April 28, 2006 GMT
Leaving on a jet plane, not sure when we'll be back again

Having spent many a day at Dakar Moto HQ, thought it might be time for a quick update.

As you'll remember from way back when, last year in fact....though only 5 months ago really, Sandra & Javier run a motorcycle repair shop with facilities for traveling bikers to stay.

Though it's out in the suburbs there is an excellent train station nearby and a return ticket costs less than 25p p/p. There is an underground network and it costs little too.

So it's a great place to be based. The accommodation is adjacent to the workshop, bunk beds, a toilet & shower, and kitchen. There's a garden outside (or camping area!) and so long as there is space and time, you have an opportunity to work on your bike, or better still, let Javier do it for you for very reasonable costs. He's worked wonders on a few of our fellow travelers bikes and there are some excellent services available for repairs. Non re-builable shock trashed ? Well that can be taken apart refurbished and reassembled as good as new. Smash a screen, a new one can be made to match. If there's a problem, there's someone who can resolve it. Excellent facility. Fortunately for us we are simply staying here !


Our hosts at Dakar Moto's, Javier & Sandra, and us still able to smile!

We could get somewhere 'downtown', but the ambience here makes it hard to leave. It's hard to describe that ambience really. The place is a workshop frequented by many of their friends, and to a man (and the odd women if we ignore Sandra which of course we never would) they are fantastic friendly people.

ALWAYS here you greet everyone. No matter you never met, no matter you met yesterday, always is a handshake and welcome to everyone. Those of close relationship kiss...that's the men...women are always kissed ! It's a strange thing to plant (or have planted on you) a stubbly peck on the cheek, but it's the way and all quite normal here.

Having been before we know quite a few of the Dakar Motos Social Club, and it's nice to be reacquainted. Our limited Spanish is not a hindrance, just an opportunity for some humour !

By the time lunch comes round there is usually a small group of people and some takeaway is bought in, pizzas, steak sandwiches or similar, and there's some time out for socialising.

It's a hard thing to explain how we have managed to spend so much time here, without actually going into town much. After all, there is much to see in town and we know our way around now. I think it's the fact we sit down and share coffee with Javier and Sandra when they arrive in the workshop, and start chatting. Their company is good and time seems to fly. Nosing around the workshop is easy, and the other travelers staying or calling in are always easy to talk with and share experiences. Before you know it time has disappeared and it hardly seems worth going out. That's why I say Sandra and Javier are like family !

We finally managed to get sorted with the bike shipping. First stage was taking the bike down the road for a clean, our last ride on the continent ! A local place run by a biker is recommended and proved to be very good. For about £3 the old girl came out with no dirt, clean, with only the rust showing up more clearly.


Washing bike for three quid, came up lovely, all rust now clearly visible!

A funny thing happened the other night. We decided to pop downtown, really for the hell of it, but to get a little shopping and a drink. We were sat in a cafe and the television was showing the weather. It indicated there might be rain that night, but nothing dramatic. But one feature of the TV is they always give the capitols weather at the end and show some live pictures of the weather on the main highways around the city. They switched to that and it was absolutely nailing down ! It was very warm, calm and dry where we were. All the people in the place where looking up at the TV, looking outside, at each other and the staff, and back to the TV. It was surreal, like the pictures weren't live. I sharp realised that was weather coming our way and we settled up as fast as possible. By the time we had the wind was blowing wildly outside with leaves and litter flying everywhere and the first drops of rain falling. Fortunately the subway was outside and we dived down and made our subterranean journey in the dry. Only the walk from the rail station to Dakar Motos was wet, lucky !

Actually that wasn't the last ride, as of course we had to get to the airport. We had finally discovered to fly the bike with Lufthansa was by far the best deal, and far less complicated than going through the port for a boat

The preliminary enquires sounded great, and the procedure sounded simple so we decided to go with it. Having had such an easy procedure on entry to the country through the airport, it sounded the best way out too.

Our last ride was upon us !

An early start was required as we needed to get to the cargo area by 9.30. The roads were pretty busy and we had a few errors in route finding.....you'd never expect a sign on the M25 for the airport would you ? Of course you would ! None here until you get to the road off the ring road. We finally got there, only 15 minutes late, so effectively early ;-)

When we turned up at the cargo area at the airport, all we had to enter was our airway bill number, just handwritten on the email from Lufthansa, sufficient to pass security, let us in without question :-0

Security at the 'Deposit' cargo warehouse got a 'wrapper' for us. Preliminary weigh on scales (no pallet) in first building was 286kgs, moved to adjacent packing warehouse with our assistant. He took us through and got us clearance security badges. The bike was then placed on wooden pallet.

We had to carry out certain formalities, petrol has to be drained - they get bored, not necessary to empty, if say near empty, they will accept that, battery has to be disconnected, and tyre pressures reduced, again not sure you need to do tyres, but we did on this occasion. The customs formalities have to be done, one guy, he was friendly, he took our temporary import document. He checks number plate, chassis, motor, cursory check luggage.


Wrapping bike

The bike was strapped with nylon tapes to the wooden pallet and eventually wrapped in cling film, we locked lids to bike, and strapped a large stuff bag with sleeping bags etc on and our jackets were shrink wrapped and strapped to bike under screen on seat. Once completed the wrapper asked for I think 120 pesos (£24) with a receipt, or (definite price) 60 pesos (£12) no receipt, obvious choice as we can't reclaim. Once finished the bike weighed in at 330kgs (including pallet).


Bike Wrapped

We went around corner to Lufthansa office with customs documents and receipt document from wrapping warehouse. They produce a form with details of bike flight etc, the Airway Bill. You complete a vehicle check sheet – what’s on bike, and pallet, and condition of vehicle, signed declaration at end. A Dangerous Goods Certificate is done and signed.

Now we had to pay ! You can ONLY pay cash, either in US Dollars, or local pesos, or combination of two.

After all paperwork was completed we were given a sticker to apply to bike - we had to do it to ensure it was the right bike. After that we had completed everything. We left and handed in our pass.

We kept the petrol removed from bike in a can and took it away with us for Sandra and Javier. No one queried us walking around the cargo area with the petrol, even through the checks, or when we walked to the entrance of airport terminal. :-0 .....really.

We walked away and hoped our pride and joy arrives in UK OK !

An aside. I wondered if the loaders of the planes are as committed to balancing weight as us with the bike. Seen some bikes with the most ridiculous amount of luggage badly placed while here. Wonder if some loaders better than other. Imagine the pilot fighting with the controls all way to UK with a “Bleeding ‘eck Miguel’s been loading again”.

We are definitely “Leaving on a jet plane”, but there is the question “Don’t know when we’ll be back again” See you in the UK !

Posted by Simon McCarthy at April 28, 2006 09:00 PM GMT

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