Touring by Bike South America, Africa and Europe by Bicycle

Touring by Bike
Day 45. Departure day

Km today: 0

Well, I allowed myself to wake up very late. The plane is at 5 pm, so there is plenty of time. After writing Air France two days ago a message about the bike packing and (as expected) receiving no answer back from them, I decided to take the risk and go to the airport to buy the cardboard. Is the third Easter day and almost all the shops are closed anyway.
After having breakfast at the hostel I packed everything, checked-out (it has to be done before 11 am and the lady at the reception cannot wait few minutes more 🙁 ), I went to Carrefour, bought some tape to secure the box, some food, come back at the hostel, took down the pedals (again I had to ask for help from the hostel’s neighbour) and asked a guy from the hostel to call me a cab. The taxi company said they do not have big cars and they don’t want to send a normal car (they were told I have a bike). Cool, so now I either have three options:
– to bike the 34 km to the airport. Is not a long distance, but there is a highway in between and Argentina seems to be much more strict about the law (no bikes allowed on the highway) than Peru
– go out on the street and try to hook a taxi or
– wait for the airport commuting car (I think they have to call it) and hope there is place for me and the bike.
I choose the second option, is the fastest one and I want to have some time in the airport to buy the box, pack the bike, check it in, etc. Fortunately the guy at the hostel offers to help me and the first taxi we wave to stops and, despite the fact that the car is pretty small he’s wishing to drive me to the airport (the price is 210 pesos, instead of 230 for a normal car from the company the hostel works with or 260-280 for a bigger car that would take the bike). It took the three of us some time to fit the bike (with the wheels off) and the bike panniers into the car but at the end we manage to do it and close the doors. I pay in advance, because in South America people are sometimes telling you a price to hook you and after the service was provided they ask for more. It happened to me in Lima (where I stupidly enough payed more) and La Paz (where I knew the lesson).

Once at the terminal C in the airport, the adventure is over and I can quietly and calmly go back to Europe. Yeah, sure….the adventure for today just begins. After some struggle to put the bike (with the wheels off), as well as the 5 bags panniers on the airport carriage the whole thing was so wide that it was very difficult to move through the airport.
I spend some time trying to find the Air France / KLM office, just to find out that is at the end of the check-in offices.
The lady here is OK, but my pulse goes up a little when she makes me wait few minutes just to check if they have a bike. At the end she comes with a bike, I pay with all the pesos I had (+ 1 USD) and she tells me I shouldn’t put the bike in until police checks it. Someone will join/help me at the police station, so they check the bike before I pack it. The lady that came to help me tells me I should do the check-in of the luggage first. Okeeey. Somehow she places me directly in front of the check-in office, so I jump the queue, without intending to (sorry, people in the queue). After a few minutes of waiting I put the luggage on the band, I present the passport and the guy starts to look at my passport and looks and looks at every page…and again. After one minute or more he asks:

– did you enter Argentina with this passport ?
– No, I’m a secret agent, I have many of them. Of course I entered with this one (I didn’t really say I’m a secret agent).
– well, you have no stamp from your entrance to Argentina.
– maybe, but is not my fault, I presented the passport at the frontier
– well, sir, you have to go to “Migraciones”, you’ll probably have to pay a fine and they will fix it
– and where is this Migraciones office ?
– at terminal A, sir ! (mind you that I was at terminal C)

Now my pulse rises again, I run to terminal A…find the migration office and tell them the story. The guy here said he cannot tell when I entered, I’ll have to pay a fee of 300 pesos. Great, and I was just so happy to get rid of all the Argentinian pesos when I paid the bike box. No problem, you can pay in USD, at the bank. But my 100 USD bill is a little deteriorated after getting wet before arrival in Cuzco. So at the bank office (still in terminal A, fortunately) they don’t accept my bill either. and they send me back to migraciones to check with them about my bill. Of course the guys at the migration office has nothing to do with money and he sends me back to the bank. I try to withdraw some money from a cash machine, the cash machine said it cannot give money, for the moment. Cool, that starts to go to a dead-end. Panic, panic, where is the panic button ? Before finding the button I found another ATM, next to the Bank Office. I withdraw the 300 pesos, pay at the bank, rush at the migrations office and here they give me here an “autorizacion de salida” (exit authorization). With this I run back to terminal C and this time intentionally jump the queue and go directly to the cashier. The guy jokes about me having to pay for the check-in. I check-in two of the panniers and take two to put in the bike box, considering their advice.
I go to the police station with the bike in an opened box, the panniers, the handlebar and the tents. Here things went smooth, no problems of course with the control and I kindof manage to pack the bike and the rest of the stuff and wrap the bike box in scotch tape (not very good, but that’s what I found at Carrefour).

Pffeeeew, I did it. Just in time. Flight back is OK, I cannot really sleep so I watch TV (“The Cloud Atlas”, that I’ve heard about, slightly disappointed me). I couldn’t watch The Hobbit, but I enjoyed some travel documentaries (the one about Dominican Republic is pretty nice).
The last challenge was to find a taxi in Stockholm, but that was pretty easy, the first taxi I saw when exiting the airport was juuust long enough so my badly damaged bike box fits in. He is overcharging me (heey, I thought is not “South America against the gringo” any-more).

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