At last, the long wait for the ‘Baron’ is coming to an end. A call to Ana Maria at ILS in Santiago gets good news. Our bike arrived in Valparaiso on October 31st on board the Monte Pascoal. It’s now the 2nd of November but it takes time to unload a ship and ours arrived on a long weekend! We are told that the bike might be available to us after 3.30pm today – We have all the necessary paperwork on our hands for customs – so we think.
We arrange for a driver and head off to customs at the Port. Sergio (our non-English speaking driver) is a lovely man and VERY patient. I walk into the wrong building and am confronted by young sailors carrying guns – oops, it’s the Naval base HQ! They direct me to the customs building on the other side of the plaza. We hand over our paperwork – there is much head scratching and the papers disappear into a back office. 30 minutes later we are told we need other paperwork and are directed to an office in town – Sergio obliges and double parks as we find a non-descript office on the 11th floor where a man looks over our bill of lading, scribbles some adjustments and furiously stamps it.
It is getting late and we know the freight yard, where our bike is closes at 5.30pm. We are told we must go there and have them verify that the motorcycle is present! Okay – Sergio drives us the 15 kilometres out of town to TLX freight yard. There we find Andrea, the receptionist to the ‘Director Alfredo’ – She speaks excellent English has a bubbly personality and is only too happy to help us. Her opening words are – “Welcome to Chile – the world’s biggest bureaucracy – we have paperwork for everything!” Yet another piece of paper arrives verifying that the red baron is in there somewhere. Andrea talks to Sergio about what else we need to do – tomorrow.
The nest morning Sergio is ready to roll early – we head straight back to the Port area of Valparaiso but to yet another customs office where we produce all the papers, our visas – and the Carne de passage – which states Chile accepts but clearly Chilean customs do not recognise. A Temporary vehicle import permit is hand typed on an old fashioned type writer – hard single finger typing to imprint the 5 or 6 copies! Viola – we have it – now for the drive back to the TLX freight yard.
Andrea is waiting for us with hard hats and lime green high visibility vests. A quick photo with “Team RIX” – Sergio, Andrea and yours truly – and we head into the freight yard.
There it is. Much to our delight, the crate is intact on a fork lift. Yet another inspection by a customs official and the baron is put outside in the blazing sun.
Shirl and I slowly but surely put the baron back together, much to the amusement of the assembled truck drivers and yard workers. Three hours later, and after a few hiccups, and sunburn – and about $US 650 lighter we ride out into the Chilean traffic.
We head straight for the Melbourne Café and enjoy lunch with Jorge and yet another great cup of coffee. Jorge, his best friend and business partner Daniel and Jorge’s wife Daphne invite us out for dinner tomorrow night.
We take a ride along the coast road and then back to Hotel O’Higgins to celebrate our reunion with the Red Baron. Sergio is there and poses with the “moto” he helped the crazy Australians get on the road. A good day with only one ‘oops’ as we found ourselves going the wrong way down a one way street – and facing three lanes of traffic!
Friday morning we do a shakedown ride to Isla Negra – about 260 Kay round trip. Isla Negra is not an island but the name of the house built by noted Nobel laureate, poet and esteemed Chilean civic leader Pablo Neruda. The house is built overlooking the expanse of the Pacific Ocean and is full of Neruda collections. Over a lifetime he collected all manner of things – Insects – bottles, ship bow sprits – including the one from the Marie Celeste (or a replica) – our Spanish is not good enough to determine which.
After a great ride through the Chilean countryside we meet up with Jorge, Daphne and Daniel – The Melbourne Café crew and they take us to a top restaurant in the hills overlooking the lights of Valparaiso and Vina Del Mar. Chilean hospitality is second to none.
We pack down into the pannier bags and are now ready to hit the road – next stop Mendoza – Argentina.