Sunday, December 8, 2019

Malaysia - Why we didn't go to Indonesia...

We're not much into cleaning bikes. Prefer to ride them to be honest. We had to clean them though for Australian Quarantine. Unbelievable how well the bikes scrubbed up after 5 days cleaning.
When we were planning this part of the trip, a year ago now (2015), there was an onion boat from Mr Lim. Mr Lim's service was somewhat sketchy though and reading the stories on previous motorcycle shipments, wasn't all that promising. Then again, things do change quickly in this part of the world so who knows what would happen in 6 months time... When we got there (2016), slightly more than 6 months later, things had changed... Mr Lim's boat had been seized by Customs, for the second time, just before we arrived in Malaysia. Even though Mr Lim said he would probably be operational again a week or two later, we began to have some doubts about shipping with him. When Customs seize a boat, there is a serious problem and a problem which has been building up for a long time. Customs are after all part of the government and government wheels turn slowly. Later we heard Mr Lim's boat had actually been destroyed by Customs... they must have had a good reason to do that I would think? Anyway shipping with Mr Lim was out.

The result of this was that the passenger ferries, which do take bikes (or at least did when we were there...) and were our plan B, had now become ridiculously expensive. They saw the opportunity of Lim being out of action and grabbed it, shamelessly. Without blinking an eye we were quoted US$ 1,600 just to get from Kuala Lumpur to Sumatra and back... To put this in perspective, for a couple of hundred dollars more we could fly both bikes from Kuala Lumpur to Perth in Australia... but it became even worse...!

We scanned the web for any info on shipping companies or ferries between Malaysia and Indonesia. The guidebooks simply say there are lots of ferries. That may be so, but which can/will also take a motorcycle? Apart from that, just try to contact them... half of the numbers we found were ringing but no-one answered the phone. The other half would pick up but gave the distinct impression of being just a phone in someones back room... complete with screaming kids and kitchen noises in the background. They weren't all that helpful either. Several different businesses turned out to be operated by the same person too... All in all they didn't give me the impression of being an actual business at all. 

The one which did take bikes, which operates under 3 different names, one of which is Jetstar ferry, wasn't 100% sure if we could get the bikes in and asked if they could see the bikes first. I asked for the dimensions of the door the bikes had to go to but she couldn't tell me. So we rode the 70 km to the ferry terminal only to find the son of the owner with a pre-cut rope in his pocket checking if the bikes' width would be within the length of his rope... I could have done that at the place we were staying at and saved myself 140 km on each bike. Then the quotes which had been given, which were already high, became somewhat uncertain... first they said I would have to negotiate again on the Indonesian side, so that was apparently not included in the price... then the price on the Malaysian side went up even further... Not giving up that easily I started to negotiate myself... only to be told by the owner that he wasn't making any money on the trip anyway, it was all because of Malaysian Maritime bla bla bla. This whinging on not making any money and that he only did it as a charity service to motorcyclists (!) went on for 20 minutes and then he drove away in his brand new Mercedes G-wagon... His son, also in the company, drove away in a brand new Toyota Landcruiser Wagon...  

The original plan had been to cross to Sumatra and then continue on to Bali and ship from there to Darwin or Perth. Shipping from Malaysia to Sumatra did make some sense then, although it would still have been U$800 for the two bikes plus whatever the charges in Sumatra would be. Now that shipping from Bali or Surabaya was no longer an option as the ship to Australia that used to dock there no longer did, everything had changed. Transit times to Australia were now in the region of 30 days while the costs had spiraled out of control as everything had to be shipped via Singapore now. We could have gone to Sumatra, but shipping from Kuala Lumpur to Australia was now so much cheaper and quicker that it made no sense at all to continue to Java or Bali.

Being at the end of the trip meant funds were running low. We thus had to make choices and put things in perspective. Just going to Sumatra and back would cost us more than riding from Perth along the coast of Western Australia, over the Nullarbor, through the Gawler ranges, the Flinders Ranges, through South Australia, Victoria and then through all the amazing National parks from the Grampians all the way to Sydney... and while we realise that Sumatra would be beautiful, it could not stand up to all we could do and see in Australia instead. We talked about it for a while, considered our options and both decided we'd rather spend extra time in Australia and finish our trip on a high instead of having to cut it short and ride motorways only as we had to spend so much on a ferry.    

In the meantime we were also looking at the various options for shipping from Kuala Lumpur to Darwin or Perth. We just missed a combined shipment option with two other Australians by about a week... but did get a very good contact out of it: Dietrich Logistics. Bernd, who owns the company, is a motorcyclist himself, which is always a plus! The shipping quote was very good, much better than we had expected. As we have two bikes it made sense to get a full 20ft container just for ourselves as this would mean we didn't need crates. We tried to find others to ship with us as this would lower the price even further, but then Bernd gave us a quote for airfreight to Perth which was even cheaper than shipping in a container and also cheaper than MASKargo (while flying with the same airline)! Darwin was ruled out quickly though as way too expensive, Perth was seriously cheaper! Which wasn't a real problem as it was still very much wet season up north. Contrary to the JetStar Sumatra ferry experience Bernd is punctual, professional and more than helpful.

For us the dreaded cleaning of the bikes for Australian quarantine had now started... cleaning every damn little detail and making absolutely sure the bikes were unbelievably clean... To be honest, quarantine asks for the impossible. No matter how good you try, there is no way you can ensure that every little bit of soil is removed from a bike... unless you take the engine out of the frame, remove the complete wiring loom and all associating components and have them stream cleaned. Short of doing that there will always be areas visible to the naked eye but impossible to reach. I also wondered why this was necessary at all. Any dirt on the engine or exhaust would have been hot enough to kill any microbes in it, while anything on the frame or mudguards could be sprayed by some sort of pesticide like they do in Central America.

After 5 days, yes five days(!), of cleaning the bikes looked like new. Considering what they looked like before and how much grit, gravel and sand had been blasted onto them, they looked bloody brilliant. The Bunnings paint I had used on the pannier racks could do with an update, but as they had been on there for more than 3 years and 110,000 km, I didn't complain. The tank bag had only left a scratch or two which can be buffed-out easily enough, if it would bother me (which it doesn't as I believe in using bikes rather than polishing). Considering they have been covered in sand and mud, have been shaken to bits over bad roads, took us through some of the most insane landscapes in the world, been sandblasted in hostile climates and taken a hit or two in the insane traffic we experienced the last couple of months, I was quite impressed with that! Even the chrome peashooter exhausts didn't look too bad. Their chrome looks somewhat dull, which is hardly surprising with the thousands of kilometres we have done in what can only be described as sandblasting conditions. The rest basically cleaned up very well. Next we took them to the airport, more on which in a future post.