Friday, May 27, 2011

Shipping the Bikes Part II

After what feels like an eternity we finally have our bikes back on Salt Spring Island, but sadly this is a story of trials and tribulations.

When we were informed that our bikes would be arriving in Vancouver (late I might add) we were also informed that they had been sent COD (cash on delivery). And thus started a several week fight between us, TBS Ship Peru and Choice Aduana Peru. As it turns out the money we paid for shipping before leaving Peru was not used appropriately and when it really comes down to it we got scammed. We made arrangements, we paid the agreed upon price and then things didn't go according to plan. Everyone is pointing the finger at everyone else and in the end we are the ones getting screwed.

We waited and waited for things to get properly sorted out hoping that the right thing would happen, but this is Peru and do-gooder spirit was smashed. Meanwhile our warehouse storage charges were mounting. We cleared the bikes through customs (96.32 CAD plus a trip to Vancouver) in the meantime so that we would be ready. Things in Peru started to become bleak at best so we cut our loses and paid the ransom for our bikes. Total legit charges were 305.50 CAD per bike in Canadian destination charges plus extra US charges (60 USD/bike) thanks to the shipping company that shipped our bikes through the US. Total additional scam charges totaled 540.40 USD per bike. We paid 80 CAD per bike at the warehouse plus an additional 15 CAD per day per bike for storage fees. What it amounts to is a lot of money that would have paid for the cost to fly the bikes home with Air Canada cargo. Lesson learned. To make matters worse both of our bikes suffered damage during shipping, though thankfully we were still able to ride them home.
Our first glimpse of the bikes

Happy to be reunited at least

What really pisses me off the most, apart from the frustrating feeling of being taken of advantage of, is that our bikes were shipped out of the country, nobody paid for the shipping (even though that the arrangement was set-up as pre-paid) and we didn't find out until the bikes had already arrived in Canada when we were getting billed for it (some 45 days later). Why was this not brought to our attention earlier!?!

I obviously do not recommend using any of the companies we used to do your shipping. Also, if possible, don't let the shipping company send your bike through the United States (if it is returning to Canada), it will cost you more.

What can I say.... it was a terrible experience and money NOT well spent. 

BMW #2 getting ready to be released
Okay, let's go

Shipping the Bikes Part I

We were chilling in Mancora and we needed to ship our bikes out of Lima. Mancora to Lima is two decent days of riding. When the time had finally come we set out for Huanchaco, our half way point and refuge. We got there with almost no problems. Alberto got a flat tire when we were still 1.5 hrs from his parent's house. It was getting late and if we stopped to fully fix it it probably would have been dark by the time we got to our destination. So being crafty, or lazy depending on your point of view, we decided to just keep filling it with air (since it was a slow leak) and hope for the best. This worked out and we made it to his parents house before dark. We only had to stop three times for a quick air boost. This was a Friday night. Knowing that we weren't going to be able to do anything productive in Lima on the weekend we decided to stay a second night at his parents house and sort out the bikes.

We spent Saturday organizing the items that would be flying home with us, and what we wanted to stay with the bikes. Oh and Alberto needed to fix his flat tire.

More than once over the past several weeks memories of corrupt police north of Lima had haunted my thoughts. I was absolutely dreading having to run that gauntlet again. I didn't think I would have the strength to deal with all the craziness again. So with great dread we set out for Lima on Sunday morning. To my surprise we didn't get pulled over by a single police officer. Actually for that matter we saw very few police today. I think the fact that it was a Sunday and a holiday (Mother's Day) worked to our advantage greatly. I was relatively happy to be in Peru. The one exciting thing that happened was that Alberto's exhaust fell off. Well the silencer part. It was amusing driving through Lima with his insanely loud bike (we just stuffed the silencer in one of our bags).
New exhaust configuration
On Monday we started with the shipping formalities. We brought the bikes over to the Lima BMW dealer. With the whole engine debacle back in February we had developed a close relationship with the personnel at the dealer. We asked them to keep some crates aside for us and they did, so we went there to pack up the bikes. They also kindly washed our bikes down, removing all those foreign contaminants. While we were hanging around waiting for things to get done we started contacting our shipping agent to get the ball rolling. By the end of the day we more or less had the bikes packed up in the crates. Now the tricky part. Based on my experience in receiving personal mail in Peru I was somewhat fearful of the gongshow that might await us but it is what must be done.
What a clean looking bike
After a rocky start things went pretty smoothly. We handed over all the paper work to the shipping agent so he could take things from there, and then turned our focus to crating the bikes. This was a relatively simple task and we had the bikes ready for pick up Wednesday morning. We had to arrange for a forklift and the agent sent a truck. Soon we were saying goodbye to the bikes as they drove down the street in the back of a Chinese made cargo truck.
Crating the bikes
Almost there, just need a roof
Make sure everything fits inside
Ready to be picked up
Alberto keeping a watchful eye
Onto the truck
The Lima BMW dealer was extremely helpful during the whole process. We used them as our base of operations and we thank them very much for their help.
We caught a bus back to Trujillo that evening because Alberto's friend was getting married. The bikes shipped out successfully on the Sunday. They are travelling via New York to Vancouver. Hopefully we will see them in 28 days. Total cost to us was 2,350 USD for both bikes.
Alberto sad to see his bike leaving him
Happy to see mine go. We both need a break from each other
See you in Canada Girls

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Day 194 (41km): The End

We couldn't get the house until 4pm so we still had lots of time to kill before we started our ~25km journey to Mancora.

We lounged around on the beach, me hiding under our shelter and Alberto swimming. Eventually I couldn't take it anymore and we packed up to leave. We slowly took the scenic route to Mancora passing through Cabo Blanco. Even so we got to Mancora around 1:30pm and decided to kill some time by having lunch. I was hungry anyways.

We found a nice place to have lunch, but the service was terribly slow. Ugh, back in civilisation. By the time we got our lunch we had to scoff it down to make sure we made it to the house by 4pm. I ended up with indigestion but as it turns out my family's flight was late and they hadn't beat us to the house (which was our main concern). We settled in and I made a b-line for the shower. After bush camping for the last few nights all I could think about was having a shower. Actually after being on this trip for 7 months all I can think about are regular showers with premium shower products.

Freshly clean we waited for my parents to show up. They got to the house just before dark, pretty exhausted from their Peruvian escapades. We had a nice evening chilling out and we are all looking forward to the next few weeks to relax at the beach.

So this is the end of our bike journey; 41,026kms driven. We still need to ship our bikes back to Canada, which we will sort out over the next month, but this is the end of our bike travels in Latin America.

Thanks for following along and stay tuned for more posts with my reflections on different aspects of the trip. 
The End

Day 193 (0km): Ahead of schedule

I noticed little crab tracks all around the tent when I woke up. There are tons of them everywhere. They are bright orange and they tend to hang out at the water line.
Cooking up some lunch
I'm a bit of an over the top planner, and I always allow a few days in a plan for incidentals. As it was, everything went well and we made it to Mancora, or at least pretty close, ahead of schedule. My parents arrive tomorrow to spend two weeks with us at a beach house we've rented in the area.
A surfing Pelican
So with nowhere to go, and a looming Easter weekend potentially filling up all hotels we decided to chill at the beach for the day.
Our cooler made on the beach
Beach camping isn't really my thing. I miss my West Coast homeland where shorelines are rockier and sand doesn't get everywhere. I'm just not a beach person, not enough going on if I don't have my windsurfing gear, so I was going a little crazy.
Trying to fight off the sand blasts and boredom
Alberto on the other hand was having a great time. I think he went for a swim once an hour.
Catching some waves
Boy, that looks like a big one
Another beautiful sunset

Day 192 (245km): Going North on the Panamericana

We wanted to break camp and get out of there as soon as possible. We managed to get away just after the sun was reaching full force and we were both sweating like crazy. Reminds me of our experiences on the Mexican coast. I was kind of hoping that that was all in the past.

Once we got to Piura we were fully integrated into the desert. It was easier to find our way out coming from the south than the north. Not sure why they have a round-about with a stop sign, traffic light and traffic control cop, that had me second guessing what to do. That single combination of three different traffic controls is probably the most hardcore roadway clusterf we've seen on the trip.

Not much to report from a driving perspective. Mostly straight and dry. We passed, as well as other vehicles, a traffic police SUV driving on the highway. From what I could tell it was going below the speed limit and all other traffic, except the moto-taxis, were passing it. It's no wonder that we managed to outrun one twice.

We stopped for some ice-cream at a gas station in El Alto. I was craving an icecream during the heat of yesterday but never got one. A little further down the road is El Nuro. We almost bought a beach property here about 2 years ago so we wanted to check it out in person. So we turned off and followed the road. There is one finished house and two that looked like they were almost done at the development we were looking at. It seemed like a nice place. We continued down the road a little further to check things out. There were some more nice beach houses and then nothing. That's where we decided to stop. It's legal to camp on the beach in Peru, since beaches are public land, so that's what we did. 
La Gringa is a bit heavy for this sort of thing
Our little spot was pretty quiet, just traffic passing every now and then going to the oil wells further down the road. Just us and the crabs.
Alberto getting the bikes into position
Our camp set up
Getting into relaxing mode
Our neighbours
The sun setting on another day
Our camp from the opposite angle

Day 191 (447km): Back to the desert

We gassed up before leaving Chachapoyas, where we had a chat with the local police. We were informed that the route was entirely paved, so that was the end of adventure, and that Bagua is really hot. Again I may have made a poor choice in riding clothing for the day. The road was smooth and followed the valley. Some of the corners felt like they were at an awkward angle for driving but it was fun. Also at some sections the rock formations hung over the road, which was kind of cool.

While en route we noticed a turn off for a water fall we had seen in a poster at dinner last night. The poster stated that it was the third tallest waterfall in the world so we had to check it out. We didn't bother riding the full length of the road to get to it but we did get a satisfactory view from where we stopped. Quite impressive.
Gocta waterfall
Overhanging rock
We thought we'd be passing through some more mountains but the road followed a valley and it was quite hot the whole time. We were in the jungle transition, which means everything was green; banana trees lined the road and the wonderful fragrance of orchids was wafting. Peru can be so amazing at times and this morning was one of those times.

We encountered a few toll booths and a new trend has been developing where the security-style police at the tolls booths direct us to the unsigned moto bypass. Such helpfulness has previously been unheard-of in our travels of Peru.

After one of the toll booths we stopped for a break. A pick-up truck we had passed then pulled over and stopped to say hi. Apparently they had been trying to chase us down since we passed them but weren't able to. About 12 people came out of that truck to take their pictures with us. So many randoms pictures of us floating all over Latin America. What becomes of these pictures?

One of the unfortunate side affects of following the valley all day was the heat and I still wasn't feeling 100%. We haven't been this uncomfortable since Central America and the uncomfortableness continued well into the next day unfortunately.
Beautiful sunny day
Things only got cold briefly when we had to cross some mountains. It rained a little bit then got foggy, but it was over soon and we had crossed our last mountains. We were back in the desert of Peru, but not quite. It was still partially green with lots of livestock roaming at the sides of the road. Also the humidity and subsequent heat was almost unbearable. I'm not sure how I survived Central America, I seem to have no tolerance for this type of weather again.
Interesting tire selection
We had started our search for a place to camp but we were not having much success. The sides of the road were fenced for all the animals so options were limited. We passed through a nondescript town and suddenly two police officers appeared from nowhere; rushing out to the road from wherever they were resting. Of course no day on the Peruvian coast is complete without a conversation with the police. It was getting late and we still hadn't found a place to camp so I suspect that, as well as previous frustrations, contributed to Alberto ignoring the police and driving on. By the time my turn came the police officer was in the middle of the road, and since I'm the calmer more sensible one I chose to stop. I started with my best H-ola to get things started. The police officer began to tell me that my friend was supposed to stop for police blah blah and that he wanted to see my documents. During his speech I made great effort to look confused, looking at him and his partner who remained silent. When he was finished I just said “Canada” and smiled dumbly with my thumbs up. The one who was doing the talking was stopped in his tracks. He made some exasperated gestures and then tried to ask me where I was going. I said Ecuador in my best gringo accent and it took them about 3 tries to understand what I was saying. The first officer again looked at a complete loss for ideas and looked back over at the second one. He was fresh out as well, so I just continued with my smiles and thumbs up. He sort of gave me this eye rolling expression that conveyed dumb gringa and let me go. I doubt this new method of ignorance would work on the more aggressive Lima district police but I'll certainly try to use it on any police outside of the super corrupt zone.

Shortly after the police fun we found a break in the fences and camped. It was disgustingly humid and hot. It reminded me of some of the terrible nights camping in CA and I wasn't recalling those memories with fondness. I made some dinner and we hid in the tent because there were mosquitoes. Our USB fan was working overtime today trying to cool us down in the tent. It was an uncomfortable sleep.
Our camping spot for the night

Day 190 (316km): My god the heat

We had an early start to the day since we slacked off yesterday. We were rewarded though with beautiful blue skies so I think we made the right decision avoiding what looked like rain yesterday. We didn't see much camping further out of town either so it was even better that we found a roof to sleep under.

I had a rough sleep due to a headache and a possibly resurfacing fever. My headache, even though I took some painkillers, persisted throughout the day and kind of affected my ability to full enjoy the ride.

Between Cajamarca and Celedin there were lots of dairy donkeys littering the road. A dairy donkey is a donkey, or horse, who is carrying two dairy containers like saddle bags. These guys were everywhere on this section of the road. As usual the Sierra scenery doesn't disappoint and we were even further spoiled by the blue skies. The riding was peaceful but there was far more traffic than our other adventures into the Sierra.
Back on the road to adventure
Early morning cloud cover
It is a bit dusty when you get stuck behind a truck
"I don't remember seeing a big peruvian hat on my map"
After Celedin the road worked it's way higher and higher until finally reaching the summit at about 3,600m. Then we started the decent. The temperature rose to a high of 31.5 degrees and there was cactus. Not exactly what I was expecting since I was still dressed for 9 degrees but the mountain scenery was amazing and a nice reward for the almost unbearable heat. I think the views we saw on this section were the best views of the Andes we've seen in Peru.
Fog near the top
Surveying the scene
The scene
Some more scenery
Lets go down
Another stunning geology shot
We encountered one temporary roadblock where a truck had lost its steering in a twisty mountain section. He was stopped in the middle of the road and there was a bus and another truck waiting to get by. This is where having a small motorbike comes in handy. We were able to squeeze by, but just barely.
Just us and the mountains for company
La Gringa showing off
My favourite part
Still going up
Finally the top
There were tiny sprinkles of rain throughout the day but we were never fully rained on. Our full decent was completed when I started to see banana trees at the side of the road. Everything was suddenly more lush and jungle-like.
Quick that rain is catching up!
We were searching for a camping spot but had no luck. We were riding in a valley and there was no room on either side of the road to go hide. We pulled into Chachapoyas and found a hostal near the plaza with parking. It's Easter Week so everywhere is pretty busy and we were lucky to find a place. We miss camping. 
Some repairs were needed
Nothing a few zip-ties can't fix
Looking for a hotel
My tourist? poster