The day started early for us – we were up around 7am – we had packed our stuff last night so that we were ready to head out. Thinking positive and hoping for the best.
We met Michelle for breakfast and laid out our plan of attack. Dan had some email threads with Mike at Motolumbia.com – Mike called his contacts at Copa Cargo in Cali Columbia who confirmed somethings for us – and gave some other information that was contrary to what we had heard locally. The info we had heard locally however was also contrarary to what we had heard locally…
First off – let’s start out by saying that going into today we were about 150% confused and frustrated. It’s really hard to adequately describe the amount of hassles and obfuscation we have gone thru trying to get these bikes shipped out. Our first choice was to ship the bikes to Quito, Ecuador for various reasons – but that has turned out to be all but impossible. While some of the shipping brokers say they will take the bikes to Quito – for $2000 EACH bike – what is really transpiring is that the bike goes first to Bogota and is unloaded – then if and when they figure out a flight from Bogota to Quito – then the bike gets shipped to Quito. We saw a couple threads on the Internet from people who have done this shipping and they all complained about it taking a week or more to ship the bike and then several days to get the bike out of Quito customs.
So … we made the decision to go to Columbia – with our first choice being into Cali. Why Cali? – because we had friendly help in Cali (Mike at Motolumbia) and because Cali is a full days ride closer to the border of Ecuador.
When we got started with Michelle – we started calling Copa Cargo in Panama – Copa is known to fly cargo from Panama to Cali and Bogota but when we were out at the air cargo terminal they indicated that the flights cancelled “indefinitely”. Well, Mike in Cali had called a friend of his (Gustavo) at Copa Cargo in Cali, Columbia and Gustavo indicated that there were flights going on Wednesday and Friday. When Michelle talked to the folks at Copa Cargo in Panama, they continued to tell us that there were no flights until maybe next week. We called Copa Cargo in Panama several times and each time tried to talk to a different person – which only resulted in us getting a different answer each time – yes we are flying to Cali and Bogota, no we are not flying to Columbia indefinitely, the flights will resume next week, or call us back tomorrow morning when the boss (El Jeffe) will be in… jeeze… after 7 or 8 calls we decided that maybe the Copa guys really were out for Carnaval and it was hopeless….
So we started working on a couple of brokers… Girag and ServiCarga. Servi was very helpful and had quotations for going to Bogota – $900 for the bikes, $75 more for hazardous cargo permit, $15 for this, $40 for that, etc… etc… probably about $1100 each bike – she wasn’t sure if the bike would go today, tomorrow, or next century – just leave it here and we will take care of it…. yea, right.
We then called Mike at Motolumbia in Cali – what a great guy – he said give him 15 minutes and he would call Gustavo at Copa and confirm a few things… so we busied ourselves with yet more calls to yet more people who continued to tell us yet more reasons why it can’t be done… and after 15 minutes we called Mike back. Ok – Gustavo is happy to talk to us and he can do the paperwork from Cali and we can just drop the bikes at Copa – give him a call around 2pm…. wow… did we just get confirmation that the bikes were going to be heading out???? to Cali? – maybe…
At this point it was about noon – we’d been at the phone calls for 4 hours now – and I decided we should work on Girag a bit more because we had a quote from them and they have a decent reputation but we didn’t know all the details…. so we called them up one more time –
This time we got ahold of a gal named Luz Lopez – what a information machine!!! – she had all the answers and details – bish bash bosh, she just cranked it out – if you get the bikes out here today they will leave for Bogota tonight, the cost will be $900 each bike including all the permits etc…, she said the customs guys at the airport would stamp the bills of ladings, it can only be paid in CASH (Confirming what our buddy back home (Carlos) had said) blah blah blah… so we had a confirmed (as much as can be confirmed anyway) way of getting them to Bogota. Do you want to talk to the guy in charge? or the woman that knows whats going and really runs the joint.
We took off for the bank and lunch. The first bank we hit (Citi) would not do a cash advance on Visa or Debit cards – ok, next bank. We hit the HSBC – yes, we do cash advances but only for $1000 per card. Ok – drag out a couple cards to get $2000 and then hit the cash machine for another $500 and we figured we had enough cash to get things done.
While at lunch we called Gustova back in Cali to see what the story was from Copa in Cali….
Let me interrupt this little story to see if you’re as confused as we were… because by this time of the day we had made maybe 45 or 50 phone calls – talked to people in 3 countries – gotten just about every conflicting story you could imagine – been told that nobody is working today (even though it isn’t Carnaval anymore) – and John was literally to the point where he said “I can’t follow who is saying what they can do, what they can’t do, or what they might or might not do. Please just tell me where to drop the bikes and cash off.”
Anyway – we got ahold of Gustova at Copa … in Cali – he had done some checking on flights and so forth – yes, they can ship the bikes from Panama to Cali – but they wouldn’t go until next Wednesday – a week away… so, any savings we would realize by shipping direct with Copa instead of a broker would be eaten up by us hanging out in hotels waiting and we would waste a week not moving… it made the decision easy for us to go with Girag and get things moving.
We made yet another call to Girag – talking to Luz with all the answers – yes, we can get them on the plane today if you get here by 3:30…. well, we cranked it up and got out there by around 3pm….
Dan got to work on the paperwork while John dug thru the bags – repacking things and getting stuff organized and ready to transport the bikes. About an hour of paperwork and a big wedge of cash and everything was ready to roll … except the bikes weren’t on a pallet and were just sitting there in the shade…waiting.
The Girag guys brought a big flat aluminum sheet out – we rolled the bikes on there and got things positioned for them. Then they began to tie they down with scraps of webbing and straps. And it looked like they had never tied a motorcycle down before – we watched for maybe 1/2 hour and then they sort of asked us what we thought –
we went to test the tie downs and showed them the bikes would easily tip over. Great, maybe we shouldn’t watch this… but then we just starting untying and retying the bikes and got them tied down in such a way that they “maybe’ would do ok… what we wouldn’t have given for some proper tie down straps …
When we finished the tie down it was about 5:15 and we were worried that we wouldn’t make it to customs in time – rush over to customs and we got the proper stamps on the bills of lading and all that stuff –
Since the bikes were heading out tonight we decided to try to catch a flight to Bogota this evening and had Michelle/taxi drop us at the airport. We settled up with Michelle and said our thanks/goodbyes and headed in to buy a ticket to Bogota…. after searching for WiFi and researching tickets we eventually decided to just go to the Copa counter and buy a ticket… John’s wife Lynn had mentioned that we will probably need to buy a round trip ticket because Columbia Immigration would require proof of onward journey and she was right about that – the Copa guys made it clear that it would be hard to convince the immigration guys in Bogota that we were flying one way and riding out etc… So, the difference between one way and round trip was only about $20 a ticket – so we just paid the price — about $368 per ticket…
It was a decent flight to Bogota, we hit the ground, cleared immigration, cleared customs, grabbed a taxi and ended up in a decent (but overpriced) hotel – and we sit here now at a little after 1am typing this blog in –we’re hoping our bikes had a nice flight, got a little glass of oil or fuel and had a little bag of bolts and nuts. More importantly are actually here, in one piece and we can get them out of Girag and through customs in some reasonable time period…..
All toll, an expensive day – about $1800 to ship the bikes, $735 for flights, and another $150 in taxis, meals, copies, translator, misc fees, etc…OUCH! but we are in South America and onto the second leg of the journey.