March 15, 2005 GMT
Ele Vantarse

I knew it was all going far too smoothly.

When I collected the battery yesterday afternoon I said "It's too big" and they said "No, it's the right one" so I thought I must be mistaken.

This morning Mario picked me up at 9 and we went to the airport. Warehouse office first to get the Airway Bill ($10); Customs to have bike verified (checking frame and engine numbers); on to the airport circular bus to go to the Customs office on the airside of International Arrivals (not much Security apart from two sniffer dogs having a go at the entire luggage of a couple of elderly nuns) to obtain the temporary import permit (they use the carnet merely as a cribsheet); back to the warehouse to pay for the dangerous cargo/storage/etc. stuff (35,000 pesos); and there's the bike.

So, they ripped off the packaging and dismantled the crate and I proceeded to reassemble a la Haynes, having despatched Mario to collect fuel and oil. He arrived back bearing these items and the battery, which, of course, is too big. Phoned Alejandro at the BMW dealer and reaffirmed by belief in the oversizeness of the battery, gave him the chassis number, and he said he´d double-check for me and ring back. He didn´t, so after half an hour I tried to phone Alejandro and every other number I had for the dealer but all numbers resulted in some sort of recorded message. Heigh-ho. But I managed to improve the shining hour by using my jump leads to connect the battery to the bike anyway so I could use my little 12v compressor to reinflate the tyres.

Eventually we all gave up, and a very helpful supervisor type called Pablo produced an English-speaking sidekick called Francisco, and between us we arranged that I would leave the bike there at no charge and they´d lock the luggage and stuff in the secure cage (which they insisted I inspect), and return tomorrow with the correct battery.

So, off we went back to the other side of Santiago. On the way I had a totally brilliant idea and rang John, who has an identical bike and was on his way home from work. So when he got home he texted the exact dimensions of his battery to me. Hurrah, I was right, it's 7.5cm wide, not 12cm. And as I walked into the dealer they solemnly pointed at a battery of the correct size sitting on the reception desk. Phew. They didn´t argue, and I just paid the balance - it's more expensive because a) it's smaller, and b) it's one of those nice gel ones with no
maintenance and that you can turn upside down (which is sensible if you're me). So they're charging it overnight, and tomorrow Mario will collect me at 9 again and we'll do our lovely circular tour of Santiago again.

Incidentally, Mario was astounded that at no time did anyone demand any dosh from me except the perfectly legitimate and properly invoiced shipping charges. Although he was also pretty astounded by the labyrinthine procedure, which I assured him was par for the course.

Oh, and the subject line. It appears to be the name of a menswear shop just around the corner.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at March 15, 2005 09:20 PM GMT

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