Friday, August 27, 2010

Deliver the Bike, Argentina & Uruguay


Bike arrived in Buenos Aries cargo terminal as i packed it which was good news. I was eventually able to clear it from customs once i sorted out local Argentinean insurance and on the 2nd visit to the airport i was able to get the bike back together, which started first time and no bolts missing!

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Leaving fairly late from the terminal de carga i was able to avoid paying any “tips” to the staff there since they all had gone home. Some confusion arose as to which exit i had to take and hand over my exit pass, resulting in the guy grabbing one the “dangerous good” stickers lying around and putting it on the front mudguard. At the time i was tired and thought i needed this, later i realised he was playing a little joke for security.


However i wasn’t able to get out of busy Buenos Aires so easily. I still had things to buy and also needed to sort out local insurance for the rest of South America. After a few days at a busy hostel i moved with the bike to Dakar Motos just outside the main part of BA which is a motorbike specific hostel where i met Mick from Denmark who had been on the road for about 1.5 years. His advise was super useful and the finishing touches were put on the bike and i finalised buying a few things i was missing.

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Dakar Motos was really useful (albeit the main mechanic a bit of an cranky bum) with the shop attracting all sorts of motorbike people, of particular note was this restored 1948 single cylinder Norton. Mostly i think because there was a lovely German lady staying at the time and i think the locals wanted to say hello.

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I did little touristy things in BA except saw one free Tango Festival event, took a photo of the obelisk, had a run with a transvestite while looking for the Salsa bar and did a lot of walking between shops. Spent a night with some Americans from the hostel which reassured me i was not as much of a gringo as they were. Hanging with them at a bar made me look almost a local compared to their yelling loudly in “american” and their lets get hammered attitude. Although one of the girls was bit of a cutie, a stop over in Washington DC might be in order…we’ll see.


I was pretty keen to get out of a city that barely takes a breath. Buenos Aires is fast paced with almost 15 million people and hectic traffic. Its no wonder the locals are often described as a little haughty and arrogant. However almost everyone i dealt with was polite and more than happy to help an often confused Australian. However i was more common a breed in BA than i had thought. Turns out there are quite a lot of Aussies in BA, me thinks its time to get out of here.


But before i can get on the boat to Uruguay i have to send a package back home of stuff i don't need since getting weight down is important. This turns out to be a bit of a nightmare, at least Argentina has a national postal service however you can just turn up at any old post office to send a package OS. Like getting directions, you need to ask 3 people or go into at least 3 shops before you get to the right location. I finally get to the international package office of Correo Argentina with only half an hour before the boat leaves….


As expected this place a zoo, with people everywhere. I eventually get the package away and head back the bike slightly tired. I am then quoted twice the price for the boat to Colonia, Uruguay. After a small argument i back down and decide that riding to Colonia and camping the night will be better anyway. I thank the lady for the free secure parking of the ferry terminal and head for the exit bound for my first stop GualeguaychĂș, Argentina, just to the west of the Uruguayan border. The tourist info office directs me to where the camping is, but instead all i find are bungalows and cabins. I spy a dirt road marked Camping something… this looks promising and as the road turns to sand i start to hope its worth it.


I stumble across little Parilla (bbq) setups and find the guy who I proceed to have an awkward conversation with about camping for the night. This conversation goes more awkwardly than anticipated since i keep looking at his funny eye (possibly glass?), we play the que?/como?/si pero no… game  for as bit after which i say thanks but I'm camping here anyway, it’s getting dark. I ride a little further out of sight and setup camp, no one seems to care or hassles me for money.

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I wake up keen to get to my first border crossing which goes fairly smoothly. After some discussion amongst customs my carnet gets stamped in and out correctly and i get on my way. I wonder why road seems quiet…as per usual its a public holiday, Uruguayan Independence day.


I stumble across a local festival celebrating this where the bike generates quite a crowd of interested locals, mostly farmers and cocheros. I explain that the bike is around 45 horsepower which they seem to understand.

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After a few drinks and some watching some local entertainment i push onto Colonia which is one of the very early towns settled by Europeans. This town is pretty but very little nightlife, aimed more towards the family and couple retreat crowd. After eventually finding a toilet in the hostel which had a seat i decide that pushing onto Montevideo the next day would be the plan.

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Finally doing the trip proper now, after nearly 1-2 weeks of organisation and paperwork (almost all for the bike) my stress levels were a little heightened. Being on the road a few days now with people waving and the frequent strange look i am beginning to find the groove i think. Next post hopefully from somewhere in Brazil!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Shipping the bike

After a slightly concerning end to the prologue trip the bike got a new tube along with it's first service the next day. The week passed and Friday finally came when the first major hurdle was to be tackled, shipping the bike. I have found getting myself from country to country easy enough, but a bike is classified as a dangerous good and a whole minefield of paperwork must be overcome.

So after collecting a KLR650 shipping frame from the store i bought the bike from (for free) I proceeded to knock the bike down and pack it into the frame and bolt it all together. Getting to this point took an extra hour than planned, stress began to set in. Would I be able to get the bike packed into the frame and to the airport before the dangerous goods certification office closed at 5pm?

Luckily the packing went smoother than anticipated and Dad & I then loaded the bike into the trailer and headed to Mascot, arriving at the dangerous goods office with about half an hour to spare. The dangerous goods certification document turned out to be a very easy process and with Part 1 complete we then drove around the corner to the Qantas Freight Terminal for Part 2.

At the Qantas Freight counter i was politely informed that
a. i didn't have a proper booking
b. my dangerous goods certification did not have the correct description on it
c. i had not made an appointment with Customs to do an examination required for sign off on my carnet

My heart sank...

Thankfully the lady behind the desk was super helpful and was able to
- make a booking on the spot (bike now travels the 21st August)
- she also arranged to have my dangerous good certificate fixed

But I had to organise part c. myself. This involved running over to Customs House (well walk briskly, running through the Intl. Terminal car park may attract a raised eyebrow from security) and explain i was looking for someone from Customs to sign off my 4:30pm on Friday afternoon...the odds weren't in my favor.

Even though i was clearly stressed, I was able to speak to a customs agent pretty much straight away and she was nice enough to agree to do the examination as her last job of the day on her way home.

After an examination and interview back at the freight terminal with the customs girl my carnet was signed off and all the extra gear i wanted on the shipment x-rayed and approved to be consolidated with my shipment. I bid the customs girl farewell and offered to take her out for a beer, at which point i was informed she was busy tonight and that this may also be considered a bribe...

Feeling somewhat amused after flirting with the customs girl I focused back on the task at hand. With all documentation now in place i packed all the extra stuff into the frame and did final checks. This took a while but with all the major hurdles crossed i now just had to avoid being wiped out by the forklift drivers at the freight terminal who were busy preparing all the freight for flights the next day.

The bike is now weighed in and I pay for the consignment. Final cost was half as much as i was quoted by a freight forwarder and I feel a huge sense of satisfaction and relief that one of the hardest parts of the preparation is now finished.

Bike packed and ready for final weigh in
Final weigh in at 276kg
(but was only charged for 240kg thanks to a really cool forklift driver convincing the girl handling my paperwork that the extra pallet he used weighed like 35kg, yeh right! try more like 10kg.)

Monday, August 9, 2010

KLR650 Maiden Voyage

Video of my prologue trip.

Last scene accidentally shot in black and white, update on ending in next post.