Sunday 29 July 2012

The Saga of Sharjah and the Clever Rhyme at Bandar Abbas

This one's a long one... Just detailing getting the bikes from the UAE to Iran. It's a long annoying process which I'd recommend for anyone who's bored.

There's no photos on this either, they're all over at Facebook in this album here. It was the only thing I could reliably upload photos too from Iran. Everything else is blocked or too slow to access. The story starts back in Sharjah at the Golden Beach Motel...

We were told to drop off the bikes at the port early because there was some overtime for workers involved if we did it late. So After breakfast at the hotel we go to drop the bikes off at the port. The port was only 1km away from the hotel so it was quick to get there and back. We ride over to the main gate and show them the paperwork and after some discussion we're let in and we head to building number 6. No one is about but we can see the ferry behind it so we go look and park the bikes to try and find someone. Another guy walks over and after some dumb discussion were following his car over to the opposite side of building six. Now more discussion ans we're off again to where we were before. Still no one here, more discussion and the guy we were following makes a phone call. And then we're back over to the office where he took us on the other side of building six. I can see where this day is going.

We park the bikes and go in to get some paperwork sorted. There was a very sweary happy Indian guy from Mumbai in the office that helped us out a bit. After it was all done we kept the keys and went back to the hotel to waste time before immigration.

The next thing we were told by the ticket office was to be at the port at 2pm where we'd go through immigration, then put our bikes on the ferry and then we'd be away! How it actually went down was very different.

We departed the hotel just before 2pm and headed to the terminal and find a bunch of people gathered around the "Port Khalid Passenger Departure" building as it is clearly signed. We get through the door and everyone is just looking at us oddly. One of the people at the desk points at us and then another speaks up and tells us this is a secure port and that we can't come in there. So I show him my ticket and he says to go out of the departure building and in though the main gate (or so we understand from his instructions). So we walk to the main Gate and we're called over by security. We show them the ticket and then they point is back to the departure building. So we go back again get inside again and Drew asks the guard where we should be but they keep pointing back outside to the main gate. Eventually after some frustrated loud talking were shown to the waiting room next to the departure building. In here the room seems naturally divided into males and females for some reason. Wait number one of the day to see if this is the correct area.

After a while Drew gets bored and walks off to find someone to help. He comes back saying were in the wrong area an he has a guy with him and we head off over to the main gate again. This time we get into the office and we start asking where we are supposed to be and they point over to the waiting room again. We ask where immigration is and then they say its in the waiting room, but then they offer up another location for immigration. This introduces all types of confusion and eventually we settle on being back at the customs building at 5pm because that's when they're supposed to open. We get a taxi back to the hotel to use the phone and call the agent and to use more internets.

We call up the agent and he can't hear properly but he tells us to be back at the port where his person will find us after we clear immigration so we can load the bikes. He also said that immigration will be open in another 10 minutes at most.

We give it half an hour before heading back. Once we get back to the “Port Khalid Departure Building” and they again direct us back to the waiting room. We stick around and ask some other official looking people but they say to go back to the waiting waiting room too. After an hour of waiting a door finally opens on the other side of the room and everyone rushes towards it. We wait it out, boat isn't suppose to leave before 9pm and that's 4 hours away at this point. Once we get up to the door we show passports and he says “boarding card? I get my ticket out and show him and then he says “No no boarding card!”. Well that's confusing. One of the helpful Iranians sees our confusion and explains whats going on. He takes us over to the “Port Khalid Passenger Departure” building where there is a small office in the corner issuing boarding cards.... Yup, the building we've been in three times before and each time they told us to go to the waiting room had something in that we needed to do.

If you think that airports are horrible inefficient places you should try going through a sea port once.

We go back into the waiting room but find the door to immigration has just closed and it will be another 15 minute wait. We picked a spot to sit and then some old lady in a burka comes over and tells us to move so her family can sit there in the mostly vacated waiting room... We move and I loudly exclaim that I was sorry for sitting in her spot but the sarcasm went unnoticed (by her, everyone else in the room looked suitably dumbfounded by her actions). We sit somewhere else and get talking to a guy next to us. He helps us through the rest of the process and guides us through improper hand signals in Iran after some questions (thumbs up, some people will take offence. 'ok' hand very very bad, much like Brazil I hear).

Once in immigration its another wait and then a stamp and then we're loaded into a bus to travel the 100 meters to the boat. We're deposited outside the boat and then we ask someone what happens with the bikes. No real answer but we go off in turns to get the bikes from where we parked them earlier in the day (about half way to the immigration office) and ride them over to wait.

Someone who seems like they're running this loading of BMW's and Mercedes onto the ship directs us to park just near the entrance. We tie them down and move them as close as possible to the edge and then it's upstairs to find a relatively empty passenger cabin. We each take a set of three chairs and get comfortable for the long night ahead. They're still loading cars and trucks on the decks below so its a long time before we actually set off.

While still in the port food was served at around 7pm. The boat didn't actually depart until 930pm. We'd been sitting on a boat that hasn't moved for 2 hours, did they load all the passengers first for some kind of efficiency reason? This is going to be a long journey. Someone told me it will get to Iran tomorrow at 8am.

The lights go off around 11pm, and I manage to get a couple of hours sleep with the help of earplugs. The three seats I have to myself are very uncomfortable no matter which way I try and sit/lie on them. The lights come back on at 4am for food, unsure if it was for everyone or just for those fasting during Ramadan, some people seemed to go get food, others didn't, I opted to wait until 9am to get food where I was told I had apparently not wanted to have breakfast when asked earlier (news to me).

At 11am we are finally docked in Iran. And good too because I'm bored of everything on my laptop and phone and what they can do without Internet. We take the bikes off the ship to the front of the immigration building closest to the berth. I take in only what I had on the ship with me, the rest of my belongings stayed with the bike (important later...). We then sit inside patiently to see what happens and how fast the queue is moving (slow).

Once we get up we're the last in line. While I'm there a guy comes over from his office and starts talking to me. He started asking me why I am here, where am I going, for how long. I thought he was just a taxi driver or tour guide because I'm used to this line of questioning from India. He asks where I am from so I say "Australia", but I think with the accent and his, he misinterpreted this as "Israel", which would be very bad indeed. He repeats what I thought was “Australian?” a few times and each time I said yes, but each time I guess I said yes to “Israeli?”. There's a bit of discussion about and he goes through my passport and after a bit of confusion he can finally see Australian written all over my passport. Looks like I was just mistaken for the enemy in immigration.

Once through immigration we had to head to a small office and sit outside it because we had vehicles. We'd been following a father and son from Germany who are driving a car back home from Qatar, but at this point they had disappeared, they were a handy guide on where to go next. After half an hour of waiting outside this small office some official looking person calls us over, who then hands us over to a less official looking person who we walk right through customs with, and then follow outside to a port office building next door where we pick up a bill of lading copy (already holding onto the originals). Now we have to go to the shippers office outside the port area to get some more paperwork and then come back to clear the bike through customs. Sounded simple! (And if it was the story probably would have ended here).

We head out the gate and find a taxi and then ask the driver if he accepts us dollars, sounds like he says yes and shows us the rudest way possible to show two with your fingers. We jump in and for some reason we've passed Team Germany and they jump in too. Once the taxi stops we try to pay on US$'s but this is met with blank stares. None of us have local currency, but the driver eventually accepts 20 Dhirams from Team Germany.

Inside the this building its rather straight forward: ask for office, go there and ask again where the office is, go there and ask again, arrive at office. We get some more papers, then its downstairs to a copy room, then over to another room to wait for more paperwork. And wait we did. More than an hour passes and I use the free time to exchange some currency (500us$ = 6150000 rails, at the very bad bank rate. At money changers on the street you can get almost double that). And then I run out of things to do because I used my phone to death the night before when I couldn't sleep.

After the hour ticks over and we get our little slips of paper back in Farsi and we all get a dodgy taxi back to the port again. This time we have the local currency and it costs 50000rials. We ask around for customs again and no one can find them in the building. Failing to find anyone here we go over to the office that told us to go to the shippers and no one here really knows what's going on either. Eventually the same guy who told us to go to the shippers comes out and he looks at the documentation and says its the wrong one. But then he runs off before we can ask what exactly we need. He also mentions customs being closed for the day, but tells us to go to the shipping office and get this new paperwork (whatever it's called). We start walking for a taxi and then the guy appears in a car beside us gives us a high speed lesson in Iranian driving to the shipping office. We ask what about the bikes and he tells us we can get them at 8am tomorrow... Well that's not the best. Because we thought it was a five minute process to get the bikes out we left a lot of our crap on the bikes, stuff that will probably be damaged in the sun all day, and things like a change of clothes (I'd been wearing the same clothes for 4 days). He kicks us out and then he flies off at high speed.

At the shippers office theres lots of paper flying around but no one is telling us what is going on. I've zoned out because of hunger and no sleep and stopped following people around so closely. Inside one of the offices Team Germany has left, then Drew has left, and then when someone else is talking about paperwork I happen to get one of the slips out which someone else spots and takes me over to the bank, where I find Drew again. We end up having to pay some fee that no one seems to be able to explain to us. It's only $5ish, but we're still in the dark as to what's going on. Then it's back in to another office to get some more documentation. Team Germany leaves the office early to see if they can get hold of customs and get out of here (they were only planning a two day drive through Iran into Turkey). We wait for our documents to be completed and then go outside to try find a taxi during the 2pm peak hour rush of Ramadan.

There's a lot of discussion in the taxi as to where we are going and the price the driver wants to charge but eventually with the aid of the Persian-Farsi app on my phone I'm able to communicate the distance and the amount it should cost, which he agrees with (6000 is what we were told, totally ripped off twice in taxis so far). Once at the port however we try to give him a 10000 rial note for change, but he said no and pointed to the 100000 note. Well it turns out he was talking in Tomans (I think that's the word) which is the local name for 10Rials. Most people will quote prices to you in Tomans, so we've learned. This journey had cost 60000Rials.

Inside the main port building it's all rather dark but we run into the guy who took us over to the port offices and we get him to call a friend of his who can translate for us and then we get that person to talk to security who reluctantly lets us through the building out the door to the bikes so we can get a few things that might not survive in the sun and secure the bikes for there overnight stay. Looks like the bikes will have to wait another day.

We get another taxi and tell him to head to Hotel Amin which was a decent sounding place according to the LP (but who can trust it really). We spot Team Germany walking out of the port so we get the taxi driver to stop and ask them what happened. They said they have given up and will try get it out tomorrow. Team Germany jumps in the taxi and we all head to the hotel for the night.

The evening is spent gaining lost sleep and eating local foods (which seems to be pizza or burgers) and a quick walk around our first Iranian city. It's still hot here. The erratic driving and general condition of the place reminds me of Malaysia or the Eastern European places I've seen on TV, just with added heat. On the walk we heard some scream and then turned around to see a guy shoving and pushing a female driver who may have just hit him or his wife. Not to sure what happened but I considered it unwise to be a foreigner (possibly Israeli looking) staring at what was going on there. From up the street we could see a large crowd gathering but it was all gone when we came back.

The next morning after a quick breakfast we met up with Team Germany, checked out of the hotel, and then headed out to the port again to try get the paperwork completed. Once at the port we went into the big building first to look for customs, no one seemed to know what we were looking for. Outside we were directed to the correct customs building that was covered in scaffolding and had “DOWN WITH THE U.S.A.” posters above the doorway. Inside this anti-US office you'll find them using lots of software from a very large US company. Mixed messages here.

Team Germany starts off the process and someone goes through the documents. After about ten minutes the customs officer gathers all the documents together to tell Team Germany there is a problem with one of the forms. It turns out that in the rush following Team Germany yesterday there was one bit of documentation missing for our bikes. Assuming the worst voices get raised immediately. I leave Drew to it for a bit as it is probably unwise to be yelling at a customs agent while looking vaguely Israeli.

The bit that was missing was a “Release from Warehouse” document which we were able to get form the port office next door. However the bikes were never in a warehouse, they were pushed off the boat and left directly in front of the passenger terminal. You could also see them from the port office but they were having none of it.

Armed with this new bit of paper we marched back into customs and started the long wait to get the carnets stamped. Team Germany were away after about an hour but we seemed to be there a lot longer. I went over to the desk once Team Germany collected their documentation and stood there to make sure other people stopped interrupting him. After he was done I raised my hands in celebration and he said “Welcome to Iran”. But then he asked me to go to the opposite side of this waiting area to another desk. This time they wrote all the details in a large book for some reason. They handed all the paperwork back and then he said “Welcome to Iran” and I thought we were actually done now! But I was wrong. He told me to go to one office, and then to another, then we were done. I asked him to write the names on a bit of paper so I could show people where I need to be.

We headed out and found the first office, which was meant to be a gate pass office we think (still not sure, no one explained). Inside we handed the documentation to someone and then waited a very very long time for them to finish processing others documentation and get to ours. In this time Team Germany had appeared again and they were armed with a helper. They got in and out while we were waiting. Once ours was processed we got a new bit of paper with a bar code on it, however once drew got his I mentioned that they both had the same number under the bar code, well this caused more confusion between them and after another long wait we had two separate bar codes. We were then to proceed to the second place on the note we were given earlier where we were told it would be the last step to getting our bikes! Hooray!

Inside the port office we dumped all the documentation on the desk and they picked out the bits they wanted. They did whatever they did for about half an hour and called us over. This time we had to pay a fee for loading and unloading of the bike. Well, that was curious. We loaded it on to the boat, and we also unloaded it and parked them were they remained overnight. We argued over this but it's a standard port charge and in the end it was only $8ish for each bike. We took this paperwork and asked them to let us out to the bikes. But nope, apparently there was another office to go visit and they told us to go back out to the gate pass office to get another stamp on the documents. We argued again that we'd already been out there and they had given us stamps. Through all this arguing we'd managed to gain our own helper from within this office. The helper had managed to acquire a driver which made walking the short distances a lot easier. He took us back out to the gate pass office and in there was some discussion and I can't remember if there was any paperwork changing hands.

After the gate pass office for the second time it was back to the car and over to the entry side of the port where we had to go through security, they saw us white guys in the back (one looking partially Israeli) and we turned around. Now we had to get security passes.

In the security pass office the passports were handed over but then a copy of them was needed. The helper ran off to do this (also astounded a the processes required here and he works in it). He came back armed with passports and copies and we had our security pass written out and then it was in to the secure area to another hidden office. There was a lot of documentation being done here and then we were told we had to get the bikes weighed which is what the bar coded papers were for. We finally get our hands on the bikes and ride over to the weigh station where the helper is waiting. Drew rides up on the platform and waits. And waits. Then the helper comes out and asks for passports. Then we wait some more. And some more. And then finally the helper comes out and says we have to pay 50000rials for both bikes, after mine wasn't even weighed. Who knows what that was for.

We head back to the hidden warehouse office and the paperwork is done over a long period of time while I rearrange all my gear, some of which I'd been carrying around all day after checking out, the rest had been strapped to the bike.

We're finally told all the documentation is done and we're free to go! Drew heads off towards the gate and I'm just a little bit behind but I'm following the helper in another car. We get to the security gate and the helper gets out hands over some paper and points to us then we're good to go!

Then we get closer to the gate pass office and the helper gets out again. We follow him over and then we go inside. The helper is moving between two rooms and arguing with people. But after some discussions in the office the helper finally comes over says we're free to go! Hooray! The bikes are free! I thank him for his help and told him we would never be able to do this by ourselves. I start putting on all my gear and then he runs out and tells us
that actually we're not free and there's one more thing to do.

So now apparently there is a problem with the paperwork or the computer system or something. All that I could get out of him was that somehow the computer system was expecting three bikes. Perhaps it was because of the bar code problem all the way back in the morning where I noticed we got the same numbers.

At this point it's after 2pm, so if they need any other offices they'll be gone and whatever stuff up this is might mean we would have to come back the next day to sort it out.

But after another half hour and more discussions we're free to go again! I'm starting to suspect that when each of these people says “welcome to Iran” they're doing it sarcastically. Outside we again thank the helper for his help. One of the people in the office comes out and security at the gate happens to call over to him about us, I assume he tells them to let us through it's all complete and good. So we get on the bikes and head out but then security tells us to stop and go into their office. ARGH.

Again the gate pass office guy says something to security and we're away, actually outside the port! Hooray! For real this time! We head over to get petrol and then it's back to the hotel because it's too late and too hot to go anywhere now.

Welcome to Iran.

Saturday 21 July 2012

Maintaining Radio Slience

Heading to Iran on the ferry tonight. I believe all google services, facebook and twitter are blocked, and where there is internet access to get around the blocks it's too slow to use. So I may be even quieter than I have been for the next 24 days (visa expires then).

Here are some photos left over from Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah...


Birthday Beer!

Resort at Sharjah.

The view from the room.

You can get Baycon here!

The different coloured mercedes for each day of the week at the Emirates Auto Museum

Yas Tunnel

The highway between Abu Dhabi and Dubai looks like this.



Closest I got to a cake.

Retiring the tyres I've had since Australia.

2xwheeler in Dubai Motor City where I found long life offroad tyres!

More of the BMWfest

Poor bikes got no wheels.

Noted. not leaving any child under 8 alone.

Operation Bike Freedom

Lots of annoying stuff has happened this week! That shiny coating on Dubai/UAE has now been worn off to the point where I don't think I'd want to live here, or probably not even visit any more.

Before we left Dubai for Abu Dhabi last time we had handed the documents to get the motorbikes out of the port to the agents, the thinking here was that they would start the process on the Thursday before the weekend so when we get back on Sunday we can just waltz in and collect the bikes. Well, that never happened, but more on the things that went wrong for now.

We'd organised another place for couch surfing for the night we arrived back in Dubai as the German family we had stayed with before were now all going on holidays. We had to go back and see them as my renewed International Driving Licence had arrived finally (note to others: Don't send anything to Dubai). While there Drew's phone must have synced his email but it wasn't until we were about to return the rental car that we found out the couchsurfers we'd organised for that night could no longer host us. Oh well, back to plan b, off to the cheap hotel at Jebal Ali that's just outside the port where our bikes should appear.

On Sunday we phoned up the shipping agents office and got a vague barely English response of "My guy is in customs now, call back in one hour". Of course, after they insulted our English speaking ability I was not too sure what this meant and assumed they had only just started the customs paperwork that morning. So instead of wasting the morning we headed out to the Iranian Consulate to start that process. I got my visa submitted that morning but we didn't have enough cash to get Drew's in, which would mean another two visits to the consulate. While we were out I picked up everything I needed to service the bike in preparation for when it appears. Then once we got back to the hotel I phoned up the agents again to see what happened and they said they'd been trying to contact us all morning and that they needed us at customs to get the bike out... OK then, first we heard of it. We found they had been trying to email Drew in cryptic English later. We arranged to be at Customs the next morning at 8am.

Birthday Breakfast

So the next morning at 10am (my birthday) we walked over to the nearest building inside the free zone where the hotel receptionist told us we could find customs. Inside that building they told us to look for building 3... Wherever that was. After lots of stumbling round we found a taxi and instructed him to take us to customs in building 3. Well the taxi driver didn't know where that was but after lots of calls on the radio and phone he managed to get us to the trucking side of the customs building at gate 3 (ah..). The security guard told the driver off for being on the wrong side of the building and then told us he was trying to rip us off or something. Who knows, we paid what was on the meter and he didn't know where he was going, nothing we can do.

We went to the correct side of the building and tried to spot one of the three faces from the agents office, but they weren't around. After a process of half an hour trying to communicate what we needed we had managed to get hold of a phone and made a call to the office. They of course were angry at us and told us to call the number they had sent yesterday. We called that number and told him we were inside the customs office sitting at one of the counters, which confused him greatly, and then us. After another twenty minutes he turns up shakes hands and then leads us to the customs office on the outside of the free zone (UGH, BE CLEAR WITH WHERE WE HAVE TO BE). At the gate of course there was an issue because we didn't have security passes to be in the free zone, but easy hotel has an open gate and we were never hassled before about it.

Now that we were in the correct office they gathered all the documentation together, got a ticket and we waited. And waited. And waited some more. I think it was about an hour or more but the ticket was called and we went up to the desk. Immediately there was a problem as the customs officer recognised the agent from the day before. Well it turns out that the agent was told the previous day that he needed to have a letter from the shipping company stating he was representing us and also that the shipping company had failed to put our names anywhere on the delivery note. So hearing this I asked rather forcefully "You are our agent and we are paying you to do this for us, why are you not on top of this and why did you not correct the documents yesterday and instead drag us along today to waste our time?". Well the customs officer agreed with this and told him to go away.

We had successfully wasted a day and now it was too late to get to the Iranian consulate to move the visa process along a bit. We went back to the hotel and just wasted time on the internet for my birthday. Later in the afternoon I called the shipping agents office and asked them if they had corrected the delivery notification and typed up the letter, which they assured me they had and then told us it was our fault that we had not turned up the day before. I took issue with this and attempted to correct him but I guess he couldn't understand my language as it was growing ever more colourful at this point. I found out on the phone call that this was the first time they'd done this sort of delivery and that's why there were problems. They couldn't have told us that the week before? We would have got someone else. They told us to be at the customs office at 8am the next day.

The next day we turned up at the right customs office at 9am. Agent nowhere to be seen. Again we fumbled around trying to use the payphone and eventually someone offered their phone for us to use. We called the agent and he said he was on his way and he would be ten minutes.

Thirty minutes later he turns up, gets a ticket and waits in line. I alert him to our presence and then go through the documentation to make sure he has the two things the customs officer asked for. Some time later the number gets called and there's a bit of trouble at the desk again (same customs officer). They call me over and explain that we need insurance before we can get the bikes out. So, loudly again, I ask them why they couldn't tell us that the day before when we had nothing better to do. They say they forgot and they had told the agent the day before that we needed it but they didn't pass it on to us. We ask where we could do this and what we needed. The registration certificate was one of the things we needed but of course I left that back in the hotel assuming the agent would have been on top of the documentation required (me = idiot). Outside the agent gets his boss on the phone (the pleasant man that insults everyones English) and he hands the phone to me. The lovely chap says "You don't have insurance? Why don't you have insurance?". More colourful language later I explain to him that it's HIS JOB to let us know what we're supposed to have.


So we leave on a giant expensive taxi ride back to the hotel first, where I run up to the room and find the keycard doesn't work (day progressively gets worse). Another three elevator rides later I have my registration certificate and it's off to get some insurance. The driver and the agent are talking the entire time and after lots of taking the same road back and forth a few times we pull into a petrol station and the agent gets out and starts looking around. Well apparently this is not the right place and he makes another call and then we're off again. We keep asking we're were going but get no response. Then for some reason we end up at gate 7 of the free zone, about 20km from gate 3. Here the agent gets out, we ask what's going on and he says we have to get security passes to go in.


We could have done that at the other side of the free zone and we wouldn't have wasted an hour driving around in this stupid expensive taxi (but by no means expensive compared to Australia). We go in and pay for passes, which are fifteen dhirams, and we ask why it's 15 so the agent points at each of us in turn and says "five, five"... So that's ten then... We figure out later that we had paid for his gate pass. After all this hassle I tell him we are getting the bikes out today, no more screw ups, we need them out so we stop wasting days and money here.

So for the next half an hour we're trying to get a taxi. Eventually he manages to flag down some other car and they give us a lift up to the petrol station inside the free zone where we can get insurance, where we should have gone in the first place. Note that no money changed hands during this trip, it's important later.

We go inside and for some reason getting insurance takes all of 10 minutes and is very straight forward. Our minds blown we go outside and flag down another taxi to take us back to the customs building to get that part completed. The agent runs up to the desk of the customs officer and of course they tell him to go away and get a number (it's about lunch time after all). The supervisor calls me over after a bit and says we've been in so often lately and to go see the customs officer we saw before, the agent and I go over and the customs officer is not happy to see the again yet again and some words are exchanged and eventually the supervisor takes us over to his desk.

The supervisor starts going over all the documentation periodically looking madly at the agent and shaking his head about the way everything has been filled in. During this part he explains how having a good agent would be better, I tell him I know and that we won't be using these guys next time. He fails to see that this is a once off shipment. Then he hands over his card and says that he also has a customs clearing agency. I ask if this is a conflict of interest, which he ignores. He stamps the carnet and then tears both the import and export voucher out of the book. I explain that I actually need the export part for when I leave the UAE, to which he is very confused about (has anyone, anywhere in the UAE ever seen a carnet before?).

Eventually everything is stamped and we're good to go to get the bikes out. The agent leads us out of the office and explains that the truck will be arriving soon and asks if we want a drink. I decline because I hate the guy and don't want to be around him any more. So we wait around for half an hour and he comes to find us so we can go get the bikes. Or so we thought.

It's at this point he asks if we're going to pay him the ten dhirams he had to pay for the lift we got from some stranger to the insurance place. Knowing he didn't pay him anything I tell him we'll talk about it after he gives me the five dhirams for the security pass.

So this naturally leads into the next part where he says "You pay money now?". Of course we are confused as to what money he is talking about and then he goes on to mention that we agreed to some amount when we were in the office last Wednesday... Well no we didn't, and I had told him every day I saw him that we wanted receipts for everything because the Mumbai side ripped us off so royally. So he calls his boss again and says to us that if we're not paying now we go into the office 40km away to sort it out. Well of course we exclaim our objections to this rather loudly and that no documentation has been given to us for payment. The agent calls his boss again to voice our concerns and this is met with the same response as before. He hands the phone to me and the nicest person I've ever met just says "Pay my person my money" over and over to anything I say to him. Well this leads to me shouting over the phone that we have not seen any invoice from him or any receipts and that one of the first things he told us in the office was that all of his work had been paid for already by the Mumbai office. He disagrees of course and then refers to a photo of a printout of an email with some pencilled in numbers for a shipment outbound from Dubai in a 20' container as our invoice. We also inform him that if we're going to the office we're coming with the police (none of us being Emirati helps if we involve the police). Well then he asks to give the phone back to the agent (his person), and the agent says we're going into the office.

This is how far we have come with technology (the "invoice" he was referring to).
Well now we're both shouting at the agent and the trucker and instructing them both that they are taking us into the free zone right now to get the bikes out and we're not going to the office and we're not paying until we see an invoice. That goes down about as well as expected and then the agent waves the documents in front of us and says he is taking them into the office where we can pay. Well of course my natural Australian comes out and I shove him and take the paper out of his hand.

So we're both shouting at these two outstanding gentlemen explaining that they are going nowhere and that we will get the bikes today and I think they were actually quite afraid of us for a bit. We tell them to produce some documentation for the costs after he tells us the delivery notification cost him 400dhirams, to which we retort with the actual costs as we had already seen the shipper (the people who own the boat, not the people we're dealing with right now). So he starts writing on a bit of paper that the delivery notification was 400, then it was 200 dhirims a day each for the three days out there for each bike. I reminded him (quite shoutily) that it was his fault he wasted the first two days of that, today was the only day we'd made any sort of progress.

Out of all this shouty hazy remembered mess we got him to agree to taking us to the bikes so we can see them then we will pay the 2000dhirams, and I showed him the cash to prove we had it. It took a very very long time to convince him of this and that we were actually honest people and not [well everything I write here just ends up racist].

We can't all fit in the truck so they organise to meet the truck inside somewhere. So we get a taxi, and for some unknown reason we head away from gate three which we are standing next to and take the long road all the way around to gate 7. Along this taxi ride the agent keeps saying "I will come to Australia and snatch documents out of your hands" and "I was going to tear up the documents". I am completely astounded by his lack of understanding of how angry we are with this whole process. Also a little bit puzzled that he doesn't understand that I'm heading in the other direction from Australia.

At gate 7 the taxi heads in and we end up at a small shop. He tells us we are waiting for the truck and I assume we're going to lead it to the warehouse as the driver didn't sound sure where it was. So we're sitting here with the meter running inside a taxi and then all of a sudden he starts talking to the driver and we're off. Well after many circles of an area back near the hotel I ask if we're actually headed to the warehouse and he says we are. More and more back and forth later I assume all the talk between the driver and him is about trying to locate this warehouse but we stop and there is someone standing by the road. The agent jumps out and it all smiles and hugs and shaking hands with this guy and he points in the window at us and waves. Drew opens the taxi door and asks if we're getting out and he says no, so this leads to a new question of this being the correct warehouse, and that is also negative. Well now we're all confused. The agent jumps back in and says something to the driver and we ask the agent what was that... Well...

It was his cousin. He'd just arrived in Dubai 8 days before.
I asked him why we were going to see his cousin and not going to the warehouse, to which he is dumbfounded that we are upset about having to pay for a taxi to drive around so he can have a family reunion. At this point I'm just laughing. And of course the taxis next stop was directly at the warehouse where the truck was waiting and where we could have been waiting for free.

Yep, keep pushing that guy that shoved you before, lets see if he has a breaking point.

Anyway we didn't have enough money left to pay the taxi driver so he had to pay for some of it.

Inside the warehouse we finally got a glimpse of our bikes after a month. All crated up and with some damage of course. So we're good for our word and I ask the agent if everything has been paid for which he assures me it has (but know it's not) and I hand over the 2000dhirams. To which he says it was 2280 before, and I remind him he agreed to 2000.

The comedy of errors continues because the truck they brought (probably a family friend) was two small to carry both bikes. More shouting, they've had dimensions and weight for a month and they bring the wrong truck. I tell him to go stand at one end of the warehouse, I'm going to the other.

The solution they come up with is to get two trucks, which I assume is coming out of the 2000 I gave him.

After a waiting for this second truck to turn up he comes rushing over with the warehouse manager to which I look suitably displeased about him entering my half of the warehouse. Well the reason for all the concern was that the storage fee for the bikes (which he already paid for?) was not 300 like he thought, it was 2700. Yes, we had the gold plated deluxe full service highest cost warehousing money could buy in this part of the universe. So Drew and I (and the agent, curiously) are all loudly exclaiming our displeasure at having to pay this amount for storage for 9 days (never mind the two days that the agents wasted, or five if you count the weekend and the day they actually could have started paperwork).

To give you an idea: 2700dhirams is roughly $100US/day. We'd been sharing a small and smelly room in the cheapest hotel we could find for $30/day to save some money and then we get hit with this.

Again we find out that the second truck was never actually called, it was just priced and that it would be an extra 300 dhirams. Shouting or laughing at the incompetance, I can't remember what happened here. There's more discussion and both trucks are cancelled and a new vehicle recovery truck is called in so we can get both bikes off without help. In the meantime there are lots of phone calls back and forth and lots of blame being placed on the shipper for using this warehouse, and the warehouse blaming the agent for not informing us of the costs. Whatever, I just want to pay and get out of this place. We disappear off to the bank as neither of us is carrying enough cash for this mistake.

We get back and find our truck had arrived, but now the manager of the warehouse has disappeared so we have no one to pay. After some running about someone is paid and we find out the manager knocked off about 500dhirams from the price before he left. Thanks, I think? They give us a receipt and a delivery note for the truck driver (important for later) and we're on our way.

The bikes are loaded on the truck and we all get in and head out for the last step of the day, clearing customs for the free zone. During this journey the agent it all happy and chatty and asks drew for his facebook name so he can add him later (ARE YOU KIDDING?). The truck fronts up to the inside customs office (the one we had mistakenly arrived at the day before) and we go in to find customs officers just sitting around. The agent comes over and says we should go up to the desk alone to get them to stamp the delivery because we're white. Well that's been the only good use of this skin colour for a long time now. The customs officer looks over the paperwork and tells us to meet him outside. Once outside he asks where the crates are, to which we point to the back of the truck in the distance, and he nods, goes back inside and stamps the paperwork. That was curiously easy.

Vespa being loaded.

DR650 being loaded.

We go back out with the paperwork and find the driver, he has some discussion with the agent, and then for some reason we're back inside the customs building. This time we need a gate pass. We see the gate pass officer and he goes through the documents and it is taking a while but we're almost free. Then of course he spots a problem.

The business name on the delivery note the warehouse gave us does not match the business name on the customs documents we got earlier in the day.


He tells us there will be a handling fee to process the gate pass. The driver steps in and then for some reason we're waiting around for the agent. Then of course there's a white guy shouting at the customs guy about this being the latest in the long series of idiotic hoops we've had to jump through today and it's not the customs guys fault be he's there and he's a good target because the agent isn't around (that was me doing the shouting by the way).

I go back and look at the paperwork and find the receipt that the warehouse gave us had the correct name, but not the delivery note. Drew goes over to ask what the deal is and somehow now the customs guy is willing to accept our proposal for us to just pay for the extra handling fee because of incorrect documentation so we can get out of this stupid free zone. We pay the money and then in the process ditched the agent, got in the truck with the driver and headed to the gate.

We wait in line at the gate and once it's our turn there's a shift change. Another 5 minutes of sitting around waiting. They take a quick look at the documents and they bikes are out! HOORAY!

Then once we're right on the other side of the gate the driver decides he's thirsty and pulls over to get a drink. He was sitting in the customs office with water available for about an hour waiting for us, why now?

After lots of driving around we find a skip in the middle of a big truck car park and we unload the bikes there.


There was lots of smashing of crates and then the bikes are released into the UAE! Hooray! They got here! The most horrible day ever ended! It all worked out and all problems were solved by throwing lots of cash at them! We put everything back together and then jump on the bikes and head back to the hotel!

Then we ran out of fuel.

Friday 13 July 2012

Dubai and Abu Dhabi

Prepare for Photos!
Spicejets new flight from Mumbai to Dubai, cheap!
Dubai! After being lazy and not updating this for a while.. Internet access is kind of rare in the UAE. The hotel's we've been in have either not had internet access or have been horribly slow. There's free wifi in Dubai Mall so we were spending lots of time there. We also found some "free" wifi in the Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi at a cafe after buying a drink. And then we hit the mecca of internets: this hotel has a different wireless access point for each room, and it's fast!

Once we arrived in Dubai the airport was big and shiny and amazing after being in India. We got through Immigration moderately quickly to get the free 30 day visa stamp in our passports, then customs pretty much ignored us. I had made through my 14th border crossing!

We took the metro from the airport closer to where the hotel was in Deira but we had no idea how this city was laid out. It turns out Deira is one of the more seedier areas in Dubai. The hotel we were staying in was the Fortune Pearl, one of a group of three in the area owned by the same people.

Room standard is improved over India.

View from the balcony.

They're building a third palm tree out here.

A fort in the middle of Deira.

Human trailer. See people towing these things around all over Deira.

This was over the top of a metro station in Bur Dubai (across Dubai Creek from Deira)

We stayed a few nights in the Fortune Pearl and on the last night we ventured into one of the four bars downstairs and discovered tables around the room facing a stage on which about 10 Pakistani girls took turns at dancing on. They were all fully clothed in the usual national dress, but you could take them back to your room (for a price). The other three rooms in the hotel were the same but with Indian girls, seemed very odd as there were lots of families staying in the hotel.

A really really big flag.

Its big.

2nd of December Street!

A building next to the Dubai Mall

The Tallest building in the world! Taken from the metro station near it.

The Burj Khalifa again, next to it this time.

A quick ride on the Dubai Metro. The trains don't have drivers (like Singapore!) So at the front it's just a window to look out. This was though the Internet/Media village south of the main part of Dubai.

After the Forturne Pearl we started looking around for a place to couch surf. Eventually we found a German family near Jebal Ali which is quite far from the Dubai city centre. We stayed with them for a few nights before heading down to Abu Dhabi to have a look at Ferrari World.

Ferrari world!

The giant logo thing, which is the shape of the roof over the place.

More entrance.

Formula Rossa! The worlds fastest roller coaster!
I don't remember going on a roller coaster before. Maybe at the Cairns show once, but they were small little tame things. This one was the worlds fastest. And it was nuts. We got there about an hour after the park opened and we only had to wait 15 minutes in line. Then we were given goggles and strapped in to the car. It rolls forward a little bit and then stops, then it does its 0-240km run in 5.8 seconds. It then hits a hill and tips over for a long run around a loop along the ground. It's fast. It's insane. It kinda looks like this:

And my video from the viewing platform:

And some Formula 1 drivers on it, and some V8 drivers. I wasn't that relaxed, but I was gripping tightly onto the bar and laughing the whole time!

We checked out all the other rides there too, most weren't as insane. There's another rollercoaster which isn't as fast but runs for a lot longer.

Then there's this crazy ride. 

Which stopped about 10 meters into it, this is how we had to exit.

They showed the formula 1 practice session in Silverstone up on this screen.
Next door to Ferrari world was the go kart track, so we went over to have a look, drew had a run in the karts.

That's when we wandered next door to look at the Yas Racing School just to have a look.

Well it turns out here you can actually get on track for a fairly reasonable fee. You can get taken out on track in a few different cars, or you can drive yourself in one of the SST cars which are two seater closed wheel things. Or you can opt for the Formula 3000 cars...

Drew pondering this decision...

Which didn't take long to ponder... 
So we prepared to go back to Dubai to sort out the bikes, and then come back to Abu Dhabi again so Drew can get on the track.

We managed to get a parking ticket in Abu Dhabi though, so the morning was spent here...
Back in Dubai we had booked to go up to the viewing floor of the Burj Khalifa. It was only a short elevator ride up to the 124th floor where you get views like this:

The Dubai Mall, the biggest in the world.

Neat panorama view of the Financial district in Dubai. I think this is the one they liked to show off in TV shows. There's a 10 lane expressway running through the middle of it now though.

If you get to the top and you want to buy some gold, well, you can...

The worlds biggest fountain all the way down there.

Looking inland to all the roads.

Held my camera out as far as I could and this was the view.
After this we wasted more time trying to find out where the bikes were. The address that the Mumbai shippers had given us was not for the agent we needed to get the bikes out of the ports, but for a different office. After a lot of running around and insults from the agent over out ability to speak English (oh and he insulted everyone else we handed the phone to as well) we eventually got to the office to pick up my now expiring carnet. We took all our documentation to another agent to see if we could use someone else, but that was a waste of a few hours to find out they'd never actually seen a carnet before. We reluctantly went back to the original agent and explained we wanted receipts for EVERYTHING as the Mumbai office had charged me for 5 cubic meters of freight but only paid for 2.77. Very very dodgy every step of the way with this shipment. If we had more time we could have found someone else to deal with. Hopefully we'll get the bikes back on Sunday or Monday. Hopefully.

Back to wasting more time.

The Ski slope inside Mall of the Emirates.

Some part of Mall of the Emirates.

The Aquarium in Dubai Mall.

We got another hire car and headed back to Abu Dhabi again so Drew can drive the Formula 3000 car.

Cars lined up ready to go.

Waiting to get on track.

On track!
And now we wait for the bikes to appear. Back to Dubai tomorrow and then lots of rushing to prepare for Iran.