Finally – our bikes have arrived!

October 21, 2013 in Australia, Paperwork, On the road

About three weeks later than originally planned, our motorcycles finally arrived in Darwin. We had shipped them from East Timor in a container. Three weeks for a distance of only 700 kilometres. The shipping company Toll had changed the shipping schedule several times and always came up with new strange excuses; by now we really had to struggle to keep calm when we just heard the name “Toll”.

Already in East Timor they changed the departure date almost daily. First, the had told us that the vessel would leave a few days later, then suddenly a few days earlier- and so on. You can read about the panic and confusion they caused with the constant changes in our blog post “Timor – our last station in Asia“.

Eventually, we had to book our flights to Australia, because the prices were going up dramatically.  So we arrived in Darwin, two days before the container vessel with our motorcycles on board was supposed to arrive. But just after we had recovered from the first culture shock, we were informed that our motorcycles would arrive in about 18 days from now, since Toll had shipped the container first to Singapore (wait, isn’t that the wrong direction???), and then they would forward it from there to Darwin….

Of course, nobody wanted to hear how much money the delay cost us. Whilst we were sitting around in Darwin, waiting for the container to arrive, our travel founds diminished alarmingly. Furthermore, all our plans were messed up: we were expecting Filippo’s son to visit us, and we had originally planned to travel around together for a while. Luckily, we discovered that we could rent a small campervan for about the same money as the hostel cost us, and at least we could spend now a few days together exploring the area around Darwin and Kakadu National Park.

But eventually, – what a wonder! – the container with our motorcycles arrived – 23 days later than originally planned!

Finally, it has arrived - the vessel Kathrin Bay with our motorcycles on board.

Impatiently waiting, we had already started to sort out the paper work and the formalities for customs, quarantine inspection, technical inspection and finally, the insurance (for the details see below).  The money in the meantime happily drained from our pockets… Sometimes the only choice was not to think too much about it, and pay no matter how much it hurt.

We were particularly nervous about the quarantine inspection of the motorcycles, which have to be “as clean as new” when you bring them to Australia. Other travellers had told us, that Darwin had the strictest inspections and rules, and we had heard horror stories about the wiring that had been taken apart and ill-tempered inspectors that always found some contaminations if they just wanted to. We had taken our motorcycles into pieces, and cleaned everything for about eight days in East Timor. We were now hoping that we had removed all dirt, and that we would pass the inspections without any additional charges for cleaning.

So when the day for the inspection came, we were waiting nervously at the container yard together with the other motorcycles travellers with whom we had shared the container (by the way: we really had to push the staff from Toll to get the date for the inspection).

Waiting for the inspection Heike & Peter during the inspection

In the end it wasn’t too bad, even though the start was not very promising, with an inspector that was annoyed because the staff from Toll had not removed the bikes from the container as promised. However, under the control of the inspector we were allowed to unload them ourselves.

And then the really, really strict examination of the bikes started: we had to take the tank and seat off, and with the “white glove” and torch every little corner was examined. Everything was checked for the slightest contamination with hazardous Asian dirt. We also had to spread out our entire luggage: the camping equipment, every piece of clothes, and every single tool was examined.

And with such an in-depth examination, the inspector of course found some high-risk-dirt from Asia – you simply can’t clean everything perfectly. On Filippos 1150 a little trace of dust was hiding in a corner under the engine. With a pair of tweezers we had to pick the last microscopic traces of Asian vegetation out of the Velcro fasteners of our riding gear, and dump them into a big “Biohazard” labelled rubbish bin. Also on the other motorcycles the inspector found some dirt, but we were allowed to wash it off quickly. Heike’s 650 was the only bike that was found clean enough from the beginning. So, in the end we all passed the inspection without extra charges – a major relief!

After that, we had to wait for a few hours until our bikes were officially released in the computer system, and then we were free to roll off the yard and onto the roads of Australia. Well, that’s what we wanted – but after the long time in the container all our batteries were flat – and some had no fuel left (and wondered why the engine wouldn’t start…), and we had to jump start them with the help of the battery from one of the forklifts there.

Peter, who had shipped his Enfield in the container with us, allowed us to use his garden for a tyre change, and then we were ready for the technical inspection, where the roadworthiness of our motorcycles was tested. The inspection wasn’t very strict (we are actually still trying to understand how you can come to the conclusion that the brakes are working by observing the brake light?). After passing the technical inspection, we were allowed to pay for the official registration of the bikes and the obligatory third-party insurance. Now we were finally and officially ready to go off and explore Australia with our motorcycles!

Tyre change in Peter's garden not the first foreign number plates at the technical inspectation office

For all travellers that want to send their bikes from East Timor to Darwin with the shipping company Toll (which we can’t recommend at all – but unfortunately there is no alternative), we have summarized all the facts and steps that are necessary in Darwin:

  1. Even before the container has arrived you can already go to the customs office and have your Carnet stamped. You need an address (Hotel or camp site receipt is sufficient, or a private address from your host), passport and the “bill of lading” from Toll.
    GPS customs house (21 Lindsay Street): S 12G 27′ 31″. E 130G 50′ 25″
  2. Inform the staff at Toll that you have arrived. You have to keep pushing them, and remind them all the time that you are waiting for your motorcycles, and that you need an urgent date for the quarantine inspection. Otherwise they will just ignore it….  It’s best to go there personally.
    GPS Toll (Lot 5236, Frances Bay Drive, Darwin, NT 0800): S 12G 27′ 40″. E 130G 50′ 51″
  3. One or two days before the container arrives, you can already go to the AQIS office at the airport (outside of the parking area) and do the paperwork for the quarantine inspection there. You need the bill of lading, passport and your credit card (170 AUS$ per bike). You get a number in exchange, and you are then registered in the system. As soon as Toll knows when the container can be accessed, you can make an appointment for the inspection (you can do this by phone).
    GPS AQIS: S 12G 24′ 17″. E 130G 52′ 43″
  4. The quarantine inspection itself takes place at the container yard at Toll. Just make sure that you really cleaned everything, and stay calm – good luck!
  5. When the motorcycles are then officially released in the computer system from all sides, and you have paid the fees at the Toll office (yes, more money here in addition to the shipping costs that you paid already in Dili! – about 150 AUS$ per bike – ouch…..), then you are allowed to leave the yard.
  6. Next stop: technical inspection. Make sure that all lights, the horn, the brakes work – but they are not very strict. Better take the luggage off, so they can’t find anything that is wrong with it.
    GPS Technical Inspection and Registration (Goyder Road): S 12G 26′ 15″.  E 130G 50′ 24″
  7. With the piece of paper from the inspection you can then go to the building next door and register the motorcycles and pay for the obligatory third-party insurance. The technical inspection is included in the costs of 235 AUS$ (valid for 3 months). Bring all the papers you have (carnet, passport, credit cards, registration papers, driver’s license, … everything!), and some written proof where you are staying (receipt, invitation by your host, etc.).
  8. Well, that’s it….  don’t panic – it’s expensive, but Australia is worth the effort and money!

Finally - we are hitting the road. Australia, watch out, we're coming!