We were traveling with the Swiss team. Going through ups and downs together.
Peru was a nice country BUT we heard so many ‘sufferings’ from our fellow biker, Daniele. News about him was that his camera was down, didn’t took any pictures in Machu Picchu. Robbed by 3 men along the way back from M.P., bike fell down and his laptop had crashed. Laptop was stolen when he sent it for repair. He was stopped by the corrupted policemen and had to pay US$200, for nothing! It was enough of Peru for him, also for us. Latest news was:
We entered Ecuador by a deserted border. We were the only foreigners using that border. The locals just passed the border without stamping on their passport or rather; they did not need a passport to cross. As usual, we visited the immigration without any problem. We were issued with a 30days entry. Next, the custom, also known as ADUANA in Spanish.
The officer had a strict face. At least he spoke a little English. I handed him my bike registration paper. If you know, the Land & Transport Authority (LTA) of Singapore does not issue a proper registration book or a ‘Log Card’ with effect from 2006. It’s all from internet. So, we do not have any proper proof of vehicle ownership other a piece of paper printed out from the internet. To make this piece of paper looked official, I had laminated it. Also, I went to the Singapore embassy to seek for an endorsement on this piece of paper. I wanted a stamp with ‘certified true copy’ on this paper to look more official. What the Singapore Embassy in Bangkok did was to give me a form, write what ever I want with my hand writing, then they clip this form with the piece of paper (so call vehicle registration printed from internet) and made a stamp on the form. In the end it doesn’t have the effect I wanted. Until today I had not use it. The laminated copy that I did looked more official.
There were too many nonsense on that vehicle registration paper like what is the COE quota, the blah blah blah that non-Singaporean WILL NOT understand it. These information will make the custom officer more confused. Also the bike value, stated with $8000, it’s in Singapore dollars and sometimes the custom officer assume it is US$8000, which make a lot of difference.
Well, the custom officer in this border is new. It was his first time dealing with foreign vehicles. He had a few question for me:
1) which country was this bike manufactured from?
2) What was the document number for this Vehicle Registration Card?
3) What was the laden and unladen weight of the bike.
I had to make up story because it is not stated in the card.
1) I assumed it was from Japan.
2) There is no document number for the card. I told him the document number is my IC number, which is also my Passport number, which is also my driving licence number. I explained to him that Singapore had only 4 million populations and the government uses the same number for everything.
3) Luckily Andreas had the same bike as I had and his document did indicate about the weight. it also took us some time to show him the similarity of our bike model.
It took about 15 minutes to convince him, with the help of Andreas.
Ecuador is up to date on IT but this officer does not know how to use. when he chose ‘Honda’, the next thing he could click on for the section of ‘year of manufacture’ was limited, ranged from 1935 to 1978. Every click he fingered on the page on the screen had to wait for 10 second to refresh because it was connected to their government net. He made phone call to someone and managed to know that he could key in all the information manually instead of the scroll list. It took him about 40 minutes to solve this.
Next was the printer. He had never used it before. We had to be patience to allow him to have his own time to learn how to use the printer.
When the printing was done, I noticed there were EXTRA ALPHABETS ON MY NAME, which was a typing error. It took me 10 minutes to show him the difference when he said, ‘NO PROBLEM, NO PROBLEM’.
Finally, I was able to sign on the import permit that he had made. I was able to keep a copy of it. When it came to Andreas’ turn, it was slightly faster. Andreas also had to explain every detail to him. When it came to the final step, he couldn’t connect to the printer. He made a call to somewhere and we had to wait 5 minutes for the help to arrive. 5 minutes in Latin America could be 50 minutes but we were lucky that it only took 30 minutes before help arrived. A younger officer came and taught him where to click to activate the printer.
When Andreas finally had his import permit document, the officer noticed some typing error on my document. I had to hand him back my copy and HE RETYPED EVERYTHING AGAIN!!!!!
After 2 hours and 40minutes with him, our blood pressure returned to normal.
The name Ecuador came from the word ‘Equator’. This equator country is having the national voting. We could see flags and stickers of nominees everywhere. Street protest had became street rally where hundreds of people were flying the flag of the nominees and shouting which number to vote. Trucks were installed with super powered 1000000000000zillion wattage loudspeaker and amplifier to ‘educate’ the simple people which number to vote. There were many advertisement on the TV to promote the nominees. usually they will let the people know about their plan (example: if you vote me, I will built a nice garden in the city / I have the intention to built more school / taxi drivers will get gasoline rebates). there were also free open air music concerts to entertain the public at the same time the nominees would have a chance to promote themselves. It’s very interesting on how these politicians win the heart of the simple people here by promising them something that they would physically need, instead of rebuilding the system of the government.
We loved the Ecuadorian food. Being grown up in Asia, we had rice as our basic food. The rice dishes here were never enough for us with the braised meat. Sometimes there were exotic food like roasted guinea pigs. we only tried once in Peru and it will be our last time in our life.
BUT, the roasted pigs were the heart stealing dish.
What’s more in Ecuador? There were so much to visit but we had to go. There isn’t much ferry now going to Panama from Columbia. I checked with the company that is dealing with the shipment, they had 6 sailing boats and at the time that we need to board, there are only ships going to Columbia from Panama. We had to be in Panama by 17 May 2009 else we had to go through the pain of applying a Panama Visa again.
Quito by the night.
Being with the Swiss team got us (especially me) so lazy. Andreas always lead the way which I liked to, just to follow someone to some place. Be it the place that we planned to go, the main thing is being together. Saskia always woke up early and prepared us good and healthy breakfast. I was spoilt by them (me, for being lazy. so you know who is working and who is not….hee….) but really appricate their attendance in our life, sharing so many things together. We could enter the record of ‘the luckiest bike travelers in the world’ because of them.
The day before we left the swiss team, we went to the middle of the world at latitude 0. Did you know that we weigh about 1kg lesser on the equator line? Also when we are in the southern hemisphere, wind, water and … I don´t know what else, will turn clockwise. When we are across the equator to the northern hemisphere, it will turn anti-clockwise. They did an experiment of water flowing into a pail, on 2 meters from the equator line, both sides (northern and southern hemisphere) and on the equator line. We could really see the turning of the water on these 3 locations.
Teddy bear was so happy because she felt the gravity, lesser on the other parts of the world. She had 1kg lesser....but she only weighs 400gms. Dont tell her that.
The 3 hours bus ride (2ways) was worth the money. About US$1.80 total. We walked along the Saturday street of Quito till it was about evening then we went into an internet café.
The café was pretty small. 4 Desktops on the left, 3 telephone booth on the right and straight, we could see the counter of the owner. There isn´t any door but 2 flights of stairs to the road. I was seated nearest to the road, followed by Sam, Saskia then Andreas. Sam´s computer was not working so she sat beside me and surf the internet together. We wanted to check the exchange rate of Columbia and I was common that Sam took out her mobile phone to key in the information. (save paper). Suddenly I heard a cry, a cry like a ghost. It was from Sam. I asked her what happened and she said that guy that just ran out took her mobile phone. He snatch it from Sam´s left hand. I stood up, ran with all my might chasing him. I was shouting loudly, using Hokkien (a Chinese dialect), all the bad words I could use. I was in anger, wanting him to stop. My shouting and the sound from my running steps waken the neighbourhood. the folks just came out of the shop and look. It was dark and i couldn´t see properly about the identity of that robber/snatcher, just knowing that he was small built. (as most of the Ecuodorians).
In such cases, the only local help is they will advice us to report to the police.
Shall I report to the police? what will the police do? sent out a team of policemen to search for thumbprint at the site of crime? surround the whole town and detain all suspecious person? just for a mobile phone? what was more important is my SIM card. if i lost it, i can report to the network provider and stop the service BUT how can i get a new card? also the valuable information in the phone.
i ran as fast as i could, shouted aggressively, wanted his whole family to die because he snatched our belonging and ran away..........................................
i will tell you what happened to that guy on the next posting.... meanwhile,
Thank you and pray for us:
1) not to ride in the night in Columbia.
2) will not get kidnapped in Columbia by the FARC.
3) catch the boat in time to Panama.
4) meet more nice people like the Swiss team.