This morning Bike arrived at the cargo terminal at Cape Town International Airport. I took a cab to the airport, eager to be reunited with my trusty steed. When I arrived I was greeted very warmly, it seems that the workers at the cargo terminal don’t see a big bike roll off a plane every day. I was told that I’d first need to clear everything with customs and then I could see Bike.
The Most Friendly Customs Office in The Word
Today was my very first carnet experience. In the Americas I had the import process down cold. I would simply pay to get a temporary import permit, have the bike inspected, and then be on my way. But in Africa they use the carnet process. A carnet is like a passport for goods (like cars and motorcycles).
I was told the process is pretty straightforward: you get a stamp in your carnet when you enter a country and another when you exit. This way the country can inspect the bike and the carnet to make sure that you haven’t sold anything illegally while you were visiting.
The people at the cargo terminal told me exactly where to go, which building to enter, and even which window I needed once I was inside. The security guards greeted me warmly. And when I finally arrived at the customs counter the woman behind the desk was jolly and ready to help me walk through the process.
She got out all the forms and showed me exactly how to fill them out, she even gave me examples when I needed help. At one point she asked if I had an authorization form allowing them to execute the carnet on my behalf. I had no idea I even needed one. And this is where she went above and beyond.
This Can’t Be Official
She took a notebook, a regular old ruled notebook that any elementary school kid would have in class, and tore out a single page. She handed it to me and said, “Write down everything I tell you, exactly as I tell you.”
She spoke with a heavy South African accent that sounds a bit like a Jamaican, Indian and British accent combined. She rolled all of her r’s and spoke everything in a sing-song tone that made it seem like she was in the best mood of her life.
She then began to dictate an authorization form… “I, write down your name, do hereby authorize SARS…” she spoke and I wrote as fast as I could. Her co-worker, a pleasantly plump woman with an eternal smile, nodded along as I scribbled. It seemed that the entire office was there for moral encouragement and to guarantee I had a pleasant time during my visit.
When we were done she took the page and examined my work. It looked like a document a 3rd grader would create, my penmanship is not very good. She gave a nod and began stamping the paper, signing on dotted lines, and crimping in official seals.
Once I’d given her official permission she took my carnet and stamped my bike into the country. A few signatures later and I was handed a form that released the bike from IAG Cargo and into my custody. She gave me a friendly smile and said with a chuckle, “You’re all done! Now go get your bike.”
Her co-worker gave me a sly smile and added, “And then come back and so we can go for a ride with you!”
I returned to the cargo area and presented my release document. Within minutes a forklift arrived with my bike all wrapped in the exact same way I’d last seen it. Although I was in a secure area and forbidden from taking photos, I snuck two quick snapshots with my iPhone.
My first thought was, “How am I going to get this off the pallet all by myself?” But within seconds I was joined by five warehouse workers who wanted to see the bike and were all too eager to help me out. Because the bike was blocking a door I was told to work as fast as possible and clear the space.
I reattached the mirrors, windshield, reattached the battery cables, secured the panniers, and gave the bike a quick inspection. Everything seemed to be in perfect condition. I rode the bike out of the way and then used my portable air compressor to inflate the tires.
I’ll Show You The Way!
I started the bike and my range meter showed me I had about 4 miles before I would be completely out of gas. I’d emptied the tank for shipping and now I had to find fuel very soon. I asked one of the workers how to get to the gas station and he told me that the twists and turns are so confusing I’d never find it. “I’ll show you the way!”
He hopped in a little truck and waved for me to follow him. True to his word we rode through a labyrinth of airport roads, twists, turns, and roundabouts. I made it to the gas station with 1 mile’s worth of gas left in the tank. The jolly fellow waved goodbye and shouted a happy, “Welcome to South Africaaaa!”
I don’t think I’ve been to a friendlier country in my life.
Dude, Where’s My Card
A couple of weeks ago I was informed by Bank of America that the Visa card that I use for all of my primary expenses was going to be cancelled. We’ve all had this happen at some point in our adult life (maybe even a few times).
We’re letting you know your ATM/debit card may have been part of a compromise at an undisclosed merchant. This doesn’t mean that fraud has or will occur on your account. However, as a precaution, we issued you a new card that will arrive soon in a Bank of America® envelope with a Wilmington, Delaware, return address.
Fortunately for me I have a great friend in Arizona that monitors my mailbox and forwards important documents from time to time. I’m not sure how I’d function on this trip without Craig Bolton keeping tabs on things back home.
I asked Craig to keep an eye out for my replacement card. I then contacted Duncan over at African Overlanders and he said we could have my card shipped to him using their Poste Restante service.
The timing was a bit tight. My new card was scheduled to arrive today, just three days before my old card is cancelled forever. But, unfortunately, something has gone awry and my card is now in limbo. UPS Worldwide sent me this update:
The company or receiver name is incorrect. This will delay delivery. We’re attempting to update this information. / Delivery will be rescheduled
We’ve checked and double checked, the name and address is correct. Duncan’s phone number is on the package. Everything looks to be exactly as it should be. We’re doing some checking and will try to hunt down my card tomorrow. I’m sure it will be just fine, it’s always just an adventure shipping anything internationally.
Cape Town is Amazing
I’m really enjoying my time here in Cape Town. The people are incredible. The coffee alone is worth a visit. Now that I have Bike I’ll be exploring a lot more. I’ve already made friends with local photographers and bike enthusiasts. Tomorrow will be a full day of food, beverage, and meeting new friends.