From South To North America In A Second Lap
My second circle around of the world started with South America, and I spent the entire previous year of 2019 on this continent. I have to say that this is my favorite continent and it was so nice to come back here again and to ride new roads, to get to know more interesting places, to meet old friends and make new ones, to get an incredible amount of emotions and impressions. I feel like I have become richer for an entire lifetime, but at the same time got more thirst for even more knowledge and experience.
But the South American stretch was again coming to an end, and I had to move and continue my journey at the next continent. Choosing the next continent was not an easy task, given some factors. Initially, I wanted to finish South America faster, move to North America the previous summer and get to Alaska. But soon enough, I realized that in order to do that, I would have to work very hard and quickly rush through those places that deserved more attention. It was also difficult to find a transport company for the bike shipment, and that could have caused even more time loss. Eventually, I would have gotten to Alaska just in time for the cold. It made me think of an alternative route, and I came up with the idea of the west coast of Africa. I rode through the south and east of Africa last time, three years ago, now there was the west left. I could have taken my time in South America, let’s say to spend more time in Brazil, and then sent the bike to Spain, and from there to get through Morocco to the west coast. But there were some problems with that option, too. First of all, problems with documents. I could not open a visa to Morocco again without going back to Ukraine. Morocco is one of the few countries that requires opening a visa only in the country of residence, and there are no exceptions to this rule. I also could not get any help from official authorities. There was another problem with obtaining the carnet-de-passage document for the motorcycle. The contact that had helped me with it in previous years simply disappeared without any explanation, and I could not find another option quickly. So Africa was also under a big question mark… Riding in Europe in winter would have been very uncomfortable, Australia also required carnet de-passage. So I was going back to my only option again – North America, with the only difference that Alaska was postponed till the next summer. In the meantime, I could take a ride through the southern regions of the United States, Mexico and Guatemala. I even smiled at myself that the world was getting too small for me
Well, at least the direction was chosen. Now I had to decide where from South America and where in North America I would send the bike. Last time, three years ago, during my first lap around the world, I sent the bike from Brazil to South Africa, and I can say that it was one of the most stressful experiences. You can read more about it in one of previous blog posts. Who knows, maybe last time I was just unlucky and I wouldn’t like to transfer the previous experience to the present one, but still I was cautious about the option of sending the bike from Brazil. Nevertheless, I have been collecting possible contacts in Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina.
Gathering contacts is always a long process, so I start doing it in advance. I’ve started correspondence with several companies, checking prices, conditions, dates. Lately I’ve only been sending the bike by air, not by sea. My personal experience and that of other travelers has shown that the option of sending a motorcycle by sea does not always lead to significant savings. Often the price difference is very small, given that port charges and brokerage services are usually higher, not to mention the cost of waiting time for the bike. If you have the time and are waiting for the motorcycle to arrive at your home country, that is one thing. But if you are in a foreign country, your personal expenses during the waiting period will consume all the saved money. So I don’t consider ferries and ships anymore when it comes to moving to another continent. Ferries within the country and within a few hours of travel are a different story of course.
Quite soon, I started to like more the option of returning to Buenos Aires and sending the bike through the company Dakar Motos and its representatives Sandra and Javier. I was immediately impressed by efficiency of communication with them, their professionalism, it was obvious that they knew what they were talking about / writing, and had a lot of experience in this. Positive feedback from other travelers were also a serious argument, as well as the price. The price included not only the motorcycle airfreight itself, but also all customs procedures and fees on Argentinian side, “packaging” and preparation of the motorcycle for loading into the airplane, and all this within one day. I have to say that there can be nothing easier and more convenient, I was even looking for some trap in all this. Fortunately, my search wasn’t successful There is no point in announcing the price, as it depends on the weight of your bike, destination, season of shipment, so for further details contact Sandra and Javier directly (firstname.lastname@example.org, www.DakarMotos.com).
While still in Brazil, I confirmed that I would cooperate with them, but I could not give yet exact dates. I still had to leave Brazil, go through Uruguay, enter Argentina and get to Buenos Aires. The only request from Dakar Motos was to inform them of my arrival at least a few days in advance. I could promise that definitely. Javier also gave me a very useful recommendation when entering Argentina, which I did not pay serious attention to at first. I had to check the motorcycle permit document very carefully, and make sure that my personal details and all the motorcycle data were written in correctly. If there is any inaccuracy or error, it could lead to complications during the bike shipment and extra costs. It turned out that there were plenty of such unfortunate experiences, and I certainly would not like to add to them.
So when I found myself at the border between Uruguay and Argentina, and was already sitting in the customs office, while the officer was filling in my data in the computer, I asked him very politely but convincingly to do everything correctly. As I will have to deal with another customs office before I send the bike by air. The customs officials were very kind and understanding, so I did not expect any complications. Well, I should have… : ) Good that when I received the document, I was not lazy and did not forget to look through all the data in it.
It turned out that the chassis number was written in the engine number column, and only half of the number was there, the rest was not readable. It was an obvious mistake, and I pointed it out to the customs officer. He said that there was nothing to worry about, that’s the way it was in the system and they couldn’t change anything, that it was just an internal document for moving within the country, and other documents would be issued to ship the bike out of the country, so everything would be allright. It sounded convincing, and it was clear that they didn’t want to bother changing anything, and I didn’t even have enough Spanish to convince them. Earlier Javier from Dakar Motos suggested that I should send him a document by Whatsapp, so that he would check it. That’s what I did, and of course, I got the answer from him that the document wasn’t good. It should be redone. Good thing that I decided to call Javier and give the phone to the customs officer so that they could talk in their own language and get to some decision. It worked, and at the end of the talk they came to a compromise which still did not guarantee that I would not have any problems with customs at the airport, but at least we had a good chance. They would write by hand the entire chassis number, indicate that the engine number was not written in my documents, would sign it and put official stamp. It didn’t look very pretty, to be honest, but there were no other alternatives. I took another picture of the document and sent it to Javier, received his confirmation, and now all I had to do was to hope that everything would be OK.
When I arrived in Buenos Aires, I met Javier and Sandra in person, we discussed the details, and now I just had to confirm the date of the bike departure. There were some difficulties with this as well. First, the exact destination in the United States. Definitely, I wanted to fly somewhere in the south, it was winter time after all. Second, I had to apply for a document allowing the vehicle import into the United States, so-called EPA. The document is issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, you can get it electronically by sending an application form and the vehicle data to their e-mail. It is simple enough, the only thing is that you might wait for it several weeks. Though usually they get back to you with the document within a few days.
So, the first thing I did was to send the request for the vehicle permit, and in the meanwhile I was thinking where to send the bike. I decided to ask for the advice from my longtime friend from KTM USA, Executive Director Selvaraj Narayana. The thing is that I wanted to make sure again that the bike is in a good condition, because in Brazil there was a problem with the fan, and this led to some complications and delays in my journey. Finally, we decided that the best would be to send the bike to Los Angeles, because that’s where, in the town of Murrieta, there was the central office of KTM North America, with all the necessary resources.
The time was also tight, as Christmas holidays were coming. And it meant that if I didn;t manage to send the bike soon, I would have to wait long until everything goes back to the usual work routine. At some point, I even decided to take a risk and set a date for the bike shipment before I receive the EPA document, hoping that by the time the bike arrives in the U.S.A, I would get the document.
Fortunately, I found the document in my Inbox the next day after we set the exact shipping date.
While still in Buenos Aires, and still busy with the bike shipment issues, I decided to visit an old friend of mine, Adrian, whom I met at my first arrival in Argentina. At that time he worked as a mechanic at KTM Sacramento dealership in Buenos Aires, but now he accomplished his dream and opened his own motorcycle workshop called Wikander’s Motos. Adrian is one of the mechanics I fully trust and I wanted to know his opinion on the bike condition. Lately I noticed that the bike started to overheat again in traffic, at low speed. Adrian diagnosed the problem very quickly. It turned out that one of the fans was not working for a very simple reason – some of the cables were loose. So the main problem was actually fixed before I left South America. I highly recommend Adrian as a specialist, now he works with all the motorcycle brands, so you will be in good hands if you happen to be in Buenos Aires with your motorcycle and need any technical advice and assistance.
The shipment date was set just a few days before Christmas and I was very hopeful that there would be no problem with the documents. But Sandra and Javier assured me that everything would be fine, and I could relax and start packing my luggage.
So, the shipment day was on. I arrived at the airport even earlier in order not to get stuck in the traffic. Sandra and Javier soon arrived, and the first thing we did was to take the mirrors and the windscreen off the motorcycle. We will disconnect the battery and take off the panniers later after we weigh the bike, take it to a warehouse and put it on a pallet. Fortunately, no special crate for the bike was required, which I was incredibly happy about. A crate means an extra cost, time and headache.
After the bike was ready and Sandra made copies of my documents, I went to the warehouse. In the warehouse the bike was fixed on a wooden pallet, the panniers removed, the battery disconnected, and all the procedures related to the bike preparation were finished. The only thing left was to finalize the documents, but for now it I could say goodbye to the bike and wait for it in a few days on another continent.
It took several hours to process the documents and, as expected, customs officers had some doubts about the bike permit document issued at the border. The corrections made by hand, of course, did not impress them, and I could only hope that they would take into account the fact that the whole situation was not my fault. Fortunately, I did not have to take part all the bureaucratic procedures personally, as all this is part of the package provided by Dakar Motos. Meanwhile, I was just sitting in a café near the airport and drinking coffee, hoping that all the issues would be resolved as soon as possible.
Finally, we got a long-awaited message that all procedures have been completed and I can be free. Hooray! I think this was the easiest motorcycle shipment in six and a half years. All I had to do was to bring the bike and the documents to the airport, wait a couple of hours in a cafe until all the shipping documents were ready, and at the end make a payment agreed in advance. So I definitely recommend Javier and Sandra from Dakar Motos if you decide to send the bike to or from Argentina.
I couldn’t believe it was my last day in Buenos Aires. There is so much connected with this city, so many memories and emotions, it has become close to me, dear and understandable in a way. And even though I was in such a hurry to leave and continue my journey in another part of the world, I was a bit sad to say goodbye now. When will I see this city again? What will it be like then, what will I be like? How will we meet each other next time? It was sad, but also joyful – it’s the city that has become a part of my personal history, it becomes closer and closer every time I come and I want to come back again and again.
But my arrival in the United States caused some cultural shock in the first minutes. It got a little bit cold, both literally and figuratively. For some reason I didn’t think that the sunny California might not be as sunny as I hoped. And watching the cloudy weather outside of the window, I unwittingly trembles, still indoors, waiting in line for passport control. The queue was long, so there was plenty of time to think about my answers to possible questions. Except that I was already morally prepared that my answers might seem inconclusive and improbable. The officer particularly didn’t like my answer that I was going to stay in the U.S. for the maximum 6 months. My explanations about the purpose of my visit and what I was going to do didn’t meet his expectations either, so I was passed to another officer who seemed to be dealing with special cases. This officer seemed to be even more unfriendly and suspicious. Good thing that I had some papers with me confirming my words about the world trip. Despite this, I was already preparing myself for some unhappy turn of events, and how glad (and even surprised) I was when my passport was finally stamped and I was allowed into the country. To be honest, there was still some bitter aftertaste left for a while, although I tried my best to get rid of it.
My friend Selvaraj, from KTM North America, was coming back from his vacation the same day, but a little later, and I decided to wait for him at the airport. So I had time to get used to the new environment a little bit and recover from the not-so-smooth entry into the country.
The bike arrived a few days later, as expected, and we went to the airport with Selvaraj and Uma to process the documents and pick up the bike, hoping that we could do it quickly. By the way, we went to pick up the bike on December 24th, Christmas Eve. Of course, we called United Airlines in advance to see if they were working that day. I was really surprised to know that the United warehouse and customs were working that day, 24 hours! Although you could still feel the Christmas spirit, and perhaps this was the explanation for some slowness and sluggishness of the staff. For example, in the United office, where we went in the first place, we were sent straight to the warehouse, where we had to wait the whole hour, only to be sent from there back to the office to pick up the air waybill, with which we should go to the customs and get the import authorization.
At the customs almost the same story repeated as with my arrival in the States. A lot of questions and doubts… It was good that Selvaraj was there to confirm and provide further explanations, and it was good that some of the staff showed more curiosity than doubts. Finally, I had all the necessary documents with me, and now all I had to do was to pick up my bike from the warehouse.
Again we had to wait, as there were quite a few people willing to pick up their goods from the warehouse on Christmas Eve, but today there were only two storekeepers. I could already see my bike through the fence, but could not touch it yet.
Finally, the motorcycle was with me. Although it took almost the whole day to receive it from the warehouse, it was the best Christmas for me, and of course the best Christmas gift.
Together with Selvaraj we put back all the bike parts, pumped up the wheels, and now I was ready to go. I love that feeling when the new stretch of the journey begins and everything is ready for it, all you have to do is to sit and ride.
However, the bike still needed some maintenance, oil change, general condition check, so I planned to spend a few more days in California before hitting the road. During the holidays, most of the mechanics were away, but still a few people were in the workshop, and they kindly agreed to take care of my bike first.
Changing the oil, filters, checking the overall condition, adjusting the high beam lights, confirmation that the bike is in great shape and ready to continue the journey was everything I needed for total happiness at the time.
I decided to start a new stretch of my journey after New Year’s Eve, so I spent the holidays with my longtime friends Selvaraj and Uma, who helped and supported me in my journey a lot.
Now everything was ready – documents, motorcycle, myself, ready to get on the road and go…
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