Days 22 & 23: Stinging bureaucracy 

I know I’m obsessed, but Morrissey must surely have spent two days sat in a customs office in a cargo airport to write the lyrics of Maladjusted:

With a soul full of loathing 
For stinging bureaucracy 
Making it anything 
Other than easy

    When the Cargo man said on Saturday ‘no problem,’ what he mean to say was ‘no idea!’

    There are webpages dedicated to giving advice to overland bikers, and a whole dvd of it as part of the Achievable Dreams dvd, so I won’t repeat it here. I know the basics; drain the fuel, make the bike as small as possible by removing the front wheel, be patient…

    Cargo man was due at BMW on Monday morning at 9. He sent someone at 10:30. He looked grumpy – like, why am I here, why am I delivering motorbikes?’  Come to think of it, I’ve never met a van driver who is happy with anything they have to deliver…

    Off we go to a carpentry factory to build a crate. Old man there very concerned about the size of the bike. Too long, too wide and too tall. I remove the front wheel and loosen the handle bars to lower them. I also remove the wind screen. But still, too big! ‘Can I remove the back wheel?’ Erm, ‘no’. Grumpily they agree to box it up. So, off I go to the cargo office. 


    When the BMW man spoke to the cargo man on Saturday, the cargo man never asked for measurements – just said ‘Turkish Cargo have a special offer, half normal price’. On Monday, it’s all – ‘the motorcycle is bigger than we thought, the price will be double. And, we don’t know whether Turkish Air will accept it because it is dangerous.’ 

    Bear in mind, they don’t speak English, and I don’t speak Turkish, all communications are either via the Google Translate App or via Ibrahim, a bloke on the phone. 

    I sat there for an hour… was told it would be another hour… then ‘if we don’t not get a decision in an hour we will go to the office’. So off we trot an hour later, a full 100 yards to the office of the woman (Layla, from Turkish Airways Cargo) who is to make the decision as she is in charge of ‘dangerous goods’ (I think it got lost in translation when I told her to approve it because ‘it’s not a tiger, it’s a motorbike’).

    Layla is almost certain it will be ok, but cannot get confirmation from Heathrow that they can handle the cargo. Istanbul think it will be ok (Istanbul outranks Ankara in these issues), she is 90% sure it will be ok, but will try to get 100% assurances from Heathrow… But Heathrow aren’t answering emails or telephone, ‘perhaps there Is a bank holiday?’  No..

    She checked the flights… None available until Friday and it could take 3-4 days to get there! So much for Saturday when Cargo man said ‘do paperwork on Monday, bike will leave on Tuesday and arrive in Manchester on Wednesday’

    So, agreements made, for a decision first thing in the morning. I will email the cargo office tomorrow at 10 and find out. 

    Tuesday morning I email as agreed. No response. I email again. Layla replies – the bike is booked on a flight from Istanbul to Heathrow tomorrow morning. Great, but how will it get from Ankara to Istanbul, and then from Heathrow to Manchester. No reply. Cargo man doesn’t reply at all to emails. When I send a Facebook message he responds immediately. Odd way to conduct business! Apparently all is well. The cargo box will be made by 14:00 and by 15:00 someone will pick me up from my hotel. 15:30 I get a call from reception – Cargo man is here. 

    Is the bike ready? Kind of – it’s on a palette rather than in a box, it’s tied down with straps and is wrapped in cling film. Apparently Turkish Airways wanted it this way. 


    Is the paperwork ready? No. No idea why, no explanation is given. I’m asked for my passport – apparently there will be an export stamp in it. But it returns an hour later with no stamp. Why? Not sure. Then we go across to see Layla. I’m given tea (one of the best things about Turkey is being offered tea all the time) and asked to sit down. People come, people go. I’m asked for my job title. I sit there. Then, after about an hour, Layla says ‘you do not need to wait here, you can go’. I’ve no idea why I was sent there… Cargo man says all is sorted. I’ve no idea what’s gone on, but my cling film bike now has official looking stickers on it and it’s been accepted by Turkish Airways. Due to leave Ankara tonight at 21:00 and be in London by breakfast tomorrow. No idea when it will get to Manchester as it’s going on the back of a truck!



    For the record – €2000. Eye watering. There will be handling fees at Manchester as well. Beginning to think it would be cheaper to abandon the bike in Turkey and buy a new one in the UK


    5 thoughts on “Days 22 & 23: Stinging bureaucracy 

    1. Desi

      €2000??? That’s a lot of coin to get the bike back. Its too bad that you couldn’t just leave it there to get fixed up then ride it out on a future trip.
      I know you are a day or so behind on the postings here, but is there a chance to have the bike fixed up in London instead of having to truck it all the way to Manchester? Bus ride back down once its fixed and ride back home.
      I don’t know, it just seems an expensive way to do it by bringing it all the way to Manchester in the condition that it is in, strapped to a pallet.

      1. davenunns Post author

        Cheers Desi.
        In panning the trip I explored the potential of flying the bike from Istanbul to Kathmandu (in case I didn’t get visas for Iran or Pakistan), even looked at Manchester to Kathmandu. I was told the prices would be £1400 from either – about €2000. To some extent I think the costs are in the handling and import / export rather than the actual miles flown. I balked at €2000 because the original price quoted was €1150
        Getting it in a truck from London to Manc hasn’t added to the cost, I think Turkish Airways have lorries doing the same journey all the time.
        Anyway, I’m back home now, and in theory will pick the bike up tomorrow.

    2. Will

      I could say that’s it all part of the adventure but I won’t. I could say that I bet you could have got a bloke to drive from UK to collect for cheaper but I won’t. What I will say is that it’s all a load of b@llocks and I’m really feeing sorry for you.
      You’re a good bloke Dave with good karma, take a deep breath and say “I’m doing ok”

      1. davenunns Post author

        Thanks Will.
        All part of life’s rich tapestry… I did contemplate buying a van in Turkey and driving it home… but… well, It’s done now. I’m home and hopefully the bike will be at the garage tomorrow and they can start to assess what’s needed, and what we can get away with (my VFR fairing has been kept together with gaffer tape and plastic glue for 10 years now, don’t see why I cant do the same with the BMW).
        I’m trying to be positive about it – everyone keeps saying that I should be grateful i’m not badly hurt, and they are right. I’m not bitter about the cash – I saved for the trip and had more money than I needed, I didn’t want to skimp (didn’t want to splurge either), the accident means I’ll spend the full budget rather than 70% of it,
        But I am p*ssed off that I’ve put my heart and soul into it for months, years even, lining all my ducks up (family, cash, work) and I f*cked it up. I might still see India and the Himalayas in a few weeks, but I wont ride through Iran and Pakistan to get there – and I don’t know that I will ever get the chance to do so again, not for many years anyway.
        Enough ‘woe is me’ there are plenty of people worse off…

    3. minky

      glad your home safe dave .. ieally dont know what to say ..but wishing you well ..hope you get to india .,,,,


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