Sunday, March 27, 2011

Miami Bound.....but not for Sammy

Monday morning arrived and I go back to talk to the shipping agent, she speaks some English too which makes things much quicker, but we are still a little tight for time as the cargo plane leaves tuesday evening.
I want to get the bike crated on Monday afternoon, but one word you get used to in Colombia is 'Tramites' - paperwork or buerocracy.

As I am not known to Tampa Cargo, they need more copies of all of my identification -drivers license etc etc etc, before they give me a yes or no on whether they will accept me as a new customer - of course mix in a long lunch break and before you know it, its 2pm. I keep pushing to get the crate sorted, but you hit that threshold where you get the word 'manana' and nothing is going to get done today.

At 8am the next day I am at Tampa Cargo at the airport to meet Jose, the Masterfreight agent.  The crate is supposed to arrive soon, we wait for a while and a couple of phone calls get made to hurry up the carpenters with the crate - it arrives at 1030, then another 45 minutes waiting while the crate paperwork gets approved by the airline - they have to be made from certified/ stamped kiln dried wood so there is no transfer of wood borne bugs between countries and as the carrier Tampa are responsible to make sure the crate is up to scratch.
The Police inspection is at 2pm - supposedly, they check everything for narcotics, so we have a few hours to get things sorted out and I am not too concerned, after this I can crate the bike and everything will be sorted for Sammy to leave at 830 pm.

In the mean time, I have been getting the bike ready to crate again, front wheel ready to come off, front mudguard and screen off, top box removed, battery disconnected and the gas tank drained completely -Tampa havent flown many bikes, the rules are normally less than a quarter  of a tank for flying - depending on the airline, but they insist its competely drained, I only have about 3 or 4 litres in the tank, so the 3 young shipping agent guys that all have small motorcycles in the parking lot are very happy - their 125cc or smaller bikes all leave that day with nearly full tanks!!!

So at midday I go to see what is happening, I ask the girls in the office and one of tham says that they do not have the original copy of the shippers declaration - a fairly important piece of paper, until we have it we cannot crate the bike - so after a while Jose shoots off to the office to get the original. I tell the girls that I need to get the bike crated up right after the Police inspection as I wanted to go back downtown and thank Neudith, Eilyn and Nelson for helping me out.

At this point they drop the bombshell that the plane is going to be early - its going to arrive in an hour - just after 1pm and leave at 2pm.  Another 'I can't believe it' moment, I ask them why I havent ben told - I have been working 10 metres from their office all morning and nobody bothered to let me know - not impressed. They only found out that morning after 9am, apparantly one of their aircraft is getting repaired, so they had to change the schedule. The next flight is due on Saturday, but there may be one on Thursday.

Now, there is no way to get the narcotics inspection done and the bike crated in under 2 hours, the Police are heading for lunch, as are the Tampa staff  - watching the latest plan swiftly heading down the pan was not much fun....

Tampa Cargo's 30 minute lunch break turned into well over an hour, In the mean time the aircraft Sammy was supposed to catch that evening arrived and the pilots scooted for a quick lunch, they come back after 30 minutes and they ask me where the bike is going - I tell them that it should be on their aircraft, going to Miami that evening - but they are early, so we chat for a few minutes and I ask them when the next flight will be, they are in the dark too and say that Thursday is possible. They wish me good luck and I get to watch the Airbus taxi and take off without the bike on board.....Streuth.

The cops didnt want to come and do the Narcotics inspection -they were busy having a little siesta I guess, Jose was back so I got him to chivvy the cops up and get going - it was around 230 pm before they wandered over to look at the bike. I had everything laid out ready, they checked in the gas tank, air box, and in the engine and had a good poke around through all my gear, wiping everything down with small papers which change colour if they touch any trace of narcotics, eventually they signed off on the paperwork an hour later.

Its 330 pm and the bike isnt even crated, the flight is missed and my morale is at rock bottom, a couple of airport guys give me a hand to crate the bike up which takes a while, the 'carpenters' got the width of the handlebars wrong and the crate is a half inch too tight, a quick bodge later and its sorted out. Sammy gets fork lifted into a secure storage shed and I talk to the airline girls who assure me that the bike will get put on the next available flight. My flight to Miami leaves the next morning and I am a bit hesitant about going ahead of the bike, potentially having to return to Colombia to sort any further problems out, but I know Gaston in Miami is on the case and he can sort out most eventualities.

Nearly finished
I head back to town, sort out my gear and head to the airport the next morning bright and early. The flight is only a few minutes late and as the Airbus takes off, Im hoping Sammy makes it out too.

I have really enjoyed Colombia, the people have been super friendly, the countryside spectacular and apart from the accident the other week has been a great end to South America.

Sammy sealed in clingfilm

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