Sharjah rest and relaxation

Having spent 8 solid hours in Banda Abbas, southern Iran, getting the necessary paperwork to ship our bikes (which will make a separate post) and ourselves to Sharjah, UAE, then travelled 12 hours overnight on the same ferry as our bikes, then spent 5 hours at Sharjah port clearing our bikes, we arrived at our hotel looking like 2 drowned rats, dripping with sweat, filthy and no doubt not smelling too fresh! When we explained why we looked that way, the lady checking us in was so excited, she immediately called the front desk manager and the hotel general manager to meet us and must have sent a broadcast to all the hotel staff about our journey as we kept being introduced to various managers throughout the day. They also upgraded us to a … wait for it …117 square metre apartment for the duration of our stay, 10 days! Why? She said it was because we inspired her and she felt energised by our attitude – which was so different to how we looked. Wow!!! Thank you Anastasia and thank you angels, once again…

Anthony looking like a drowned rat

Anthony looking like a drowned rat

Anne looking like a drowned rat

Anne looking like a drowned rat

The lounge and dining room of our 117 sqm apartment - thank you Anastasia

The lounge and dining room of our 117 sqm apartment – thank you Anastasia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is what we have planned for our 10 days’ R&R:

First, shower, sleep, relax, catch up on mail and unpack
Friday (week end here) rest!!
Print completed Indian visa application forms
Get new 2″ x 2″ photos for Indian Visa
Submit Indian visas
Get new plastic folders
Pay CT (business) website
Pay Beanie (our car) insurance
Hand wash jackets – twice
Take trousers to laundry
Upload photos to WordPress and caption
Upload photos into blog posts
Compile videos
Upload videos
Write Banda Abbas post
Write Iran and UAE shipping & customs posts
Order new rear tyres
Organise bike maintenance and tyre swap
Get quotes for shipping the bikes
Find crate or crate builder for shipping the bikes
Find shipper
Book shipment of bikes
Book flights for ourselves
Book Mumbai hotel
Locate place to service the bikes (check wheel bearings) & book
Find place to clean the bikes
Clean the air filters and bikes
Replace Storm head lamp
Replace Shoei visor
Buy extra spare headlamps
Buy new scottoiler oil
Check out Dubai Bikers’ Cafe
Collect International Drivers’ Licences
Collect new helmet bluetooth systems
Order AO sleep tablets
Find new trousers for AJ (lost 8 kgs)
Find new bra for AO (lost 8 kgs)
Get cash for Burma trip
Dentist x-ray for AJ
Replenish toiletries
Buy wet wipes
Buy new medical kit
Make more colour copies of bikes’ V5 documents
Mail documents, maps, clothing
Ship rugs & books
Get extra flash card for AO camera at airport
Have a swim at the hotel pool most days!!!

We expect the list to keep us pretty busy over the coming week! And growing no doubt too…

Photos have been uploaded for the “Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva” and “Leaving Khiva for Turkmenistan” posts. More coming soon!!

– Anne

Plot for a mystery movie

A synopsis of plot for a mystery movie or why processing Iranian port exit paperwork takes 8 hours.

The traditional game of snakes and ladders takes you, depending on the roll of the dice, either scampering up ladders, or slithering down snakes. Your progress can differ completely from others embarking on the same journey. This is such a journey undertaken by two unnamed tourists.

Introduction

The unsuspecting tourists awoke early, eager to progress the shipping arrangements for Streak and Storm, two thoroughbreds, onto their next destination. A taxi had been ordered for 07:30 to take the tourists and their thoroughbreds to the port and customs office in Bandar Abbas with a English speaking taxi driver, a retired Iranian navy captain who had assisted with ticket purchases and finding money changers the day before.

The tourists were a little concerned as to how the process would work as, two days previously on the advice of the shipping companies office in Tehran, they had been to the Shahid Rajaie Port Complex just outside Bander Abbas, which the tourists assumed was where the boat departed from, and where the customs officers had processed the carnet exit paperwork even though the departure date was a couple of days away. Very helpful they thought. On purchasing the passenger and bike tickets over the next couple of days, the tourists became aware of a second much smaller port nearer to Bandar Abbas called Shahid Bahonar, used for ferry services and which would be the point of departure and where they would need to again process the carnet paperwork, which had already completed 2 days previously at the Shahid Rajaie Port Complex.

Off they set, having had no breakfast, with the thoroughbreds arriving at 08:05 at the Shahid Bahonar port. They have a late hotel checkout at 3pm, plenty of time to complete the formalities and be back at the hotel in time for lunch.

Entering the port transports the unsuspecting tourists into the world of three kingdoms. Not the Chinese three kingdoms of Wei, Shu and Wu which existed from 220 to 280 AD, but the world of ‘Shipping’ three kingdoms, Customs, Port Authorities and the Shipping Company. A ritualistic defined stream of paper provides the nexus between the three kingdoms: they have defied the world of automation and there is a strict hierarchical structure both within and between the three kingdoms.

Question: If you are importing 50 cars and the customs processing takes a day per car, how many cars do you import and how long will it take?

The tourists believe they will be meeting representatives of the shipping company at 08:00, who they were introduced to when they purchased the vehicle tickets. No sign of them on arrival at the customs offices, they are on their own.

The tourists enter the smoke filled bar, looking down from the steps, Sam is playing a piano in the corner, Rick the owner, ….Oh sorry wrong movie plot…. Back to the customs hall….

Further scenes will include:

Being directed in Farsi and hand signals to a counter and told to wait for the arrival of a customs officer who will handle carnets.

Meeting Mohammed, who works for a shipping company, repeatedly during the day as he tries to process his goods through the port. The tourists quickly realise that in the hustle and bustle of paperwork processing, it’s every, mostly men, for themselves.

Going to the photocopy store for photocopies of passports, Iranian visas and the outside and inside covers and the current country’s page of the carnet is required. This is undertaken at a small photocopying office just outside the customs building, payment required.

The tourists returning to the customs desk to be told they now need to return to the photocopying office to purchase two orange cardboard document folders to store their paperwork for filing as they are not provided by Customs.

Being told to go to the port authority building located behind the customs building and take the thoroughbreds with them. Here, the port authorities will have no idea what the tourists are talking about and a Russian customs broker will be volunteered to go back to customs with the tourists to find out what is wanted. They do this, the customs officer uses the broker’s phone to talk to the port authorities. We have liftoff, back to Port Authorities, appropriate document produced and yes you guessed it, the script takes them back to Customs.

Two handwritten letters in Farsi are written: they are taken for signing by a senior customs officer. For some reason he will not sign this and when it is sent for typing, the typing section will not type without a signature. This standoff is eventually resolved and six copies of the letter, in two different formats are typed and taken back to the original carnet customs officer for checking.

NO!!! one of the tourists will shout, as the carnet customs officer started to remove the next page of the carnet document, after having stamped them and explain again that the carnet exit was done at Shahid Rajaie Port Complex.

Answer: 49 cars and one day.

Document distribution is a precise process: the appropriate recipients on the distribution list are carefully marked by typing section. First copy is taken by another desk in the customs hall, but they take the tourists copy, so much for distribution lists. How many documents will the tourists be left with?

Back to port Authorities, a red from and yellow form is produced: the yellow provided to the tourists who have to take it and the carnet to a smartly dressed, mysterious senior customs officer who has magically appeared in the Port Authority’s building. He scrutinised the paperwork, signed on the back of the carnet, keeps the yellow form then appears to berate the Port Authority staff, says everything is ‘OK’ to the tourists and disappears. Will he return, will he stop the process? The tourists are confused but press on.

The tourists enter the dockside with no instructions, ride around and end up on the designated ferry, but have to get off to go to process, yes you guessed it, more paperwork. As time is running out they find they are missing a document, have to get back to checkout at the hotel.

There are a few more scenes but there is a happy ending to this story and the tourists and their thoroughbreds sail off into the sunset, well, darkness as it is 10pm before departure.

Anyone interested in purchasing this movie script?

– Anthony

Our ferry from Banda Abbas to Sharjah - except we were not allowed to board yet!

Our ferry from Banda Abbas to Sharjah – except we were not allowed to board yet!

Streak and storm travel on either side of this container

Streak and storm travel on either side of this container

Sunrise on our way to Sharjah - as calm as a mill pond

Sunrise on our way to Sharjah – as calm as a mill pond

Bandar Abbas

With yesterday’s long ride, we have the opportunity to depart earlier for Dubai. We have been advised to go to Shahid Rajaie Port Complex for the shipping and carnet processing. A taxi swiftly takes us to the port some 25 km from the city past long lines of trucks. The port is extensive, the largest in Iran, we have no idea where to go. Our taxi driver tries, initially in vain, to find where we should go. We finally end up in a large customs hall, after filling in a building entry application form on paper as the dozen of so electronic gates are unused, probably broken. People walk in and out, round each end past the security guards. We enter a large noisy hall filled with people. Briefcases, containing volumes of paperwork, are either in hand or perched on the counter that runs around the room, no visible signs of identification and mostly black. Some even have filing draws under the countertops that occupy the centre of the room to save taking paperwork backwards and forwards to the office.

We are lucky enough to meet Raza, an English speaking customs broker, who kindly offers to take us through the process on obtaining the carnet sign off. A charming gentleman, who we quickly form an affinity with. Not only does he help us here, but offers to take us to town to purchase the ferry tickets. We invite him to join us for lunch at our hotel. He does and then arranges for him and his wife to take us out for a tour of Bandar Abbas that evening. We are so lucky with the people we meet.

Reza with a friend, Banda Abbas, iran

Reza with a friend, Banda Abbas, iran


We meet Raza and his wife at 7pm and have an interesting tour of both the new and old,city, passing the fish market we plan to visit the next day. Tea and cake round off a great evening.

Reza has arranged an English speaking taxi driver, who turns out to be a retired Iranian navy captain, to take us to the shipping office to get our vehicle tickets. When we tell people we are retired and not working, they laugh. In Iran when you retire it just means you change jobs. Pensions are either small or not paid, so for the majority of people, retirement never happens.

Raza joins us as we purchase the vehicle tickets, or in fact get two copies of a letter in Farsi which says what?…. Raza takes us to the legal fish market, which of course has an illegal fish market operating alongside. We have seen this before in Tehran, legal and illegal operating side by side.

Fresh fish at Banda Abbas fish market, Iran

Fresh fish at Banda Abbas fish market, Iran

Iranian 'vegetables' consist of parsley, mint, lots of it, basil and other herbs with the odd raddish

Iranian ‘vegetables’ consist of parsley, mint, lots of it, basil and other herbs with the odd raddish

How to eat Iranian 'vegetables'

How to eat Iranian ‘vegetables’

Back to our hotel to avoid the heat of the day, and pack for the day and then a stroll up the new road to the beach, we go past dozens of aluminium boats that once could have just been taken straight to the beach, the new sea wall and four lane highway takes care of that. We walk further to the beach which is filled with people, cars and boats. Locals looking to get fish fresh from the boats?

No not exactly. Rather people coming to load up their cars with smuggled goods! All these so called ‘fishing boats’ travel out to sea to collect goods from ships and bring them back to the beach for onward transportation for sale. We saw clothing, car bonnets and doors, people.

Unloading new car doors, Banda Abbas, Iran

Unloading new car doors, Banda Abbas, Iran


All move with efficiency off the boat, piled high into the backs of ordinary cars, hatchbacks are better as larger packages can be fitted. These cars can be seen around town and between cities, packed solid with goods. What do the authorities do about this? Nothing, we saw the police wander past taking no interest in the proceedings. As one older man, the beach master we think, said to us, “we are the Mafia”.
The very busy, friendly and open 'beachmaster', Banda Abbas, iran

The very busy, friendly and open ‘beachmaster’, Banda Abbas, iran

As the sun started to go down and we continued to video and photograph, a couple of cars with half a dozen young men pulled up, the atmosphere changed and while friendly and wanting us to join them in the cars we both knew it was time to leave. We did so and went safely back to our hotel before dusk. The sixth sense still working well.

– Anthony