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The Perils Of Bike Shipping – Part 1

Posted by TravellingStrom on September 21, 2012

Mayan Prophecy Countdown

Tuesday 19th September

The major goal for me today was organising an air ticket, so around 9am I hopped on a bus and spent the next 2 hours trying to get down town, it was crazy! It turns out that the road going down by the Black Market was closed for construction, so ALL traffic now had to make their way down Peace Avenue, the main drag of this city. I probably could have walked faster, but I was still nursing a sore leg and ankle, so I persevered. I did finally get to the area I needed to be in and found the travel agent that had been mentioned. Of course, half way here while on the bus, I realised I had forgotten my passport, not a good thing when trying to purchase an international ticket!!!

But, as I did not feel like turning back, I continued on to the agent and I did arrange a ticket, I asked for the cheapest available in the next week or so. It seems from what the others had experienced the later you book it the more expensive it is, or in other words the closer to take off the more you pay. So, as it turns out, I booked a ticket for the following Monday leaving at a reasonable time in the late morning. It did involve a plane change and a 3 hour wait in a transit lounge in Beijing, but you get that. So, I now took another bus back to get my passport and was surprised it only took 20 minutes, the normal time for that distance! It was then I saw the road closed signs and now knew why it took so long before. I grabbed my passport and lucky for me it only took an hour the second time, ‘rush’ hour was over it seems! 🙂

I paid for my ticket and was now committed 🙂 Lunch was now the next priority, so I returned to the 40K cafe where we had eaten the other day and found a real nice chicken and noodle dish, Thai style, it tasted as good as it looked!

I was planning on going out to the shipping agents place but in the end decided to make a phone call instead. I explained that I wanted my bike to be the only bike to be crated on that day and he agreed that Friday was OK, and I was to meet him at the office at 10am, so that was now sorted, great stuff. As I happened to have some time to spare I looked around a few of the shops in the area and scored some real nice Mongolian stickers for the bike, another win for the day 🙂 What was left to do was to sort out the bike ready for transport. I had a few days to do that, so there was no hurry 🙂

Just for the record when trying to navigate the centre of town, there is a large building called the Blue Sky, it is a great visual reference and can be seen from most areas of town, so by referring to this building it is quite easy to find things here.

It is that big blue curved building on the right of course! So I did some more blogging for the rest of the day, it takes a while! Especially the photo uploads, getting them all sorted, uploaded and then writing can consume a lot of time, and this place has a satellite uplink, so it can be tedious and slow at times when too many of the other bikers are also sucking the bandwidth.


Wednesday 19th and Thursday 20th September

Not a lot happened that is worthwhile to write about during this time. I spent these two days re-attaching the pannier system(which sounds silly as I have to strip it all down again on Friday) and getting all my gear sorted out.

I had no choice but to attach the pannier system fully because I needed to ride the bike over to the airport area, which would take over an hour on crappy roads 😦 But anyway, it allowed me to go through and throw away some stuff I was dragging around. I have not sorted my gear out properly since the crash in Kyrgyzstan, it was all taken out of the panniers then jumbled back in any old way, so this gave me a chance to weed out the useless stuff. But I also had to pack it different, because I would now be travelling without a bike for a few weeks or so, and would need some minimal gear with me, but probably not the winter wooolies I hope, as it should be warmer down south near the equator!

I did consider packing all my camping gear and electric heated gear and posting them to Oz, because there would be very minimal opportunities to camp in South East Asia, plus the accommodation is dirt cheap apparently, so it is not really worthwhile to carry around. But, in the end I decided to pack it all with the bike for a couple of reasons. 1- I have not decided yet where in Australia I would be arriving when I return home, that is months away, but no doubt it will be far from home, and thus I would need my camping gear from that point on. 2- I am paying for the bike transport already, it is based on volumetric weight which means REGARDLESS of the actual weight, I would be paying more anyway, so I might as well fill the spaces with all the excess baggage. This would be the same when I arrange shipping to Oz in the future as well. 3- By sending it home via the postal system it would cost another fortune, so I might as well use the bike crate space for it. I was reluctant to throw any of these things away as all up we are talking a lot of dollars to replace it all. The only thing I need is a place to store all this excess baggage while I am touring down south which will save me carting it around and I have a few ideas on that.

The only bits of unfortunate news that occurred over these few days were to do with the shipping system. Iain informed me that he also was booked in on Friday for crating and had been to the office on the previous Monday and saw it written in the diary, bummer 😦 What was worse was the fact that Chris and Nacho took all day and more to get theirs sorted! They did not get back until near 10pm on Wednesday night, after I had crashed out for the evening. It seems it took forever to get there, due to the traffic flow issues caused by the road closures, then they lost time getting the banking and payment done so it was late when they got to the crate place. They wasted more time by having lunch first and due to to other deliveries that occurred, it just seemed to take forever to get anything done, not very efficient at all 😦 I really hoped mine would go more smoothly.


Friday 21st September

Well, today was the day, I had everything prepared that was needed, all my packing sorted, the bike sorted, the paperwork was all together and it was time to crate the bike. Myself and Iain had decided that an early start was in order so that we could get to the shipping agent by 9am. We had spoken to him last night and he agreed to start earlier than 10am. So, 8am and we are off as we did not wish to get caught in a traffic jam if we could help it, but we had a dream run, the closed road was now open and it took us 15 minutes to get there, so now we had to wait!

When Mr T turned up(I cannot pronounce his first name, so this is easier for me) we then had to organise our payment. As mentioned this is based on volumetric weight, so we had do decide on the dimensions of the package. Iain’s bike was the same as Chris and Neil’s so that was easy. Mine was going to be a bit longer by 200mm, but we could bring the bike height down a bit and in the end we came to a price that was only $17 more than the others. This all took time. So did the next bit as we now had to go and try to do a bank transfer as he had no credit card facilities. To cut this drama short, we wasted another hour in traffic(in their car) while we went banking and in the end I had to make a cash advance of over $2,000US from my credit card and pay that way. I could not be bothered to do it twice, so I paid the full amount up front on trust. The deal was I would fly out Monday, the bike would stay here for two weeks in bonded storage and he would ship the bike out once I had given him a date in Thailand.

Then we finally got to ride again, this time towards the airport and near there was a backyard of a place where they would crate the bikes before moving them into customs and bond. This was a not so salubrious place, very dirty and basically not a pleasant place to work. No toilet, no tap, but there was a shop or two about 200m away so we could get drinks and food if need be.

Here we found four other bikes already done, Chris and Nachos and the two South African and Germans bikes which had been done the other day. Apparently they needed more work as the air company wants framework around the full bike and turn it into a box.

So the next few hours progressed slowly but surely. The first pallet took two hours to make, way too long and Iain grabbed that one, well he had to it was too short for my bike. My bike was stripped down in very short time, but then I had to wait, did I mention I hate waiting! During this time I drained the tank of as much fuel as possible with a hose, then ran it dry for the rest, there was still a bit in there, but I hate running the fuel pump empty, the fuel is used to cool it down and I did not want to damage it, so I left the tank open to evaporate the remaining bit.

Of course I helped Iain where I could, especially while the front wheel was removed and the straps were placed to hold it to the pallet. Around 3pm a massive crane turned up to remove the four wrapped bikes from the yard and take them to bonded storage. They had been here a few days but were guarded by a dog on patrol, I have seen him, he is BIG, and similar to those statue ones I posted the other day. Moving those bikes out was quite dangerous IMHO. For a start there was not latch on the crane hook, the boom was under some power lines and very close and every time he brought the boom extension in, the bike rocked alarmingly, RIGHT ON TOP OF MY BIKE!!!!! I complained about the lack of a lifting strap retainer and Mr T did apply a bodge around which should be a lot safer!

So, while they moved that stuff out, the pallet builder brought out the pallet he made for me and I could tell just by the look that is was too small. But, they would do nothing until the other bikes were out and when they finally measured it, yes I was right, it was 200mm too short, Phuk!

So back to the drawing board. Iain was finished soon after this with his bike wrapped strapped and packed, and I had not even started, it was nearly 4pm when the pallet builder took off somewhere, Mr T had gone as well, then so did Iain(but I forgive him cos he went for beer and brought some back for me). It was a long waiting game, just as Iain came back I phoned Mr T and asked what was going on, apparently the truck with the bikes on it had a blown tyre and he was helping them, but at this stage I was pissed off and told him so. I had asked specifically to book my bike in on a day by itself, that had not happened, then the stuff up with the bike pallet, now me being here by myself with a bike mostly stripped down and it was getting cold and it would be dark soon.

When Mr T did show back up, around 5pm it was too late to do any more and I was thoroughly pissed off, I had just paid 2 grand for professional services not rendered. But what could I do, nothing, so it now looked like tomorrow was wasted on packing, I’m afraid he got a bit of an ear bashing 😦

Cheers from Ulan Batar, Mongolia

2 Responses to “The Perils Of Bike Shipping – Part 1”

  1. Christine said

    Hi Rich
    Couldn’t help myself on this one, as always the Chinese have a saying for everything:
    Lao Tzu “Trying to understand is like straining through muddy water. Be still and allow the mud to settle.”
    and just love this one…
    “If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading”
    That might be a bit deep so better have another beer… or three…

    • Thanks for that Chris, I waited a week for the mud to settle, and having used GPS’s quite a lot which are not as cracked up as they say they are, the second quote certainly is one I have used many a time 🙂

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