The bikes’ arrival into Santiago

Our bikes’ crating in Singapore and shipping to South America certainly tested our resolve!! We wanted to deal with an airline directly but all the ones we contacted were non-responsive, so we found agents. We haven’t mentioned that Anthony booked a return flight to Singapore in January to sort out the crating of the bikes. While the agent we dealt with in Singapore at Penanshin Air Express was extremely effecicient and kept us informed every step of the way, the people they used to crate the bikes had no concept of air freighting costs and minimising crate size, even though we’d sent them photos and dimensions of our crates from Dubai to Delhi and despite several phone calls. Yes, it was going to be cheaper to fly to Singapore and back and pay for accommodation there than go with the crate they built originally. It was only on the actual day of Anthony’s flight, after our agent went to the airport to see the bikes and crates for herself and finally came back with acceptable measurements of a new crate, that we cancelled the tickets.

The agents in Chile, from The SeaFair Group, were also very responsive and helpful. But they too dealt with another 3rd party – this time the air freighters and because there were no direct cargo flights from Singapore to Santiago, we had the added bonus of airline change enroute. Yes, that means more trouble – more handling, more charges and especially more potential for missing connections. Anyway, we were given so many arrival dates: the day of our own arrival, that changed to Friday, then to Saturday night, then to Monday because the bikes had missed a connection supposedly, then suddenly this morning, we get a call to say that the bikes had arrived overnight!!!! And we can come today to get them out. Being Saturday, will there be any additional costs?! We are told not. So off we head to the airport.

We are prepared for anything after our Delhi experience… Remember, it took us 3 full days of daily visits to the airport and outrageous fees to clear customs and get the bikes out of the warehouse. Well here, from arrival at the cargo area at 11.30am, to clearing customs, to getting the crates taken out of the warehouse, unpacking the bikes from their very solid crates, to reassembling the bikes and riding out of the Cargo terminal area: 3.5 hours!!!!!!!! The agent here was fantastic, he had all the paperwork required and it was a breeze. No special overtime, holiday or whatever extra payments, just a warehouse fee, which turned out to be cheaper than what we had been quoted. And no mad swarms of people and trucks as it was Saturday.

So yes, we have our bikes back!!!!!!

Cargo warehouse - Santiago

Cargo warehouse – Santiago

Hans sorting out the  warehouse paperwork (and fee!) - Santiago Cargo warehouse

Hans sorting out the warehouse paperwork (and fee!) – Santiago Cargo warehouse

The crates they built for us were solid!!! Lucky the guys at the terminal had massive crow bars and hammers to lend us and our agent had brought some over with him too, so the 3 of us set about dismantling the crate. Looking at the state of boxes on the truck in the background, we are grateful our crates were that solid!!

Here comes Storm - Santiago Cargo warehouse

Here comes Storm – Santiago Cargo warehouse

Anthony does the hard work to loosen the many nails - Santiago

Anthony does the hard work to loosen the many nails – Santiago

Anne pulls the loosened nails out - Santiago

Anne pulls the loosened nails out – Santiago

The crates are solid

The crates are solid

Streak is well packaged

Streak is well packaged

Anne reassembling her Rox risers and handlebars - Santiago

Anne reassembling her Rox risers and handlebars – Santiago

With the dismantled crates carefully pilled up in the corner and the bikes reassembled, we are ready to leave the Cargo area.

We are reassembled and ready to leave Santiago Cargo warehouse in record time!!

We are reassembled and ready to leave Santiago Cargo warehouse in record time!!

Santiago here we come!

Santiago here we come!

We would definitely recommend both Penanshin Air Express and The SeaFair Group.

For some reason, Storm had just under half a tank of fuel still while Streak was empty (as Storm should have been) so first stop at the Shell petrol station at the airport then time to head into Santiago city centre where we are staying for 4 nights. The Saturday traffic is light and easy.

The security guy at the apartment block we are staying at agrees to let us park the bikes in the underground car park, for a made up fee of course, but not too outragious and so much more convenient and safer than going to a public car park. Had this been India or anywhere in Asia, the lovely great porch area of the apartment block would have been jammed with at least 20 bikes!! Not here though.

Going back in time a little, we were invited out for dinner Friday to a friend of a friend’s. We had actually met in Brisbane at a friend’s place a couple of years ago but didn’t know him very well. Anyway, we were treated to a fabulous barbecue and family dinner at their home. Such lovely people. And great for us to get a taste of local life.

Our wonderful hosts Carlos, Jessica and Sebastian - Santiago, Chile

Our wonderful hosts Carlos, Jessica and Sebastian – Santiago, Chile

Monday, we go to the Santiago BMW dealer. Let’s hope that they are more helpful than their lack of email response seem to indicate….

In the meantime, time for some Santiago exploring.


Kyrgyzstan Uzbekistan Border

Rather than going to Osh, along the main road with all the trucks, we decided to try a small border post at Shamaldy Say which we couldn’t find any information on but was marked on our map. The sign for the border indicated right at the next junction, and suddenly there it is, a barrier about 10m from the tiny turn off. The Kyrgyzstan side consists of two small buildings, one on each side of the road and three people. Army, Immigration and Customs. Formalities are quick and we are done in 10 minutes, a single passport stamp required. About 1km away in the mid morning heat haze is the Uzbekistan building. We ride a mixture of dirt and tar, past various farms and crops, with no other vehicles in sight, to an imposing set of closed double gates that guard a large walled compound, with buildings, vehicle lanes, inspection trenches, gardens, flower beds and trees but no one in sight! No vehicles waiting ahead of us either which is unusual for a border crossing. A solitary guard approaches from some 100m away and after showing our passports, the gates open and we ride to the covered area and park the bikes amidst a large purpose built customs/immigration complex that is completely devoid of vehicles or people, whether border officials or travellers. We are guided by a border post official sitting on his chair to exactly where he wanted us: further forward, no a little to the right, a bit forward, you over here, stop right here. Perfect. He points o us to the building behind him.

Immigration first, we enter the customs and immigration building. The only other people crossing were a family of four from Uzbekistan. Staff outnumber us by 2 to 1. Immigration completed and on to customs where four people, two men and two women are sitting behind a row of desks facing us. Customs forms in English are produced and we complete them by hand and in duplicate, passed for checking: one wrong answer, we will have to start again. Could we have new forms please. No need. Phew! A tipex pen is produced and we are saved. The first sign of a less formal approach to us.

Registering our bikes takes some time as the customs officer had to understand the English language documents. “Anna, come here please, what is …” Anne goes into his office then goes out again. Then a little later “Anna, what is …” This goes on for a little while as Anne helps him complete his online form. When Anne tells him that she forgot to include her camera in the list of electronic goods to be declared, he said it wasn’t important and that we need not have listed all that we did as they were not new. As we wait for him to finish, we are offered tea by customs, we tell a soldier where his colleague has gone and he thanks us. We feel a warming towards us by the Uzbeks. Customs start a detailed inspection of our pannier contents as Anthony declared 500 tablets of medicine.

They all gather round as Anne passed him heart tablets, head tablets, stomach tablets to stop diorrhea, stomach tablets to help the other way, antibiotics for this, malaria tablets, etc he says “ok ok!!!” when his hands are full and he tells us we are good to go. We pack up, (one customs officer kept telling Anne that Anthony should be strapping the bags down as he has more muscles!) and get ready to leave but not before they all get the photos they want of themselves on the bikes, and with us!! Sadly they didn’t want Anne to take photos of them but even apologised about that. A few good laughs, hand shakes and we set off with friendly waves from the Uzbek officials.

All this took two hours: the time is taken by the process, which both sides have to follow. In the time we were there, only 4 other people crossed all on foot, no vehicles. Without increased staff or procedural changes, this border post could not handle greater numbers on either side of the border.

We have a good feeling about this country already…

– Anthony & Anne

East to Russia

Our day started later than planned with a visit to BMW Riga, where the very helpful staff fixed the wheel alignment problem discovered the day before, checked the bike to make sure everything was ok, at no charge, while we enjoyed relaxing in their coffee lounge. Our route then took us on the E22 which is the European road designation to Moscow, so easy to follow. A pleasant ride took us to the Lithuanian border around 3:40pm where we joined a queue to enter Latvian customs and immigration of some 25 cars and 4 british guys on bikes heading to Vladivostok. They were about 20 cars ahead of us and had been there for two hours! Two hours later they were headed back to Latvia, with missing paperwork and we had progressed about 10 vehicles. At what is normally a fairly quick crossing point, the volume of tourists and the required paperwork to be completed had blown out the crossing times. Portable toilets provided along the roadside should have given us an indication of possible delays. Still, at 11:30 pm Russian time and after seven hours of chatting, Anne even had whole conversations in German, making new acquaintances, thinking about setting up the tent and other adventures, we finally rode into Russia. The crossing process and tips is covered in more detail in the visas and admin section.

Too late to buy our Russian third party insurance, but still dusk, and with the help of the local policeman and others, the only 24 hour motel was identified across the road from the first petrol station. While still light at 11:30 at night we did not wish to try to find a place to pitch the tent. Very basic motel, our room probably visited by the local cat, but after 7 hours on our feet queuing, sleep beckoned.

– Anthony

We saw so many stork nests, from Poland to Latvia

We saw so many stork nests, from Poland to Latvia

Little did we know when we arrived 25th in line in the Latvia/Russia border that it would take us 7 hours to get through

Little did we know when we arrived 25th in line in the Latvia/Russia border that it would take us 7 hours to get through

We are now in no-man's-land, having just left Latvia after 5 hours queuing and waiting to get to the Russian border.  Anthony is very good at getting 10' snoozes and recharging his batteries.

We are now in no-man’s-land, having just left Latvia after 5 hours queuing and waiting to get to the Russian border. Anthony is very good at getting 10′ snoozes and recharging his batteries.

Russian Visas collected

Today Anthony collected the Russian visas. The first of many we will need for the trip. We must thank the staff at the vfsglobal who handle the Russian visa applications for their advice to ensure our applications progressed smoothly. Well worth going in person rather than mailing application in. Alternatively you can use an agency.

– Anthony

One week to planned departure date

This is a strange time for us – we are suddenly one week away from our original planned departure date and yet, it still does not feel real (are we really about to ride around the world on our motorcycles?! 😳) and we still have 33 items on our ‘to do’ list. We have a couple of ‘show stoppers’ such as collecting our European passports from the Kazakhstan embassy on Thursday, connecting Anthony’s additional spot lights and downloading the various required maps for our GPS. And Anne’s unexpected visit to the endodontist next Tuesday for a suspected abscess under at the root of one her crowned teeth… Not happy about that little surprise 😦

The good news is that we did our first pack practice yesterday and there is room to add ‘stuff’ to our panniers! Next will be our first practice ride fully loaded – could be fun. Here’s hoping for some dry weather in the next couple of days!!

– Anne