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Mike and the RWC team have been chronicling their adventures and thoughts as they motor 'round the world.

For more, read the weekly articles appearing in The Ottawa Citizen.

LEG 4: MEXICO, UNITED STATES & CANADA (August - October, 2001)

October 13, 2001: Quadriplegic's journey inspires rehab patients
As reported in the Peterborough Examiner, Mike continues to make a difference...

October 11, 2001: Warm support on home stretch
Mike writes about the activities in Toronto, including meeting 10-year-old paraplegic Dustin and 28-year-old Heather, a quad who has just passed her driving tests...

October 2, 2001: The Challenge returns to Ontario
Mike reflects on the long-awaited return to Canada...

September 23, 2001: Team gets a warm Western welcome
From Vancouver to Calgary, the Challenge receives incredible support...

September 4, 2001: 9 am - Peace Arch, Canada-US Border


(click image to enlarge)

At the Peach Arch, Mike and George (kneeling) were joined by their new Canadian entourage and official Mountie escort

After five months of driving, Mike has made it around the world and is now back in his home country, Canada.

At the Peace Arch, Mike and the Team were greeted by John Ryan of the World Regeneration Tour and accident survivor Joe Spring, both of Vancouver. Prior to his departure in his specially equipped SUV for a public ceremony in front of the Art Gallery in downtown Vancouver, Nemesvary met the media before wheeling through the Arch to be greeted by the official party.

See the full schedule of Vancouver events planned for September 4-7.

August 31, 2001: San Francisco, USA
Back to reality - the Beast needs yet more truck repairs. Once again, unforeseen circumstances threaten the Team's schedule. Events planned for Vancouver on September 4, 2001 put the pressure on Mike and the Team to get moving quickly.

August 30, 2001: San Francisco mayor proclaims August 30, 2001, "Mike Nemesvary Day"


(click image to enlarge)


San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown proclaims August 30, 2001 "Mike Nemesvary Day"

The Team breathed a collective sigh of relief as Mike's pressure sore healed quickly, allowing him to get back on the road in time for his big day in San Francisco, California. A reception by Mayor Willie Brown was the highlight of the trip.

August 25, 2001: A seemingly minor setback could end the tour in its last leg
Mike and the Team have finally reached Mexico City, ready to begin the fourth and final leg but a pressure threatens not only the Challenge but more importantly, Mike's health...

August 19, 2001: Spinal cord research beginning to pay dividends

LEG 3: AUSTRALIA (July 10 - August 18, 2001)

August, 2001: Mike's Report
Mike provides some insight into the technology that has enabled him, as a quadriplegic, to drive around the world...

July 31, 2001: Adelaide, South Australia
Philip Richmond reports that the Team has finally come through the Outback...

July 24, 2001: Darwin, Australia
Mike recalls the first two weeks in Australia, including a frightening moment when his chair collapsed in the shower...

July 20, 2001: Kununnura, Western Australia
The team is conquering the Australian Outback... kangaroos, emus, goannas, wild horses and very, large brahma cattle...

July 18, 2001: Exmouth, Australia
"I have tried throughout my entire journey to meet someone with the same injuries as mine and in was pleased to have done so in this small tourist town in Australia...."

July 10, 2001: Perth, Australia
At long last, Mike and the team reunite with "The Beast" (a.k.a. the truck) and Leg 3 is underway "down-under"...

Read about previous legs of the Challenge:

Coober Pedy, South Australia - August, 2001

Mike's Journal

G‘ Day from Coober Pedy, South Australia. I'm presenting writing from the outside terrace of the "Radeka's Down Under Hotel - which is literally built underground and situated in the centre of this small Opal mining town on a flat, baron, desert landscape 800 miles north of Adelaide.

Apart from our brief visit to the famous natural world wonder - Ularu aka Ayer's Rock"s there has not been a lot to report over the past few days. Therefore, I thought I would focus today's report on an area of concern that has been misunderstood and perhaps not clearly communicated at large ... How I, as a quadriplegic, can drive my vehicle around the world. In fact some of my friends and committee members back in Canada have told me that many people don't even realize that I am doing all the driving. So, let's set the record straight. I am a C 4/5 (Complete) quadriplegic, the sole driver of my 4 X 4 truck and driving the vehicle from my electric wheelchair.

One great misconception in people with spinal cord injuries is the difference between a quadriplegic and a paraplegic. Fundamentally a paraplegic has lost use of their two limbs (legs) below the waist. A quadriplegic has lost use of all four limbs (arms and legs). The important factor is the varying levels/location in which there is damage to the spinal cord and the severity of impact and injury. Depending on the location of the broken vertebra and whether or not the spinal cord it is completely or partially severed dictates how independence and physical function a person will retain. For example Rick Hansen (a paraplegic) has full use of his arms and upper body and with the correct technical aids can live more-or-less independently. Christopher Reeve ( a quadriplegic) on the other hand has no use of his lower or upper body and is so very highly paralysed that he is dependent on a ventilator to help him breathe and round-the-clock medical care attendants to help facilitate his activities of daily living.

My disability (quadriplegia) places me somewhere in the middle. My level of paralysis is approximately the nipple line and I have limited feeling and functioning in my arms. I have no use of my abdomen and limited use of my chest - fortunately I can breathe without the aid of a machine. I strips of feeling and limited function in my arms - I have biceps but no triceps muscles so I can pull but not push. One of my greatest losses is that I have absolutely no feeling or functional use of my hands. Without going more in depth into anatomy of physiology this is a brief overview of the two main categories of people with spinal cord injuries. So, how does Mike drive?

As I am unable to independently transfer in and out of my wheelchair I have elected to drive from my electric wheelchair.

The frame of my Full-Size Chevrolet Blazer "Silverado" has been modified to accommodate a KVB Manufacturing "Elaine Ann Lift System". Essentially, the floor has been lowered 18" and the driver's door has been widened 16" to provide enough space for the lift and wheelchair driver. A magnetic key which I hold with a large ring in my right hand activates 11 different electronic and hydraulic operations to allow me to access and egress the truck.. Small micro-switches that are wired to a computer keep the various operations in correct sequence.

Once in the driver's position my primary controls are an electronic gas and brake unit (EGB) which is mounted onto my driver's side door and is activated with my left wrist which sits in a "Y"grip and splint mechanism to provide support. The unit has a very sensitive lever and to brake I move the lever forward and to accelerate I move the lever backwards.

In order to steer the vehicle, the steering column has been extended to bring the wheel closer to me and to space fore my wheelchair and long legs. The steering wheel has reduced effort steering which is extremely easy to move. Attached to the wheel at the 7:00 position is another splint referred to as a "Tri-Pin Grip" and I position my right wrist in this splinting device. The grip allows me to direct all the strength from my shoulder and right-side biceps muscles directly through to the wheel in order to maintain control of the truck.

The essential secondary controls that are required while you're driving (interactive controls) are mounted on a customized headrest that can be moved electronically forwards and backwards into position behind my head. The various micro-switches are imbedded into the fabric of the headrest and I use different parts of my head to activate the switches. The switches are as follows:

  • Right side indicator/turn signals - right side of headrest
  • Left side indicator/turn signals - left side of headrest
  • Windshield wiper/washer - back left of headrest
  • Air horn - back right of headrest
  • Fog lights - Left side wing of headrest

Other essential driving modifications are the addition of a "U"shaped splint on the end of my gear shifter to allow me to change the automatic gears before engaging the vehicle.

All of the knobs for the heater and fan have been extended to 4"so I can flick them on or off with my finger.

Remote control for CD and stereo system has slightly larger buttons and is situated between driver and passenger seats.

Hands-free cell-phone with automatic answering and hang-up.

Many of the non-essential secondary controls that aren't required while driving are set on a consol between the driver and passenger seats as follows:

  • Position headrest - backwards/forwards
  • Position platform with wheelchair - backwards/forwards
  • Driver/passenger windows - up/down
  • Central door lock/unlock
  • Electronic shifter for 4 wheel drive hi/low positions
  • Emergency hand brake
  • Ignition switch - start and stop engine
  • Headlights on/off
  • Rear tailgate window up/down
  • Limited recoil on seatbelt and extended release mechanism - ease process of engaging and disengaging seatbelt.
  • By-pass/override remote control Elaine-Ann Lift System.

Of course it's one thing to outfit the truck with all the modifications and driving controls but there are many other considerations and challenges that go hand-in-hand with being a quadriplegic out on the road as follows.

When I have to have the vehicle repaired or maintained I often feel disempowered as , it's difficult to instruct the mechanics due to not being able to look under the hood or under the vehicle etc. As the lift system is quite complicated to operate and I don't have a driver's seat, I have to be at the garage to operate the lift and/or drive the truck on and off the hoist.

Refuelling the truck is challenging because "Full Service" gas stations are becoming a rarity and I'm unable to operate a gas pump independently at the "Self Serve"stations. Often paying for gas is difficult because the buildings and service counters are often inaccessible.

In order to eat and/or drink while driving, someone has to feed me while being careful not to spill the food/drink on me or the exposed and sensitive controls between the front seats.

Minor irritants can be quite frustrating as my hands and arms are locked into their splints and must remain in those positions while moving. Things like scratching my nose, pushing up my glassing or adjusting my posture all have to wait.

Severe muscle spasms have the potential of shaking my wrists completely out of their steering, electronic gas and brake splints. Fortunately, I receive noticeable physical signals before it gets to a potentially dangerous stage. I have always had the option of slowing the vehicle down and or stopping and getting out to relieve the muscle spasticity.

Emptying my bladder and leg bag is difficult. As there is no signal going from brain to my bladder, I must rely on my autonomic nervous system or a visual check to indicate that my bladder needs attention. I must then pull over and press/tap my bladder in order to void into the urine bag attached to my lower leg. Of course, once my leg bag has filled up (max. Capacity 1,000 ml.) Someone must empty the bag for me.

As I have limited range in turning my head from side to side I can't perform visual checks when changing lanes. To rectify the situation I have set my side-view mirrors much wider to eliminate the blind spot when changing lanes or passing.

Parking the truck is one of my greatest challenges and annoyances. As my driver side door is 1 ½ times larger than a conventional door I must park strategically so no one parks next to me blocking me in. Even when I park in many of the so called accessible or designated disabled parking spots there is not enough space to open my door and exit the vehicle. On many occasions unobservant drivers have squeezed up next to me with little regard to painted lines or designation signs. Best case scenario is that I get a friend (if I'm not alone) nor a stranger to enter the truck from the passenger side; climb over the control consul; disengage the electronic gas and brake; start the vehicle by the remote electronic starter; then, if they haven't yet lost confidence, move the truck while steering and braking in a standing position until there is enough room to open the door. Worst case scenario (which has happened many times) I wait hours until the person returns to move their vehicle. Often they could care less where they've parked and are unapologetic for my long wait!

Often, I can't find parking spots at all and public parking lots require you to manually take a ticket which I can't manage when I travelling on my own. Parking metres which make it compulsory for everyone to pay for are also impossible for me as I can't get the coins into the slots.

In past situations I have had to deal with a mechanical failure of the lift system and have been sitting in the truck upwards of 10 hours trying to remedy the problem.

Getting in and out of the vehicle has had its share of mishaps as well. Some of the elements that make it difficult are ice which doesn't allow traction for my wheelchair or heavy snow which prevents the lift from sitting even or preventing my chair from getting to the truck. Other environmental obstacles that make getting in and out difficult are potholes, puddles and curbs without cuts/slopes.

Most commercial establishments are not very accessible making independent travel almost impossible. They include rest stops, garages, hotels, restaurants and car washes.

If I go shopping on my own (which is frequent) it is difficult for me to unload items from my lap and then to retrieve them at my final destination without continually asking for help.

Getting comfortable while driving independently is usually a great compromise. As I can't get my jackets and sweaters on or off on my own I'm generally too hot or too cold especially when the weather conditions have changed for my departure point until my destination.

Certain non-essential vehicle secondary controls which most able-bodied drivers take for granted, cannot be manipulated or altered while I'm driving requiring me to stop the truck. Actions such as: changing radio stations; CD's; tapes; changing volume levels and adjusting heating and air conditioning controls.

By law I'm required to wear glasses while driving. Therefore getting my glasses on or off can take as long as 5 minutes.

In conclusion, despite all of the aforementioned modifications to the vehicle, special equipments, time-consuming tasks, setbacks and frustrations I love what driving and being out on the road does for my peace-of-mind, self confidence and ultimately my independence. I love to drive and the challenges are all worth it in the end!

After visiting 18 countries over the past 131 days we have now clocked 25,025 kilometres ... just three months, 3 more countries and 15,975 kilometres further to go!

Mike


Adelaide, South Australia - July 31, 2000

Report from Philip Raymond who has joined the Team for the Australian Leg

Today finds the RWC team in Adelaide South Australia. The Australian Outback has been tamed and the team is in high spirits after some much needed R&R in the beautiful seaside suburb of Glenelg. Last night the team enjoyed a brilliant sunset off the end of the Glenelg jetty...this is the last sunset over the ocean until the team arrives in California.

The drive from Darwin to Adelaide was relatively straight forward with the vast distances covered by daily covering approx 750 kms. The main stops in Alice Springs and Uluru where standouts. In Alice Springs the team visited the Royal Flying Doctor Service and viewed the dispatch room and discussed the various operations of the Service with Barry the numero uno despatch and emergency controller.

Mike also spent some time with a remarkable woman, Michele Castagna, from the NT Disability Support Services.

Mike chats with
Michele Castagna
Mike & Christine meet with the Royal Flying Doctor Service
Mike and Michele
greet the media

Uluru was climbed by Mike with assistance from George and myself. The "Sherpas" called it quits at approx 20 feet up the rock and this event will be forever known as the "RWC Rock Challenge".

After Uluru the team encountered a very friendly camel and donkey combination at one fuel stop. The camel placed its whole head inside Mikes vehicle, with Mike in it, which was very funny as Christine yelled to Mike to "watch your fingers" and tried to shoo the camel away whilst standing way way back.

The "RWC Rock Challenge"

Some inquisitive visitors...
George, Christine and "Steve the Camera Man"
The Challenge meets Star Wars...

In Cooper Pedy the Opal mining capital of the world Mike encountered a life-size prop of a Millennium fighter from the last Star Wars movie.

Take care all. Thanks for the ride.

Philip

The Australian Outback - Tuesday, July 24, 2001

G‘ Day from Down Under! It’s now late afternoon Tuesday, July 24th and day 127 of the ‘Round the World Challenge. I am writing this report from deep in the Australian Outback in our tiny 10'X 14' room at the “Renner Springs Desert Motel”.

Welcome to Glendambo

We made good progress today clocking 845 kilometres in just under 10 hours. There is no speed limit in the Northern Territories ... but I managed to keep her under 125 kph. We departed Darwin - the most northerly city in Australia - at 7 a.m. and headed south on the Stuart Highway. Typical of this part of “Oz”, the road was two lanes, very straight - sometimes as far as the eye can see, not much traffic other than the odd camper vans and 4 wheel drive vehicles returning home after the 2-week winter school holidays.

Front: George, Mike and Christine
Back: Philip Richmond

It felt wonderful to have my confidant and team-mate back again. George Swinimer - my Aid-de-Camp and the only team member to be with me the whole way around the world, was also glad to have Christine back to ease his workload. Like the rest of us, George was keen to get on the road again as it took over a month to ship the vehicle from Madras, India to Perth.

We were joined on Leg III (Australia) by our newly appointed “Aussie” Field Manager, Philip Richmond. Phil, a 40 year old from Sydney, was suggested by a very close New Zealand mate of mine and generous project supporter named Michael Watt. Phil, who also happened to be Michael’s son-in-law, came highly recommended as a reliable, kind-hearted guy who was also up for an adventure. Phil was also a surfer, ski instructor and even had previous experience teaching people with disabilities to sit-ski in Australia’s “Snowy Mountains”.

Over the past couple of weeks George and Phil would cruise behind us in a rented Ford “Falcon” station wagon as the escort vehicle while Christine and I would blaze the trail as the lead in my “Blazer”. Unfortunately, we had a rocky start to the Australian Leg. We had only been on the road for two days and rolled into the seaside resort town of Exmouth when I detected a light knocking sound emanating from my driver side rear wheel. It didn’t sound like a serious concern but the next morning I stopped in at a local garage to have a very friendly and knowledge mechanic named Aaron quickly and correctly diagnose the noise as a wheel-bearing problem. After removing the tire, dismantling the disc brakes and rear axle, further examination revealed that in order to proceed safely we would require new bearings.

Problem was that it was Friday afternoon and the part would have to be sourced directly from Perth, some 1200 kilometres to the south. Also, there was no guarantee that we would be able to source the precise part as my truck is not common in this part of the world. Fortunately, after a few phone calls we got lucky and a Perth company, “West Coast Chevy” had the part in stock and managed to send it express airmail ½ hour after receiving my order and 5 minutes before the post office closed! That was the good news. The not so good news was that there was no weekend delivery and the next plane into Exmouth was not due in until the following Monday.

Making the best of our misfortune, we lucked out by getting one of the only available accommodation on the Cape as it was just the start of the school holidays and everywhere was booked solid. For the next 5 days we resided in a 3-bedroom trailer which had been used by construction workers when the town had been virtually demolished after a direct hit from a category 5 cyclone named “Vance”2 years ago. The trailer was pretty much a self contained unit but access was a bit of a challenge. I needed to use my 10' ramps (stored in the truck for just such an occasion) to enter and exit the place and then we had to deal with a challenging two-person transfer out of my electric wheelchair and into a wicker-type chair borrowed from the porch which was precariously positioned in a 3'X 3' shower cubical, barely comfortable enough for a slim able-bodied person standing up!

My confidence level, not to mention my self esteem was at a record low as the previous night I endured a frightening shower experience in another motel. I had been transferred into a plastic deck chair inside the shower cubical and was enjoying being bathed by Christine under the warm water when the back leg of the chair suddenly collapsed. Before I knew it, I fell backwards hitting my head on the tiled wall behind me and landing hard as both elbows banged on the unforgiving ceramic floor. Badly shaken, I stared up at the ceiling with the water splashing hard on my face and leg still dangling around the flimsy chair and tried to make sense of what had just happened.

Although I was shaken, I was quite lucid and hadn’t thought anything was wrong other than a bloody elbow. Instantly, Christine yelled out for George’s help - fortunately he happened to be in the next room. With his, Phil and Christine’s assistance they managed to lift me from the “carnage” and transfer me into the bed. Now very cold and shivering, I started to feel pain and dizziness from a bump I sustained on the back of my head. As I was being dried off, I started to black out and vaguely saw Christine look me in the eyes and ask “if I was all right?” At that very moment I didn’t recognize her or George and had no idea of my surroundings or what had happened. It was a truly horrible and frightening feeling. Fortunately, I drifted back to a state of consciousness and started to regain my senses.

As a competitive athlete and risk-taker I’ve had some quite serious concussions and I would say I experienced a minor concussion. Both Christine and George kept a close eye on me over the next 24 hours and fortunately there were no further symptoms of a serious concussion or head injury that warranted seeking medical attention. The next morning I recounted the incident to the Motel Owner/Manager. My tail of woe didn’t exactly prompt a very empathic response. All he could say is that he would never again rent out a regular room to someone in a wheelchair and not to worry ... I didn’t have to pay for the broken plastic deck chair!

As we patiently awaited the truck part to arrive we made the most in the beautiful seaside town of approximately 2,000 residents. As we cruised around to the beach, shopping precinct, restaurants, Internet cafes etc. I was truly amazed at the level of wheelchair accessibility of the place. I soon learned from many of the locals that a local young man named Cory Cooper - who was born in Exmouth - became a quadriplegic as a result of a diving accident 12 years ago. The local townspeople and politicians took up the challenge of making the resort a wheelchair friendly place after Cory wisely convinced the Mayor and other Councillors to spend a day wheeling around Exmouth. That enlightening experience quickly convinced them that Cory’s life would be incredibly difficult and compromised if things remained the same... they unanimously decided to make the entire town accessible for Cory and all.

As fate would have it, a guy named Peter came up to us one day outside the supermarket and introduced himself as Cory’s Care Attendant. Before we knew it, Christine and I were invited to meet Cory. He lived in an spacious 3-bedroom bungalow with mature gardens located at the end of a cul-de-sac. Peter had worked for Cory for the past 3 years in a live-in capacity. Cory and I quickly exchanged stories on how our spinal cord injuries happened. I learned that Cory was just 17 when he broke his neck as a result of diving into the shallow water from the beach. He instantly knew that he had severed his spinal cord and was quickly rescued by a close friend of his before drowning in the shallow water. He was flown to Perth where he subsequently did his rehabilitation at Shenton Park Rehabilitation Centre. Ironically, we were given a tour of the Centre while we
waited for the truck to arrive and were quite impressed with their comprehensive facilities and services in addition to their progressive and holistic approach to assist in the rehabilitation of spinal cord injured people.

Cory is tall (6'4") and slender and broke his neck at the exactly the same level of vertebrae as me - C 4/5 Complete. I’m always amazed that the majority of us quadriplegics who have sports injuries are virtually always tall, athletic guys in our late teens or early twenties. Perhaps, due to his young age when the injury occurred, I found Cory’s approach to life with a spinal cord injury very different to mine. Without meaning to be critical I was quite surprised that 12 years post-injury he wasn’t working, going to school, driving and seemed quite dependent on his care-giver. Despite these personal observations, Cory was very hospitable and had a great sense of humour. On our last evening, we enjoyed each other’s company and a delicious seafood dinner on an outside terrace at one of Exmouth’s best restaurants. We agreed to stay in touch and I extended an invitation for him to visit me in Ottawa.

With the truck duly repaired we were back on the road Wednesday July 18th and finally back on a roll. We made great time, driving the 3,228 kilometres from Exmouth to Darwin in just under four days.

After visiting 18 countries over the past 127 days we have now clocked 23,072 kilometres ... just three months, 3 more countries and 17,928 kilometres further to go!

Kununnura, Western Australia - Friday, July 20, 2001

Report from Philip Raymond who has joined the Team for the Australian Leg

Hello to all

Tonight's update comes from Kununnura W.A. home of Baramundi, Argyle diamonds and the Bungle Bungle ranges.

After 5 days in Exmouth W.A. awaiting wheel bearings for the "Black Beast" the RWC is back on the road again. Whilst we lost 4 days all up we are currently cramming the kms and are due to be back on the posted schedule by Adelaide.

Mike and the crew are doing fine. The long straight Australian Outback roads are being conquered with a mixing of "Black Beast" co pilots to keep Mike alert and awake. So far we have managed to avoid the wild life including kangaroos, emus, goannas, wild horses and very, large brahma cattle and thier immediate relatives.

Mike takes a break in the Outback

Tommorrow 21\07\01 we will arrive in Darwin. This will be a two day "take stock" stop to basically recharge + local P.R. On Sunday 22nd July we will review all the eastern states requests and e-mail etc and then rework the RWC Australian itinerary to suit these requests. (stay tuned)

For your viewing pleasure I have included this shot of a typical character that we have encountered at way stops along the way.

Regards

Philip Richmond

Exmouth, Australia - Wednesday, July 18, 2001

Before departing Perth, I visited a local doctor to have a routine physical completed. Dr. Tony and I took an instant liking to each other - we were kindred spirits. Dr. Tony had previously completed a motorcycle tour from Australia through the UK and had a really good understanding of the challenges facing the team. Dr. Tony and his wife met wit the team for lunch and brought along a very good friend of theirs, Brigitte, who was also a quadriplegic. Brigitte and I spent some time together sharing stories and discussing accessibility issues. It would appear that Australia is very supportive of their disabled - a huge improvement over what was experienced in India and Pakistan.

We managed a few interviews while in Perth including Perth Channel 10, who did a great piece, the Western Australian Newspaper and the ABC channel (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) who also did a piece on our mission. We found out later on that in the rural areas there are very few TV channels and most people had seen the piece on ABC. Nigel Glass, the head of the Paraplegic/Quadriplegic Assoc. of Western Australian gave us a wonderful send-off from the Murray Street Market. Nigel spoke very eloquently and had a wonderful understanding of the Round the World Challenge mission was. Even with very little corporate support in Australia, we are beginning the journey with some very positive media attention.

The Team left from Perth to Geraldton, which was approx. 800 kms, and on the coast. Stayed at a beautiful hotel. The one thing that stands out is how amazing the food is in Australia. The Team drove 900 km the next day from Geraldton to Exmouth (July 13). Noticed a bit of knock at low speed but was not worried about it initially. The Australian roads are straight and flat. Can travel for 30 minutes without a bend or a rise in the road. This type of driving is far more mentally challenging than the winding, difficult roads of the Iran, Pakistan and India. When the team arrived in Exmouth the knock had become quite loud and had now become quite worrisome. The Team decided to locate a mechanic to check the problem with the knock. The mechanic diagnosed the problem immediately - a worn rear axle and rear wheel bearings. The rough driving conditions of Iran, Pakistan and India had taken their toll. After locating replacement parts and arranging for shipment of the parts from other side of Australia, we were advised by the mechanic that we would have to lay low for the next few days.

Exmouth is a big tourist destination for the Perth area. It is a US/Australian Naval Submarine Tracking Station that was wiped out two years ago by a cyclone. Exmouth sits on the most westerly point on the cape and is known for whale and shark watching. The town is just starting to build itself back up and is proudly welcoming back tourists. We located a nice, reasonable hotel for a couple of nights and settled in waiting for the parts to arrive and the repairs to be completed.

Exmouth overall is a very accessible town. One of its residents, Corey Cooper, is a quad after a diving accident 12 years ago. At the age of 17, Corey dove into some shallow water at the beach and suffered a C4/5 injury. It was very interesting to meet someone with the exact same injury as myself with a mirror image of our mobility levels - I am stronger on my right arm and Corey is stronger on his left. Corey received a custom built house after his injury, supplied by the Australian government, built with the required mobility modifications. If Corey had a requirement for a vehicle, I am sure the Government would provide the funding for the vehicle and the modifications required for him to drive it. It is also pretty amazing that the town made itself accessible for Corey. I have tried throughout my entire journey to meet someone with the same injuries as mine and in was pleased to have done so in this small tourist town in Australia.

Night driving in Australia is quite dangerous. Given that most of their wildlife is nocturnal, the roadways become a maze of kangaroo clusters and road kill. We have decided to not drive at night to avoid these dangers.

Mike

Perth, Australia - Tuesday, July 10, 2001

Phone Report from Mike

Note from home team: We received this update call at 4:00 pm our time, which in Australia was 4:00 am. Our first question was "Why are you calling at 4:00 in the morning". Mike responded that they were up and eager to get on the road. Everybody was in good spirits and itching to get on the road.

The truck came off boat on Friday, July 6. After some initial miscommunication on Monday am, the Team found a sympathetic ear with the main customs guy. He quickly instructed a courier to bring the carnet to the dock area and assembled customs and quarantine officials. Like clockwork everything fell into place in a very short time period and the team watched the vehicle being removed from storage and the block and tackle securing the vehicle was removed.

After a quick visual inspection, to the team's relief, everything was as they had left it. The only glitch, the vehicle would not to start. The problem was quickly identified, the vehicle had been left in neutral and once shifted into park and one quick boost - the beast was humming.

The Australian Government is very pro-active regarding quarantine of anything that could allow for the entry of disease into their ecological system. The vehicle required a high-pressure wash and a very thorough on-site inspection. I guess with everything that is going on in the UK, the Government is even more diligent in their quarantine requirements.

Even though the vehicle had been removed from storage, it had not technically been handed over to us and we ended up having to return to our hotel via our rental car. On Tuesday, we returned to the vehicle to continue the process of having the vehicle declared roadworthy. We were issued a "left-hand drive label" for the back, a complete motor vehicle inspection had to be completed (which resulted in a crack in the muffler having to be repaired), a temporary license sticker had to be issued with my license number for Australia and we had to purchase third party insurance to drive in their country. We luckily hit upon the right people at the right time and we were roadworthy in no time.

Our Australian Field Manager, Philip Richmond, had already located a local mechanic to complete some general maintenance on the vehicle. The oil was changed, control pads were adjusted and/or fixed, seals were checked and the brake pads were cleaned. When I think back over the entire journey, we have been blessed with our luck in locating great local mechanics.

Read about previous legs of the Challenge:

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