Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Travel safe Sweet Girl, and don't talk to strangers...

I arrived at Dakar Motos and had all of 20 minutes to go over my packing list and confirm that I had everything I needed before heading to the airport. The plan was to get Pete all checked out and packed onto the pallet by midday (Tuesday) and she'd be on her way to Seattle on a Wednesday flight. It was approximately $150 US additional to send her to Seattle rather than LA and I ultimately decided that the added expense was worth it. All told the final price came out to be $1228.34 US! (Seeing that number written down again just hurt me a little bit in the stomach)

I arrived at the airport on time and met the shipping company contact, Franco, waiting for me out front with a big smile. First things first, I needed to take my passport, motorcycle title, and temporary import paperwork to the Aduana Office for processing. An incredibly easy procedure that thus far in the trip has not caused the slightest of problems. I suppose the small difference this time was that I had somehow misplaced the import permit. Ohhhh Bubba noooo....

At this point I would like to be the first to say that I am a complete ass for forgetting/misplacing/disposing of the aforementioned document and in all likelihood, I deserved the punishment.

Franco and I tore through every baggy, box, and pocket we could find in search of this paper, all to no avail. It sunk in that this was more than a minor hiccup when he came to me for a THIRD time and begged me to go through everything again, and this time do it really REALLY thoroughly.
"Thanks Franky, but I now know for a fact that it is not here, so what's our next move?" Over the next 8 hours I found it very helpful to reflect on the past 7 months of dealing with extremely inefficient systems, which comforted me (somewhat) as the day began to unfold.
At first, the head of the Aduana at the airport told me that my only option was to return to the location that I had initially received the paperwork in order to get a certified copy of the original, and oh yeah, you can't ride the bike because it's not allowed to be on the roadway without it.
"whaaaaattt... Actually Bossman, I've got a flight back to the States in 2 days and I'm not about to travel 24 hours to the Chilean border for this. So, how about we work out something else?" I tried to be polite, but firm. He threw his hands up in the air and went into the back room pouting.
I turned back to the solemn looking Franco, "OK, now what Amigo?"
We returned to the bike to search some more for the paperwork. After another thirty minutes had passed I once again turned to my helper, searching his eyes for a sign of understanding.
At this point I was left to wait with the bike for about 2 hours while the team of hairless monkeys attempted to tackle the issue on their own. I say this with a slight hint of disgust because the next time I was able to talk to anyone about the status of the situation, I was told that the reason the issue couldn't be resolved is that no one was able to find out the NAME of the Aduana that I had entered the country through. If they could just find the name, they could call them and have a copy sent down to Buenos Aires. I showed them on a map, I gave them GPS coordinates, and yet all seemed hopeless. The bike would have to stay in Buenos Aires. I was so pissed off.

Five hours after arriving at the airport I was finally told to just get on the bike and go downtown to the Central Aduana and see if they could help because it just wasn't gonna happen here. In fact, they strongly hinted at the fact that it probably wasn't going to happen at all. Ahhhhhh!!!!
Before going downtown I stopped by a separate Aduana at the airport in search of help, but they agreed that my best bet would be to just go downtown and cross my fingers. A phone call was out of the question, they said. You can't get anything done over the phone, they said. I CAN'T GET ANYTHING DONE IN PERSON! Ahhhhh!!!

The first Aduana I went to downtown turned out not to be the right place and they directed me to another one a little ways down the road. Maybe they can help you there... maybe.
And so... at my Fourth Aduana of the day I FINALLY found someone who could actually help. Woohooo!!! It turned out that this guy was able to pull up my record of entry from a DIGITAL ARCHIVE (what a novel idea) and gave me specific written instructions for what I needed to do. When I told him about the crazy request for me to return to the border he just smiled and said, "the guys at the airport Aduana don't know about this system."
I wanted to grab him around the neck and yell, "Why the hell not!! Aren't you people working for the same damn team!!! What kind of cockamamy organization is this!!!" but I didn't, because he was being helpful. I found out later that this guy was "THE BOSS" of the whole system and was likely the only person in the city with the authority to take care of this on such short notice. I also later learned that he is slightly less than heterosexual and that my deep voice and boyish good looks ultimately may have been my ticket to freedom. In any case, he made it happen and I am forever in his debt. It was around 7:30pm when I called Franco back to let him know we were a go for Wednesday.

I woke up early the next day, drove to the airport cargo area (which at this point I was intimately familiar with) and got to work. It took about an hour to break down the bike and another hour to package it up nicely and get it checked out by the airline agent. A 30 minute bus ride into the city to pay for it all and I sit here now with an Airway Bill in my possession and a really good chance of being reunited with my sweet baby 7,000 miles from now.

I think I learned an important lesson from this experience. I mean, other than "don't loose important documents!" I'm not sure exactly what the lesson is, but I know it's important.

The final measurements after packaging were; 190 x 90 x 112 cm, 247Kg.

Fly safe Pete!

Rolling Solo

Grace pointed out to me the other day that our final blog update, posted 2 weeks ago, seems to have left a bit of a void with regards to the continuing misadventures of the lesser half of our unambiguously heterosexual duo.
So here's what I've been up to since my Sweet Pea left...

Prior to the trip, Grace had committed to sewing bridesmaid dresses for a friend, due at the end of September, requiring that she return home early. I however had made no such commitments and likely would just prove a distraction if I accompanied her, so I decided to stick around for a bit longer and continue my Spanish classes. I ended up taking 3 weeks of intensive Spanish thanks to which I can now properly locate a preposition and pronoun relative to a conjugated verb (yeah baby!) Other than the classes, my daily life has consisted of touring the city, working on Pete, lounging at the apartment, and dinner with friends.

For my final weekend in South America I decided to take a little trip, and on Friday of last week I caught an overnight bus from Buenos Aires to the Brazilian border at Iguazu Falls. An awe-inspiring tourist destination, Iguazu has been recommended by a number of travelers as an incredible and unmissable spectacle of nature. (FYI: the nicer bus seats that are sold as "Full Bed" I think would have been absolutely perfect, had I been 4 inches shorter!!!)
The town of Puerto Iguazu, located at the intersections of Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina, is small but well developed and when I arrived on Saturday afternoon I found no trouble settling into Hostel Iguazu Falls (awesome name) and laying out a game plan for the following day.
I was up early Sunday in order to get to the park before it opened at 8am and I spent the entire day roaming the acreage and taking in the sights. The main attraction consists of what appears to be the single longest waterfall in the world, winding it's way along a jagged crack in the earth, eventually leading to the spectacular confluence, aptly named "La Garganta del Diablo" or The Devil's Throat. Broken up into smaller, individually named spillways the park is laid out nicely with brick paths and iron walkways allowing visitors to walk right up to the edge of the action. I had a wonderful time and even the massive tourist hordes didn't seem to bother me too much (I did have a moment at the very start of the day when I couldn't get away from a loud couple that would not just shut the hell up, forcing me to take a few deep breaths.)

Back at the hostel I went straight to bed for a much needed 2 hour nap, and then was invited for dinner with my dorm companions. We enjoyed a few mediocre take-out pizzas and engaged in deep and thoughtful conversation that mainly involved pestering the only local in the group for details as to the correct pronunciation and etymology behind the nastiest dirty words of the language. Later that night he asked me in private if he had acted inappropriately at the dinner table by answering everyone's questions and saying such awful things. I told him he had.

An overnight bus ride back to Buenos Aires the following day, once again in the slightly bent knee'd seat of mis-comfort (and death!), and it was time for me to get back to Dakar Motos and prep Pete for shipping.

Photos of Iguazu!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Welcome Home Grace!!!

After an unforgettable 6 month and 12 country adventure, Grace's family welcomes her home at Sea-Tac airport.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

We Speak English Here

As the sun sets on Argentina, I prepare to leave.  My bags are by the door, my confirmation codes are written down, my passport ready, and all my fluids are in a plastic bag.  Aside from the typical items such as clothing, shoes, and toiletries, I've packed a mosquito net, bed liners, my broken camera, and leftover malaria medications.  It's funny to imagine having to answer any questions about the anatomically correct male baby doll with the pouting face. 

It's a little surreal to imagine drinkable tap water, power-flushing toilets, summer air and people speaking English.  I even dreamed last night that I was speaking Spanish to someone and they replied, "Um, yeah, we speak English here."
I'll miss strolling around the city, lyrical Castellano accents, and all the eating and the drinking.  On the other hand I look forward to warm August days, blackberry picking, eating sushi and getting some exercise.  Three weeks of eating and drinking and walking around for sport will do that to you.

Goodbye South America.  Hello 25 hours of travel to fly what took us 5 1/2 months to ride.  Goodbye Peter the Girl.  Until next time...