not often used. Everywhere are signs saying”Buy more, save more“. How can I save more when I spend more money?
I´m experiencing a culture shock. Things are so strange yet so familiar, I grew up in a very similar part of the world. But I feel like after spending a lot of time in the other parts of the world I now perceive certain things differently. It will take a while until I feel comfortable here again.
The Australian summer is coming and I don´t want to spend too much time in Darwin. First of all, it’s about time to get my bike back on track. New tires are badly needed and I also want to change the cassette and chainrings. They´ve done nearly 40,000 km by now. It´s amazing how long some things last, I hear often from other cyclists how often they change their tires or chains. My rear tire is still the first from Germany, I had less than 10 punctures all the way.
I also really need a new leather saddle after mine being torn in Indonesia.
How good that I have a brother who works for Bike Components, an online bicycle shop, and to whom I can easily send a wish list of all things I need. Only a few days later I can pick up a huge parcel at the post office in Darwin. Uncomplicated and with good terms. It’s all in there, everything what I wished, for even new brakes put in by my brother. I need a whole day to rebuild my bike and make it ready again.
If you want to know more about the wearout of the individual components – in the german Radforum I wrote a detailed article about this.
What I lack is an extra luggage rack, so that I can carry more food and especially water. I’m heading to the recycling centre of Darwin to look around for appropriate materials. In a huge hall are several old bikes and all imaginable things that were thrown away by people. TVs, stereos, furniture, kitchen appliances, books, clothing. Without any problems you can find everything to set up a regular house – only from the garbage of other people.
It´s time to take a look at the map. In the next weeks I will follow only the same road – the Stuart Highway- but the distances are so long that it calls for some planning: The center of Australia is sparsely populated, there are only 4 larger settlements on my routewhich might deserve to be called “town”. In between, there are only the roadhouses, a combination of gas station / hotel / pub / shop.
It´s about 3000 kilometers to Adelaide in the south. It is not the first time that I set myself a so-distant goal. But this time it’s different. There are no villages or settlements, no shops or restaurants, no taps, often not even trees to provide shade. It´s more than 100 km between the possibilities to get water, with temperatures of about 40 degrees, wind from the south.
However, the day before my departure I have no time for doubts. I spend a great night out with the people who have welcomed me in Darwin, helped me to get my things done. They even gave me enough food for the next few days.
The next morning I start at the sea, of course, which I won´t see for a few weeks.
At the outskirts of Darwin I see the first road sign – Alice Springs – 1500 km. I feel a great adventure is about to happen.