Not Ready for the Pipe and Slippers yet..... A journey by Motorcycle through the Americas
Not Ready for the Pipe and Slippers yet..... A journey by Motorcycle through the Americas

If you think getting a motorcycle in to Peru is a challenge, have a go with a camera…….



As those of you who have been following my progress will know I’ve been recording and uploading some videos to my Vimeo channel. The original idea I had for making these was to use a GoPro digital camera which is both incredibly light, tiny and has extraordinary HD picture quality. You’ll remember also that the camera failed in the first few days. I resorted to using my stills camera and an old, slightly down at heel digital video camera which I had as a fall back.

However, the GoPro was still under warranty so from Alaska to Peru I’ve been trying to get a replacement. Enter the hero of our story; a guy called Peter Holmgren who works for the GoPro customer service team in California. Oh, and as in every good story,  there’s a villain as well. We’ll come to them soon. Here, then is my tail of international logistics, frustration management and the importance of never giving up if you really want something.


Having tried everything to fix the existing camera through lengthy email exchanges with Peter, we eventually agreed it was beyond an ‘on the road’ fix and needed to be returned for repalacement. Having bought it in Europe, back to Holland it went (from somewhere in Nevada if memory serves me). The main challenge with getting a replacement is that I’m not sure where I’ll be for sure in 3 days’ time let alone the sensible two weeks shipping time needed. So, Peter and I agreed a camera would be delivered to Judith in London before she came out to join me in Los Angeles in July.  A camera was despatched from Hong Kong, and here enters the villain of our piece.


The courier of choice for GoPro is FedEx.


They allegedly ‘tried’ to deliver the camera in London so Judith could bring it with her for when we met in Los Angeles. They failed to leave a card when they ‘tried’, so no one  knew anything about this. By the time I had chased this up (from Arizona, I think) the camera had been returned to sender and Judith arrived empty handed.


OK, these things happen, Peter and I move on and start to think about getting one to me somewhere in Mexico. This is a non-starter apparently as Mexico can be a black hole from where many packages never emerge.


So, how about Panama City – the Geneva of Central America, surely nothing can go wrong there. Pete ( we’re getting less formal with each other now)  duly despatches a camera to the hotel I’ll be in for 5 days in Panama City.


I arrive; no camera.


It’s in Panama City OK, but not due to be delivered to the hotel until the day after I leave. Not a problem, I’ll go collect it from the FedEx main office. I won’t bother you with the details but FedEx failed to respond to my faxes (no email address for them, yes really) and other attempts to contact them. It was impossible to work out from their website where they were based. I eventually tracked the office down, fought the horrific Panama City traffic on the bike and arrived at 13.15 on Saturday – yeah, you’ve guessed, they closed at 13.00. The next place I would be for any length of time was going to be Lima, Peru; so more email traffic and Pete despatches ANOTHER camera for me.


I got the camera eventually two days before I left Lima. It involved (amongst other things):


  • Three trips to the airport (the camera couldn’t be delivered as it was ‘held up in customs awaiting my ‘tax identification’!?).
  • Two were wasted trying to track down the FedEx office - note the picture below – this IS NOT the FedEx site, why on earth would you think it is, you fool? 
  • Many emails from me to Pete and back trying to get someone from FedEx to respond and let me know what was needed to happen to sort out delivery / collection; oh, and where the hell their office was.
  • I eventually tracked down the agent they used, collected the necessary paperwork, went to the Customs office back at the airport, filled in several forms in Spanish, took a taxi back to ‘FedEx’ with a customs officer to find the camera in their warehouse, open the package, confirm it was as described on the way bill before re-sealing the package and returning by taxi (on my tab, obviously) to the Customs Office.
  • Here, we hit our first REAL problem of the day. As far as I could work out with my poor Spanish, their system was unable to process my passport expiration date as it was described as ‘20’ rather than ‘2020’ However, no problem, they would probably be able to sort this out in ‘4 or 5 hours’; or I could come back tomorrow………
  • As it was it only took 3 hours to ‘get the system to work’, so I duly return to ‘FedEx’, paid twice what I had been verbally told would be necessary for the import duty – to ‘FedEx’, not the Customs official – jumped onto the bike with the camera and had the joy of negotiating 10 miles of rush hour traffic back to the hotel just in time for dinner…

Was it all worth it?


Well, yes, for two reasons.


Part of the rationale for this trip was about stretching and strengthening the problem solving muscles – and this was a very effective work out, trust me. I’ve learnt a massive amount about being able to have some Zen like patience in a number of situations which  would previously driven me into paroxysms of rage.And I hope I can bring some of this back with me to the cosy first world living standards in the UK.


Secondly, I’ll be starting to up load some of the fruits of the GoPro over the next few weeks and am really excited by the quality of what the camera iscapable of doing. I’ve also had a day and a bit  off the bike with some food poisoning which has given me a chance to start to use the video editing software a bit more cleverly.





Me with my offical entry badge to the Customs House - it's 3.00PM - I've been trying to get the camera since 8.45 this morning...

Like London Buses you wait and age and  then.....


Here’s one to get you started, in which I bid farewell for two months to Judith


And another with some more motorbikey stuff and my first GoPro piece to camera - all in one take, no less! And in which I work out how to get the picture full screen....

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© Kevin Ford