Tuesday, September 1, 2015

DHL stuffed-up... but what a service from Morren Motorcycles!

Shocks held together with zip-ties... being a bush mechanic came in handy
We've had good experiences with DHL already when in the US... where a parcel send to us had been idle at a DHL office in Germany for 10 days... before they simply dropped it in unregistered mail to the USA, while we had paid for a courier service...! The new shock absorbers had been promised by DHL to be in Astrakhan, Russia, on Friday. But alas, there was nothing there. As it turned out the European sanctions meant motorcycle parts could not be send to Russia, a situation which had existed for some time. The parcel was stopped by Russian Customs... DHL was apparently not aware of the Russian sanctions... 

The same shock 4,500 km and several zip tie 
replacements later
It meant Rita Morren, from Morren Motorcycles, had to send another set of shocks, as the ones send to Russia would take some time to return. And she did! She made a second set for us! You would think DHL would try to remedy their mistake and take care of sending them on and double quick, but they didn't. Rita send new shocks to Aktobe in Kazakhstan for me. DHL promised I could pick them up in Aktobe on Thursday. We made the 200 km detour and... of course they weren't there. When the parcel was finally traced it turned out to be in Almaty, some 2,300 km further south/east. The lady from DHL in Almaty explained the Kazakhstan Customs procedures, which meant they needed me to pay for the clearance first before Customs would even consider it, as DHL in The Netherlands hadn't done this. Mind you the processing fee works out at not even 8 Euros... Had DHL done their work properly and paid the 8 Euros then non of this would have happened. Customs clearance would take 4 days... When I asked how this could be as DHL had promised the whole shipment would take 4 days, she replied that I had been given false information... Nice!

The lady to talk to: Rita Morren
The lady at DHL in Almaty was very helpful, as was the one in Aktobe. They asked me where I was heading and when, to see if they could help me by having it delivered somewhere else. I said I was heading for Kyrgyzstan, upon which she asked if she could forward it to Bishkek... 'But... I was told DHL doesn't deliver to Kyrgyzstan' I said upon which she said 'Sure we do, on a daily basis'. In the end I declined as that would mean another Customs clearance and who knows how long that would take... 

I had been riding on shocks held together with zip-ties for nearly 2,000 km now and Almaty was another 2,300 km away... 2,300 km extra riding on broken shocks because DHL hadn't paid the 8 Euros... We were promised the roads to Almaty should be good, or at least better than what we've had from Astrakhan to Aktobe :-) You could argue that it should not take 4 days for a parcel labelled 'warranty replacements' to go through Customs, and I do. Kazakhstan has wonderful and very enthusiastic people, we have been stopped and photographed hundreds of times by now. But the government in this country is really bizarre... Letting roads deteriorate the way they do (see the previous post) is just incompetent and costs the country dearly.

Another fine example of needless complicated government procedures is the way they let you enter the country. Kazakhstan wants to attract more visitors and have therefore introduced a 15 day visa free entry. Looking at the sheer size of the place they should give 30 days or more. It would after all mean people could stay longer and thus spend more money in Kazakhstan. But what is seriously weird is how they give you the 15 days. You get 5 days at the border and then have to go to the DIA in Aktobe to have that extended to 15 days... At the border they scan your passport and check if you are a known criminal... in Aktobe they do it all again and want you to fill in a form, upon which they put a second stamp on the form you received at the border and then issue another form with another stamp on it. How complicated can you make it?

We had been told this could take 2-3 days, and we where there on a Friday. The lady behind the counter asked me how long I would be in Aktobe. One day I replied. One day? she said. That presented a problem. as usual the trick is t stay calm, play dumb and whatever you do, don't speak Russian (even if you can speak the language). The lady will then fill in the form for you (as it is in Russian only) and in 30 minutes you are outside with the required stamps, forms etc. 

Outdoor airplane museum Aktobe
We stocked up on food at a huge supermarket, took a couple of photos at an open-air airplane museum, finally managed to find some sunscreen and had a good hamburger meal as we hadn't eaten any meat for a while. We also finally worked out the exchange rate, which created quite a couple of smiles! Petrol cost 0.53 Euro per litre. The good hamburger meal worked out just 5.82 Euro for two and our grocery bill for 3 days was 12 Euros... :-) When I returned from the groceries, Mike was talking to several people interested in the bikes and the trip. This is perhaps the first country where everyone looks at them. We were congratulated on making it to Kazakhstan and wished well for the rest of the trip. There aren't many motorcyclists in Kazakhstan, at least non that we have seen. They probably think we are completely crazy riding here, and perhaps they are right... 

The new and stronger top spring mount on our Hagon
shock absorbers: the half moons have been replaced
with a stainless dish.
Rita Morren could have said the way we use them caused the damage, they are road shocks after all and as you can see in the previous post we do a bit more than roads with them. But Rita was true to her word. She had said that they came with two years warranty, no matter what and no matter where in the world we would be. That woud have been good enough already, but the way she handled it all including a second new set when DHL stuffed up again and going out of her way to ensure they would arrive in time was nothing short of astonishing. She even kept us informed via sms on where they were. Super! Morren Motorcycles supply Hagon shocks all over the world. Once we left Aktobe we found at least the first 120 km of the road in good condition... it's nice to be able to sit on the seat again!