By Teresa Cannon
Early on the morning of 25 January, Sonja Beckerle and Konrad Nitz, having recently arrived from Germany, boarded a train for Ferntree Gully. They were hoping to purchase a camper van that would take them on their journey around Australia. In their search for a van, they had already spent many long days, catching numerous trains and buses, only to be met with numerous vans, overpriced and rundown. In addition they were experiencing difficulties locating accommodation that was never assured and if available was expensive. They were becoming down-hearted.
In Ferntree Gully, local resident Lois Wawra, was awaiting their arrival. Lois had a camper van to sell and had responded immediately to Sonja and Konrad’s enquiry. Immediate responses had not happened for the pair before. They noted this was strange. They were a little wary.
The three were about to meet, but none of them could have predicted the situation that was about to transpire.
When Lois heard the doorbell, she answered immediately. ‘There was this lovely young couple. Not shy at all,’ says Lois.
After inspecting the van, the pair asked to take it to the mechanic. Lois agreed immediately and gave them the keys. ‘I was not at all concerned,’ says Lois.
On their return with the mechanic’s endorsement, Sonja and Konrad decided to buy the van. Arrangements were made for a few repairs and during the following discussion Lois learnt of the difficulties the young pair were experiencing finding accommodation. It was scarce and it was expensive.
‘They are wise beyond their years,’ says Lois. ‘I reckoned I could put them up.’
The pair have come to Australia to travel and to work. Their plan is firstly to visit Tasmania. They’ll then return to the mainland where they’ll spend two years travelling through Central Australia and along the east and west coasts.
Lois has ensured a bright start to their journey. Not only has she accommodated them, she’s also organised many outings. Both Sonja and Konrad speak of how she’s turned their spirits around. Already they have visited Phillip Island and Wilson’s Prom. They’ve enjoyed a ‘Tchaikovsky Spectacular’ performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra under the stars at the Myer Music Bowl. The Boolarra Folk Festival was another musical treat. When camping at the Rubicon River, some 96 kms north-east of Melbourne, they were introduced to parrots, wombats, kangaroos and black cockatoos. And they’ve fallen in love with Op Shops.
Sonja speaks of the song, Come to Australia by the Scared Weird Little Guys. Apparently it’s popular in Germany. Jokingly, the song highlights dangers such tiger snakes, red back spiders and Bondi Beach sharks. It suggests the possibility that in Australia one ‘might accidentally get killed.’ As we sit around the table, the song plays and amid much laughter, Lois is keen to set the pair straight about ‘dangers’ in Australia. She offers clear and reassuring advice.
Sonja and Konrad began their journey to Tasmania on 10 March where, in keeping with the terms of their Visas, they’ll be undertaking work in rural areas. As they move they undertake their travels they’ve promised to keep in touch with the Gully News.