Bike shipping to Ecuador

For our trip we have planned to start in Ecuador. After the trip I can say a great choice.

Now how did we get the bikes there, what were the problems, what the choices.

We decided to airfreight. To Ecuador by boat is really difficult and not cheaper when summing all up. I did quite some research on that. Here are the main reasons why we think airfreighting is better:

  • Shipping procedure super easy from home
  • Crate the bikes at home and have them picked up at your house
  • You know the exact date and time when they arrive (by boat that can be +/-2weeks)
  • Picking up the bike done in 1 day (boat: up to 1 week not unusual in Ecuador)
  • Picking up is really relaxed and no nightmare (boat: running around a huge port with papers you don’t understand and don’t know where to go next)
  • Bikes are safe

So we airfreighted. We used intime from Hamburg/Germany. A good solution. Olaf, the expert there for bike shipping helped us to get everything sorted out with very little effort from our side. We crated the bikes in boxes ourself which was the biggest trouble.

The costs:

The overall cost for shipping the bikes from Munich to Quito were:

  • Shipping F650GSDakar: 2425 Euro
  • Shipping G650GS: 2321 Euro
  • Transport Insurance (both bikes): 320 Euros
  • Pickup of the bikes from our house by truck: 275 Euros.
  • Crates for the bikes: approx 250 Euros each
  • Shipping paper in Quito: 18$
  • Customs in Quito 210$ for both bikes.

So to sum it all up: 5784 Euros for two bikes. You could have safed easily 500 Euros by taking the front wheels off, but i think it is worth to have as little to work on the bikes as possible once to get them out of customs.

Olaf told us though that this price can change a lot from year to year, so it might be cheaper or more expensive in the meantime.

Crating the bikes:

That was quite some work. Well, I am an engineer, and I was overdoing it a little bit. You may have used them as anti-tank obstacles as well, but i wanted to be on the safe side.

You cant use normal wood to crate the bikes. You either need specially treated wood (so that there are no bugs in the wood) or you use simply plywood, which is treated anyway and surely has no bugs. This means you need to make posts out of planks that you screw together though. You have to disconnect the batteries ( I secured the cables and batterie poles with plastic tape so they would not accidently re-connect with vibrations) and get the fuel out of the tanks.

Here are some pictures:

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The crates have been picked up, we got our gear together and flew to Quito. After our bike arrived (we planned it so that we would have one week without the bikes to relax and enjoy the city) we picked it up. Super simple if you know where to go (which WE didn’t but you will after you read this through.

Get the bikes out of customs:

Here is an overview of the different locations at Quito Airport.

Airport Quito

  1. Get the SOAT (see below); you may get it later  as well, but you have less trouble and discussions with the customs.
  2. Go to Cargo Area (there are signs at the roundabout)
  3. Go to your forwarder ( e.g. Iberia, Lufthansa Cargo…)
  4. You have to pay a fee there (for 2 motorbikes it was 18$ for us; cash only) and receive the shipping papers.
  5. Go to Customs
  6. 6. At the receipton there show your papers (you need passports, shipping papers, registration, SOAT)
  7. Be ready to wait … read a book
  8. They bring you to the crates and so you have to open them (bring the tools with you, there are no tools there!)
  9. They check the chassis and engine number (we always said this motorbike does not have a engine number “its the same like the chassis number”)
  10. After that be ready to wait some more (read another book)
  11. You have to pay customs (for us 210$ for both bikes) Have it cash! No ATM at customs, only at airport and you need a taxi to get there.
  12. Take your bike out. We asked the workers there if they would like the crates.
  13. You have to roll it out of customs. In the front there is a parking where you can work on the bike, but you are not allowed to work on the bike within customs.
  14. Connect batteries, fill up gas with a canister you brought.
  15. When leaving customs, the sign tells you to go left to Quito. Thats a really small steep , bad and very busy road. Take a right instead, pass the airport, and enjoy the ride into Quito on a new large and broad road.

It took us a whole day to get the bikes out, but mainly because we ran from airport to customs to cargo area because we did not know the procedure described above. Don’t expect european effectiveness though. Be patient and relax. Your trip is just about to start :-))

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In front of customs filling up the bikes and reconnect batteries.

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Get the SOAT:

Even if you have an international insurance you need to get the local insurance. It is very cheap and required. You need to have it BEFORE you get your bikes from customs. We did not know that and discussed with customs quite a bit before we were allowed to get our bikes from the airport.

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It is cheap, required and (when knowing where to go to) a matter of minutes to get it. So here is how to get it:

  1. DON’T try to get it any other place than the one describet. A lot of places say they do it, but after waiting 15 minutes they find out that this is only for renewals (=locals) and that they can not help you.
  2. Go to QBE Seguros Colonial
  3. Adress: Av. Eloy Alfaro N40-270 y José Queri PBX
  4. Tel: (593)3989800 /(593)3989700
  5. Bring your passport, driving licence and registration of the bike. Also bring the paper that you get when entereing the country. It will say how long you are allowed to stay.
  6. There are different options you can choose from: 1 month, 3 months, 6 months , 1 year. We paid 6,85$ for 1 month and 2 bikes
  7. The whole procedure took no longer than 10 minutes.

The last stretch…

Azul – Buenos Aires

We said good bye to our new friend Pollo and left the LaPosta around noon. It was boiling hot and the road to Buenos Aires was somehow unremarkable. This would be the last part of our incredible trip. Sadness slowly crawled upon us.

With the carneval going on the roads were surprisingly empty. Later we learned that the whole city goes to the beaches during these few days. That made the ride into Buenos Aires real simple and easy.

We found a hostel very close to the centre of town. We had a nice welcome from the great crew of the hostel and parked the bikes securely in the garden of the hostel.

The next day we went to DakarMotors who are very well organized in shipping the bikes. We spend an afternoon talking with Javier and Sandra and they gave us all the necessary information. All we had to do is to bring the bikes to the airport and pay the shipment the day after. The payment turned out to be a little bit a hassle. Due to the crisis in Argentina all major payments have to be made in cash. Problem is: you only get the maximum amount of 1500Ps (around 150€) at a time out of a ATM. So the next few days we ran around town to get the money for shipping the bikes. Since we had to pay around 20000Ps per bike we ended up with a whole backpack full of 100ps bills…. I never felt that rich!

In between we enjoyed Buenos Aires, good steaks, rode around the city on rented bicycles and did some sightseeing.

We enjoyed the last few days, even though our hostel wasn’t that good after all. The rotten smell in the bathroom didn’t hide long, but all the animals we shared our bedroom with only showed up one after one. At least the cockroaches seemed to have a sense of cleanliness. They took a bath in our shampoo..

After we have sent our motorbikes we switched to another hostel which was just on the other side of the road. Clean beds and airconditioned room made the last 2 nights a lot more comfortable.

On Thursday the 26th of February we finally boarded our plane back to Europe…

Our great adventure has finally come to an end.

It was fantastic and we are so glad that we did this.

 

La Posta

Azul – Argentina

It is sooo relaxing. We hang around in the garden, read, take a nap and eat cookies. The two bunnies hop around and pop up their ears once in a while. The ducks do their parade along the little pond and the flamingos just stand there and enjoy the sun easily balancing on one foot the whole day. The sun is warm and a little breeze is creating the perfect weather condition to hang around and do a lot of absolutely nothing.

We heard of this place before. And indeed it is a little paradise. Jorge aka Pollo welcomes motorbike travellers here since almost 25 years. All the famous names of world travelling have left little remarks and greetings on the wall. Many travellers of all over the world have been here. Especially many Japanese and they seem to have a talent for nice drawings. For hours we were standing in front of the walls of La Posta’s dining room and reading the comments from other travellers.

Jorge lives in his little house in the backside of the garden, together with his family. He is working on the garden the whole day. He loves doing it. The garden is full of neat little things (like the windmill built out of oil barrels) Jorge is a very special person: he is so kind, so gentle, so welcoming, that just hang out in his garden with all the animals gives your mind a very peaceful rest.

We enjoyed it a lot and according to all the comments on the wall we were not the only ones feeling like that.

We arrived here on a Saturday. BIG MISTAKE, since on Fridays Pollo makes his (literally) world-famous barbeque. He immediately asked for how long we would stay and thought of making another BBQ for us on Monday.

Unfortunately we had to go on to Buenos Aires to get our shipping for the bikes organized. So we can only guess by other guests comments of how special it must be.

So after one day rest we continued to Buenos Aires, our final destination on our half a year trip.

We were glad to have the opportunity to stay here and have a calm day before we hit the mega city Buenos Aires.

Thank you Jorge for putting up and keeping such a fantastic place.

 

 

Going east

Villa La Angostura – Azul

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The following day was offering a great surprise as we expected a little bit boring riding. Instead we followed the Rio Limay north in an amazing valley. Rocky needles and walls on both sides of the valley accompany a green winding river. The road is in good condition and so riding is a blast. When we stopped for gas the whole valley was covered in dust. The fine dust was everywhere in the air. A small and dusty dry riverbed crosses the valley of Rio Limay and the strong wind blows up the particles in the air and into the valley. We followed the cloud of dust for many kilometers until the valley opened up and formed a huge lake. The landscape became less and less hilly until it became what we expected: vast, flat, boring.

We stopped in little roadside hotels in little towns with nothing to offer. Except one thing: it is Argentina here! So we enjoyed the great steaks for dinner.

We past an area where they produce a lot of fruits. On both sides of the road endless fields of apple trees. Heavy trucks transport the fruits on the road. The heavy load is often secured very poorly on the trucks, so we keep our distance when we pass them. On one of the stops we meet Karl from Türkenfeld, not 30km from Munich. He is a great guy travelling the world without speaking anything else than Bavarian. We shared a coffee and had a great chat with him. He had quite some stories to tell.

The more east we got the dryer and vast the countryside became.

We stopped 2 more times before we reached Azul a little boring town with nothing to see, except La Posta and Jorge. But that is something for the next blog entry….

Back on the bikes

Puerto Montt (Chile) – Villa La Angostura (Region 7 lagos – Argentina)

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We are back on the bikes! Finally! It is fantastic! On a sunny day we leave Puerto Montt and ride the road back to the region of the seven lakes north of Bariloche in Argentina.

Christy is doing fine, but every time we stop we get funny looks from people. It is quite an unusual sight when Christy is taking her crutches off the bike and wobbling around on them in her biker dress.

We take it easy and stop for the night in a small roadside hotel. I will remember that place very well for the low door on which I bumped my head almost every time I passed it. Even though I got reminded of the low door with a quite painful event every time I just didn’t seem to learn it. It was great fun to put on the helmet the next day.

The boarder crossing to Argentina was quite busy but at least here Christy’s misfortune was good for something: we could pass the long line to get upfront so the crossing was done in no time.

We have seen it a couple of times on border crossings, that in between the Chilean and Argentinian customs there is quite some distance. But nothing like here. It is more than 30km from leaving Chile to entering Argentina.

Till here it was a pretty cold and cloudy day. But the Argentinian side welcomed us with nice and warm weather. We went 40km into the area of 7 lagos on the road to San Martin. The area reminded me a lot of the Black Forest, my home in Germany. There are many huge lakes and the road winds through them beautifully and making it a great day on the motorbike. A short gravel part stopped us (we didn’t want to risk too much gravel since for Christy’s foot it was still painful to get vibrations on the bike). So we turned back to Villa la Angostura. We found a nice campsite and had a relaxing evening with other local bikers.

Chiloe

Island of Chiloe – Chile

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After we gave back our truck we stayed in a hostel for a week. It was very nice with a great view on the harbor of Puerto Montt where huge cruise ships anchored and big birds flew by our window every day.

Christy was getting better every day, but the doctor we visited here said she should rest another week before we can get back on the bikes.

After a few days I got bored and I decided to take the bike for a little spin on the Island of Chiloe.

So I packed some things together and rode on south to the short ferry crossing that would take me to Chiloe.

It was great to be back on the bike again. After the short ferry crossing I took the road to Ancud and further to a penguin colony. The ride was fantastic. A curvy road, the sun shining, little traffic and finally the rocky coast of the island. The road ended in a beach from where little boats take the tourists very close to the penguins. I decided not to join them and instead enjoyed the fantastic beach that ended on both sides in huge rock formations.

In kept going south and rode great gravel roads through forests and farming areas. All very nice and enjoyable. When I finally ended up in the little town of Castro I had a day full of great riding and I enjoyed a beer with some life music that was played in front of the colorful church of the town.

The next day I headed southwest to Culcao and Quilan. The road got a bit sandy and I enjoyed playing with the bike in the sandy bits. It was never difficult there though. The road ends at a parking spot from where you could hike 45 minutes to an outlook. The guard at the parking told me I may go there by bike that I intended to do immediately. The track was wide in the beginning and easy, but soon it turned into a very steep narrow track with big steps. It was great fun to ride it, but it would be unnerving if I met hikers on this track. There was no way to bypass hikers. So after a while I turned around and rode the steep track down again.

The landscape was incredible. The steaming and roaring sea covered the coast in a mist of salty water. Steep cliffs and flat sand beaches formed the coast. Riding was a blast and so I returned back to the north with a big smile on my face.

Short stops at some of the beautiful wooden churches contributed to these great days I had on that island. It is really great motorbike country here.

Going north

Ushuaia (Argentina) – Puerto Montt (Chile)

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It was a strange feeling. After Ushuaia we would go north. Of course, there is no road going south from there…

We had arranged to bring the pick-up back to Puerto Montt. From there the roads to Buenos Aires are all paved and we hopefully wouldn’t hit strong winds. With Christy still hobbling around with here crutches we didn’t want to risk her not feeling safe on the motorbike.

We had to cover 2300km. It was mainly flat and vast country we drove through. Unusual for this area we had very little wind. And so it was a very relaxing driving. Little traffic, straight roads, no wind, nothing to destract you from driving. For some time even Christy took over, driving with cruise control. For me it was a nice break and I enjoyed not having to concentrate on the boring road.

But the landscape had its elements. The incredible vastness is something that just makes you dream and take it easy. It is like a visual relaxation program.

The last few hundred kilometers became actually really nice. The area gets hillier, and finally the hills become mountains. We didn’t stop in Bariloche but continued to a hotel next to one of the lakes in the Argentinian Lake District. A very beautiful area with dark forests and lots of lakes.

Finally we arrived in Puerto Montt where we dropped the car. For the next day we planned to visit a doctor another time to see what he says. He instructed us to wait another week and then we would have green light. Soon we would be back on the bikes again…

 

 

Penguins

Even though penguins are are to be found many thousands kilometers north as well, the proximity to Antarctica is making Ushuaia one of the best places to see penguins.

So we book a tour on a boat to see these wonderful animals.

It was a fantastic day. Lots of animals, not just penguins on a relaxing boat trip.

We were really enjoying this a lot.

Ushuaia: To the end of all roads

Puerto Natalaes – Punto Arenas – Ushuaia

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When approaching the southernmost point of America you have to cross the border of Argentina. Even though the southernmost point of America is in Chile, the southernmost on-land accessible city is Ushuaia in Argentina, which again is only accessible in a car via Chile. It is a result of the boundary treaty of 1881, when the two countries defined their border in only 7 articles.

The ride from Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas was kind of unremarkable. The only interesting thing is the vastness. It is flat and the flora is very reduced. This open land is dong something with your mind. Every time we stop I get on the road and look in both directions. These long lines of the road going all the way to the horizon make you wanting to follow these lines. They pull your mind away. It is quite an experience.

The wind is very strong. The few bushes that are growing here are forced to grow into the direction the wind pushes them to. There is a penguin colony with king penguins on the way. But after we have approached the entrance we realize that the wind is too strong for Christy. It is impossible to walk on crutches in this wind.

Punta Arenas has a big harbor and lots of bikers start or end their trip here. For us it is only a short stopover and we continue the following day to Ushuaia

Again the landscape is pretty flat with little vegetation. The amount of Guanacos we see is getting less and less. We saw a couple of foxes though. Just 50km before Ushuaia the landscape changes though. First the trees start. They are covered in moss hanging from their branches like old spider webs. It gets more green and hilly. The road changes from a boring straight line to a fantastic mountain road, crossing a small mountain pass just before reaching Ushuaia

The road continues a little bit further on into a little national park. This is where the network of streets of South America ends.

You can not get further south on a motorbike. But you don’t really understand where you are until you have a look at a world map… That is what really blew our mind.

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Now what?

After a restless night’s sleep, my foot was still hurting madly so headed out to the hospital for an x-ray. I’d been researching online about strains and sprains to know how long I’d be laid up, what to could expect.

Andy got a wheelchair from hospital staff when we arrived there. (I think nobody there could stand to see me hobble around either.) How nice that felt to not have to walk! It also ensured I was sitting when the x-ray came back. I sort of just stared at the doctor in disbelief as he showed me the breaks. How long will this take? Some absurd estimates were thrown around and ended with me understanding that if I screwed it up, I might need a surgery to line up the bones again. So far, it was the luck in this misfortune that the breaks were clean and not displaced. And I get to make a choice (yippee!)… a solid plaster cast for 6-8 weeks or a stiff removable boot that I have to wear day and night at first and then see how it progresses. That was an easy one. We went on a little shopping spree at the orthopedic supply shop down the road for a new boot and threw in some crutches to go with it.

More difficult choices were ahead. We left the hospital and I had no idea how we were going to continue our trip. We wouldn’t be sitting it out in Coyhaique. Stopping or going home didn’t cross my mind, I was too busy trying to figure out how we’d continue on.

After about a week of what felt like denial, I started researching for a local orthopedic doctor. We had questions we were too stunned to ask initially. I came across a blog of a pair of world travellers on a bike and got in touch with Ivana. She had broken her leg and was treated in Coyhaique a couple months earlier. She had a surgery to insert several pins in her leg and after several weeks, had continued on south by hitch hiking while her partner continued on their bike. That’s tough! Ivana was encouraging, and informative about the local doctors. I’m glad we’re in touch now to follow up how the travels are going. In the meantime, they are riding two-up again somewhere in the Atacama desert.

What are you doing New Year’s?

The x-ray answered the question we’d be asking for the past year, “Where do you think we’ll be for the holidays?” In the beginning, we speculated Ushuaia. Then we thought we should be past there so we could have plenty of time to loop up to see Iguazu and into southern Brazil to visit my colleagues there. Recently we’d revised the estimate to somewhere around Torres del Paine. We came committed to the road, not to a set route. When I found out my foot was broken, we just went with it. We’d sit out two weeks in Coyhaique for the holidays and decide from there. How long can a foot take to heal anyway? (And when will it stop swelling and hurting?)

Two weeks passed quickly while we were doing a bunch of absolutely nothing. I was content with my small trips around the cabin. Oh yeah, and we got a cabin! The hostel owner couldn’t stand seeing me go up and down those stairs any longer, so we were moved to a cabin across the street. ‘Twas the Christmas season and all… Very kind of her! So we had a cozy little fire, Andy stocked the fridge, and my days consisted mainly of wobbling from the bed to sofa.

That sofa is really memorable. I would just sink in and prop up my foot. When I was on FaceTime with Julia, she remarked how it looked like I was in a sea of roses. Yep, the pink posy print matched the curtains. But the sofa had seen better days. The cushions were worn out and rising from it was like lifting myself out of a deep hole. Everyone without crutches looked stiff and old getting up from it. With my crutches, I felt like a giraffe, so it was good for a smile or laugh every time.

Strangely enough we didn’t really go stir crazy. We just kind of chilled out and were astonished how two weeks can slip by nearly unnoticed.

Evaluating plans B, C and D

There were still quite a few highlights to come in the area and we wanted to get out exploring again. We just had to figure out how. In the best case, we’d be able to travel together or at least sort of coordinated so that we could see and experience sights at El Calafate and Torres del Paine together.

We could park the bikes and rent a car for a couple of weeks, but then we’d have to come back to Coyhaique and riding out of their meant dirt and gravel roads. I had no idea how long it would be before I could manage just any kind of unpaved road well again. We’d also have to get something worked out for the board crossing and customs since we’d exit without the bikes that were noted in our passports. It would all be possible, but this didn’t quite feel like the right solution.

I started looking into the many boat options around. If we could find a cruise operator that had a ship equipped to roll the bikes on, maybe we could just set sail for the south to Punta Arenas or Ushuaia while my foot heals and then ride back up north. It would allow us to travel together and would add a pretty neat aspect to the travel. We both enjoy boats and this would be an unforgettable way to see the icebergs and fjords of the region. Bot the cruises are not only pricey, they also fill up quickly and don’t have the flexibility we’d need to take the bikes with us.

There are some online travel groups, but I decided to start small and just send a few quick notes out to people we’d met along the way and other travelers we know. No familiar overlanders were nearby, and we didn’t meet any in town with similar plans. Sonia from Motoaventura told me that the paperwork to transfer my bike over the boarder to Argentina by someone else would be a hassle at the notary, especially around the holidays, but they could transport it within Chile if that would help. She also gave me the number of their contact person in Coyhaique, Rolf Traeger. We got in touch and it turns out, he’s a biker and has a car rental company. That got us thinking. How about we put our bikes up on the back of on one of his rental 4×4 pickups? He agreed. After a short discussion about how to do it, he and his team spent half a day welding a frame and tracks into a truck, then they helped load up our bikes and we were on our way. We could take the truck one way to Punta Arenas, Ushuaia, or elsewhere. This solution really fit the bill: we’d get to travel together, the bikes were with us, we could be flexible and it added a really fun aspect to the travel.