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Monday, 23 September 2013

BEFORE THE CENTRAL ASIA RIDE

I am pretty sure that every independent traveller, be it a backpacker, adventure rider, overlander etc will find that the final week before departure is the most crucial. Due to the troubles in getting Uzbek visa, I hv to wait until the very last minute to proceed with my preparation. Upon knowing that I am going to tour Uzbek on a motorbike, Uzbek Embassy suddenly decided that they want me to show them a LOI before they gv me the visa, when actually LOI is not needed. I was informed (later) that smuggling cases in Uzbek was the reason why the government stricten the rules for foreign vehicles to enter the country. I hv no choice but to call a travel agency in Tashkent to get the LOI. Among my last minute preps were on DREAM, designing & ordering the memento calendar, and sending my extra riding T-Shirt for embroidery.
 

It was so happened that the producer of Malaysia Hari Ini, a TV3 talk show, found out about my ride and he called me in for a live interview. I hv decided to send my bike to MasKargo on the same day, so I agreed to the invitation. I arrived KL one day earlier before the interview to meet my sifu, Hadi Hussein and my inspiration icon, Zahariz Khuzaimah. Hadi and I discussed many things. For about 3 hours, he flipped thru my file and papers and checked on the homework which I had done. He shared some tips on safety, security and his experience doing border crossings during his many previous solo rides. He also taught me the do’s and dont’s on high altitudes and he takes a look on the prep that I had on DREAM. Before we parted, he wished me good luck. I can still remember the look in his eyes when he told me, “Enjoy your ride. Be careful and have fun on the road. I want to see you back home, ALIVE.” His last sentence brought me close to tears.

Then I met Zahariz. This is the first time I’m meeting him after spending more than a year chatting via FB. He was fairer than in his pics. It was funny that not only we have the wild adventure spirit in our hearts, we also shared the same liking on food and drinks. We spent the time talking about many things, mostly on how to do wild camping, tips on taking best shots with my Gopro camera, and how he dealt with Kyrgyz policemen when he's being robbed.....only to notice that another 3 hours had passed. It felt like only an hour.

The next morning, my bff, Zuzana fetched me at my aunt’s house at Pantai Hillpark. I followed her car with my bike and we go to TV3 for the MHI live interview. Ally Iskandar was the host.

 

 
 
 

After the interview, I rushed to Uzbek Embassy to get my visa. God knows how hard I recited doa’s so that the officer will gv me the visa. Even after I hv showed the LOI to the officer, he still asked too many questions before he finally sticks the visa inside my passport. I felt as if my heart is going to explode. Finally. Thank you very much.



Then I rushed to MasKargo. Zana already waiting for me there. Before entering the MasKargo Complex, as usual, I must get a FCZ pass first, and after that, I hv to pass through few check points before I finally arrived at the main office.


I met Palani, a rep from Uzbek Airways – the guy who had helped me in persuading the Uzbek Embassy to grant me the visa (besides MFA and Msian Embassy in Tashkent) as he has a good relation with the Ambassador. Palani asked me to send DREAM for weighing and measuring before he can submit the total freight charges. I hv emptied DREAM’s box and panniers to make it as light as possible. DREAM was weighed at 145kgs only.

However, to my horror, when Palani keyed in DREAM’s dimension, the system calculated and formulated its weight as 280kgs!!! This is bcos the system will pick on which one is highest – weight or dimension, and in my case, its the dimension. Due to this, the total sum that the system calculated for me for a return trip for DREAM is RM18500 (inclusive of agent’s fees upon arrival and return). OMG!!!!! This is really outrageous. The rough calculation (before I send my bike) is only about RM12k....but now the fees rocketed to RM18500. Palani tried as much to reduce the price, and in the end he managed to cut off RM2500, making it RM16k. Still, the fees is too much for me, and I can feel my heart sank. After some discussions, Palani was so nice as to allow me to pay RM13k first, and the balance will be paid after I came back from the ride. I thanked him for his understanding.

 

Perhaps some of u might wonder....why is the charges so high and why didn’t I start my ride from a different cheaper airport, so that I dont hv to pay huge sum of money for DREAM’s transportation. Honestly, I hv thought about this earlier, but my limitation is TIME. I hv only a month to spare. Thats the reason why I hv to choose Tashkent as my starting and ending point. Unlike many other international airports, Tashkent is not a busy hub. Not many airlines flew to this airport, hence the choice of airlines is limited and I hv to make do with the only available option.  
 
After that, it was a series of going round and round at the complex, to find and pay to the seasons forwarding agent, to submit the customs form, send DREAM for PUSPAKOM checking, back to the customs for approval, and bla bla bla. The whole process took me 6 hours!!! Before leaving DREAM at MasKargo, I gv him a kiss and told him that we will meet again in 3 days time, at Tashkent Airport.


Meanwhile, Pravena from Givi had been calling me as she’s expecting me at the factory to collect my sponsored items. Zana and me rushed to Givi at Bukit Beruntung to get the stuff and after that Zana dropped me at Hentian Duta for me to catch a bus back to Ipoh. I thanked her for her help starting from dawn until 9pm today, only for me. I reached Ipoh by midnite. PHEWWW....What a day.....

I was so busy for the next two days that I only managed to start packing 1 hour before leaving home. Thank god that I already listed out what to bring, or else I’m pretty sure that I would hv left few things behind. On 22nd May 2013, I departed to KLIA to board my flight to Tashkent. Zana, her hb Jai and some members from Pelesit & Lanun Bikerz were at the airport to send me off. I was so touched. I hugged Zana tight one last time before I make my way to the Immigration counter....

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