Day 113 – Buenos Aires

Day 113 – Buenos Aires

Today was an unexpected punch in the emotional gut.

Javier had no space left in the shop to store any more bikes and wasn’t comfortable with storing ours in the enclosed back yard until space opened up. I think he, reasonably, didn’t want to be responsible if someone climbed the wall and stole bits off of them. We’d be happy to sign something saying we’re ok with that possibility, but people sign shit like that all the time and then get pissed when it actually happens, so I can’t blame him.

We had two options left: deal with the other guy in Buenos Aires whom Javier wasn’t so sure about the quality / safety of the storage, or head to Uruguay to meet up with one of the places Javier could recommend there. There problem there is that we’d probably spend a day getting there, spend the night, and then have to figure out and pay for the transportation to get back to Dakar Motos, or figure out another cheap place for us to stay until the flight.

We booted up Skype and called the local guy. He’s an expat named Ed and the number on the web site is his cell phone. Yes, he said, he had space, but he’s flying to Spain tomorrow so if we wanted to arrange it we’d have to do it today, so we agreed to meet at 4PM.

It would take us about an hour to get there, and as three o’clock approached we were increasingly unhappy about it. We didn’t want to leave the bikes. We didn’t want to leave them in some anonymous parking garage, and we didn’t want to leave them with someone we knew nothing about.

The ride there was not happy, but it was at least a lot less stressy thanks to David converting the OSM maps for Buenos Aires to Mac format for us* before we left. Routable city maps! What a luxury!

We get to the parking garage maybe fifteen minutes early and Ed’s not there yet. The attendant is very confused as to what to do with us because we say we need to talk to Ed at 4 but Ed isn’t here. In order to make the situation less awkward I decide to spend the $6, or whatever it’ll cost, to attempt to call Ed on our cell phone. As with our attempt to call BMW when my moto was overheating in Costa Rica we failed miserably. We know the country code and all that. We just can’t call anyone on this. We’ve paid nearly $100 US per mo for the ability to make calls internationally at an outrageous per-minute fee, and have been completely unable to use it. I don’t know if AT&T is to blame or our own ignorance, but I don’t know that it matters because the end result is the same.

Anyway, I’m standing on the sidewalk attempting to make a call, and failing, when I see a woman walking towards me texting someone. I call to her, and in my poor Spanish explain that my phone isn’t working, but could she please call this local number for me?

She’s a little suspicious, but it’s pretty clear that I’m a confused foreigner and she takes pity on me, calls, and hands me the phone. Ed’s on his way on a bus. He’ll be here in about ten minutes. I thank the woman, and tell the security guard. And then we begin the real waiting. And it hurts. It’s massively depressing. Yesterday I was unhappy about leaving them in an unknown place, but thinking it would be not much bigger of a deal than leaving them in any other parking lot for the night.

No. Not at all. We’re like those parents sending their kids off to live with their ex for a year; heartbroken, not wanting to let them go, not wanting to leave them, upset that we’ve managed to get ourselves into this situation.

Ed comes with a big smile and a warm handshake. He shows us the space and the bikes he’s currently storing in one of the other spaces he owns in this private garage. Two of the bikes are his and his wife’s. He tells us about some of the overland riding he’s done in years past. How he’s worked in and with the Peace Corps for years. He seems a genuinely nice guy.

He brings us back down to his wife outside and says “These are good people.” and we start figuring out how exactly we’ll handle paying him monthly (thank goodness we don’t have to pay it all up front) and things like that. He needs to arrange with the person who’s currently parking in that spot to use another spot somewhere and can’t quite get it arranged so that we can leave them right then, but tomorrow morning we can come back and drop them off at 11 in the morning. We’ve told him earlier that Javier is squashed for space and that’s why we can’t leave them at Dakar and he’s trying to figure out where he can stick our bikes overnight until we can put them in the real space, but we assure him that coming back tomorrow is fine.

We start riding back and Dachary is upset about not being able to leave them, and having to come back again, but I contend that it’s not Ed’s fault. There was some miscommunication earlier and we suggested that we wanted to leave them later in the week, and he didn’t want to start moving other tenants until we were sure we really wanted the space.

But, we make it back to Dakar Motos, and feel we’ve had a minor reprieve. We have the bikes for one more day, but we’re still not happy. We do feel much better about the space. It’s not optimal like storing them at Dakar would be, but it’s not bad at all, and after meeting him, and learning that he’s storing his own bikes there does make us feel more confident about their safety, but still… our kids… Leaving them at Dakar would be more like leaving them with a grandparent. This is… I don’t know… solitary confinement at a boarding school?

The Stickers

We spend the rest of the evening chatting with David more telling him we absolutely owe him a beer for converting that map for him, and I’m quite happy when he asks if he can buy my fire extinguisher since one of the frequent scams you hear about from corrupt cops in South America is trying to get a bribe for not having a fire extinguisher or a hazard triangle, neither of which is required.

I, of course, absolutely refuse to take payment for it. I probably would have chucked it in the trash anyway. He says we’re even for the beer. It’s a generosity stalemate. I try and foist some of the other crap we’re going to abandon here for future riders, or trash if there’s nowhere to stash it here but he’s not having it. He’s trying to get rid of shit not acquire it. Damn!

There’s been a bunch of discussion on our ADVRider thread about the decision to store the bikes. Lots of suggestions of alternate ways to address the situation. I thought I’d take a minute to give an idea of why we’re doing this.

Shipping each bike back to the US by plane is going to cost roughly $1,600. Doing it by boat would be cheaper up front, but the port fees at the destination port (Boston) are literally unpredictable and almost always end up bringing the price up to the same point as using a plane, plus you have the uncertainty of how long it will take to get there (You can NEVER trust any time estimates related to cargo ships) and you have to deal with all the Port Authority bureaucracy and payments (same situation everywhere in the world) to extricate them from the docks when they do finally show up.

On top of that cost we’ve discovered that you can’t legally assign someone to be your agent and ship them out for you. So, we’ll have to fly back simply to be physically present when we shove them on a plane for home. We can get tickets for about $1,500 each if we book in advance.

Grand total $6,200.

Now, why not sell them? Because you can’t actually do that; not, without fucking over the buyer. A local could buy it but it’d take them forever and big money to get it into the local system. I’ve also heard something about Argentina not allowing people to permanently import used vehicles, but I don’t know if that’s true or not. I think not. Also, doing it locally requires a) Spanish b) time c) a phone number for people to call, and c) a place for someone to come look at the bike. We don’t have the first three and the having people come to check out shit in Javier’s shop would be obnoxious and simply wrong considering the amount of effort they’ve gone to to not advertise the presence of motos, especially pricey ones, on this residential street.

Selling them to a US citizen would be trivial, but when they attempted to drive them over the border they’d be fucked. Argentina is computerizing their systems, so simply forging an import document isn’t enough. It would bring up a different owner in their system. The only somewhat reasonable way to do it is to sell it, fly down and meet the new owner, go to the border with them, check it out of Argentina and have them check it into the next country. This is obviously silly unless you’re selling it to a close friend, and still requires flying back, and generally just a pain in the ass.

Someone has suggested breaking them down into pieces and shipping them back as parts instead of bikes. This would most likely drop the shipping cost but you’d have to take it to customs in one piece, check it out of the country. Then bring it back in illegally, have somewhere you can break it down into little pieces, and something to put all those pieces in, then get those pieces to the boat / plane. Massive pain in the ass and requires time.

We can’t sell them as parts locally, because we still need to check the bike out of the country and the bike needs to be present to do that, and like selling the bike, you need Spanish, Time, and space to actually complete the sale.

Really, there’s only one option that avoids the costs and that’s having them “accidentally” get “stolen” and reporting it. If they’re “accidentally” “stolen” in the bottom of a remote and desolate canyon you can be reasonably sure they won’t show up and have to be dealt with in the future.

But, that leaves you without a bike back home. We like our bikes. Even if you ignore the emotional attachment what would it cost to replace them? Well, we spent about $8,500 to buy both bikes. We probably spent another $1,500 to $2,000 per bike to kit them out. And, if we had it to do again we wouldn’t buy another 8 year old bike, so the cost for the replacing the bikes with similar used models would be more like $10,500. Grand total? Approximately $14,500.

So, our options are $6,000 to get the bikes we know really well back home (plus $150 per mo for storage until we get the funds) or $14,000 to acquire replacements. Our plane goes out on Saturday, and everything else requires more time and more Spanish to arrange than we have.

Someone suggested cashing in the plane tickets and riding back north. Even if we could arrange someone to watch our beasts for another 2 months or so to get there there’s no way we could make it back home on $3,000. Also, we’d get evicted from our Aptartment and our shit would probably be on the street, or sold, or whatever to cover the remaining months on the lease.

You see, we *really* have no money. When we get home we won’t be able to afford April’s rent, food will be purchased based on price, not desire. I will be desperately trying to get re-employed, and Dachary will be trolling e-lance for any writing assignment she can find that isn’t paying hourly rates that would only fly in the 3rd world.

We *should* have had money, but the stocks tanked and we lost $20 a share during the trip (should have sold at the start when we knew the price was already good). But, we knew this was a possibility. Honestly, I’m happy we were able to make it to Ushuaia and still afford plane tickets home. Taking an adventure like this is always a risk. Going broke was one risk we consciously accepted at the start of this.

Also, some people have suggested loading up credit cards, but we don’t have those. Or rather, we do, but we don’t have any available funds. Dachary’s got maybe $500 available between several credit cards, and mine is closed and I’m just paying it off. So charging roughly $3,200 simply isn’t possible, and I think I’ve read that the shipping people here require cash, anyway.

Dachary’s note: when we got back from checking out the storage with Ed, we told David how surprised we were that potentially dropping off the bikes was so sad. I think it caught both Kay and I by surprise, as we’d known this is how it would be for a while, and we were both excited to be going home now. But leaving the bikes was much more difficult than we’d expected. David joked that it was because the trip was over, and now we were going home – we’re not travelers anymore.

I know he meant it in good fun, but until your trip is over – actually over – it doesn’t sink in how much it can hurt to leave your bikes. I maintain that it wouldn’t be as bad if we were bringing the bikes home, because then we’d be reunited with them on the other end in a few days and at least we’d be able to ride them around New England. But now, we’re going from riding daily for 4 months to not even seeing our bikes again for probably 5 or 6 months… and it hurts. I don’t think David realized how much when he was joking around about our trip ending.

* Garmin is, in general, great, but they’ve done one very stupid thing. The Windows and Mac software use different map formats and essentially all the available maps are in Windows format, which would be fine, but the only software that will convert them to the Mac format only runs on Windows. So, Mac users have to beg the help of Windows people whenever they want / need a new map. It makes no sense, because on top of that, Windows people have no need of a tool to convert to Mac format since they have Windows.

About Kay

An old-school geek, addicted to travel, with a love of programming, writing, Esperanto, and starting businesses. -- @masukomi on Twitter.

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