Day 88 – Santiago to Los Andes

Theoretically, the bikes should have been done yesterday afternoon. We’d also been keeping an eye on the package from RevZilla, and it looked like it arrived yesterday afternoon. So we were looking forward to getting to the BMW dealer, picking up the bikes and the package, and then heading for Argentina.

The day did not go as planned.

We emailed BMW first thing in the morning (7:30am, and they open at 8) and waited for a reply while we showered, packed our panniers and had breakfast. Nothing by around 9:30, so we decided to load some money onto a Skype account and call them. We spent a while futzing around with trying to find Kay’s user name and password, which he’s forgotten, and the reminder email didn’t seem to come through. So I got my laptop back out, fired it up, added money and prepared to make calls.

First, I called BMW. The woman who answered was the receptionist who speaks some English, and I wanted to confirm that our bikes were ready. She said no, they’re about to start working on our bikes and they should be ready by 5:30PM. WTF??? When we dropped them off on Wednesday, they told us they’d be ready by Thursday (yesterday) at 3PM. So why a day plus late now? Instead of arguing, I just asked about the package. That seemed to jog her memory. “You’re the ones with the ses sequenta bikes?” “Yes, that’s us.” “The yellow one and the black one?” “Yes.” “Oh, yes, those bikes are ready.”

Agh! Ok. Good. Bikes are ready. Package? Not there, she says, but she can call the other office and ask. I explain to her that we’ve got the tracking info and the package was delivered yesterday evening, and she promises to make the call to check on it. But we’re still not communicating the best, so I thank her and hang up instead of trying to get more info from her about the package.

Kay and I don’t trust the package thing, so we call USPS to confirm that the package was successfully delivered to the address specified. The tracking info on the USPS website indicates that it was delivered, but it lists a different neighborhood than where it should have been sent. So I ask Kay to make this call, and he discovers that FedEx also has tracking info for the package (as FedEx takes over for it at some point along the day) and the FedEx tracking info is correct and comprehensive. But he confirms with the woman on the phone that it was delivered the address on the package, and we’ve confirmed with the woman at the BMW dealer that the address matches one of their locations (although not the one where motos are repaired) so we’re confident the package is there.

So finally we’re free to pack up and head to the BMW dealer. Which we do, after having the hotel call a taxi for us, waiting a while for it and then another lengthy cab ride back. Interestingly, though, this cab ride only cost us like $13, compared to the $20 of the cab ride from the dealer to the hotel. Bonus less cost?

At the BMW dealer, the bikes are sitting out front ready to go. The receptionist offers to go over the paperwork with us to explain the costs, and then we’ll pay. She does, and Kay and I exchange glances (and cringe) when we get to the price. $300 for his bike, and close to $400 for mine. YIKES! This is by far the most expensive labor we’ve paid anywhere on the trip, and we can’t understand how this visit has turned into a $700 visit. But we pay and make nice, and start to load up the bikes.

Where I notice that Kay’s taillight cover has busted. The ever-loving taillight cover that’s been replaced now when the first one came off. This time, the screws were still in the taillight assembly, and pieces of the cover were broken off on the screws. We went in to ask about it, the receptionist who speaks English came out, looked at it and then vanished back to the service area for a while. When she came back, she made an excuse (I think it must have come off when the washing guys were washing the bike, because we don’t have any pieces of it anywhere) but they’d fix it for us. She says they would have noted when they did the service that it was broken if it had been broken when we brought it in, and they didn’t, so it must have happened on their watch. At least there’s that.

So we go inside and sit with the iPad while they set about to fixing Kay’s taillight. At one point, they come in with a stock taillight cover and they seem to have completely taken off Kay’s taillight assembly (undoing the wiring), and they start talking to the receptionist. A minute later, she comes over and explains that the part isn’t original. Duh! We could have told them that. I don’t know why they had to take the whole damn taillight assembly off to figure that out. She says that they don’t have the part to fix it since it’s not original, but they’ll send someone to buy the right part and make good for us. It’s irritating, but at least they’re dealing with it, so we go back to chilling.

Shortly after this exchange, we ask about the package again. She makes another call, then tells us that they don’t have the package. We confirm for her that it was delivered at 5:28PM yesterday, show her the mailing address where it went, and tell her that the name of the person who signed for the package was “ROJAS.” We have the tracking number, and we offer it to her so she can look it up, but she doesn’t seem interested – she tells us there’s a public computer we can use to look it up if we want, and then goes back to her phone call.

Kay goes over to use the computer, and runs into Simon. He’s an adventure rider from Montreal here on an F800GS, and unfortunately for him, his suspension has given out. He’s just been told that it’s going to take 15 days to get the parts and his trip is on hold for a bit. We feel bad for him, and chat for a while as we wait for them to fix Kay’s taillight.

[url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/corporaterunaways/5510294765/][img]http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5051/5510294765_0e951baf86.jpg[/img][/url]
[url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/corporaterunaways/5510294765/]Simon[/url]

Things drag on. At around 1PM, the receptionist tells us that the person who probably signed for the package yesterday evening won’t be in the office until 2PM, and they can’t find the package, so they’ll have to wait for that person to come in and ask what they did with it. We’re getting very hungry, so I go out to see if there’s any food nearby while Kay chats with Simon some more. The only thing I see is a gas station down the street, so I tell Kay and take his order for gas station food.

Quick trip to the gas station and then back with some ready-made sandwiches, chips and drinks. We nom while Simon wanders around, talking with the BMW guys and us intermittently. Eventually we finish our meal, and he seems to have his business finished, so he says goodbye and heads off to his hostel for the weekend. In the meantime, 2pm has come and gone, but the receptionist has vanished and we don’t know who else to ask about the package. And Kay’s bike *still* isn’t ready, anyway, so we watch some more TV on the iPad.

At around 3:30, the receptionist comes back… and Kay’s bike is finished. Yay! We ask about the package again, she makes another call and says they still don’t know where it is. Only one package came in yesterday and it went to a guy there at the dealer, so they’ll have to check with him to see if it’s my package. Someone will call back.

At this point, we’ve been sitting here since like 11AM and we just want to be gone. Kay suggests that he ride over to the other location she keeps calling, thinking that being there in person might be more effective, while I wait here for news. Sounds like a decent plan to me, too, so he goes to load up his bike, and I decide to load mine up, too, so I’m ready to go whenever we can actually leave. He goes back in to confirm directions to the other BMW location, and comes out to report “I think we should both go, because it’s kinda far away, and she gave me the name of the guy who got our original email about the package anyway. He’s at that location.”

So we both go, which I prefer, anyway, because I don’t like it when Kay goes off without me. I worry about him. Shortly before 4PM, we’re on the road to the other BMW dealer where we can *hopefully* get my package from RevZilla and get the hell on the road.

On the way to the other BMW dealer, Kay says over the headset “my gas light just came on.” Hmm, that’s weird, I think – I’m pretty sure we’re not due for gas. But we’re passing a gas station and Kay wants to go in and fill up, and we could use gas eventually anyway, so we do. When I go to reset the trip meter (which is how we keep track of our gas – every 120-160 miles we start looking for another gas station) and find we’ve only gone 89 miles since our last fill up. No way in hell should his gas light have come on. I tell him that, which he thinks is strange… and when we start the bikes to head off, his gas light is still on. Yikes!

We find the other BMW location without much trouble, go inside and ask the receptionist for the guy who’s name we have. She asks our names, and Kay tells her, and then says “una packeta” which is apparently enough to jog her memory – “Ahh,” she says with a knowing air. She tells us to sit down (all of this is in Spanish – she may or may not speak English, but we’ve addressed her successfully enough so far in Spanish so that’s how the exchange is being handled) and we do. Just a few minutes later, she walks over with an open box. Eureka! It’s my package from RevZilla! I pull out the contents and it’s a jacket and controller – just what I was expecting. It’s open, so I don’t know if there was anything else in the box (like paperwork or anything), but this is the important stuff anyway.

Apparently there was a customs fee, which they paid, so she shows us the paperwork with the fee, asks for a copy of one of our IDs (Kay hands over his passport), asks us to sign off on this book that we’ve received a package, Kay goes to pay the customs fee (which turns out to be around $60 US) and then we think we’re done. Just as we’re about to head out, she asks him to sign and write on a piece of paper (the copy of his passport, with a “received” stamp on it) and says to us it’s ok if it’s in English (in Spanish) so Kay writes “Received,” date and name, and then signs it.

And we’re done!

There was a surprising amount of paperwork involved, but it took very little time and was all totally reasonable. Unlike all of the stupid phone calls all day from the other BMW office that never seemed to yield any results. Coming here in person was absolutely the right call.

When we head back out to the bikes, Kay says he’d like to head back to the motorcycle service center to ask about his gas light. He’s worried that it’s related to the fuel pump, and the last thing we need is some sort of problem with that in Argentina, where there isn’t a single BMW dealer. Also, it’s suspicious that it’s come on right after a service – a service where they broke his taillight cover. So back to the other BMW location for the motorcycle service…

Kay’s note: the fuel gauge and the fuel pump are in the same assembly and I’m not sure if it being on will trigger anything else to happen. For example. My bike can be in neutral, without the neutral light on. It’ll stall the engine if i put out the kickstand in that state. Is there a circumstance under which the fuel pump will turn off when the fuel sensor is whacked? I dunno, and don’t want to find out the hard way.

…and on the way, I notice that his brake light isn’t working properly. It’s constantly on. It’s supposed to have a dim setting that serves as a regular taillight, and then it’s supposed to get bright when he hits the brake. But it’s staying constantly bright when he’s nowhere near the brake. We assume this is something that BMW has done, since they removed the *entire* taillight assembly before, including disconnecting the wires that the guys in Colombia had set up for us. They had the same problem in Colombia, but when they changed the wires around, it worked properly. So we figure BMW has probably got the connections backwards, and it should work just fine once we get that fixed.

So we pull up to the motorcycle service again, and Kay goes inside to alert them of his problems. At this point it’s around 4:40PM and we know they close for the night at 6PM, and will be closed all weekend. I’m concerned that they won’t be able to get to him, but annoyed that they broke it so willing to see what happens. The guys inside go to fetch the receptionist who speaks English, and she translates as we explain the problems with the gas light and the brake light. They try to make some excuses, Kay negates them and they take the bike back again. Back to the couch for some reading, this time.

At around 5:15, they come inside and talk to the receptionist, who comes over and explains that the problem isn’t with the connections – it’s a more serious electrical fault. It might be in the relay somewhere, it might be a connection somewhere in the wire harness – but BMW has determined that it’s definitely not the connection at the brake light. Overall, it could be nothing but it could also be a serious electrical problem manifesting for the first time. Since we’re traveling a big distance, they’d like to work on the bike and have it for us sometime tomorrow.

Kay’s note: I’m still thinking that yes the connections are fine at the light but that they’ve just got two wires switched. Not going to deal with it tonight.

Neither of us wants to stay in Santiago for another night, but at this point, it’s already after 5pm. We don’t want to end up in Argentina with some undiagnosed electrical problem, and who knows what else could go wrong if it’s a problem in the relay. So we agree to have them work on it tomorrow, thinking they’re coming in for us because we’re traveling, etc. Kay looks up the info for the hostel where we’ve stayed the last couple of nights, and asks the receptionist to call and see if they have a room available for the night. “Only one night?” she asks, and we confirm. They do have a room, so Kay goes and gets his panniers off the bike and we prepare to head back to the hostel for another night.

A couple of minutes later, Kay comes back inside and the receptionist walks over to us. “I made a mistake,” she says. “I said tomorrow, but we won’t be able to work on the bike tomorrow because we close for the weekend. It will be Monday.” Kay and I look at each other. Monday would mean 3 more nights in Santiago, in expensive hotels, eating expensive food, not making any forward progress… plus whatever BMW would charge for the service. And we’ve just paid $700 for service, plus too much for hotels, etc.

Eff that. Neither of us wants to ride off on a bike that might have electrical problems, but at this point, we also can’t afford to spend another $500-1000 in Santiago, and spend that many more days here. So we agree to take our chances and tell her to call the hostel back and cancel our reservation – we want to leave. She does. We wait for Kay’s bike.

And wait.

And wait.

They close at 6PM. At around 6:10PM, the guy walks up and hands me the keys to Kay’s bike. The receptionist comes over and says that they were concerned about us riding off on a bike that may have electrical problems, so they spent some extra time checking out the relay and electrical connections. She confirms that the bike isn’t fixed, but the problem is *just* with the brake light and/or gas light. Not the electrical relay or whatever else.

I thank her, while thinking “WTF?!?!” and we get the bikes loaded up and get away as quickly as possible. These guys may be perfectly good service people – it may be just a series of coincidences – but they seem to keep fucking up Kay’s bike in a suspicious manner and neither of us wants to be here any longer. So at around 6:20PM, we’re loaded up on the bikes and heading out of Santiago. We don’t care how far we get – we just don’t want to deal, and want to get out of the city and away from the BMW dealer as quickly as possible.

On the road we head west toward Route 5 and then north as quickly as possible. We get on a road that’s more direct, heading to Los Andes and then turning east toward Mendoza in Argentina. That’s our route for tomorrow, but for tonight, we just want to find something to eat and someplace to stay. We’d both be happy to camp but we’re starving and need to eat beforehand, and it’s too late to eat and have much light left. So we’ll probably end up getting a hotel in Los Andes.

We see a hotel and restaurant by the side of the road, get off and turn around… only to discover that it’s a “five star pet hotel.” Hah. Not for us. And the restaurant next door looks deserted. Back to the highway, and in a bit more, we reach a bypass for Mendoza or a turn into Los Andes. Los Andes it is… and not too far after the turn-off, Kay spots a bit “Motel” sign. Yay! We pull in… and it’s a kiss-no-tell motel! Double yay!

We pull into number 22, since that’s my birthday, and Kay checks out the room. Seems perfectly nice, but no idea about the rates. He wanders off to find someone, negotiates a really cheap rate for the entire night ($14 – the cheapest we’ve paid in Chile!) and it includes breakfast. Score! Oh, wait, the guy misspoke when trying to accommodate us with English. It’s 14… thousand pesos. About $28 US. Kay pays, and then rides off to find us dinner while I work on writing up the last couple of days.

More time than expected later, Kay returns with dinner. Apparently Los Andes, or at least the part where we find ourselves, is a teeny city with not much. He had a very hard time finding an open restaurant, and when he did, all he could find was empanadas. I like empanadas ok as an appetizer or with a meal… but I can only eat so much of them, and an entire meal of them seems daunting. We dig in, and it’s as daunting as it seems. I can only eat two before having to give up (Kay’s gotten us four each). Yet another lame meal. We haven’t had a good meal since the lunch we had two days ago at the expensive restaurant. I daydream about that steak.

Kay’s note: I got three flavors. One was quite tasty, one mediocre, and one neither of us liked much. I think empanadas make a good meal. Dachary disagrees. While waiting for them to warm I had a great conversation with the guy and he ended up offering for Dachary and I to stay in his house for free. Sweet guy. Very patient with my bad spanish. But, we’d already payed for the room and I’d rather it than with a total stranger who wasn’t a motorcycle geek.

Kiss-no-tell motels, though? We highly recommend. They’re really growing on us. No hassle, usually pretty clean and decent amenities, plus the bikes are safe and secure. So if you’re traveling, they’re not a bad place to stay.

Kay’s note (to the end): the cost for the bikes is almost entirely labor. We supplied the sprockets so those were free. The gasket, oil, cleaning solution, were fairly inexpensive. We did buy two replacement mirror screw things (since we’ve already goon through two) which cost about $60 but… $100 per bike to put on the sprockets! We’d have done it ourselves if we’d had a clue about the price, and a wrench big enough to do the nut on the front one. As Dachary says “For $200 we could have bought a damn wrench.”

Also, remember how I said labor is cheap in Latin America? Yeah, not in fucking Chile.

I don’t mind that the receptionist woman made a mistake and didn’t realize it was friday, but I was pissed about how she treated it as if it were a total non-issue for us to stay in town for another three days. Even if you ignore the price you should never assume that waylaying someone in a town for three days is a non-issue.

Also, I’m pissed about the effing package. First off, they get a package they don’t seem to have a clue about. Second off they have to pay $60 in customs fees for it. Third off they open it up and find shit that no-one there has a clue about the contents. Doesn’t that kinda thing stand out? I’d expect a “oh THAT package… we wondered what that was.” kind of response. But no. Hours and hours of “dunno what you’re talking about.” Arrgh!

Dachary and I were totally looking forward to that package. The guys from RevZilla had gone out of their way to get it to us. We were going to do an “Unboxing video” and everything, but the day had been one long frustration after another, and when we finally did get it all we wanted to do was get the hell out of Santiago. But first we had to go back and deal with the low fuel indicator… ugh…

Some people don’t get why we don’t spend time wandering around these cities. It’s one of the primary goals of their trips. But, we get lost driving in them, spend too much money staying in them, always have trouble escaping them (although usually not because of the roads), and generally find that…. they’re … cities. We prefer the countryside, the beautiful scenery, the small towns with nice people who aren’t all caught up with the hustle and bustle of city life.

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