Before We Leave
July 01, 2002 GMT
A Little About Us

This is the first instalment of what I hope will be an interesting Blog about our preparations for and journey through Central and South America. I thought it might be interesting not just to write about what an exciting time we are having, but also a little about some of the preparation that goes into such a trip, so if you are only interested in the exciting bits, you’ll have to wait awhile!!
First off, a little about us; Sian & Arno, current home Munich, Germany. We have been here for the last 4 years, working to replenish the coffers after the last trip. Arno spent almost 2 years on the road, riding from Munich to Sydney. I had abandoned the UK and was on the backpacking trail for a year, taking in Africa, Australia (where we met) and Asia.
We actually intended to be back in Australia by now, but our migration application is gathering dust in an in-tray somewhere, so, rather than face another chilly winter here in Central Europe, we have decided to fill the time with a year or so in the Americas.
Our departure date is set for sometime in September 2002, and now the race is on to get ourselves and our bikes ready in time.

Posted by Sian Mackenzie at 07:57 PM GMT
July 14, 2002 GMT
Paper, Paper Everywhere

In the last 2 weeks, we have been busy sorting out all the documents that we need to take with us. I had to get my bike registered in my name instead of Arno’s, not just for this trip; incidentally, the machine has to be in my name when it is shipped to Australia, if we ever get our Permanent Residence Visas.
We got our international drivers licences and international registration documents, the latter giving the chair jockeys a serious headache. I guess most people here don’t take their precious vehicles much further than the EU borders these days.
Next on the list was to decide which shipping company we were going to use. We had a total of 8 quotes, all of which were calculated differently, in different currencies. Decided against the traditional method of closed eyes and a pin, and instead drew up a comparison table.
The important figures for us were; first the cost of the transport of the crates from here in Munich to Hamburg [ranging from €203 to €390], second the port charges at Hamburg [€40 - €205], third the actual cost for 4 cubic metres (to which we added BAF costs)[€228 - €332]. The costs in LA were not always quoted, but didn’t vary as wildly as some of the other costs [average$350]. All costs by the way are for 2 bikes in separate crates.
With all the figures sorted out it was quite easy to choose the shipper and so we booked the shipping of the bikes, leaving Munich around the 8th of August, with an arrival date in LA of 11th of September………………………
A visit to the main customs office in Munich left us with more forms to fill in and get stamped, then to the copy shop to start on the mountain of copies that we need for various purposes. It is now that Arno realises his passport is somewhat devoid of blank pages, already having travelled halfway around the world. Next stop, application for a new passport, could take up to 6 weeks, they tell us, mmmm, lets hope this renowned German efficiency lives up to expectations.

Posted by Sian Mackenzie at 09:13 AM GMT
July 25, 2002 GMT
Good News, Bad News

Time is flying past, last week we visited one of our sponsors, Siebenrock in Stuttgart. Arno got the spare parts he needed at a good price and more importantly Jochen Siebenrock agreed to take on the cost of publishing the book that Arno is going to write on the trip – a result!
I have been busy, over the last few months, slowly collecting all the equipment we are going to need. With the shipping date now decided, it was time to do a trial pack of the bikes and see how and where everything would fit. We were surprised that our boxes were not overflowing as expected; maybe room for that extra book after all! The only adjustment needed – longer straps for my tank bag.
The really good news this week was an email from the Australian Embassy in Berlin, requesting that we go and do our medicals and submit some more documents. This means that they are actually processing our application after a years wait. We were all excited and on a real high until the end of the week, when we were hit by the bad news……………………..
Arno phoned me at work to say the car was making loud crunching noises as he drove home from work. Worst fears were realised when someone with a bit of an idea about these things, pronounced it terminal. I won’t bore you with details, but now we are stuck with an old car and will probably have to pay to scrap it.
The next blow was when Arno went to check seals and stuff on his bike and found oil coming out of the seal between shaft and gearbox – not good. This means taking the gearbox out again and getting it checked out. We had to make the hard decision to delay the shipping of the bikes by 2 weeks, just in case the gearbox needs anything major done to it.

Posted by Sian Mackenzie at 12:43 PM GMT
August 01, 2002 GMT
A Hectic Few Days

We have been in top gear the last couple of days, trying to get everything done. We went for our medicals and collected together all the extra paperwork that the Australian Embassy required. Arno took his gearbox out and took it to the specialist, who pronounced it fit after taking it apart and replacing the main seal. He and Hans put the whole thing back together again in a couple of hours. It is so helpful to have a BMW specialist in your circle of friends!!
A visit to the copy shop was also squeezed in, so we could copy all our important documents.

Posted by Sian Mackenzie at 05:45 PM GMT
August 08, 2002 GMT
And So Things Progress……

Things are beginning to come together; all the documents we need for the Australian embassy arrived this morning, so off we went to the post office and sent another envelope off to Berlin. Who knows, we may even get our Permanent Resident visas before we leave, mmmmm maybe we shouldn’t book the flights to LA this week after all.
We spent a whole day preparing the crates for the bikes. Arno had got original crates from both BMW and Yamaha a few months ago and we stored them in the garage in pieces. Now it was time to see how they fitted together and whether there would be enough room in them for our bikes, panniers, helmets, camping equipment. We changed a few dimensions to make the boxes as small as possible, took the front wheels out and calculated that both bikes would end up at just over 4 cubic metres – not bad.

We are also the proud owners of a laptop – a Panasonic Toughbook!! A very good friend of ours who is also one of our sponsors found one lying around in his home office and said we could have it! Wow what a generous bloke!! Thanks Micheal!!
Finally this week, we actually sold our wreck, sorry car. Someone actually paid €100 for it, despite the crunching noises and dodgy paintwork. No more car worries, wonderful!!

Posted by Sian Mackenzie at 10:13 PM GMT
August 13, 2002 GMT
Got Them!!

Highlight of the week – an email from the Australian Embassy, “pleased to inform you blah blah….” They have decided to grant us our visas at long last. That was darn quick!! Just have to wait for Arno’s new passport to arrive, then we can get the visa actually in our hot little hands!
We both worked our last few days at work with big smiles, not just because we were leaving. My colleagues at L&M had collected a few €’s together and decided to put the dosh towards the digital camera that we had our eyes on. Thanks guys, we ended up paying just over half, for a great camera.

Posted by Sian Mackenzie at 05:44 PM GMT
August 22, 2002 GMT
The Bikes Are Gone

Monday – first day free from our jobs, but no rest for the wicked. Spent the whole day packing and crating the bikes.


The preparation that we had already done paid off and by 21:00, when we called it a day, we had almost finished. The bikes were due to be picked up late Tues or early Weds, so no rush.
Phone call 8:30 Tuesday, the truck is on its way, 45 minutes to finish putting the lids on the boxes, and paint the destinations on the outside. We were still hammering when the truck arrived, but the boxes were soon on the lorry and we waved them goodbye. Five weeks until we are reunited in Los Angeles, all being well.


Arno went and picked his new passport up, riding his oldtimer – our only transport. Then we sent off our passports to Berlin. Looks like we will be flying to LA via somewhere in Australia.

Posted by Sian Mackenzie at 05:50 PM GMT
August 27, 2002 GMT
Moving Out

The bikes are on their way, but there is still so much to do. We spent the next couple of days packing all our belongings. I was lucky enough to be able to borrow a big van from L&M, and so with the help of friends, we squeezed all our stuff in and then drove it to Arno’s brothers place, where it will stay until after our trip.
Our passports were waiting for us when we got back, complete with the long awaited visas for Australia. It was so good to read the words “permitted to remain in Australia indefinitely”
We cleaned out the flat of our last belongings and sorted out a few last minute things such as travel insurance. All too soon, it was time to hand over the keys to Ingrid who would be moving in after us. We said our goodbyes to Munich, then headed back to Saarland, to spend some time with Arno’s family.

Posted by Sian Mackenzie at 05:57 PM GMT

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