June 14, 2010

Home Again!

For those who don't know about it yet, I am safe and sound and back home again.  Arranging for the bike for to be shipped back to Canada was rather anticlimactic compared to getting it out of Calama.  I arrived in Santiago on Friday afternoon, so did not return to the airport until the following Monday.  I had just planned to find out where everything was and prepare myself for the ordeal that was sure to follow, based on my experiences to date.  As it it turned out, the bike boxes were waiting for me when I arrived and it was a relatively simple matter to arrange for having them transported to Canada.  LAN Cargo gave me a choice of three Canadian airports, Toronto, Vancouver or Calgary.  Calgary is a mere 3 hours south of Edmonton, so that is where the bike will go.

According to the LAN cargo tracking thingy on the internet the bike left Santiago today (the 14th), so it should be in Calgary by the end of the week.  The cost will be a bit over the USD 1500 and change LAN Cargo charged, as I had to pay additional fees for having it shipped as 'dangerous goods', which involved having a third party prepare paperwork and labels.  I also had to pay a warehouse fee to the warehouse company LAN uses.  No doubt there will be additional fees when it lands in Calgary as well.  It seems like a lot but it would have cost more, (a lot more) to ride it back, and I was running out of time, as I would only have medical insurance until the end of June.

As soon as I had the bike taken care of it was a simple matter to arrange for a flight back.  My flight left late Wednesday and landed me in Toronto the following morning, where my good buddy Ken was waiting for me, he dropped me off at my mom's house where I could rest up from the 10 hour flight before catching a plane to Edmonton late the next day.  Saturday and Sunday were unwinding days, catching up with the kids, and watching the sun go down at nearly midnight.  Yes it will be summer in the North, and with daylight savings time there is still light in the sky at midnight.  Quite a switch from South America, where it was pretty much a 6 to 6 daylight no matter the season.

So what to do now?  Obviously the KTM will be getting some attention when it arrives, as there is a lot of riding to be done yet.  I also dusted off the old Norton Commando and fired her up (first kick!) after it had been placed in suspended animation for the last two years.  It sure is a fun bike to ride around town, but it is a bit of rat, and it needs a lot of work before I dare to ride it a greater distance than I can push it home, not to mention the limitations of a 2 gallon gas tank.

I will be maintaining the blog, turning it to less about my days and more about my thoughts about bikes, in particular old bikes and old bikers.  I will also be overhauling the South America blog to turn it into a beginning to end narrative instead of the blog format where the last post is first.  I have well over 3000 photos to sort, some of you have said that you liked the pictures I have taken.  I hope to do something with the best ones.  My secret for getting a few good pictures is the machine gun strategy, take enough photos and one or two will hit the target and turn out not bad.  I would certainly appreciate your suggestions and comments on the pix, especially the ones you liked the best.  My two favorites are posted at the head and tail of this post.

According to the counter thingy I put on the blog in April some time there have been about 1600 page hits on this blog, so somebody is reading this stuff.  Don't be shy, email me with suggestions on how to make the blog better and what will keep you coming back.  I already know that frequent posts makes a huge difference, and I apologize for taking a break and leaving everybody in the dark. 

June 06, 2010


Santiago is probably the most 'complete' city I have visited in South America, in that it has everything a city is expected to have, fine parks, a comprehensive public transportation system that includes modern buses, subway system, LRT to suburbia, excellent limited access roads that do not take a back seat to any in Canada and the USA, modern buildings and well kept old ones.  I was expecting to see more evidence of the recent earthquake, and really have seen nothing yet.  In my hotel they tell me it brought down the ceiling on the fifth floor, but apparently it is fixed now.  Some of the older buildings have hoarding on them, but nothing more than you would expect to see in any city that has old buildings, which do need maintenance from time to time.

One somewhat interesting thing I have noticed about Chile, based on my staying in hotels and eating in restaurants, is that Chileans can give the Scotch lessons on tightfistedness.  Restaurant portions always leave me hungry and I am not a big eater.  Hot water was strictly rationed in Calama, the hot water heater pilot lights are turned off in the daytime and sometimes they forget to turn them on again at night.

It is not like nobody can afford it, I see more evidence of wealth and less of poverty in Chile than in most of the other countries I have visited, to be fair I have not seen much, as I flew here from Calama, a place where there are lots of jobs and a rich mine, to the capital, where I suspect, as everywhere else, the golden apple (government revenue) tends to fall fairly close to the tree.

El Centro has plenty of interesting things to look at, museums, government buildings, and public art that goes beyond the usual hero on horseback that can be found in every Latin American City.  I have added Santiago to the list of places to come back to. 
Keep checking Picasa for more Santiago  pix, as I will  continue to add more.

June 05, 2010

The Great Escape

Finally I am out of Calama, and hopefully so is the bike.  I am now in Santiago,  after 14 days and 14 nights in the desert, I have reached the promised land.  PTL! Woohoo!  Santiago is great, especially after Calama, which was nice enough, but hardly one of the world's great places to visit.  In an earlier post I compared it to Fort MacMurray, it could also be Flin Flon or Thompson Manitoba.  It is a mining town, full of hard working people, who probably look forward as much to putting Calama in their rear view mirrors as I did.

In order to leave Calama I had to get the bike shipped to me in Santiago.  The LAN cargo people were unable to figure out how to get the bike shipped to Canada and were going to involve in DHL.  I have had experience with DHL in the past, and I would not want to use them to send a post card to someone I did not like, let alone ship my bike.  They have an office in Calama, I had already walked in there asked what it would cost, they quoted me $6,000 (!!!!), which is totally ridiculous.  One of their tricks is to take your money when you send it and then demand more went it arrives  (fake fees), holding your stuff for ransom.   I have no idea why these robbers are still in business, you would have to be an idiot to use them for anything.
End of rant, I hate DHL, go ahead and use them, tell me I am wrong :-)

SOOO, as far as I know the bike in three cartons arrived at Calama Friday afternoon same as me.  It is now Saturday, LAN cargo is not answering their telefono, so I am taking the weekend off to enjoy Santiago.  I have already contacted a freight forwarder who quoted me a price of roughly $1000 to ship el moto to Vancouver by sea.  If I use these guys I will have to repack the 3 cartons back into one, which will not be a problem as everything will fit, but it will be a problem in that I will have to move the stuff somewhere, where I can do the repack and then move the single carton to the freighters.  Another option is to discover whether LAN cargo in Santiago will ship to Canada assuming the people here are more knowledgable about procedure than their country cousins in Calama.

Meanwhile enjoy Santiago here.

June 02, 2010

Still here in Calama

It has been a stressful week and a half for me here in Calama, I never know what is going on, I can't communicate adequately when it comes to my now much more complicated needs.  I can order food, buy stuff, get hotels, ask for directions, but when it comes to the complexities of international shipping arrangements for motos, I am perdito (lost).  I am still not sure what is going on, but at least the bike is packed and at the cargo terminal at the Calama airport.

I am being helped  by the 'jefe' of Hosteria Taira where I am staying.  He has been great, he has taken me to the local building supply outlet for crate materials and we used his truck to take the bike to airport, twice.

I had all the stuff packed into the bike crate except the engine and we took it to LAN carga.  Turned out that the bike crate was overweight by 20 kg, the limit is 170 kg, and it was 190.  I took some stuff out of the crate to bring it to 170 but they said that the cardboard cover of the steel frame crate had to be covered in wood.  So, back to Hosteria Taira to fix the crate and repack.  Back again to the airport with three boxes.  This time they accepted it, but I am still waiting for the paperwork. 

If all goes well the bike and I will meet in Santiago for the journey back to Canada. It has been a stressful week and a half.  Jefe is making all the arrangements and I don't really know what is going on because I can't understand him.  The dialect here is very difficult, I am using babel fish and my computer to translate, but even that is not working, he is using words that may come back translated as 'breadfruit' or not translated at all.  All in all it has been pretty frustrating, maybe today I will be outa here.