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Dec 23, 2011:

Hostages of Customs

Ushuaia is nice, but enough is enough. We've been here now about 10 days, and there's still no hope of getting the bike. Actually, it's really bad. Buenos Aires Customs is holding our bike hostage for reasons we don't understand; and being that it's Christmas, there's not much we can do since it's closed.

Here's a recap of the "Saga de la Bicicleta":

  • Summer 2011: We confirmed with AeroMexico that we could take the over-sized bike with us on the plane to Buenos Aires before purchasing tickets.

  • Dec 6: Arrived at AeroMexico's counter at Phoenix airport. Counter folks said that we couldn't! Had to rebook our tickets.

  • Dec 6 - 10: Tried to find every way possible to ship bike down to Ushuaia. Got CBS News to help us with AeroMexico -- to have them honor their baggage policy.

  • Dec 10: A friend of ours' company jumped in to help ship the bike to Ushuaia. AeroMexico finally got in touch with us at night after we already sent the bike on its way via UPS. AeroMexico was willing to reimburse us for the shipment cost.

  • Dec 11: We flew to Buenos Aires and all was good.

  • Dec 14: We flew to Ushuaia and all was good. Per UPS tracker, the bike went from Phoenix, Arizona to Louiseville, Kentucky to Miami, Florida to Panama City, Panama to Sao Paolo, Brazil and stopped in Buenos Aires, Argentina. No one informed us that the bike had stopped in Buenos Aires.

  • Dec 19: Bike was supposed to arrive in Ushuaia. It never did, but no word of its "hostage" situation.

  • Dec 20: Still no bike. Our US contacts started calling UPS International. Bike was stuck in customs, but that it would be released and should arrive on the 21st.

  • Dec 21: We waited anxiously ...but no bike. More contacts and found out that Buenos Aires Customs was having problems with it. The customs value declaration was $1000. We bought the bike used in January 2009 for $960 and have not added much to it. Brand new in 2002, this Cannondale MT800 would cost about $1900-$2200. So $1000 value is fair... so we thought. For whatever reason, Customs felt that this was not the correct valuation of the bike. How would they know? The bike is clearly used, and not brand new where it could be "sold." Our intention is to ride it, not to sell it!! But similar stories of "hostaging" have surfaced. Buenos Aires Customs is notorious for making the person come to the office in Buenos Aires to confirm the package's value and to pay a "storage fee" that could run about $25/day for however many days it is held in Customs. In cash, that is, with no receipt!

  • Dec 22: Our worse fears are realized. The bike is held hostage and that our journey is stalled, potentially halted. Buenos Aires Customs wants us to come to Buenos Aires with receipts for the bike to prove its value. Now, it's December 22nd and flights and buses are all booked up. Besides, Ushuaia is about three hours by plane from Buenos Aires -- that's like from New York City to Miami! And besides, we bought the bike used on eBay -- receipt? Definitely a "WTF" situation! Withhold Total Frustration!!! Tauru wanted to throw a chair through the window when he realized we were hostaged!

  • Dec 23: Today. There's nothing we or anyone can do since it's Christmas vacation. Offices are closed today through Monday the 26th. Special THANKS to our US support for doing all they can with UPS and Buenos Aires Customs to free this bike.

    Well, that's the recap. For the time being, we're easing tension and emotions with Argentinian wine ..which, by the way, is superb! Well, that's what we've heard. Our snooty knowledge of fine wine: between $5 and $8 a bottle is considered superb!

    Fine Argentinian wine? Of course it's in a box! This one is for ARS$7 (~USD$1.60). Ah, super-superb ("superb" avec l'accent français, of course)!

    In the tent, Christi pulls out the wine goblet to savor the exquisite aroma of vino-superb. It's a coffee goblet in the morning.

    Tauru prefers it barbarian-style: fine wine straight from the box, and chasing it down with bread-superb. The smile? How else do you react after learning that your bike is held hostage and that it may spend the rest of its life imprisoned in Buenos Aires Customs!

    We were in the tent because we needed to get away. The tent is La Casa! It was windy and cold outside, and so we made dinner in the vestibule. Tauru boils water for pasta.

    And he shows off his find at the super market yesterday: salsa de soja (soy sauce). He keeps his true Asian-ness. You can take him out of Asia, but not the Asia out of him!

    After dinner, and a box-liter of wine-superb, we return to the common area to continue working on getting the bike. Here, Christi taps in for help.

    As difficult as the situation is, we noticed this Christmas tree in the corner all by itself. In the whole scheme of things, we are well and comfortable here at La Pista del Andino. We just hope our bike is okay. It's really hard to think of it being locked up at the Buenos Aires Customs prison. We're sending you vibes of lots of oil and grease, O bicicleta!

    On another note, the campground has gotten crowded with Argentinian campers. These campers are considered big here. It's really cool to see people really loving camping -- something instinctive within us to be with nature!

    Cool camper! Yes, in the States, this would be considered small; but perhaps that's all you need to be out there with nature.

    Pretty cool camion. This one is from Switzerland. They shipped it over from Europe and are meandering South America's rough roads in this robust beast. In the front, it reads "Suiza ....Switzerland."

    Here are more campers.

    This one still baffles us. Hmmm. Doggie camper? Kids camper? Not sure.

    Make sure you don't roll too much in your sleep in this one!

    The campers again? The far right one looks like it would be from the States. No, that's still too small.

    The Doggie Camper still baffles us. At least it has a nice view of Ushuaia.

    Scanning to the right, campers fill the campground. As you can see, it was a beautiful sunny day! Can't say that about the temperature since it was really chilly (48 F).

    And zooming back, you can see La Casa, the yellow tent on the right. Somewhere in there is the empty wine-superb-box.

    Notice the two motorbikes. That's really cool to see South America on motorbikes. ...Pause. Hmmm, what if? Ride the bikes ...that is, motorbikes? No, no! We'd run into things at dangerous speeds.

    Tauru tries to stay happy even though we have no idea how and if this journey will ever take off. The bike is under the whims of Customs officials who probably just want to supplement their income by tapping the emotions of foreigners.

    Jumping for joy because there's nothing else to do.

    That's better. That's more like it. Show it like it is!

    The mad Asian: "Where's my soy sauce!!!"

    The pouting Asian: "Where's our bike?"

    Spread the word and help us Raise Awareness!

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