Pass the Parcel

Changi, Singapore
We’ve been thinking about Kafka quite a lot. I’m sure I’m not the first person to say this, but I wonder if he never finished writing The Castle specifically to make more impact on the futility of dealing with bureaucracy. Or perhaps he wore himself out with his own desperation to finish the unfinishable. Who knows? Anyhow, I digress.

I know many of you are thinking of doing what we’ve just done. So I am going to give you an idea of costs involved in Aussie dollars. Now I know why most people ship expensive shiny bikes…it makes the cost of travelling with it seem less!

Carnet (bike passport): $1400
Air freight: $2000
Insurance for two: $1700
Singapore road legalities: $200
Bike rebuild: $A LOT

So we packed up the bike stuff and delivered it to BMW Auto Classic in Perth. Next time we saw it was at the freight terminal in Changi Airport, Singapore. Just like that!

The bike made its merry way from Perth to Sydney on one plane whilst Nickiy waved from another plane as she headed from Melbourne to Singapore. The following day, whilst we nervously waited in Singapore, the bike tripped from Sydney towards us.

Flying with flammable liquid seems to be a big no-no, so we knew the tank would have been emptied in Perth before crating. In preparation for this we had bought a tiny 1 litre fuel container from Bunnings. On our way to the airport in Singapore we filled the tiny jerry can at a petrol pump (for some reason they required to see my passport for this). I had noticed that carrying flammable liquids on the metro trains was forbidden (S$5000 fine) so we caught the bus to the airport. Like all plans, this one began to fall apart as soon as it was put into action. Noticing that the smell of petrol was increasing not decreasing, we realised that the container was leaking petrol into the bag. By this time we were on the bus and people were beginning to look at us oddly.

So we couldn’t really sort it out without giving the game away (and probably having to deal with the authorities) so we pretended that it wasn’t us. We just hoped the air conditioning would suppress the vapours somehow. Once we got to a place we could partially address the leak (thanks for your crap rubber cap seal, Bunnings), the petrol had already partially dissolved my riding sunglasses, leeched the colours out of the bag and had had a good go at dissolving the cycling Garmin (which I guess was never designed to come into contact with combustion engine liquids). Nickiy smelt like a British barbeque so she had to casually air herself and the bag whenever she was left alone.

Unsurprisingly, the Changi freight terminal is a secure area. To get in you need to surrender your passport and prove you have something to collect. We didn’t really have printed proof, so that slowed things down a little. But being Singapore, the processes are clearly documented and everyone wants to help you. Eventually we found the right building and floor to get the airway bill. After a bit more bouncing around we got the package released. We were taken into the warehouse and helped load it onto a forklift. The freight staff then helped us open and unwrap the crate before we loaded up and rode off into the night.

We had spoken to 20 new people to reacquire our bike, which seemed like a lot. And it had taken us about 4 hours. There were other things that we hadn’t considered, of course. I know that once an engine is hot, it takes a long time to cool down. It is a big lump of metal, after all. I hadn’t considered that after 7 hours at 10,000m altitude in a cargo bay on an aeroplane, that same lump of metal would be cold. I don’t know how cold, probably not -50°C cold, but perhaps not much more than a fridge. So when that lump of metal then sits in 80% humidity at 35°C in a warehouse in Singapore, it is going to get drenched in condensation and stay cold for quite a few hours. That would be when we arrived. So yeah, full choke was needed and a lot of white smoke came out when the bike finally started. Just the sort of extra attention we needed in the middle of the night…..


  1. Hurrah! The adventure has now begun for realzies! The part about smelling like British barbecue made me laugh out loud at work. I grieve for the sunglasses and Garmin though – that sucks. Hopefully you’ll find decent replacements out there.

    • It really did start to feel real when we opened the box and there was Stein! 🙂 Sadly the sunnies are toast but Matt did manage to fix the garmin with a bit of good old super glue!

  2. Yay! Enjoy lovelies. Just the kind of story I need on a regular, mundane morning in the office:-P

  3. Reading this from a vegan restaurant in Bangor , north wales (as you do…), while reading this vivid and almost smellable (new word in Denglish) description of your Singaporean adventure !
    Love it!!
    Thank you and keep them coming , those fun and inspiring accounts of your amazing endeavour!
    Hugs from nippy but springy Wales !

  4. Have waited to read the first few blogs together and so glad I have, am hooked! Can imagine the sights, smells and indeed language at times !! Will write you a newsy email tomorrow. Well done you two – have fun and kick the ass out of that memory making. Love Jim & K

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