Thursday, 15 March 2012

The Battle of Nepal Cargo

Managed to retrieve my bike from customs. Somehow.

I left the guesthouse in the morning with my carnet, keys, and my small camera and set off for the airport cargo terminal. I waved down a taxi (very easy to do in Thamel, they are everywhere) and told him to take me to the airport cargo terminal. He replies with "ok yes!" and we set off, I then remind him to turn the meter on.

We end up at the passenger terminal and I tell him again we need to go to the airport cargo terminal, he says "ok yes!" and then theres more confusion, he asks someone, and then they point to the building behind us. But that's the cargo offices, not the cargo terminal, I tell him I've already been there and got my documents and that I really actually do want to go to the cargo terminal. He reverses over to the cargo offices, I get out and ask a guard how to tell the taxi driver where the cargo terminal is, he has no idea, I ask another official looking guy inside, he explains sort of, but another guy butts in and says "cargo terminal? I know!", excellent, so we go outside and he says "this is your taxi?", I say yes, then there was  some confusion at the door with him standing there, I jump in and expect him to tell the driver where to go. He sits in the taxi also.

We get to the cargo terminal gate, I pay the taxi and we get out. This guy marches up to the gate past all the other people wanting to help me. Some more confusion at the gate when appanently they don't want to let him in, but he gets in after someone else on the inside says something.

Now we march over to the customs office (or some office) with a bunch of terminals and people typing furiously into an old text base database application. I laugh to myself at how old the software must be and then remembered how often the newer looking software I used to work with actually worked.

Now Mr. JumpInTaxiGuy talks to one person for a while and then says they want 10r to photocopy my passport. I counter by producing a photocopy of my passport I had previously obtained, a saving of 10r. Mr. JumpInTaxiGuy then goes to the other wall in the room, and starts talking to one of the people at the terminals. I still have no idea what's actually going on.

I'm watching Mr. TerminalGuy type furiously, save/load files, log in and out of the database. After about thirty minutes he has a printout which he then staples to the airway bill and a few other miscianious bits of paper and gets me to sign. Ok, we're almost there.

Then Mr. JumpInTaxiGuy and Mr. TerminalGuy lead me out of the room and tell me I'd need to pay storage fees (I was aware of that) and then I ask "how much would that be?". Mr TerminalGuy thinks for a bit, and then types 8000 on his phone. I laugh, but leave it, because I know it will never be near that amount.

Mr. TerminalGuy and Mr. JumpInTaxiGuy start conversing in Nepalese, and Mr. TerminalGuy hands over 1500r to Mr. JumpInTaxiGuy and then tells me to wait over in the warm sun for a while.

So I wait.

And I keep waiting. About an hour and a half of waiting in fact. There are many facebook and google plus posts and comments from me to confirm this.

After a while Mr. JumpInTaxiGuy comes out to find me and I ask "so they are getting the bike out now?" and he says, "yes, come with me". So we go up to the fenced off area in the warehouse and he wanders in and tells me to stay at the gate. Eventually he comes back and just gives a small wave to me. And five minutes later the crate with my bike is out. Curious. But then most of the other people standing around got their stuff at a similar time too.

The crate arrives! Hey that's my name!
Now the crate gets crowbared open and a crowd of 20 nepalis has gathered around to see the big reveal of what's inside. All the plastic is torn off and the crate is slowly taken apart bit by bit until there's no more of it. Well that's my $300 crate gone... No idea where it went, I guess they took it all to sell the wood again, which is what I wanted to do.

Half de-crated.
Now my bike is sitting there without a front wheel. I get out the tools and ask if they have something to prop the bike up with. Nope, lots of discussion which I wait for but nothing comes forward. I could have used a bit of crate but who knows where that is now. I get my little prop stand out of my tool kit (it's not as stable on this though), and ask the three people near the bike to help lift it up. Who knows what they were actually doing but I managed to get it under the bike by lifting from the handlebars.

I then start trying to put the front wheel on with all these nepali hands flying in trying to help, I think, or just pointing and commenting to others. I get the front axel halfway in but it won't go all the way because the bike isn't quite high enough, I ask them all to help lift the bike again so I can just get the axel in, but somehow they manage to drag it around the floor slightly, almost knocking it off the stand (because they weren't actually lifting it) and getting the front wheel and axel in some odd position that may have damaged it. I lift the bike up by the handlebars again and move the stand back slightly to get the height I needed.

Note to self: Nepali help is... Possibly the opposite of help.

Now the front wheel is on, I start bolting all the other bits together. While I'm doing this there are lots of poeple gathered round picking up bits of my stuff, examining it closely, folding things that aren't meant to be folded, opening and closing stuff. I just ignore it and go about my business.

After about an hour of bolting stuff up while dodging nepalis it starts to look like my bike again. I tell Mr. JumpInTaxiGuy that it's all done and he says ok follow me, we march off to the customs office to get Mr. TerminalGuy, then for some reason we back out into the hall, and then the stairway, and then halfway up the stairs, where they have this long discussion about how much I need to pay, but they never actually tell me an amount. I tell them I have very little money on me anyway. And they offer to take me to an ATM, plus I need to get fuel too because the bike is empty. Sure, why not. I thought it would be a taxi, but no, Mr. JumpInTaxiGuy gets hold of a bike, a 180cc thing and he can barely get his feet on the ground while on it. I ask him if he's ok to ride it, which he says yes, of course. I jump on the back, and then we set off on a very jerky wobbly ride to the airport ATM. I note that I'll need a change of underwear.

He drops me off at one ATM and I try to get 10000r out, but this one won't let me get it the money out. I turn around and tell him I can't get that much out, then I ask, "how much do I actually need to get out?". Now it's at this point he stops speaking English. We rope in a few other people and he has these long discussions trying to explain why it's 10000r to people, and then they all tell me that the total cost may not be 10000r, but that I could use the extra money for fuel or food or anything. I keep trying to ask what is the actual amount in fees that I need to pay, but nope, keeps coming back to 10000r. I tell my translater that I know he's ripping me off, but before it was 8000, now it's 10000, and I just want to know the actual amount to get the bike out of customs because I may already have that in my wallet. I know he has the documentation in his pocket and I say can I see it, but he pretends it's not there of course. So now he's annoyed with me and no longer saying anything in English. We go up to the next ATM, which works, I get 10000r out which I do plan on using for food, and then hide a lot of it in various pockets.

We then set off on the bike again, him almost falling over with me on the back, I think we're going to get petrol, but nope, we end up back at the cargo terminal. We to back inside and try and find Mr. TerminalGuy. And I start asking, where are all the reciepts for this, there's some discussion and then they hand them all over. 1795worth, just like I thought.

Now the problem is they're holding on to the bit of paper that lets me get the bike out of the customs lot, plus, I still need fuel.

We end up outside where there's no one in earshot again. I then said, that I know they are ripping me off, and I'd gladly pay double for their help, but not 8000. Looooooooonnngggg nepali discussion, Mr. JumpInTaxiGuy is now wearing his cranky pants and almost jumping up and down. I'm laughing at it all anyway. Eventually Mr. TerminalGuy counters with 7500. I laugh again and say no, How about 4000 (they have helped after all). More crankypants, more discussion, more laughing. 7000 from them. At that point I give up because they're being jerks from jerktown and they still have the paper I need to get out. I get the 7000 out of my wallet and you should have seen Mr. JumpInTaxiGuy grab for it! I did actually comment to Mr. TerminalGuy about Mr. JumpInTaxiGuys grabbing for the money.

Then I say, I still don't have fuel. So Mr. TerminalGuy asks Mr. JumpInTaxiGuy. No wait. You know what, I'm changing their names. Jerk1 is JumpInTaxiGuy, Jerk2 is TerminalGuy. So Jerk2 asks Jerk1 why I still didn't have fuel cause that was one of the things we were meant to get. More nepali discussion, but then eventually I'm on the back of the bike with Jerk1 and we go to the petrol station. Jerk1 says to give him 500r, I say no, the pump is still counting. Fuel comes to 370r for 3 litres, and then Jerk1 goes for my change and keeps it! It's amazing that he's being like this right in front of me. I wish I got a photo of him so I could plaster his name all over the place for being a jerk, and I wish there were jerk police to report these guys to. What jerks.

Back on the bike to the cargo terminal with my expensive fuel, Jerk1 gets stopped at the gate, some angry words from one of the gate guards to Jerk1. I'm allowed in anyway so I go in, no idea if Jerk1 got in, never saw him again. I only see Jerk2 as he hands my documents back and gives me the ticket out.

Inside I put the fuel into my bike, wheel it outside, put my motorbike gear on, all while a crowd of nepalis are following. I start the bike (it works!) and then one of the guys that was standing around my bike the whole time says "porter charge" (jerk3). I pretend not to understand this, and just keep putting my gear on and then ride to freedom!

But I'm stopped slightly before the gate, oh right, ticket out. They check it but it takes a little while, and in this time Jerk3 has caught up and says "porter charge" again. This time the ticket checking guy is there (niceguy1) and he translates for me, but is laughing because he knows they're being jerks. But they're persistant jerks. I'm not sure if Jerk1 or Jerk2 were going to pay them. So I get some money out, 85r, and try to hand it to them, but they didn't want to take it! I said "if you don't want it I'm going!", and niceguy1 is there telling me to go anyway.

Six hours after leaving the guesthouse I'm back into the freedom of crazy traffic that is Nepal. All up it was 7500r to get my bike out which is about $90. All this from asking directions. What jerks.

Here's some calming pictures of Kathmandu from the top of the guesthouse:

Looking north, away from Thamel.

Looking East.

Looking Northwest.

Prayer flags.

Nighttime north.

Monkey temple all lit up in the distance.

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