M/Cing to SA: Now Voyager Arrives!

This is the normal reaction when man is reunited with his motorcycle after two months. (In the interest of transparency, this picture has been digitally altered as its subject is no longer able to leap -- for joy or any other reason)

19 days after getting to South America, we get Now Voyager off the docks of Buenos Aires

Christmas came late to the Walti/Rutherfords as Now Voyager emerged from his two month journey from Los Angeles to Houston to a dozen ports down the Atlantic coast of South America to the Buenos Aires Harbor and finally  to a customs warehouse on the docks.   Finding and extricating him from the claws of Argentinean bureaucracy has been a learning experience to say the least.

Here are the basic stats of Now Voyager’s journey:

  • Date dropped off at shipping company in Compton, California:  October 28t8
  • Original arrival date in Buenos Aires:  November 12
  • Delayed arrivals: Dec 12., Dec 19, Dec 22,
  • Arrival date on the docks of BA:  Nov 29th
  • Days to unload the container: 13
  • Days through customs: 2
  • Documents required: Original Bill of Lading (I used a forged copy), original title (I used a forged copy), passport and copy.
  • Cost (approximate because all the bills aren’t in):$4100

Key Learning:

  • If you’re shipping by sea, give yourself an extra month.  The storage cost if it actually gets there on time will be minimal in comparison.  I essentially paid TWICE the amount because I had at least two freight forwarders AND the freight company AND the warehouse,etc.  Don’t use an agent/forwarder who can’t predict what the costs will be.
  • It’s a bit more of a hassle, but ship it air if you can.  The equivalent cost for air-freighting the bike would be in the neighborhood of $2500.
  • A good crate is worth every penny, even an over-priced crate like mine
  • DO NOT try to get your bike out of a Latin America customs bureaucracy by yourself.  Get an agent.  In one customs office, a poor guy from Spain was literally rolling on his deodorant in prep for another long day sitting in the hall
  • Always ask the “why” behind delays.  Don’t take people’s word for where your bike is.  You can track your ship’s progress on the Internet

The situation as of 10:30am on January 13th in Buenos Aires.  We will spend the day packing and re-packing NV, trying to get as many things on him in as light and tight fashion as possible.  We still have some stuff to get around BA — our jackets are being fixed and we need some man-sized pain pills and muscle relaxers for my hip.  Our goal is to be on the road, heading west toward the Andes, by tomorrow morning.

Who would have guessed that it would take almost three weeks to “start” or trip as somewhat originally planned.  But, when you’re aboard the Shit Happens Express, you need to just deal with the changes.  Not all of unexpected happenings have been bad:  we’ve gotten to know and love Buenos Aires over two weeks, we’ve had a taste of the Dakar race, stayed in some truly spectacular hotels, and met a lot of interesting and helpful people along the way.  Somehow we managed to find our way through this maze of obstacles and are poised to start wandering.

Bring it on!

For those of you who want the gory details of what its like to get your bike out of a South American port, here are the nitty-gritty details in pictures.

Our day begins at Customs Office #1. This office is located in the port, behind a parking lot and it has NO sign on the building. We spend 1 1/2 hours getting paperwork.

My shipping agent, Federico Testa, is hard on the phone trying to get me m/c insurance as we found out yesterday (for the first time) that we might need it. As it turns out, we don't.

Truck awaits its container lifed onto its back

Customs Office #2. More paperwork, but I don't have a clue as to why.

Customs Office #3. Ditto above

Now we're getting close. Outside the Custom's approved storage warehouse where NV sits

Around the corner and we enter a whole new world. This is the covered part of the warehouse. We walk through the warehouse into the mayhem that's outside

The best that I can figure is this must be the "odd lot" warehouse as there are dpozens of fork lifts, trucks of all size, and men loading up "stuff."

At the very back of the lot, behind and under lots of other crates, NV's crate is pulled out. I was wondering if anyone could read the English sign on the crate

We start breaking open the crate. I can barely watch as I fear what's on the other side -- a broken motorcycle stripped of its gear...

And then he begins to emerge. As the crate is broken apart, all the warehousemen come over to see it. Is it for the Dakar, one asks? How do I answer that? Yes, but...

Now Voyager emerges from his long sleep with not one scratch and no dust. I turn the key and he starts right up! Only lost a little air pressure. I'm unsure as to why I had to put on the vest. Do they know about my riding skills?

We miss getting NV out of the Customs yard by minutes and catch a 90 minute lunch delay.

The Man: Federico Testa. Always friendly and concerned, he pursued his fprize for three weeks.

NV gets fed for the first time in two months

10 replies
  1. Bruce Conrad says:

    Fred Life is a Shit Sandwich and everyone will have to take a bite. Flying is much easier & costs less. Air Canada to Bogata Columbia $1200, 3 hr in Customs. I spent extra 10 days in Lima getting my bike. A true Commerce Killing Cluster Fuck. Now your adventure will begin and have fun. Bruce

  2. Chuck Brown says:

    Good for you! Now get on out there and have a ball. Marilyn and I loved Mendoza. Great food and lovely city for walks.

  3. Gary Wescott says:

    Ah yes. Fond memories of getting The Turtle III through customs in Cartagena, Columbia. ( 5 days). Getting the paperwork to ship it home from Caracas, Venezuela took a day, thanks to expert broker. Worth every penny.

    Again, in Magadan, Russia, it took the better part of two weeks to get the paper work ready prior to driving The Turtle IV out of is container before we could start east across Siberia. They looked at us with eyes to say, “You want to drive where?!!”

    As we follow the Silk Road through 26 countries starting next year, customs could be a nightmare!

    Rule number 1: Be patient. They can hassle you more than you can hassle them.

    Rule number 2: Don’t volunteer anything. Just be polite.

    Happy travels guys!


  4. Steve Moses says:

    This is great. I can live vicariously through you two without losing money, passports or motorcycles, without descending into the third circle of customs hell and without having to pick bugs and tree sap out of my teeth. Still, I am very envious of the huge adventure you’re on. Stay safe and keep sending postcards from the frontline.


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