After spending the last five months trying to beat winter to the southern hemisphere, Dave and I decided it would be less stressful if we rode motorcycles somewhere in-season.
After our ferry ride in Chile, we had five days in Santiago to sort out our next destination on our round-the-world adventure and how to get the bikes there. Alaska seemed the best option. After 30,000+ km (19,000+ m) of riding, we had many items on our bikes and in our bags needing warranty, repair or at least some good old North American attention anyway. It also meant we could ride the gap between B.C. to Arizona I couldn’t ride because of an injury in Sept, 2015.
After a few days spent searching for the best deal, we put the bikes on a United Airlines flight through E-Cargo Plus out of Santiago on May 12 and got ourselves a flight on Airmiles for May 13 (passenger flights to leave that day were going for $3500 USD [$4580 CAN]!).
So yes to your question: motorcycles are allowed to fly classified as Dangerous Goods. On the morning of May 11, Dave and I rode the bikes to the Santiago airport, found the E-Cargo Plus shipping gate after some confusing directions and helped the ground crew ‘bag’ the bikes up for travel to Los Angeles, California, where we would continue the ride in a northerly squiggly line from Arizona to Alaska, give or take a few diversions east and west to visit friends and family along the way.
The cost to fly the bikes from Santiago, Chile to Los Angeles, California was approx. $1700 USD ($2225 CAN) each bike. It may sound like a lot, however if you factor the amount it would cost to ride the bikes back to North America from Chile, which we never really wanted to do, flying the bikes was a cheap option. Another advantage was we’d have them within a few days. We looked at putting them on a ship but the cost was even a little more and would take up to six weeks.
We watched while the shipping crew used hand tools to palletize our bikes. There wasn’t a power tool in the place; all sawing and nailing was done by hand. Dave removed my windshield and unscrewed the handlebars as the bike’s cost was by volume. The ‘taller’ it is, the more expensive. His windshield sits on a frame welded onto the bike so he left his in place, which cost about $200 USD ($260 CAN) more. We put all our luggage on another pallet that sat in line to be scanned along with others containing fruits, veggies and other export items.
We left the bikes and all our baggage save for an overnight backpack, with the capable crew hoping we’d see everything in California unscathed after such a long journey. We then headed off to the E-Cargo Plus office to pay our invoice. There was some stress over how we were going to pay. Our agent for the whole process was named Pamela. She was very kind and helpful, although she couldn’t work miracles. We wanted to pay with a credit card for such a high amount, assuming it’d be no problem. This wasn’t the case. The night before we were informed we had to bring cash. As foreigners, there was no way any bank in Chile was going to give us $3500 USD ($4580 CAN) and definitely not in under 24 hours.
In the E-Cargo Plus office, Pamela was doing everything she could to help us figure out the cash situation. Her first suggestion was Western Union but I argued the fees were going to be too large for that amount. She said she would accompany us to the Santander Bank downstairs, where we could each put a daily maximum of $1000 USD ($1300 CAN) or $600,000 Chilean Pesos on a credit card, then we could get the remainder out of the ATM. That helped a little only we’d found in five months of travel no ATM would give us more than $70-$100 USD ($90-130 CAN) per day, despite what we’d set up at home with our banks. At that rate, we’d be in Santiago for a week each taking out the maximum amount per day until we had enough. Luckily we had three functioning credit cards between the two of us, so while the line grew behind us at the bank, Dave and I watched the teller pull out an old fashioned roll-top credit card machine and begin processing our cards, complete with three call-in verifications!
The exchange rate was far better if we used the Chilean Pesos max of $600,000 so we did this for all three cards, which translated to $1,800,000 CP or approx. $2590 USD ($3390 CAN). We still needed almost $1000 USD ($1300 CAN). The only thing we could do was wait until the next day when our daily limit would refresh itself. Pamela agreed to us paying the remainder within 24 hours and after we squeezed in an interview with CBC Kelowna in her office we rode the subway back to our hostel and waited for our flight to L.A. the next day.
While enjoying a nice dinner down the street, we suddenly saw people running past the restaurant window. A moment later an employee from the restaurant went out and rolled the metal barriers down the windows, obscuring our view from the streets. A waiter came into the room and explained what was going on, which would have been great had Dave and I understood what he was saying. My limited Spanish deciphered we were supposed to stay in the restaurant, that there was a street riot going on but it would likely clear soon. We looked at each other, shrugged and ordered another drink.