Now it’s time to tell the true, and actually one of the most stressful stories of my round-the-world travel, about shipment of my bike from Brazil to South Africa.
In these three years on the road I had four shipments of my bike between the continents and some of the countries: from Russia to Thailand, from Singapore to Australia, from Australia to USA and from Panama to Colombia. This part of travel is my least favorite. Besides being the most expensive one, it is also connected with a lot of stress and time costs. Sometimes more, sometimes less of course. Shipment from Brazil to South Africa had to be my fifth shipment, and expectedly not the easiest one.
Unfortunately, to send the bike to another country is not the same as to send a letter or postcard, or even a parcel. You would not be able just to come to the post office and finalize everything in one day. The process of bike shipment is labor-intensive and requires preliminary preparation and scrupulous collection of information.
Therefore when I know that I am about to send my bike to another part of the world I start this process far in advance: I collect contacts of transport companies, compare prices and terms, talk to other travelers who went through the similar process before.
What I heard about shipping bikes from Brazil didn’t fill me with much optimism. According to other travelers’ opinion, Brazil is not the easiest country, with much bureaucracy, various complications and unexpected turns, and besides, very expensive. It was recommended to ship the bike from another country, from Argentina, for example. It might be much easier and cheaper. But it would mean that my travel in Latin America would end with Argentina. I wanted to visit Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil though. Therefore, I decided to try my luck and despite all warnings to send the bike from Brazil.
Knowing that this task may turn into a challenge, I started my research long before I even crossed the border of Brazil. Immediately I got many contacts and started to negotiate with several shipping companies. It became obvious that all the warnings had grounds, spread of prices was so huge that I was absolutely confused. Some offers seemed just ridiculous, with the money they asked for shipment I could buy another bike.
By the time I reached Sao Paolo I didn’t have any clarity in my mind, on the contrary, I didn’t know what to do, my head was spinning round. I continued to collect contacts, and finally I was given the contacts of one company (let’s call it company A) whose prices seemed to be reasonable and I was happy with all their conditions. Moreover, it was shipment by air.
I sighed with relief, confirmed to the company A that I chose them and we can start the process of preparation of paperwork and the bike for shipment. So exchange of emails and information started, I was answering numerous questions, providing all the information, it seemed that everything was moving slowly in the right direction. We still had enough time, I felt confident and calm. But after a month I started to get nervous. I continued answering endless questions, the company kept requesting information from different authorities, there were no dates or terms fixed. My visa and temporary import for the bike were expiring, I had to book a ticket to South Africa and leave the country. I started to hurry up company A. Already in the process of negotiating with them I found out that they had no experience in shipment of motorcycles, though initially it was recommended to me as a company having proper expertise and helping other travelers before. But anyway I was already used to surprises, both good and bad.
One day, like thunder from the clear sky, I received another email from the company A where they offered me the list of companies which may help me to finalize the shipment of my motorcycle. In such an interesting way they let me know that they would not do it. I haven’t felt so much anger and helplessness for a long time. I notified them that I consider such approach to business as outrageous incompetence, and of course, they didn’t bother to reply. But frustration will not solve the problem, I had to think hard what to do next. So the company whose conditions were acceptable refused to continue cooperation without explaining their reasons, the ticket to South Africa was bought and I had to fly next week. Within this week I had to resolve the issue for which three months of my stay in Brazil were not enough.
To my greatest good fortune, it turned out that the owner of Touratech Brazil, Gabriel, had a friend in logistics business, but his company had never shipped motorcycles either. A huge advantage was that Augusto understood my situation and promised to do everything possible in order to help me. It was my only hope. Already the next day he sent me all prices and options available for shipping my bike both by air and by sea. As I expected, most of these offers were beyond my financial possibilities. At the same time, when I showed to Augusto the company A’s initial offer, it turned out that they made a huge mistake in price calculation. Most likely, this was the reason why they refused to work further.
One of the options of shipping the bike by sea seemed to be more attractive than others. The only thing was that one week would not be enough for all the paperwork, therefore we had to make powers of attorney both for Gabriel and Augusto’s company Altius. It is definitely not the best idea to leave the country ahead of your bike. And I can confirm it with my own experience. Already later I realized that I made a mistake buying a ticket to South Africa so soon. It occurred that according to the laws of Brazil, when the first three months of my allowed stay and temporary import of my bike in the country are expired, they are automatically extended for another three months. I didn’t know that and couldn’t imagine that it was possible!
Well, what could I do, powers of attorney were ready, I just could hope that everything will be all right, and in the near future I will be re-united with my motorcycle in South Africa.
Alas, my hopes weren’t justified. At the beginning of the next week, when I was already in Johannesburg, I waited for the news from Brazil about the exact date of my bike embarkation. Depending on availability of free space, it could be either beginning or end of the week, and another twelve days for arrival of the bike. Well, I was ready to wait with all my patience.
But information I received from Brazil at the beginning of the week was absolutely different and disappointing. When I read the news, at first I couldn’t believe my eyes. What happened was the vessel which was supposed to carry my bike could accept only new motorcycles! And it means that we need to look for other options to send the bike.
I did not know how to react. It was a nightmare. Augusto tried to calm me down and promised to find another solution. The most acceptable option turned out to be sending the bike by air, by South African Airways, and it would cost double of what I was to pay before. Other options were even more expensive. At least there is hope that I will see my bike sooner than in two weeks.
With heavy heart I transferred to Brazil extra amount for air shipment of the bike, but that was not all. Now it was necessary to make all the paperwork, to get necessary signatures and stamps. Motorcycles are considered as dangerous goods, and in order for it to be accepted onboard there are required certain declarations.
In the meantime Brazil went through a wave of strikes, and it finally hit the customs office. With the customs being on strike my motorcycle could not move any further. Nobody knew how long the strike would last, nobody could either speed up or influence this process in any other way.
I was powerless, there was nothing I could do. Days and weeks were passing by, my hope to see the bike again was fading more with each day. I even started to think about plan B to come back to Brazil, retrieve my bike, continue my travel in America and to forget the idea about Africa for a while.
Nothing made me happy, I felt devastated, there were obvious symptoms of depression. I don’t remember if I went through anything like that before. Probably at that moment I realized how strong was the bond with my motorcycle. No wonder actually.. For the last several years it was the only constant thing in my life, and it was much more than just a vehicle carrying me around the world, it was rather my companion and best friend.
What made me crazy was the fact that I could not do anything to resolve the problem. I just had to sit and wait and to rely on help of my Brazilian friends. I have to admit that they did everything possible and sometimes impossible to make things work.
The whole month was gone, not just that my motorcycle didn’t arrive in South Africa, it was still in Brazil, and there was no certainty when all the documents would be approved and my motorcycle accepted onboard.
Finally, a miracle happened, all the documents were ready, signed and stamped, permission for the bike to be put onboard obtained. But the airlines could not accept the bike onboard the same day because the airplane was overloaded, and there was no free space. The same happened the next day, and several more days in a row. I started to lose patience..
The bike is at the airport, all customs procedures done, and now another challenge. When I finally got the news that the bike will be placed onboard for the night flight, I already didn’t believe anything and expected another trick. But it looked like this time everything was smooth, and I received by email airway bill as confirmation.
Next day, even though I knew that the airplane where my bike should be was still on the way, I stopped by at the airport in order to check and make sure that my motorcycle was onboard.
Polite employees in the cargo department checked the system and confirmed that my bike was onboard and will land at midnight. So I could come to pick it up tomorrow.
My happiness was endless. Though I’ll be really happy only when I see my bike with my own eyes. I was suspicious and apprehensive, ready for the worst to happen.
In the morning I arrived to the airport together with Treffon Smith from the group Adventure Riders SA who helped me with my South African stretch even before I arrived in South Africa, and now helped me a lot with many other things The motorcycle arrived and landed and was kept in the warehouse, now we had to go through customs procedures on this side. There was a faint hope that it might be done in one day and I can get my bike today. With that in mind Treffon asked his driver to come with a trailer. According to the plan, we’ll bring the bike straight from the airport to RAD Moto, official KTM dealership in South Africa.
You cannot go through all the necessary procedures by yourself, you should use assistance of one of customs brokers. Besides payment for a broker’s service, you should pay also tax depending on the motorcycle value. I did not have invoice for my bike (I think luckily), and my broker, in order to minimize the tax rate, mentioned very low value in the documents. It turned out to be a mistake. We didn’t manage to finalize everything in one day, one signature was missing, and working hours in Friday were almost finished. So I had to leave and to spend the whole week-end anticipating encounter with my bike next week.
I saw my motorcycle only by the end of next week, seven days after it arrived to South Africa. Customs inspectors really suspected that the value declared in the documents was unrealistically low. We had to re-make all the paperwork, pay the fine, and finally, the last long-expected signature was obtained!
I was going to the airport again, this time in order to see and fetch my motorcycle. Seven weeks have passed since I saw it last time. It was the longest period of waiting for my Little Guy in my whole trip around the world. I missed it like I would miss a real person. I cried for it. And now, when a huge box was taken out from the warehouse and put in front of me, I got confused at first and asked: “Oh, what is it??”
I received my motorcycle again on October 7, and October 9 is my birthday. By now it’s been the most precious and most long expected birthday gift in my life! In the meantime a van from RAD Moto arrived, together with a driver and broker we opened the crate, the motorcycle inside was intact and without any damage. With huge pride and happiness I was answering questions and delightful comments of the cargo staff about my motorcycle. Yes, this is it, my bike traveling with me around the world!
Though I was very sad to part with my bike again after just being re-united with it, we brought it straight for service at KTM. So it was in safe hands and just after several days I would be able to ride my first kilometers on my new continent, Africa!
When this day came, I felt both excitement and anxiety. I did not ride for two months, and here came my first kilometers in the midst of crazy traffic of Johannesburg. But mechanical memory didn’t fail, and in the evening I felt like celebrating this day and these first kilometers only together with my motorcycle, the one which turned into a living being for me.
The epic delivery of my bike from Brazil to South Africa was successfully accomplished, even though not within the terms and not the way I imagined. But it was another proof of one of the main lessons I learned during this trip. What matters is being flexible and able to adjust to changing circumstances and environment. And another thing – there are no problems which do not have solutions. Sooner or later a proper solution will reveal itself with some patience and hope on your part.
I am very thankful to all people who took active part in this mission and supported me in every possible way. Special thank you to Altius company in the person of its director Augusto and Touratech Brazil – Gabriel Colafemina and all the staff. I am sure that if it was not for them, I could wait for my bike much longer. And now of course, I can recommend the company Altius as a reliable partner if you decide to ship the bike from or to Brazil from any part of the world. (www.grupoaltius.com )
Big thank you to RAD Moto and KTM South Africa for full service of my bike and replacement of all the necessary parts. Thank you to all my friends of South Africa who treated me with understanding and supported me at this difficult time.
And then I could not wait to load all my luggage on the motorcycle and hit the road on my new and last unknown continent – Africa!