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The Paperchase

Paperwork is the curse of travellers especially for those taking their own vehicle overseas. It’s not just airline tickets, visas, insurance & international licenses but there’s the carnet (vehicle permit) to contend with. A carnet de passage records when a vehicle enters and leaves each country. It requires a bond be arranged beforehand to ensure the bike and rider don’t part company and every country places a different value on this obligation. The highest bond required on my journey is for Iran where it’s a whopping 500% of the bike’s value. This removes any incentive to sell the bike along the way if I find myself running short of cash!  On the return home, the security will only be refunded as long as everything’s in order. Making a slip up by forgetting to get the carnet signed off as I cross a lonely border outpost and life might get complicated.

Some of the required visas need to be arranged well in advance. So timing is critical to working out when to apply for each one and for how long, as much will depend on how many miles I can cover in a day, especially as the terrain and traffic vary so much. Getting the length of stay for a vehicle syncronised with a visa can sometimes be farcical. In Honduras on a previous ride for example, I was granted a month while my bike was allowed two weeks and the only way to get an extension was to fork out a bribe or mordita, which literally means “little bite”. I might be older and a bit wiser on this trip but I don’t imagine the border scams will be any the less inventive.

Air freighting the bike entails crating it beforehand and airlines work out the price according to which ever is the greater, volume or weight. The object therefore is to build the crate as light as possible and remove anything that makes the motorcycle too bulky. Having transported bikes overseas a few times I’m confident it’s relatively straight forward at this end. Nothing though guarantees the same on arrival in either Nepal or India. One would be naive not to expect long delays, countless signatures from over zealous officials and a mountain of red tape to navigate. It’s not called “Paper Work” for nothing!

Vehicle insurance is mandatory in most places. You’re obliged to pay for it, but in many countries it doesn’t mean squat if you end up in an accident. Medical insurance is a different kettle of fish and it too doesn’t come cheap. The chances of overloaded trucks and buses turning five lane highways into two, with me as the meat in the sandwich seem inevitable, according to those who’ve ridden there and barely survived. If its a game of chicken you’re after then India is definitely your cup of tea. I’ve had my share of tempting lady luck over sixty plus years. Speedway & road racing have shortened the odds somewhat, lighting a fire under a friend’s house to rid it of rats was a tad suicidal, but I’ve managed to steer clear of bungy jumping and other extreme sports, so I figure this put me ahead just a little. So, I don’t mind paying that little extra insurance to be flown home to get sewn back together if that becomes necessary. It’s falling in the Ganges that scares the bejeezus out of me! Fortunately I’m in pretty good shape for an old bloke, so apart from dicing with camel carts and the wrestling with delhi belly I reckon I stand a good chance of escaping the Asian continent relatively unscathed….well at least that’s the plan.

Visit more than a dozen countries anywhere outside the EU and a passport soon becomes chock a block full of entry and exit visas. It used to be possible to have foldout pages added which helped when immigration officers stamped a new page each time just for the hell of it.  Gone are the days on the hippy trail when you could get  your own rubber stamp made declaring “multiple entrada”.  Sadly too, foldout pages are a thing of the past, along with so many other things now classified as non-essentials, a bottle of water for example. And try passing through immigration with as much as a sharp wit and see how far that gets you.  In fact even smiling at the camera now is a floggable offence. I kid you not. My wife jokingly once asked a photo shop attendant in Bali if her wrinkles could be removed from her passport photo and he willingly obliged. The result was an image that would have done Madame Tussaud proud. Get caught doing this today and you might be rewarded with a stint in the island’s infamous lodging house. Currently it’s full of travellers who don’t believe that the ‘No Drugs’ signs (which greet bleary eyed arrivals on the Midnight Express) apply to them. I’ve driven past Kerobokan numerous times and believe me it’s no Club Med, so on this trip I’ll keep my smiles to myself thank you very much!

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