Day 11 – Busan, South Korea
In my last post I mentioned some stresses currently with regards to my bike so this time I’d thought I’d explain a little more. Let’s go back maybe a year or so when I first contacted Bikes Abroad, a company in Australia that facilitates exactly that, getting bikes overseas. I found their details through my months of researching which came with many recommendations from fellow travellers using their services. Communication was great with Ivan throughout the ensuing months and as the leave date got closer, everything seemed to run smoothly. He gave me some options as to which ship to use for the journey depending on my timetable and we decided the ANL Warrnambool would suit our needs. A 249m container ship sailing under the German flag, she’s not a pretty vessel but I’m sure she’s got plenty of nautical miles under her belt since the wife of some CEO of a ship building company broke a bottle of champagne across her bow back in 2009.
So with the booking in place, the only thing left to do was get the bike crated up and prepped for its 26 (give or take) days on the water, sailing from Brisbane to Singapore then onto Busan. I was able to luck onto grabbing a steel crate from the local Suzuki dealer for free. I think it may have been for a large cruiser-style bike as the length and width were right but I had to extend the uprights another 130mm for the height of my bike. I was working to a certain cubic capacity as that’s what shipping rates are calculated on and Ivan had given me quotes based on 2.6cu.m. At this dimension all I had to do was remove the screen and unbolt the handlebars to turn them sideways as with full width bars and Barkbusters, they were a bit too wide. I could however leave the front wheel on which is a bonus. Some others choose remove it to reduce the size but its a bit awkward due to the weight to get it back on by yourself. One less thing to worry about. So we delivered the bike to the shippers facility after I rode it over there with my wife Trina following in the car with the crate on the roof racks and the luggage in the back and packed it all up one last time for it to be loaded and set sail on the 8th April.
Fast forward to last week. It was my second day in Japan and I was checking in on the progress of this ship thinking how close it would be to arriving in Busan. I’d been using the Vessel Finder website which tracks any and all commercial ships all around the world the last week or two to follow it on its journey. The last time I looked which was around the 20th April, it had just left Singapore as scheduled and, as I’d thought at the time, was continuing on its journey to Busan. When I checked on the 2nd May, it was showing as sitting back at Port of Brisbane preparing for its next sailing to NZ.
Huh? Hang on. Wait, what? OK, so that didn’t make sense. What happened to Busan? Was there a problem with the ship? But more importantly, where’s my bike? All these questions were running through my head along with scenarios of what would happen next. I emailed Ivan straight away to check in but understandably would not know an answer straight away. As the days went on not knowing, the anxiety levels were rising and Ivan hadn’t gotten an answer either. To make matters worse, I’d picked up a bad cold along the way due to probably running myself ragged, not eating properly, the flight over or a combination of all 3. So Friday comes and still no word from Ivan. I assumed I’m not going to hear anything over the weekend either so resigned myself to continue with the plan, get the ferry to Busan and hopefully Monday I’ll hear something. Monday comes, ferry ride is done and I check my emails every chance I get. Luckily free wifi in Korea is in abundance it seems. By 3pm I hadn’t seen anything so decided to call Ivan back in Australia hoping he had some news for me. Which he didn’t but was confident by the end of the day of Tuesday he would hear back from his contact at the shipping agency. He’d forwarded on my email from last week to chase the info up and when he himself hadn’t heard anything by Friday, he had to harass them again. See where this is going? Ask a question to one person, they have to ask the next, then the next and so on. It all takes time.
So to assure I get any communication as it comes in, I confine myself to the guesthouse in Busan. Luckily its an awesome spot with all the wifi I can use. I’ve been the lone boarder since I arrived so I have just been extending my stay each day until I can leave on two wheels. Then Tuesday I finally get the confirmation I was waiting for. My bike did in fact change ships in Singapore and was aboard the KMTC Shenzhen and was due to arrive in Busan that day. Hooray! Technically 6 days later then we had all planned but confirmation it wasn’t lost or sent back to Australia was good enough for me!! Now the wait began to see how long it takes to be made available. I assumed nothing would happen until Thursday at the earliest as it would’ve needed to be unloaded, move from warehouse to warehouse and so on which was cutting it tight as I need to be half way up the east coast first thing Sunday morning to catch the once a week ferry to Vladivostok.
Thankfully, I received an email from Wendy, my shipping broker yesterday saying I needed to go to the Customs office today (Thursday) to start clearing the bike through customs. Hopefully that means I can ride it back here to the guesthouse this afternoon and we can get this adventure going proper.
So that, dear reader, was the additional grief I had been having with the bike shipping. I’m sure to all involved, it was just the normal thing that happens all the time and in the big scheme of things, I’ve maybe lost 2 days? of riding in South Korea. It’s just the additional grey hairs and ulcer I didn’t need!