Leaving South America

Leaving South America

August 09, 2015

Narrated Audio Blog

Told in the collective first person, jointly from Stu and Janell Clarke's perspective.

When will someone bite the bullet and build a road between Panama and Colombia! For now, adventure riders can either fly (by aeroplane) or ship (typically sail boat or ferry) themselves and their motorbikes between North and South America. Of course this depends on the politics of the time and how well Colombia and Panama are getting on. On our way to South America we chose the seven day sailing option from the San Blass Islands off Panama which proved to be an adventure and overall fun experience. This time, returning north with time against us, we decided to fly and from our online research and communication with other motorcycle travellers the easiest way to fly was with Lyn Cargo.

Stu had spent a lot of time requesting quotes from various airlines to crate our motorbikes from Bogota to a range of destinations in North America including Miami, Mexico City and Montreal. Ideally we wanted to get as far north as possible to see Canada while it was still warm, and then travel anticlockwise around the majority of the US border to finish in New York for Christmas. Unfortunately the quotes for flying the motorbikes along with flights for us and the dogs was totalling around $4,000 plus, which was well out of our budget. Our other obstacle was finding an airline that would fly dogs at the tail end of the 'hot' season.

Lyn Cargo was recommended by other adventure riders and regularly ships between Bogota and Miami. We went to their office in Bogota to get some information. Just as an FYI Stu had tried email correspondence with Lyn Cargo but unsuccessfully. It was the other adventure riders we met on our travels who told us we needed to go to the office and speak to Veronica, she would help us out and she definitely did.

In our meeting with Veronica we discussed the different locations for landing in the US. The cheapest and easiest location to air freight the motorbikes to by far turned out to be Miami at approximately $900 per motorbike. Not exactly ideal with our timeframe. We really needed to make a decision there and then, so Veronica got us hooked up with the office wifi so we could investigate the cost of flights for people and dogs to Miami; $250 per person and $50 per dog. We can never just accept a quote in isolation, we always need to factor in the cost of people, dogs and motorcycles as a whole to determine the most cost effective option for us not to mention flying time and connections with the dogs. As it turned out, there were restrictions on flying dogs in many places including Canada at that time of year so Miami was the cheapest, best and possibly only option for us.

Handing over the motorcycles turned out to be fairly straight forward. It took a whole day, starting at the Lyn Cargo office at 9am to do some paperwork then moving to the Cargo Terminal of Bogotá International Airport. With the help of Lyn Cargo, by 5pm we had confidently left our motorbikes glad-wrapped and placed in holding until their departure. There was a lot of paperwork and walking the paperwork around to different offices at the Terminal, nothing we weren't used to doing at a border crossing. In terms of preparation of the motorcycles for flight we just had to make sure there was very little fuel in the tanks. We didn't even have to disconnect the battery. The final price for shipping the motorbikes came down to the lesser of cost-weight or cost-volume ratio. Our motorbikes aren't particularly heavy compared with a 1200GS geared up for travelling but they are bulky. Janell removed her mirrors and topbox to bring down the volume calculation and then weighed in at 262kg; the volume was the lesser in her instance. Stu also removed his mirrors and dismantled the Pilion Pooch motorcycle dog carrier but also moved his right pannier and strapped it in front of his left pannier resting it on the foot peg to reduce his volume calculation (Stu's motorbike is slightly heavier than Janells because he carries the tools). Volume was also the lesser for Stu by $100. It's up to you how much effort you want to go to in reducing the volume and weight for shipping. Lyn Cargo can provide a roll-on-roll-off service but our priority was:

  • keeping it simple;
  • minimising potential damage to the motorbikes when they were handled in the transportation process; and
  • riding away quickly and easily at the other end.

Now for us and the dogs! Our plans didn't go as smoothly as the motorbikes. Stu had booked flights online so that after we dropped the motorbikes off at the Cargo Terminal, we just had to walk over to the Passenger Terminal, check the dogs and luggage in then get on our flight. The problem was our flight was never confirmed and we didn't know this until we tried to check in. We were at the airport with the dogs and all our stuff that didn't go with the motorbikes and we had no flight. To say we were frustrated was an understatement. It was 6pm when we arrived and midnight when we left, still in Bogota with no flights and very tired. Stu had used WiFi to book a hotel on Airbnb so we all hopped in a taxi desperate for bed. It has to be said that Weeti and Shadow were absolute angels for the 6 hours we waited at the airport trying to find another airline that could fly us and the dogs that night or even the next day. Weeti curled up on Janells lap and Shadow on the bed in Weetis crate.

Hotel Oxum Bochica became our head office for the next 4 days while we booked and confirmed flights. Spoiler alert, it was stressful right up until we boarded the flight. The process required us to first book and confirm our flights with LAN Airlines, the only airline we could fly the dogs on the same flight as us. With our booking reference for flights on the 8th of August 2016, we then had to get the dogs booked on the flight; LAN Airlines wouldn't let us book the dogs passage until our flights were confirmed. It's a rather clunky process whereby the request for dog flights get logged and then within 24 hours the airline confirms and takes the payment. We waited the mandatory 24 hours and with no response Stu spent the next 3 days calling and messaging. We called, chatted, emailed and Facebook messaged LAN trying to get confirmation for the dogs and when we got in the taxi to go to the airport, 4 hours before the flight, we still didn't know if the dogs were booked on the flight.

Just a little more drama. Because we never received confirmation for the girls flights, we were never told about the certification process at the airport for the dogs International Health Certificates. We had the IHC's completed by a local vet, as required for travelling to the US, but at checkin, 2 hours before our flight departed, a staff member of LAN Airlines was rushing us around with the dogs getting documents filled in, signed and paid for. You can't imagine the relief we felt dropping the girls and our luggage off 1 hour before our flight. Finally confirmation we were flying! A strong drink was in order to relax. We found a bar after clearing customs and spent our left over Colombian Pesos on a beer, cocktail and hot chips.

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