Day 5: Team Events!

6:38am : The team awakens to bug bites and muggy air. Lee boils us water for oatmeal and subpar instant coffee. Dan informs us of his exposure to radiation as an Army Ranger and uses it as an excuse any time he does something dumb. 

7:30am : We leave the sight to run errands and leave Wyatt behind to do his biology quiz. 

8:24am : We arrive at the camping store and all purchase fans so that maybe we can enjoy at least one night of camping. Lee learns that the traditional Australian hats have cork hanging from them to fend off bugs. 

8:46am : Dan and I continue on our quest to find the best gas station coffee- did you know it comes in cartons here? We also met a man we believe is running from the law: *read in Australian accent* “Yeah, my house burned down up the way there and the police are thinking I did it. I’m not dealing with it so I’m driving to Adelaide, buying a catamaran, and going off the grid. By the way I have surfed all over the world and know all of the biggest surfers”.

9:25am : We are back at the track to see how well Intikallpa runs. We have lost the sole bottle of sun screen we brought and I fear Dan will be permanently discolored. Wyatt is still doing his homework. 

10:18am : Cristian has been forced into a life of translation as we find out more and more how little the Chilean team knows English. The car is running well though, and is getting closer to being ready to pass scrutineering. We have done a lot of filming today of the Chilean team, and have helped them get their electrical systems in check. 

11:30am : We have retrieved Wyatt from the campground- he is very frustrated with the terrible WiFi in Darwin. The team continues to devour pounds of Kettle chips. The flavor of the day: Sweet Chili and Sour Cream. Lee refuses to let us listen to any radio station other than the aboriginal channel, which consists of talk shows in a foreign tongue or soft chanting/moaning to drums. 

12:01pm: We have arrived at the Darwin Convention Center and are watching all of the Cruiser class vehicles (the class we will be racing in this coming summer) scrutineer. We are all fangirling. Dan is also trying to register his drone for flight in Australia. 

1:52pm : We ate a late lunch at the Wharf- Cristian had the croc sandwich. We got to see the Sea Shepherds ship docked in the port and Lee spoke with one of the workers. 

3:15pm : We arrived back at the garages to get a digeridoo tutorial. Dan said that before he bought one he had to learn how to play one at least moderately. Lee and I gave up immediately but everyone else crushed it.

4:16pm : We came back to the campground to relax and get ready for the big, all team barbecue. We want to make sure to look nice for the other teams (I want to win the hearts of Nuon). Instead of showering, Cristian and I swam with a bunch of old people at the caravan park. 

6:02pm : All the teams came together for a big party/barbecue and it was amazing meeting all of the other teams. Cristian and I were in a circle with PrISUm throwing over 6 Frisbees at once. Dan, Wyatt, and Lee were throwing football and teaching other people how to throw one, when Lee dislocated his finger while catching the ball. All in all, it was an amazing night filled with comradery and sportsmanship, and I am so excited to be a part of this solar family. 

 

Day 4: Pre-Scrutineering

We all struggled to sleep last night because we weren’t expecting it to be so muggy in Australia.

I admit, I’ve never been one much for camping and I’m not sure what made me jump at the opportunity to camp in Australia for a week without proper equipment. I doubted myself even more this morning as I drank extremely strong, black coffee and pretended that I was happy to be awake and sweaty at 6am.

It’s not all bad though. I’ve actually been quite the fan girl as teams like Nuon or Eidenhoven pass by me and I’m too nervous to talk to any of them.

We started scrutineering today with Team Antakari. Dan, Wyatt, and Cristian helped the team reconstruct their trailer to make it suitable for solar car transport, and then we took it downtown to the Darwin Convention Center to be judged alongside all the other Challenge cars. It was a long day, but it seems with a final visit tomorrow we should be good to race. The only things holding us back were little details- but they will be taken care of before morning.

I am very excited for this race.

We will be working late tonight putting the finishing touches on the car and making sure everything’s up to standards. It’s 10pm now and I’m not sure if there’s an end in sight. We ate canned beans for dinner that were so hot I was unable to properly spice them and we ended up with more salt than beans.

Hopefully the work will exhaust enough that we can sleep soundly in our muggy tents.

We can’t go to bed until Wyatt gets back from buying wood for the teams impound box. We only realized after he had left that he was the only English speaker in the group. Hopefully he returns home to us. 

Day 3: More Traveling

It seems like all I’ve ever known is this road.

I am very thankful for the company I have on this trip. Everyone keeps to themselves unless to offer a sarcastic comment or joke.

Things I’ve learned about the team so far:

Wyatt has come into his humor and speaks more confidently- he is surprisingly funny. He is also our human garbage disposal/trash can.

Lee has brought a playlist filled almost entirely with songs you’d hear at a charity event mixed with 90s Australian rap. He’s also reading a book on Alice Springs and is feeling very at home in the Outback. He also drives very fast.

Cristian sings along with me to my playlist, but brought the Tron soundtrack along as his music choice. He also put a GoPro on the front of the car that a bug almost immediately flew into, so all of our videos have a smudge along the bottom.

Dan stays busy because when he’s bored he gets silly. He tested out seatbelt retractions and then made everyone pull off at the UFO capital of Australia. He tried to make us pull off at the Pink Panther Pub but we didn’t have time- however my requests to stop at the Camel Farm were shot down completely.

We have also seen many new things since we’ve arrived down under.

·      Anthills taller than our van dressed up as people

·      Road trains with 4 trailers behind them

·      Devils Marbles (giant boulders in an open field)

·      Various shades of red dirt

·      An alien shrine that tried to pass a miniature Mike Wasowski doll off as an extraterrestrial

·      Powerline workers coming out to lift up low power lines so road trains carrying houses could make it through town

·      A cow that looked like a fake rhino

·      A group of 5 semi-strangers surviving a 30 hour car ride across a country they’ve never been to in 2.3 days

Day 1: 27 Hours of Traveling!

After months of planning, we have set off for the World Solar Challenge in Australia where the top solar vehicle teams around the world will be competing in the 30th anniversary race from Darwin to Adelaide.

While the thought of going to Australia sounds amazing, the process getting there is far from it. At first, I entered excited- the domestic flight from RDU to LAX was stocked with many great movies and early on in the 27 hour trip, it seemed like the travel would be a breeze. Unfortunately, I had been separated by other members of the team seating wise but the 5 hours went without too many bumps.

But boy, the 13 hours flight across the Pacific Ocean was an absolute nightmare. Yes, the food was delicious and they gave us blankets, pillows, and headphones but they turned off all the lights in the cabin and urged us to sleep. It was near impossible and my ears kept popping every few minutes. By half way we were all delirious and smelly.

I tried to film things in the airport on my GoPro but was yelled at by a flight attendant because she was worried her credentials would end up on social media, despite being extremely blurry in the background. She then got on the plane that I’m on now and I’m terrified to breathe wrong for fear of getting trapped in Australian customs.

It still hasn’t hit me yet, even flying over Australia to Adelaide, that we are here- I had only been on a plane 3 times before this, and never over an ocean. I think I will get excited once we get in our rental car and drive on the wrong side of the road. I told Dan to watch out from primal chirps from me like we heard when witnessing the solar eclipse in totality.

But until then, I’m just going to continue watching Australian reality TV and cursing Dan for sitting directly in front of me with his chair completely leaned back. How should I get my revenge on him? Comment below and I will carry it out as soon as I regain feeling in my legs.

Anyways as they say in Australia, G’day mate throw some shrimp on the Barbie. Outback, crocodile Dundee.

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We spent longer in Adelaide than expected due to the lack of abundant capitalism. We had to visit multiple specialty stores, as well as myself and Cristian looking for SIM cards and praying that they’ll work so I can bring you these wonderful race blogs.

Fun Facts about travel so far:

·      We are eating an almost exclusively vegan diet since we are camping in the Outback and lunchmeat seems to be a commodity.

·      Since turn signals are on the right side of the steering wheel here, Dan keeps turning on the windshield wipers every time we want to turn.

·      Our GPS’s weren’t updating so we bought a new one, only to come back to the car to find the original GPS’s to be in working condition.

·      I have the best Australian accent of the group despite my nose being stopped up.

·      I might have the flu (but let’s not focus on that)