WorldSmuggler – Adventure and Journey of The Illegal Motorcycle.

Ferdy Sucre Bolivia

The Bolivian government could consider me a smuggler. At least that’s what the lawyer at the Aduana (customs) office in Sucre told Ferdy. The owner of the optical shop and proudly of a new Honda Deauville street touring motorcycle, Ferdy seems to know everyone in Sucre — and in Santa Cruz. Small framed and in his early fifties with sophisticated eye-wear, neatly trimmed dark hair and an enthusiastic demeanor, Ferdy spoke excellent English. He spent several years in the States. First as an exchange student in high school, then as an engineering student at Boise State University and ultimately trained as an optician. His optical shop, Optica Santa Lucia has been under his direction for 31 years, is small but bustled with business every time I stopped by. Three stories, two of which house laboratories, Santa Lucia Optica is the only shop of its kind in Bolivia that can apply antireflective coating to eye-wear. As such, he gets business from other optical shops in Sucre, La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz. His success has afforded him the opportunity to send his children to the states for their education — a luxury few can afford in Bolivia.

Ferdy took no time to get on the phone with people of influence in Sucre and Santa Cruz. While one Aduana employee suggested that without taking care of this situation the bike could be confiscated and I held as a smuggler. This notion was silly. The reason these countries give temporary permits for motorcycles and other vehicles is to ensure they exit the country. On January 9, 2006 I entered Bolivia and was given 90 days to ride my bike in Bolivia. If the bike were to stay in the country it would be subject to import duty and tax. This is the sole reason they issue such documentation and require exiting the country by a specific date. So to be held as as smuggler and have my bike confiscated while trying to exit the country at any of a number of borders was ludicrous. Ferdy got on the phone and called another contact.

In March and by the time the Vicadin and Darvocet had worn off I wrote a letter to the Bolivian Aduana office in La Paz. I included a copies of my temporary import permit, passport with entrance and exit stamps for Bolivia, my title and registration. In my letter I explained the story of my evacuation and asked for an extension. Copies of this letter and its enclosures were sent to the Bolivian Embassy and Consulate in the United States. It’s no surprise I never heard back from the Aduana in La Paz, but the Bolivian Embassy did call. They contacted La Paz for help and info but with no avail. Changes in government and personnel challenged the Embassy to get an answer. Instead, they suggested and promised that a letter from their Embassy in the U.S explaining the situation could be an effective document when dealing with authorities in Bolivia. Unfortunately that letter never arrived.

So here I am in Bolivia with an illegal motorcycle. At least the battery cables adhere to a Bolivian standard.

Ferdy’s next call was more positive. The woman at the other end worked for the Aduana in Santa Cruz. She asked for a copy of the letter I sent in March. Still other calls suggested I provide the Bolivian Aduana proof the motorcycle was stored in Bolivia. After a quick visit to Nicky’s shop I had an invoice for storage for the dates I was in the States. Other calls revealed that there was no way government authorities could confiscate the bike — this was illegal. Ferdy gave me the phone numbers of three people in Santa Cruz, all familiar with my situation, and suggested I call them when I arrive their later this week.

The friendliness of the people in Bolivia and elsewhere in South America always smacks me in the head – hard. Ferdy spent several hours out of his day to help me. Jorge and Dhery went out of their way to retrieve my motorcycle and securely store it for nearly a year. The owners of my hotel in Sucre, (Colonia Real Hotel, Calle Aniceto Arce No. 280, phone: 64-43876) went out of their way to help me and Jeremiah. The owner, Jaime found a box and securely packed and sealed my spare parts for shipping to Chile — gratis. Their son helped me print out copies of my March letter to Aduana. And they were always quick to help find anything and everything we needed. If you happen to find yourself in Bolivia – get a room at the Hotel Colonial Real. It will cost you about $15 — high for Bolivian standards – but it’s the cleanest, most friendly and comfortable place I’ve stayed in nearly all of South America to date.

I continue to get my act together as we’re planning an early departure on Tuesday November 1st. I just hope I have no confrontation with the law before I get to Santa Cruz two days later.

Guarding Refractura

Looking for illegal motorcycles, or simply guarding the territory?

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Top Photo
: Ferdy of Santa Lucia Optical, Sucre, Bolivia

6 replies
  1. giersman
    giersman says:

    Dude,
    Rodger and I are glad you are jamming agian!Or at least getting it going in the right direction!
    Rodger and I are going to Munich in a few days (Nov 13-19) for businees for Jaxxen to the Electronica trade show. Rodger will of course trip off eleswhere for the stay but we’ll share a hotel in Sauerlach for a day or two anyway.
    Looking forward to the Autobahn guy! Wahoo 100mph cruising is really cool!
    Watch out for the bumps in the road from here on out would ya? Ride hard and die fast! Or better yet ride safe and live well!
    See ya soon!

    Reply
  2. jkalaws
    jkalaws says:

    Cappie,
    Did you have legal representation in connection with this matter. Seems like it might be time to get a good lawyer who has knowledge of the laws (or lack thereof) of rogue states. You got by again, just like with the battery, by the skin of your teeth. So goes the adventure. There is a guy in bkk wondering when you are expected to arrive at that asian paridise.

    Reply
  3. Cristian
    Cristian says:

    Hi Allan,
    Great news! you can exit Bolivia with your bike.
    Send me the tracking number, the courier name and estimated arrival date, so I can be ready to secure your spare parts in my house.
    Check out http://www.sernatur.cl this is the official web site for SERVICIO NACIONAL DE TURISMO where you will find tons of info about great places to visit in Chile.
    When you arrive I will let you rest for the first night…I know what is like to be on the road and then arrive straight to a party…so don´t worry we´ll go out to some nice places in Santiago when you feel like it and we´ll have a fantastic party in my house with my friends (the guys that are planning their RTW trip for 2008).
    Ride safe, stay warm, put some sunlotion for the salar the Uyuni and find the best back roads in Chile, because you´ll be shocked to know that the highway system is VERY much different than in the rest of Latin America and unfortunately motorcycles pay tolls, not much but be ready with chilean pesos, if you get on a highway.
    As you get closer to Santiago I´ll send you my GPS coordiantes (my house) or otherwise try to arrive on a saturday morning so I´ll come and find you at a more common public place.
    Looking forward to meeting you.
    Cristián Muñoz
    The wine guy on 2 wheels! hahahahahaha

    Reply
  4. Cristian
    Cristian says:

    Hi Allan,
    Great news! you can exit Bolivia with your bike.
    Send me the tracking number, the courier name and estimated arrival date, so I can be ready to secure your spare parts in my house.
    Check out http://www.sernatur.cl this is the official web site for SERVICIO NACIONAL DE TURISMO where you will find tons of info about great places to visit in Chile.
    When you arrive I will let you rest for the first night…I know what is like to be on the road and then arrive straight to a party…so don´t worry we´ll go out to some nice places in Santiago when you feel like it and we´ll have a fantastic party in my house with my friends (the guys that are planning their RTW trip for 2008).
    Ride safe, stay warm, put some sunlotion for the salar the Uyuni and find the best back roads in Chile, because you´ll be shocked to know that the highway system is VERY much different than in the rest of Latin America and unfortunately motorcycles pay tolls, not much but be ready with chilean pesos, if you get on a highway.
    As you get closer to Santiago I´ll send you my GPS coordiantes (my house) or otherwise try to arrive on a saturday morning so I´ll come and find you at a more common public place.
    Looking forward to meeting you.
    Cristián Muñoz
    The wine guy on 2 wheels! hahahahahaha

    Reply
  5. Bryan Roe
    Bryan Roe says:

    Allan,
    We are glad to hear that you are almost ready to tour again. You are developing quite a name for yourself internationally. First, a public dissident in Yang Shuo – now a smuggler in Bolivia. When is it going to end?!?!
    Michelle, Allie and Grace say “hi” (Grace actually says something like “grrlgh”).
    Be cool, be safe, drink wine.
    B

    Reply
  6. WorldRider
    WorldRider says:

    Eric, Jim, Cristian & Bryan –
    Thakns for the notes… surely a little legal representation might be in order, but right now I think I’m going to rely on some insider friends here in Bolivia. Eric have fun in Germany and good luck with the show and business. It’s a Global World & Economy so make those connections and work them…soon I’ll be on the Autobahn maybe! Ristian… thanks for the tips… looks like the Uyuni is getting slammed hard with rain, I hope we can still see it. But either way I’ll be packed with pesos to pay those tolls. Funny, In eastern Bolivia the motos get waved on. In Western Bolivia they want us to pay the tolls.. keep that wine on hold. I’m on my way… Bray… glad to see you’re joining hte ride… as far as my dissidence on the global scale, just doing my best to keep off the post office walls…
    smiles everyone!
    /allan

    Reply

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