11/12/2018 Simon ‘Wardy’ Ward is nomadonanomad
Having spent so long here in Europe because of issues with my eye and residency regulations regarding travel insurance, I’m almost there! About to get on a plane to Argentina where the adventure, for me anyway, really begins. Europe has been frustrating despite the wonderful time spent with family and friends and I really have felt ‘caged’ in a way, impatient to put into action the stuff I’ve learned through cycling the length of France and Spain, but in a totally different continent and culture. Properly going native and keen to get back on the bike!
The last 5 weeks, in particular, back in the UK have been depressing to say the least, counting days solely because of this‘ residency’ issue, i.e. having to be able to tick a box saying that I’ve been a full time, permanent resident of the UK for at least 6 of the last 12 months. After being in Laos for the previous 11 plus years I had to wait until the 30th. November, 6 months after the last stamp in my passport, to be able to correctly ‘tick that box’. We all know how insurance companies will wriggle out of their obligations if at all possible. More of that later………………
I actually set off on that very day, the 30thNovember, insured up to the hilt, to collect my bike from friends in Gerena, which is near Sevilla in the south of Spain. Thanks a million to ‘L’ and ‘H’, not forgetting Calle the dog and Jackie the cat for storing and caring for my stuff. All I had to do now was cycle to Malaga where I could get a flight to Buenos Aries. N.B., I could have flown from lots of places but it would have involved cycling north from Seviila which would have been far too cold for me. I was already looking at the wonderful temperatures in Argentina as their southern hemisphere summer kicks in. In December, Spain is very cold!
I say ‘all I had to do was cycle to Malaga’. I remember only too well that I had made that journey back in the middle of October and it nearly killed me, and I only took half a load on the bike with me as I’d left a lot of my gear in Gerena. Quietly I was dreading the repeat despite having selected a totally different route trying to get over, or more pertinently round, the mountains without killing myself as now the bike was fully loaded.
I have to add that my trepidation had initiated a huge review of what I needed to carry and a subsequent giving away of all sorts of things which I had thought imperative before I pedalled the bloody stuff up mountains. It also helped that I’d lost 7 kilos in weight whilst cycling through France and Spain. (7 kilos less for me to pedal up hills) I had also chosen a completely different route, avoiding the beautiful towns that were obviously built on the top of these Andalusian mountains to repel hostile invaders centuries ago, and cycling numpties, like me, in the present day.
The route I had decided on was nowhere near as beautiful as the first ‘attempt’ but I got there with that full load a day ahead of schedule. I must confess to setting out a very unambitious plan but I was surprised, having been out of the saddle for almost 6 weeks that I absolutely ‘smashed it’ and therefore arrived in Malaga on a Bank Holiday weekend when the hotels and hostals were packed and could charge what they liked. An old expression about falling in a bucket of boobs and coming out sucking my thumb came to mind.
Monday morning arrived and I headed to Eurobike in Malaga where I had been before to make contact and establish whether it was possible for me to obtain a bike box for the plane journey to Argentina and, more importantly, if they were likely to show some compassion for a newbie cycle tourist and help me pack the box?
I can say straight away that ‘Edu’ (Edouardo) was an absolute star. He remembered me, and had the 2 boxes that I needed. (One for the bike, the other for the panniers and camping gear) He also quickly realised that I was out of my depth and helped me to do the dismantling of the bike and packing in it in the box. Bless him, he even questioned me as to whether I would work out how it all went back together again. Good question Edu, we’ll see, won’t we? I have, just in case of problems, made sure that I’ve booked a hotel in Buenos Aries that happens to be close to 3 bicycle shops for when I can’t get it back together again.
I boarded the flight from Malaga to London Gatwick not looking forward much to the 13 hours from London to Buenos Aries and even less to the 8 hours stuck at Gatwick in transit. Anyway, it had to be done so I decided it had to be ‘stiff upper lip’ time. I had coffee and something to eat, charged the electronics, and set off for the departure gate. As usual the security checks involved placing all electronic devices into a separate tray to the rest of the stuff which was when I realised that my sports/action camera had disappeared! I then said quite a lot of rude words.
The folks in security allowed me to go back to the places I’d been on the off chance that it was still in situ, but I don’t believe in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny so didn’t hold out too much hope. I spoke to a police officer and he took me to the lost property desk but nothing again. He even told me he would email me the next day after checking if it had been found in the morning. (Nev, many thanks for your efforts and contacting me even if the outcome was not positive)
So, I checked my insurance and yes, I had cover for lost or stolen items. Not much good to me as I was about to get on a plane and I could only imagine the stuff I would have to deal with from 10,000 kilometres away. Eventually after what seemed like an hour of automated messages asking for all sorts of information that an advisor was going to be asking me all over again anyway, when I got to speak to one, I was somehow connected to a human being.
I explained my situation and was quickly told that I was not covered as my insurance only starts after I leave the UK. ‘But I left the UK on 30thNovember, and have been to Spain to collect my bicycle and I’m now in transit for my flight to Argentina’, I told the now, in my humble opinion, less than human being. Then I was told that I was not covered as I had not included Spain on my list of countries I was visiting. My mistake, hands up, I just hadn’t thought that collecting the bike was part of the adventure. ‘But I’m not in Spain, and I have left the UK. Being in transit means that I’m not officially in any country so I am covered’, I argued through gritted teeth.
‘I’ll have to speak with my manager’, the Neanderthal said. ‘I’ll wait’. (I was now rapidly getting hot under the collar) Eventually the Neanderthal advised me that her manager had also said that I wasn’t covered! Mustering as much sarcasm as possible I wished them a very Merry Christmas and switched the phone off already planning revenge/exposure etc. etc. At the time when the steam was starting to come out of my ears it dawned on me that my Nationwide Building Society Flex account provides me with automatic worldwide travel insurance for trips of up to 31 days even without being informed of when and where customers are travelling. Hahaha.
The only reason I had used another company was the 31 day maximum and I need to be ‘covered’ for 18 months. By the way, for your information the name of the company who wriggled out of their responsibilities is Staysure. Give them a very wide berth would be my advice, and I’ve got to try and trust the buggers until May 2020. Fingers firmly crossed that I haven’t forgotten to fill in the inside leg measurement or which side do I dress box or the name of their head office’s cat on the application form!
So that’s it for now. I’m typing this from my B and B in Buenos Aries, enjoying the help and hospitality of Gimena and Carlos who are fabulous and waiting for a huge storm to finish. Also, I will have to walk the bike down to the local bike shop to get my ‘reconstruction’ technique assessed and quantified. I’m waiting to get the ‘thumbs up’ from a properly qualified bicycle mechanic before I ride it!
Next post(s) South America! The adventure really starts now.
Thank you, as always for reading this far and as always may your God go with you.
Simon ’Wardy’ Ward.