Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dar Shipping Saga, Part 2

Saturday morning, we got up early, had breakfast, and rode to the airport, in the rain (another slap in the face from Dar), to be there by 8:00 am. We arrived, rather drenched, and stopped at the guard station at the cargo entrance. He let us pass, and when we got to the cargo building, realized we were the only ones there. Tamim showed up shortly after we did, and we began the bike disassembly process (which we have pretty well mastered now). The entertainment for the morning came in the form of various officials who insisted that the bikes be not only drained of gas but also drained of oil. I didn't want to drain the oil, and both Tamim and Yusuf said it wasn't necessary, so every time an official asked about draining the oil, I just nodded and said yes, I'd drain the petrol. They'd say, no, the oil, and I'd nod my head, yes, and say, the petrol. This happened several times, and they finally just gave up and went away. 

Our crate in progress, before it was torn apart to start over.
When we were just about finished, his craters (two men, a big one, the supervisor, and a smaller one, the guy who actually knew what he was doing) arrived with their building supplies and toolkit.  They had about eight boards, roughly 1” x 7” x 7', two sheets of 1/8” plywood, two used, but complete wooden pallets, one broken pallet (for parts, you know. Like if you're restoring a car, it's good to have a piece of crap car to scavenge parts from), a very small paper sack of new nails, a hammer which had lost its handle and been put on a piece of pipe instead, and a handsaw. I laughed. Tamim and Colin told the craters what size crate we needed, they wrote down the dimensions, and got started. The base of the crate was made of the two intact pallets and a small piece of the broken one, which the man attached together with pieces of wood along the joins. He then added the vertical posts, and Colin went to measure the crate. It was wrong. The dimensions we gave them were the same as those of the beautiful crate we had built in Toronto to ship them to Cape Town. Since cargo rates are based on either the actual or the volumetric weight of the item (and ours was going to be the volumetric weight since they are lightweight for their size) we wanted to keep the dimensions as small as possible. If they had continued building the crate they started on, we would have ended up paying almost two hundred extra bucks for the additional volume. We said no. Tamim came over, measured it himself, yelled at his craters, and made them do it again.

Too big, do it again.
This time, it was even more interesting to watch, as the one man who knew what to do dismantled his work, sawed the side off the pallets to narrow them, then took the blocks out of the sawed off ends and put them back in the new, narrower pallet. While he worked, his “supervisor” (and the one who surely got most of the money in the deal) barked orders and directed the man with his sandaled foot. The supervisor was really lucky that I wasn't the one swinging the hammer, because if I had been, he would have ended up with a broken foot. The carpenter was much more level headed that I am though, and continued to work on the project at hand. 

Once the uprights were attached again, we lifted the bikes into place and cinched them down with the ratchet straps Karim (the supervisor in Cape Town) made us save (thank you, Karim). Then, the plywood started to go on. Unfortunately, they realized that they didn't have enough to cover all sides and the top and went behind one of the outbuildings to apparently, scavenge some appropriate material. They came back with a couple of pieces of much nicer, much stronger plywood and finished the crate. We tossed in our riding gear, which was still wet from our ride to the airport, the jerrycans, and our campstove. Shortly thereafter, some other official came out, gave it the thumbs up, and on went the top. Since Yusuf from Emirates was unavailable that day, his boss, Ali Hamdoun, came to the airport to handle the paperwork. To make the experience at the Dar cargo complex complete, we walked around the side of the building and watched a man, sitting on the sidewalk, type our air waybill and dangerous goods paperwork on a manual typewriter. Eventually the paperwork was completed, the crate was measured and weighed, the bill was paid, and we left our crate in the care of Swissport Cargo.

New Zahir- feeding revolutionaries for half a century!
Since our bikes were now crated, we had to take a taxi back into town and since it was after 2:30, we headed directly for lunch. Since it was early enough in the day, we made a beeline for New Zahir and one more plate of their delicious chicken biryani. New Zahir is a restaurant we found on Mosque Street, across from, wait for it... a big mosque. I'd walked by a few times before stopping in to see their menu. There were always a bunch of Muslim men drinking tea and eating some good-looking food, so we tried it one evening for dinner. The food was great- the flakiest chapatis, delicious biryani, pilau, and grilled chicken. And as a side note, it's been there forever and was frequented by revolutionaries including Che Guevara and Malcolm X back in the day (as Colin says, we weren't there for the politics, we were there for the food). 
Possibly the best chicken biryani on the planet
Later that afternoon, we tracked down Patrick at our usual spot on the 7th floor of the Peacock Hotel for another round of beer and good conversation. Since we were still full from lunch and too much beer, we skipped dinner and instead collapsed into bed early.   Sorry to digress, but in and amongst all the shipping mess, we met Patrick, a white South African gentleman who was born in Tanzania when it was still a crown colony and is now spending an extended time in Dar Es Salaam to see if he likes it enough to try to make it home again. He's a fellow motorcyclist, who rides a Triumph Tiger 800XC, and has led an interesting and varied life. When we met him, he was getting ready to leave for a week in Zanzibar to scope out the job/living possibilities there. He returned after five days (we were still there), and the three of us spent several evenings chatting over beers and peanuts in the rooftop bar at the much nicer hotel next door and dinners at Mamboz. Colin and I were both really happy to have someone interesting to exchange stories with. It was a nice break from the stress of Mr M.

Sunday morning we got up, finished packing, had some breakfast, and chatted with Patrick and Eddie, one of the owners of the hotel. Eddie is also a motorcyclist. He's a first generation Tanzanian (his father emigrated from Yemen), with two brothers and...fifteen sisters. Even I groaned and said how sorry I was for him. He's quite a character as well, with an array of stories of his own. As the eldest son, he's responsible for the entire family since his father died. His father became the largest rice grower in Tanzania, branched out into real estate, and now Eddie and his two brothers have to manage all of it. He takes every opportunity he can to ride out of Dar and told us stories of being chased by machete wielding bandits on motorbikes in the middle of the night, dodging wildlife on the main highways, and even stopping to watch a leopard, illuminated by his headlight, lounge in the middle of the road for a good ten minutes until he felt like getting up. Wow. I am jealous! 

We eventually made our way by taxi to the airport for our flight on Oman Air (very nice, by the way). We got ourselves through security, checked in for the flight, passed our document check for passports and yellow fever certificates (yay, someone actually asked to see them!), through Passport Control (very stern people there), through yet another security check with xray (twice? Really?), and made it to the gate in about an hour and a half. But we made it out of Dar!

1 comment:

  1. WOW!!! That's about all I can come up with in regards to your shipping woes! So glad to hear you made it to India safe and sound! Have fun!!