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December 29th, 2011 | Chile

Breezing through Chilean Customs…

Early morning in the courtyard of Patio Suizo...

The taxi that Mariana had arranged to take me to the airport was waiting for me when I stepped out of the gates at Patio Suizo… It had taken a very stern look from me to stop her explaining that I could take a train…

Naturally, the driver did not speak a word of English, but had been told where I needed to go, so no directions where needed… I did however feel confident enough to say “Beunos Dias, Senhor… Terminal de Carga, por favor…!! And pronto…!!”

Things were a little hectic at Fast Air, but efficient service meant I hardly had to wait to be assisted...

Half and hour later, and 12 000 Pesos poorer, I was left standing outside the Fast Air offices, which is the cargo arm of LAN, the Chilean airline.

I was immediately directed to the correct office, where a very helpful young lady, who spoke passable English, gave me the rundown of what I needed to do before I would see the Big Fella again…

First I paid CHP 26 200 (us$50.00) for the release of the documentation, which was about the standard rate I had paid on the previous four occasions that I had flown the bike… Then the long explanation of what to do next, followed…

This Lamborghini had just arrived...BY AIR...!! Some folk have more money than brains...!! But I guess if you can afford one of these babies then you can also afford to fly it anywhere in the world...!!

“You taka thees documento, …eh… Den you…uh…walk that way …to the office of Aduana… Dere, you…eh… pay duties and taxes, den, you…uh…come back… Take number from small machine, and wait… That hombre,” she said pointing to a swarthy young man behind the long counter to my right, “..will calla you number, and you pay for…uh… bodega….eh… house charges, then you go to that office and give all papers to them, and your bike it comes…”

Sounded simple, and indeed it was…!! I strolled over to the Customs offices, and was immediately helped by a guy who spoke little English, but between us, we got the process rolling… All it took was a few entries into the computer, one of which involved remembering my mother’s maiden name…!! Here in South America, and in Spain and Portugal as I recall, you need both parents surnames when you are filling out official documents…!!

“What is the value of your moto…??” the guy typing the chassis and engine number details asked…

“Here it comes,” I thought to myself, “tax on the value…!!”

I gave my standard reply, “Not much really…!! It’s an old bike, 2007 model… Maybe a few thousand dollars…?? What do you think…??”

“Ha, Senhor, don’t worry…!! You do not have to pay anything…!! It is just for the computer…!!”

“Ha…!!” I laughed back, “In that case the bloody thing is priceless…!!”

First sight of my crate and it's grumbling occupant...!!

We agreed on a value of $2000.00, and moments later, they handed me two sets of documents; one to give to the warehouse, and one to give to customs at the place I planned to exit Chile… I could not give them the name of this place, because I have not decided where I will enter Argentina from as yet…!!

Back at the Fast Air offices, I took my number from the “small machine”, waited a few minutes and was then called forward by “Swarthy”… He rattled off something in Spanish, to which I replied, “Medium rare, and go easy on the onions…!!”

His jaw dropped open, which immediately indicated to me that he had a very good handle on the English language…

“Funny man…!! I asked if you will be paying by card or by cash…!!” he said, just a hint of a smile under his bushy moustache… He then jabbered away in Spanish to the staff members around him, adding the phrase “not too many onions”, somewhere in the middle of it all… Guffaws of laughter rang around the office as he processed the documents stamped by the Customs office, and then turned to me and said,

“Blah-blah-blah-blah, Pesos, por favor…!!”

Seeing the blank look on my face, he grabbed a piece of paper off his desk, wrote furiously for a minute, and then slapped it up against the glass separating us…

“59 136 Pesos = $115.00….”, was scrawled across the paper…

“Ah, why didn’t you say so in the first place…!!” I said, grinning as I handed the money over…

He handed me my change, pushed the documents back towards me through the slot, and said,

“Now go to the bodega…!!” and pointed me in it’s general direction…

“You mean the warehouse…?? I asked…

“You are learning quickly, Senhor…!! That is good…!!” he replied with a grin of his own… And then came his parting shot, shouted across the room as I was walking towards the door…

“Eat more onions, Senhor, they are good for you…!!”

After taking my documents, the warehouse manager handed them to a forklift driver, and minutes later, I was overjoyed to see my crate being trundled towards me…!! The driver very kindly moved it to a large patch of shade being thrown by the huge building, where I immediately began dismantling the crate…

The Big Fella gets his first gander at Chile...!!

By the time I had the lid and sides removed, exposing the Big Fella to his first look at Chile, a small crowd had gathered around me, and cellphones were being whipped out to take photos…

There was only the handlebars to raise to their original position, and the windscreen to fit, so getting ready to roll took barely 20 minutes…!! No front wheel and brake calipers to bother with this time…!! Bonus…!!

"I'm ready Dude..!! Get your kit on and lets vamoose...!!"

Seeing no woman in the immediate vicinity, I whipped off my shorts and pulled on my riding pants… A loud wolf whistle pierced the air, and when I looked up, a large lady stood there with her hands on her hips and a huge grin on her face…!! The men around me burst out laughing, slapping me on the back and shouting things in Spanish… Hard as I tried to keep a straight face, I felt my cheeks heat up and knew that I was blushing fit to bust…!! This naturally made the guys laugh even harder…!!

All in all, it took barely an hour and a half from the time I arrived at Fast Air, to being ready to get the Big Fella moving again…

A massive new section of road is under construction just outside the airport… It includes flyovers, bridges, and a roundabout or two… It took half an hour and three trips back into the cargo terminal before even the Big Fella began losing patience with Gi-Gi…

“Get your act together woman…!!” he growled from beneath me, “I want to feel the highway under my shoes…!! I don’t know where we’re going, but as far away from that bloody crate as possible, would be good…!!”

We finally got ourselves onto the highway and rode the 15 km into downtown Santiago…

Which was nowhere near where we needed to be…!! Clearly there has been a lot more road networks laid down here since the Garmin boys passed through in their magic truck…!!

Had I taken some of the turns that Gi-Gi suggested, we would have ended up in the fast flowing Rio Mapocho, which cuts through the eastern parts of the city…!!

We battled through lunch hour traffic, the engine coming close to overheating as we stood waiting for traffic lights to change… It was even hotter than it had been yesterday, or maybe it was just that I was sitting in full riding kit, breathing in hot exhaust fumes from thousands of cars and buses…!!

Just like Spain and Portugal, things shut down for siesta here… Between noon and 2 pm, very little gets done in Chile it would seem…!! With all the traffic lights we had to stop at, and with lunchtime shoppers/slackers walking the streets, I had plenty of time to do some people watching, and noticed that the vast majority of folk were very casually dressed in jeans or shorts and t-shirts…

Battling pedestrians and vehicles alike in the heat of downtown Santiago...

When I think of South America, I think “Catholic”… I think “Conservative”… I think WRONG…!!

“My grandmother would do back-flips if she saw how little some of these women are wearing…!!” I said to nobody in particular

My reverie was broken by a rather terse message from my guide: “Turn left after 200 metres onto Avenida Condell…, then turn right……before I contact Patricia…!!”

Waiting for parking permission at Patio Suizo...

A new line of flags kicks off...!!

Suitably chastised, I did as I was told, and was then led another merry dance when we got out of the city centre and into the suburbs…

I think she did this on purpose, although many of the roads were now one-ways, which eventually had an exasperated Gi-Gi asking if I was sure that I had loaded the right maps into her…!!

We finally arrived back at the Patio Suizo, where the sight of the big bike raised much excitement among the other guests…

While I was unloading, Michel and his girlfriend Brita arrived, and we later sat down to share a huge fruit salad that Michel had prepared, and together with Brita, and beers in hand of course, we shared a few of our most recent experiences…

Naturally, a lot has happened in our lives since Michel and I last saw each other in Amsterdam, in August 2010, so all we could do was gloss over our individual achievements since then, but we have the next few days together to delve deeper into our “why’s” and “where for’s”…!!

Two Mojitos and a Margarita...!! Sounds better than Two Bikers and a Bird, no....?? Brita, Michel and I toast our reunion at a local restaurant...

Dinner tonight was bound to be filled with interesting stories, some of which I was EXTREMELY eager to hear… What it was like riding through Patagonia for instance…!! Brita has also been touring through South America on her own, and she had much to offer in the way of places to see and things to do…!!

A great steak and a Margarita in honour of PS...!! And just enough salad to make it all acceptable...!!

We strolled a short distance from the hotel, and found a neat little restaurant which had an outdoor area taking up most of the pavement… We kicked the evening off with some cocktails, and then ordered juicy steaks from the vast array of dishes on the menu…

Didn't take long and it was all gone...!!

I did not understand a single word on the menu, apart from the drinks section, which they had very kindly printed in English…

Michel then ordered a bottle of wine to go with our dinner, and I began to think that this had all the makings of a Big Night Out…!!

Memories of Michel and I staggering back to his apartment on the canals of Amsterdam flashed briefly through my brain, and I wondered if we would be able to find Patio Suizo in the dark of a Santiago night…!!

Fortunately, Brita, who had arrived only that morning after an 18 hour bus ride from Southern Chile, put a stop to what might have turned into a “thrash” by covering a yawn that might well have disturbed the crockery left on the table…

Michel and I hurriedly downed the Espressos we had ordered, got the bill sorted, and then we headed back the way we had come… We did manage to convince Brita to have a Gin and Tonic with us out in the courtyard, before she staggered bleary-eyed off to bed…!!

"Maybe we shouldn't have started with the cocktails...!! Do I look as bad as I feel... Maybe it was the wine...!!"

I looked at my watch for the first time that evening, and noticed that the bewitching hour had long since come and gone…!! Not having a clue about what the time is, is always a sure sign that you have had an entertaining and enjoyable evening…

Listening to Michel and Brita talk about Patagonia has got me “all fired up” for my ride down to Ushuaia, and I think I might well be on the road come New Year’s Day…!!

©GBWT 2011

4 comments to Breezing through Chilean Customs…

  • Mark Behr

    I feel extremely envious of the adventure awaiting you over the next few days – looks like South America is going to live up to all of our expectations!

  • Charmz

    HAPPY NEW YEAR Son, Brother and Dad!!!!!

    Here’s wishing you and Big Fella an awesome, amazing, funtabulous 2012. Keep your eyes on the roads and the rubber on the ground. Safe riding in South America.
    Love and miss you madly,
    Dad, Mom, Charmz, Jessie, (remember your brown dog, who by the way is holding on for your return) and Nakita xxx

  • Trevor Reeve

    Happy New Year GB, your fan as always! You had me LMFAO with regard to the “not too many onions”! Before I die I intend doing South America on a bike, you lucky fish, but my time is coming! Enjoy…

  • Thanks Trevor…!! All the very best to you and all your family…!! Yeah, it’s been a laugh a minute so far…!! But the serious stuff is coming up soon…!! How does that saying go, “After laughter…..”…?? I forget the rest…!! Yesterday there were reports of 100 km/h winds down at Torres del Paine…!! Whose bright idea was it to go to Patagonia anyway…?? R.

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