One week ago, the first members of our team boarded their plane to Australia. The pre-team’s departure officially launched this year’s journey down under, where we started our on-site preparations for the 2019 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. A lot has happened in the last days, even though they passed by so much quicker than expected. It’s about time to take a step back and have a look at everything we did so far, and the experiences we made along the way.
Sydney is where both team and SolarCar are currently staying. The ten of us landed here over the weekend. The weariness from our jetlag set in quickly during our first evening, to no surprise. After all, Australia’s eastern coast is a whole eight time zones apart from our native Germany. During our entire time in Sydney the team is accommodated in the suburb of Bankstown, our base of operations being a flat which we rented for a few days. Most of our tasks we’re able to accomplish from here. And there’s been a lot to do already.
We needed several vehicles to transport our equipment and ourselves. Cars as a means of transportation were an absolute necessity for us, not just while crossing the outback but also while in Sydney organizing our trip. Bringing together an adequate convoy didn’t take too long however. The only car which proved hard to find was one equipped with a tow hook as well as enough horsepower to pull the weight of our yellow trailer. We spent four days of calling and contacting all Sydney car rentals imaginable until we had everything put together for the upcoming trip that will take us all the way up to Darwin.
Preparing for the Long Ride
But the first short drives with our newly acquired vehicles already led to the next challenges for our team. Driving on the left being the Australian standard takes time getting used to. Simple maneuvers like crossing a roundabout can at times confuse one or the other inexperienced driver. For example, when trying to use a turn signal and accidentally activating the windshield wipers instead.
There was something else to work on, namely visiting the company grounds of Panalpina who had previously shipped our container all the way here from Germany. After arriving to Sydney, Panalpina transported the thyssenkrupp SunRiser and our equipment to their local warehouse. Everything was already guided through customs and only needed picking up once we were ready. With all our rented cars and team members well-prepared we visited Panalpina on Friday, along with several members of Bochum’s SolarBuggy team who had come to Australia for their very own adventure.
Our thyssenkrupp SunRiser Down Under Yet Again
Loading up all of our things took most of the day. We managed to pack up everything by four in the afternoon however, and even our smaller gray trailer which came here in a disassembled state got put back together and is now ready for travelling across the continent. Finally, we also got to meet our thyssenkrupp SunRiser again. The SolarCar from Bochum rolled out of its trailer for the first time in two months to cover a first few meters of ground on Australian soil ever since its first visit in 2015. The tkSR didn’t move on its own just yet though. The battery had come here separately, carried inside a container reserved for dangerous goods only. When reassembling car and battery everything fit together perfectly, so we may now safely say that the “new” tkSR is back in one piece at last.
At the end of the day our SolarCar went back into its trailer. And until our departure from Sydney next Wednesday it will stay with Panalpina, mostly for safety reasons. The yellow trailer has already gotten its very own parking spot here.
What’s left to do is planning the upcoming drive and preparing for everything accordingly. To successfully cover the long distance to the northern coast we still need to familiarize ourselves with the localities situated along the way. Especially when crossing sparsely populated areas it’s important to know the right places to regularly buy gasoline, water, or food.
Looking Forward to the Outback
Despite our long list of what needs to be done there’s also some off-days in between, allowing team members to take a look around the city or simply enjoying the occasional calm. And of course, a visit to Sydney would hardly be complete without visiting the world-renowned Opera House and neighboring Harbour Bridge.
We’re looking back on a successful first week in Australia. Some smaller challenges have appeared here and there, though usually not taking too much effort to master. Either way the results speak for themselves. Excited and optimistic, we look forward to our long trip to Darwin.
(originally published on September 8, 2019)