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Day 93: Great Expectations

May 11, 2006

Today is the day. Confirmed with APL - the container has already arrived in Guayaquil, and all there is left to do is go to the port, clear customs, and retrieve the cars. A piece of cake! Well, almost…. Customs in Ecuador are widely known for their corruption; so getting a temporary vehicle import permit may cost us some extra sweat. Yet, there has to be some way out of that container, and by the end of the day we should be celebrating the come back of the cars, Jane & Jeff's farewell, and our forthcoming trip to the Galapagos.

Numerous travelers have reported Puerto Maritimo (the port of Guayaquil) to be a very confusing place. However, in our opinion, 'a complete chaos intermixed with open corruption' would be a more accurate description. The place is huge, but do not expect to see any signs or direction indicators of any kind in the port territory. Customs officials or certified customer assistants are impossible to find. In those rare instances when you manage to catch one, he or she is clearly avoiding to give out any information. Naturally, a place like that is a perfect breeding ground for "customs agents", who roam around looking for customers they could guide through the chaos. For a fee, of course.

It took us a good hour to realize that trying to get around on our own was a waste of time, and we would have to find somebody to give us directions. One friendly fellow immediately agrees to help. He takes us to an obscure tiny office and introduces us to an old cranky man. The old man peeks at our Bill of Lading, then looks through the pile of papers he has on his desk, writes down a number on the back of our BOL, and finally whispers something into our assistant's ear. Not a single word to us. No clue what the number means, but our assistant explains that now we have to pay $5 to the old man for his service and $300 to him, so that he could guide us through the rest of the procedures. Sure!! For all that we know the old man could have given us his phone number - definitely not worth $5! As for the other guy, all we had asked him was where to find a customs official in charge of temporary car import. Certainly did not intend to hire a 300-dollar guide. "Alright", says the assistant with a you-will-never-make-it-on-your-own smile, and suggests that we pay at least $2 to the old man for the phone number. After we once again refuse to give any dollars to either of them, our expensive assistant tells us where to find him when we change our mind, and takes a leave.

Two more hours later, we accomplish our first goal: find out the name of the person we should be talking to. However, at this time he is out to lunch, which starts at 11AM and lasts until 2PM. After 3 hours of eating he will most likely need a nap, so we predict he should be back around 3 o'clock, and… learn a lesson to never underestimate officials - the officer shows up at half past two! Some light gets shed on the matter: we receive a list of documents we have to collect from various places around the port before we can come back and try talking this official again.

So we start the stamp-and-signature quest, and quickly find out that we are not the most welcome visitors at the port. The port officials are clearly more accustomed to dealing with the homeboys, and each time we step into somebody's office, we get greeted with a frown and a question "why don't you hire someone to help you?" (Translation: we prefer to receive bribes from the people we already know).
The agents are not willing to let potential customers go easily either. One of them keeps following us each step of the way, contributing "valuable" remarks to every conversation we are trying to have and paying no attention at all to our numerous requests to disappear. Finally, we see no other way out but to ask the security to escort him out of the building.

Just as soon as we familiarize ourselves with the modus operandi of Puerto Maritimo and start feeling somewhat more at ease, we hit the major obstacle of the day, the week, and, perhaps, the entire trip: the three magic letters, LCL, which should be on our shipping papers, are not present. LCL stands for Local Container Load, and would allow us to open the container inside the port territory. With LCL missing, we are required to take the container to the outside, unload it there, and return the empty box to the shipping company.
The whole thing starts smelling like a big trouble: we cannot take the cars out of the port before we clear customs and obtain the temporary import permit, and we cannot get the permit before we take the vehicles out of the container and get them inspected by the responsible customs officials. Each correction of shipping documents is penalized by approximately $180 at the port of Guayaquil, and there is no guarantee that in our case a correction would be feasible at all.
Could not thank the representative from APL de Panama enough - he was the one who assured us that in our case LCL was irrelevant!!

The next surprise is waiting for us in the office of APL del Ecuador. Turns out they cannot simply add the magic letters to the Bill of Lading issued by APL de Panama. According to the Ecuadorian branch, APL provides shipping services only (unlike most transport companies), and therefore is not permitted to do any "unpacking" of the cargo inside the port. In other words, there is nothing they can do to help us avoid having to take the entire container to the outside.
Another two hours pass by at APL while they try calling the Panama branch as well as everyone else they think could assist us, but can find nobody. Well, not exactly nobody: there is one experienced agency, which maybe could find a way out for us, for $600 approximately… Good to know that there is at least a way out of the darn container!
We will probably never find out why the representative of APL de Panama told us that the unloading of the vehicles would consist of simply driving the cars out of the container and leaving the empty box in the port, but there is a good chance that not only was it his first time shipping a vehicle to Ecuador - it was his first time shipping anything anywhere!

At this point it felt like the most ironic déjà-vu. In a way, we had already been through this when reading other travelers' stories about the vehicles imprisoned in the notorious port of Guayaquil, and hoping this would never happen to us. Or thinking we would be more creative and do better than others in case this does happen…. And now, when this is really happening, there seems to be nothing at all we can do. The container is there, and the cars are inside. We are there, too, and so are all the necessary customs officials. Yet, we cannot open the container and get our cars out of it. The way is blocked by the strongest material on the planet - paper.

To make the matters worse, the entire container has been shipped under Dovi's name. The cargo must go through customs before exiting the port, which means that Dovi will be importing not only the Nissan, but also Jeff's Ford and his two motorcycles. Consequently, Dovi becomes the only one who can export any of the vehicles out of the country. In other words, we have just realized that we are joined together with our Brazilian friends until we all collectively leave Ecuador. All in all, the things could hardly get any worse :).

Late in the afternoon Jeff suddenly remembers that he knows an agent who helped his friend with a similar problem a month ago. At 8 o'clock in the evening we all meet Antonio Ruiz Prado, a pleasant and very talkative fellow. Working from home, with no fancy office to maintain, Antonio offers us the car retrieval services for $100, and estimates another $200-300 for "miscellaneous expenses" (i.e. bribes). In addition, he promises us to complete the rescue operation in just one day, which is the main incentive: tomorrow is Friday, the last day before the customs shut down for the weekend. Getting the vehicles back tomorrow would save us two useless days in Guayaquil; besides, we would avoid the daily container storage fee, which otherwise would start being charged from Monday on.

Antonio is all smiles and seems to be assured we will have our cars back by this time tomorrow. Amusing stories from his work experience fill the rest of the night. The only thing that keeps slightly bothering us…. Antonio talks so much (hence, listens so little), that we can only hope at least half of this enthusiasm will remain present when he starts working tomorrow. Yet, what choice do we have? :)

Click on the pictures to enlarge

The gate to prison

Guayaquil port, Ecuador

Kalejimo vartai

This door closes for luch from 11AM to 2PM. We have just decided what our next job will be! :)

Ecuador customs in Guayaquil

Durys, uz kuriu pietu pertrauka tesiasi nuo 11 ryto iki 2 po pietu. Ka tik supratome, koks darbas idealiai atitikru musu poreikius :)

This agent gave us the best offer

Baby dragon

Net ir iguanos cia, turbut, tikisi kysio

Nuvesk pelyte virs paveiksliuko, spustelk jos kaire ausele, ir paveiksliukas padides

93-oji diena: Apie tai, kaip prisivirem koses...

2006 m. geguzes 11

Siandien - svente. Ryte APL'as patvirtino, kad jau atplauke konteineris su masinomis. Truputi jaudinames del muitines (Gvajakilio uosto muitine garseja neribota korupcija), bet daugiau dziaugiames - nebeliko tokio blogo, kuris per siandien neisietu. Todel jau nuo ryto planuojam, kaip vakare smagiai atsvesim oficialia Lotynu Amerikos pradzia, dar karta pasijuoksim is visu siuntimo vargu, o rytoj ryte, islydeje Jane ir Jeffa i Brazilija, leksim i agentura pirkti Galapagu bilietu - begom! Nes jau ir Gvajakilis, ir apskritai sedejimas be masinos labai atsibodo.

Apie 10 valanda ryto energingai pradedam Puerto Marítimo uosto pazinima. Deja, sekasi ne taip gerai, kaip noretumem. Jau anksciau buvom girdeje, kad ka nors rasti Gvajakilio uoste nera lengva. Taciau tai, ka atvaziave pamateme, teisingiausia butu pavadinti tobula absoliutaus chaoso ir atviro kysininkavimo sajunga. Puerto Maritimo - tarytum atskiras miestas. Konteineriu, kranu, sunkvezimiu ir muitines pastatu prigrusta uosto teritorija didingai driekiasi desimtis kilometru i abidvi puses nuo centriniu vartu, bet niekur nematyti nei vieno krypti nurodancio zenklo ar rodykles. Pabandome uzkalbinti uosto darbuotojus ir pasiklausti kelio - visi tik purto galvas ir nezino nei kur mus pasiusti, nei su kuo turetumem kalbetis. Tuo tarpu muitines darbuotojai, kurie garantuotai zino, kur mums reiketu eiti, uzkalbinti ima keistai muistytis ir vengia atsakyti i bet koki klausima. Uosto teritorijoje muitininko zodis, akivaizdziai, kainuoja.
Tokia situacija sukuria idealias salygas klesteti "muitines agentams" - naujai pagalbininku rusiai, ikyrumu labai primenanciai mums jau gerai pazistamus pasienio gidus. Visazinis agentas greitai atsakys i bet koki klausima. Zinoma, taip pat ne uz "aciu".

Gera valanda nenaudingai blaskomes po uosto teritorija, kol isitikinam, kad su sita muitine savarankiskai nesusitvarkysim - atrodo, teks pasiduoti ir kreiptis i agenta. Netoliese stoviniaves draugiskos isvaizdos zmogelis is karto pasisiulo padeti ir nusiveda mus i mazyti tamsu nameli, labiau primenanti senovini lauko tualeta, negu muitininko darbo vieta. Namelyje sedi susiraukes senukas, kuriam, padejejo paliepimu, duodame masinu siuntimo dokumentus. Senukas dokumentus pavarto, dar smarkiau susiraukia, papurto galva, ir kuri laika tyrineja ant savo darbo stalo paskleista popieriu susni. Galiausiai uzraso kazkoki numeri ant blogosios musu dokumentu puses ir kazka pasako musu padejejui i ausi. Mums - nei zodzio.
Neturime nei menkiausio supratimo, nei apie tai, kas galetu buti paslaptingasis senis, nei ka reiskia jo uzrasytas numeris; taciau musu padejejas paaiskina, kad dabar turime atsiskaityti uz paslaugas - reikia sumoketi $5 seniui ir $300 jam, kad galetu mums toliau padeti. Pasitiksliname, ar tikrai gerai isgirdome kaina, o tada jau juokiames garsiai. Visu pirma, mistiskasis senio skaicius, apie kuri jis nieko nepaaiskino, mums yra beprasmis. Is kur galime zinoti, kad jis mums neuzrase, pavyzdziui, savo telefono numerio, kuris tikrai nebutu vertas penkiu doleriu?! Visu antra, kad ir kaip bebutu idomu, kokias paslaugas mums suteiktu $300 vertes agentas, tiek jam tikrai nemokesim. "Na gerai", - sako agentas, -"kai persigalvosite - zinote, kur mane rasti", ir nueidamas dar karta pasiulo sumoketi seniui uz numeri bent $2. Mes dar syki pakartojome, kad nei vienam is ju pinigu nemokesime.

Dar maziausiai dvi valandas vaikstinejame po muitine. Oro temperatura apie pietus pakyla turbut iki 40C. Pagaliau pasiseka - issiaiskinam, su kuriuo muitininku turim kalbetis del laikino masinu importavimo. Deja, dabar jis isejes i pietu pertrauka, kuri muitineje tesiasi nuo 11 iki 2b. Tris valandas valges, pareigunas, turbut, po to nores valandele nusnusti... Tad prognozuojame, kad darbe turetu pasirodyti apie trecia. Sedim, laukiam, kovojam su zut but mums parsiduoti nusiteikusiais agentais. Idomumo delei (kad pirmaji pagalbininka galetumem drasiau kaltinti beprotyste) pasiklausiam kitu kainos - visi ligi vieno nori tu paciu $300!! Ar jie cia visi pamiso, ar I si Ekvadoro uosta dazniausiai atplaukia konteineriai su milijonieriu limuzinais???
Muitininkas grizta puse triju - labai susigestame, visu pusvalandziu nuvertine dora, darbstu tarnautoja. Pasikalbeje su siuo zmogum, pagaliau isvystame siokia tokia sviesa tunelio gale - gauname sarasa dokumentu, kuriuos reikia surinkti is kitu muitines pareigunu, o tada galesime vel grizti pas sita.

Tesiame ekskursija po muitine, kur ir toliau visi nedviprasmiskai demonstruoja, jog siame organizme esame nepageidaujami svetimkuniai. Muitines pareigunai aiskiai labiau iprate bendrauti su "savais". Dauguma muitininku musu net neisileidzia - is sekretoriaus ar sekretores suzinome, kad yra arba "siuo metu labai uzsiemes", arba "pasitarime", arba "isvykes su reikalais". Vis tik atsiranda keli, kurie mus priima ir tiesiai sviesiai paklausia, kodel nepasisamdome agento, kuris greitai ir profesionaliai issprestu musu bedas, o patys tuo metu galetumem sedeti ir ilsetis vesioj kavinej. (Vertimas: "geriau jauciames priimdami vokelius is pazistamu ranku"). Jauciames maloniai sujaudinti - visai nepazistami zmones, o sitaip rupinasi musu gerove, baiminasi, kad neperkaistumem.

Po truputi pradeda baigtis kantrybe. Muitines darbo diena eina i pabaiga, lauke karstis nemazeja, tusti pilvai pradeda groti marsus, ir nerezultatyvus pasivaiksciojimai po uosta vis labiau erzina. Nenorom tenka modifikuoti kreipimosi i pareigunus teksta ir balso tona - "tarp kitko" uzsimenam, kad ju nezemisku uzimtumu ir nenoru bendrauti su klientais galetu susidometi Ekvadoro televizija (kaip tik vakar vakare per Ekvadoro zinias rode reportaza apie korumpuotus muitines pareigunus). Atrodo, atspejome slaptazodi! - kaip mat gauname audiencija I norima kabineta :).

Kai jau atrodo, kad reikalai pagaliau pasisuko mums palankia kryptimi, ir greitai vel turesime savo masinas, atsitinka tai, ko labiausiai bijojome - klaida konteinerio siuntimo dokumentuose (Bill of Lading). Toje vietoje, kur turetu buti trys magiskos raideles "LCL" ("Local Container Load" - leidimas konteineri atidaryti ir iskrauti uosto teritorijoje), siu raidziu nera. "LCL" nebuvimas reiskia, kad konteineri su masinomis privalome issigabenti uz uosto ribu, ten ji issikrauti, ir tuscia grazinti APL'ui. Konteinerio isvezimas is uosto reikstu dideles nenumatytas islaidas (reiktu samdyti krana, sunkvezimi, vairuotoja, rampa masinoms is konteinerio isvaryti; o sitame Gvajakilio uoste viskas kainuoja simtus doleriu). Kitas variantas - dokumentu koregavimas - atsieitu ne ka maziau, nes uz kiekviena pakeitima muitine skiria $180 bauda.
Kuo toliau, tuo koses daugejo. Netrukus suzinojom, kad nenumatyti materialiniai nuostoliai - tik mazoji musu popierines problemos dalis. Pasirodo, papuolem i uzburta rata: masinu is muitines teritorijos negalime isvezti tol, kol neturime laikino importavimo leidimo; sio leidimo mums isduoti muitine negali, nes pries tai turi atlikti masinu inspekcija; inspekcijos atlikti, deja, neimanoma, nes masinos tebera konteineryje; o konteinerio uosto teritorijoje atidaryti negalima, nes ant siuntimo dokumento truksta lemtinguju "LCL":) Didelis aciu Panamos APL'o atstovui, pardavusiam mums konteineri - pries issiusdami masina, ne viena karta jo klauseme apie "LCL" (buvom apie tai skaite), ir visus kartus buvome uztikrinti, kad musu atveju "LCL" nevaidina jokio vaidmens.

Atsidekodami uz Panamos agento siurpriza, nusprendziame nustebinti APL'a netiketu apsilankymu ju Ekvadoro ofise - galu gale, LCL problema - ju atstovo kalte, tai tegul jie ir iesko sprendimo! Vis dar tikimes, kad APL'as paprasciausiai irasys tris stebuklingasias raides, ir didzioji problema liks tik juokingas prisiminimas. Deja, naujas siurprizas laukia musu paciu - dar ir koks! Pasirodo, APL'as yra ribotu paslaugu kompanija, galinti transportuoti konteinerius tarp uostu, bet neturinti teises iskrauti krovinio uosto teritorijoje. Kitaip tariant, irasyti LCL - ar cia, ar Panamoj, ar bet kurioje kitoje atstovybeje - APL'ui paprasciausiai draudzia istatymai! Tikriausiai niekada nebesuzinosime, kodel "APL de Panama" agentas pries savaite kalbejo priesingai ir mums zadejo, kad masinu atsiemimas "uztruks pora valandu - atvaziuosite i uosta, issivarysite is konteinerio masinas, is muitines pasiimsite laikino importavimo leidima ir - laisvi!", taciau kuo toliau, tuo labiau panaseja i tai, kad musu masinu siuntimas buvo apskritai pirmasis jo bandymas ka nors is kur nors i kazkur siusti - pirmasis blynas, ir neblogai pasviles; kad ji kur galas!
Atsisveikindami APL palinki sekmes ir, del viso ko, duoda mums pazistamo muitininko telefona - jis tokiuose reikaluose labiau patyres, tai, galbut, ras kokia iseiti. Pasiskambinam - $600 + nenumatytos islaidos, be jokiu garantiju :) Aciu ir uz tai - geriau tureti nors mazyte vilti dar kada nors pamatyti Nissana, negu nei tokios netureti :)

Saunios dieneles pabaigai - kontrolinis suvis. Visas konteinerio turinys (t.y. abidvi masinos ir du Jeffo motociklai) i Ekvadora atkeliavo Doviles vardu. Sitaip issiunteme del to, kad butu greiciau, paprasciau ir maziau popieriu. Nebutu del to jokios problemos, jeigu galetumem konteineri issikrauti uosto viduje - tada abi masinos muitine praeitu atskirai, kiekviena su savo savininku, ir abidvi gautu po atskira laikino importavimo leidima - kaip ir planavome. Isaiskejus, kad uosto viduje konteinerio iskrauti negalesime, atsirado dar viena "maloni smulkmenele" - net jeigu ir pasiseks rasti buda, kaip isgabenti konteineri is uosto nepazeidziant masinos importavimo taisykliu, visa deze bus traktuojama kaip vienas Dovilei priklausantis daiktas, o laikino importavimo dokumentus muitine isduos pagal krovinio dokumentus. Kitaip tariant, Dovile importuos abi masinas ir abu motociklus. O tai reiskia, kad po Ekvadora vazineti ir is Ekvadoro isvaziuoti turesime butinai visi kartu. Nebutu taip blogai, jeigu musu ir J&J planai nors kiek sutaptu. Dabar gi, mes norime skristi i Galapagus, o J&J - is karto vaziuoti toliau zemyn, link Brazilijos :)

Vakare taip nebelinksma, kad net kvailai juokinga (po truputi aiskeja, kodel isproteje zmones daznai juokiasi :)). Ironiskesni déjà-vu sunku net isivaizduoti - tiek kartu skaitem apie Gvajakilio uoste "ikalintas" masinas, gailejom i tokia situacija papuolusiu turistu ir planavom, kaip elgsimes gudriau, jeigu mums taip atsitiks... Lyg karta jau butumem cia buve, bet dabar, kada turim galimybe ka nors gudraus nuveikti, nelabai isivaizuojam, ka. Konteineris su masinomis - Gvajakilio uoste, mes - Gvajekilio uoste, ten pat - ir muitine, turinti isduoti mums uosto vartus atkelianti dokumenta; taciau mus visus skiria tvirciausia pasaulyje medziaga - popierius.

Staiga Jeffersonas prisimena, kad pries menesi kazkokiu problemu su Gvajakilio uosto muitine turejo jo draugas. Nueina paskambinti draugui ir grizta su Antonijaus telefono numeriu. 8 valanda vakaro viesbucio kavineje pasirodo ir pats Antonio Ruiz Prado - mazas, simpatiskas zmogutis, kuris, isklauses musu istorija, pateikia pasiulyma - $100 jam uz darba, $200-300 "smulkioms islaidoms" (t.y. kysiams), ir rytoj vakare jau turesime masinas. Antonijus prizada stengtis is paskutiniuju, nes kitaip kitaip muitine uzsidarys savaitgaliui, o nuo pirmadienio jau turesime moketi mokesti uostui uz konteinerio saugojima. Sutinkame su visom Antonijaus salygom, kurios ir siaip nera pacios blogiausios; taciau svarbiausia - brangusis Antonijus ruosiasi isgelbeti mus nuo savaitgalio Gvajakilyje.

Ta vakara dar ilgai sedim viesbucio kavinukeje ir klausomes nesibaigianciu Antonijaus istoriju apie nuotykius muitineje, kurioje jis dirba jau daugiau kaip 20 metu. Istorijos juokingos; Antonijus, atrodo, savo darba ismano neblogai; tad lyg jau ir galetumem lengviau atsikvepti, jei ne mazyte smulkmenele... Antonijus tiek daug kalba ir tiek nedaug klauso, kad belieka tik tiketis, jog bent puse jo entuziazmo bus like ir rytoj, kada reikes igyvendinti pazadus. Kita vertus, nelabai turime is ko rinktis :)

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