Patience and the kindest strangers and friends

Trip Start Feb 02, 2010
Trip End Feb 02, 2011

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Flag of Austria  , Upper Austria,
Sunday, March 14, 2010

On Saturday morning we woke up under the trees were we had stopped when the headlight had almost completely died. Felix cooked some noodles with the seasoning we bought in Munich and we had a steaming hot breakfast. We had no cutlery so we took turns eating with the Leatherman blade. The whole time I was going through a up, down, up, down, of this is bad to this is good. Having the bike break made me very grumpy, but then making a warm little camp and lying in bed all snug with the cold outside, I was happy again. Having to get up and put on the stupid, uncomfortable, awkward suit made me mad again, a tasty hot breakfast and I was not so angry anymore.
A friendly man came walking past and told us there was a mechanic in the next town a few kilometers away. We packed up and Felix managed to kick start Nina cold, which was supposed to be impossible, and we rode to the town. We found the "mechanic" that was actually at an OAMTC (like RACV) depot, and closed (being a Saturday). Luckily for us, there were two guys there picking up a car with the tow truck. One of them very kindly helped us by testing if there was any charge coming out of the alternator. There was none, so we now knew the alternator was the problem. The guy suggested we try the Honda shop twenty kilometers down the road. There was nothing else to do so we set off not knowing if the battery had enough charge to get us there.

We did make it and the man in the Honda shop was a bit unhelpful, maybe a mechanic could help us on Monday morning he said. It was still only Saturday morning and it was lightly snowing, raining and very windy. We sat in the cold for a long, long time -- Felix reading the Ural manual and me knitting. I have gone into a sock knitting frenzy since learning this wonderful new skill, which reminds me how annoying the new suits are. I can't express how much I hate them. If it weren't keeping me so warm and dry I would have drowned it or put it under a train by now. The arms are too long so every time I need to use my finger or hands the stupid sleeves are in the way, cooking, packing a sleeping bag, knitting and writing are all impossible without a massive effort. I can't bend my arms properly, I can't tie my shoe laces, I can't turn my head, if I need to pee it takes twenty minutes to get dressed again, the only thing I can do in it is sit still.

When we didn't know what else to do, we decided to call Ernstl, the uncle of Felix's brother-in-law, who feels like our uncle too. He loves motorbikes and has once owned a similar bike to Nina. By European standards we were a long way from where he lives but by Australian standards not so far. Ernstl, so generously and kindly, offered to come and help us the next day, with some tools and spare parts he would see what he could do. So we had a day and night to kill in this little town called Grein.

Hum... what to do. Go food shopping and eat was something to do, so we did that. We walked around the village, which turned out to be not so small. There was also a massive castle on the hill. We walked to it, but could not go inside, it is unfortunately only open May to September. The whole time, everywhere we walked we were always looking for somewhere to sleep. There was a camping ground right next to the car park Nina was in and a police station just up the road, so we had to find somewhere well hidden to sleep. We found a four story beautiful old house that was deserted, it would have been so nice to sleep there, but it seemed to be already occupied by a squatter. It was raining and very cold and a nice cabin in the campground I thought looked very appealing. Felix really didn't want to though. I didn't really either, but the thought of being wet and cold while trying to sleep was not so pleasant. There was a very clean, warm public toilet block. I went in to go to the toilet and just stayed in there for ten minutes extra or so to enjoy being out of the rain, cold and wind. I thought about sleeping in there.

After walking around the town for a few house we decided to move down into the truck stop. There was a bus shelter there and some hidden corners, the park were we were first was quite open to the main road and everywhere really. Down in the truck stop we parked next to a few big pine trees and a while after we had arrived there Felix looked under the trees and found it was very dry and reasonably free of rubbish. When he called out "Come here" I answered "Where?" when I was standing quite close, so it was a well-hidden place. We cooked potatoes with sauerkraut, creamy mustard and herbs for dinner, when nothing much has happened all day cooking dinner is quite an event. It was so good to have a warm meal and to be near the warmth of the stove. After we had eaten and cleaned up there was nothing else to do really but go to bed.

We decided to try and sleep in our suits. Well Felix wanted to. I knew I would not be warm enough sleeping on the ground, on a mat I might have been fine, but with no insulation all the warmth just gets taken away by the ground. So I put on all my warm clothes and lay down under the tree. The bad thing about this camping spot was the massive slope we had to sleep on. I slept holding on to the sidecar wheel so I wouldn't slip down the hill so fast. So maybe half and hour after we had been lying there I was too cold to sleep. So just like I thought we would in the end, we set up our bed properly.

We were woken up in the night a few times in the night, a few times from slipping down the hill, once by a truck leaving, once by a group of boys who were very loud and drunk. They wondered through the rest stop yelling and laughing, I was so worried they would come over and do something to the bike or our stuff. They made it across the stop then stopped about fifty meters from where we were, we couldn't see them but we could hear them. I think they were where we had considered sleeping earlier, I'm so glad we didn't go there. One of them was retching up his entire stomach and gagging and coughing while the others laughed and carried on.

Anyway, early in the morning we were woken again by someone walking their dog. I was awake and heard the footsteps coming. The lady didn't stop walking as the dog tried to come and sniff us until Felix started snoring just as she was passing us. It must have given her a fright a well as us. She stopped walking and was standing only a few meters from us on the other side of Nina; the dog was trying to get to us too. We lay still and held our breath until she carried on with her walk. I really would like to know what she was thinking. We packed up our camp again, had some left-over's from dinner and moved Nina to where we would meet Ernstl. Today was really, really cold, I think because we were in such a windy spot. We waited under a skate ramp; it wasn't raining under there and a bit less windy. We listened to my iPod and knitted, well I knitted and Felix daydreamed. It's amazing how much time you have in a day when you get up at sunrise.

Much sooner then we expected Ernst and Gita arrived, it was so nice to see them again. We have been talking to them on Skype for the last few weeks about coming soon, bikes and all that, now we could show them Nina and talk in person.

Felix and Ernstl pulled Nina apart and looked and tested, and very soon it became clear we needed more then Ernstl's magic touch to fix our problem. So the plan was to go back to Linz, followed by the car in case the battery couldn't make it all the way. In Linz we would wait at the Ural Dealer until it opened the next morning. There we would get a part to fix the alternator or a new one if need be. Amazingly we made it within one kilometer of the Ural Dealer before the battery couldn't keep going. After a few minutes waiting it recovered enough make it the last little bit.

To help us past the long afternoon of waiting and to enjoy a lunch out, Ernst and Gita took us for lunch and then cake and coffee. It was such a nice afternoon with them, to have the time to enjoy a long lunch and talk. Again we have been adopted into another family. So after all that they went home and we went back to our Nina waiting for us in an industrial estate. We were in a car park of a shabby looking supermarket. It was pretty dirty looking and rough but it was a very good place in the whole picture of things because we had a massive veranda to sleep under and being a Sunday there was basically no one around to bother us. So we bided our time with knitting, music repacking and ordering our stuff, walking around the estate, looking for goodies in the bins, making a nice bed, eating wafers and talking shit (Felix).

Not long after it was dark and we were getting ready for bed, a man with a trailer and what looked like a bike on the back drove in and had a very good look at us as he drove past, turned around and came to talk to us. He was the owner of the Ural Dealership. Naturally he asked us what we were doing outside his shop, he spoke very good English, so it was not hard to explain to him our situation. Straight away he said we couldn't sleep out here in the cold...we would have to come and sleep inside! So we pushed Nina inside, totally amazed by this man's instant trust and kindness. We set up our bed in the massive storeroom. This dealership supplies to the whole of Europe, to give an idea of the size of this place and how much stuff was in it. It was like one of the big Coles or Safeway's, but bigger, aisles piled up to the roof with every part you could possibly need. There was even a stack of shiny new sidecars sitting on a shelf.

The owner (Harry) brought us out a tray with wine, juice and water, showed us the toilets, which we had to go through the office to get to, talked with us for a while then left us. It was an incredible display of trust. And in other momentous news, I have finished my first pair of socks!
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Maria on

At almost every sentence, I think to myself "Oh, I MUST remember to tell Floss how much I like exactly how she writes, every bit!" or "Oh, you guys are doing this JUST right! It sounds like so much fun, even all the trials and tribulations - they are what make the good times so sweet, don't you think?" - especially about Floss' moods swinging every which way, about Nina's temperamental personality, about the trickiness of finding warmth in a freezing cold winter. And the good times - the good food, the kindness of Ernstl & Gita, of Harry, the image of Felix sorting everything neatly with Cameron precision, of Floss always knitting (in that extremely useful but utterly frustrating suit!!), of the first pair of socks, etc - gosh, these are gold!

As you can see, I'm loving every bit! Sending you all my love and hope we can tell you 'face to face' on Skype sometime how we think you are terrific explorers :-)

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