The return of the Fly

On the 11th of January 2011, my Piaggio “Rocinante” Fly, finally arrived in Setubal, after a long journey from Dakar. In the end, it traveled a longer distance than I did. It went from Dakar to Le Havre in France, then to Lisbon and finally to Setubal.

At the time of departure on the 28th of October 2011. Look how innocent and happy I am!


At the time of the arrival, the Fly and me on the 11th of January 2012. I have a much wiser expression on my face. It can only be because of the Flying South adventure.


Saying goodbye to the Fly, at CGFE’s warehouse in Dakar.


Saying hello to the Fly, at SDV’s Warehouse in Lisbon.


During the journey, I gave some serious thought about what to do with the scooter. Would I sell it at the end of the journey or would I send it back to Portugal? At some point, at the beginning of the journey (before Tan Tan), this was a variable that had some weight in my decisions: Could I go south until I had had enough, or should I return because if I went further south it turned out to be more difficult to return with the scooter. With such a slow pace, the distances just started to be too big to return by road. Coming from a small depression with a fragile state of mind, at some point, this even increased my sleep-deprived state and it grew to a size where I had to take some sleeping pills. They were the last ones I have taken until today, though.

At some point, I tried to ask my brother and my brother-in-law, if they could organize the transport of the scooter back home, but the prices were too high. The cost would be more than 2000€ because it was considered “Dangerous Good” and had to be closed inside a wooden box and stuff. A Piaggio Fly 50cc would cost around 1700€ back home. I could sell it at the end, but I had already a bond with it and I would like to keep it to remember the journey. The Fly was already a friend that shared important moments with me and some more were about to come. Then, I decided: What the heck, I will decide what to do when and where I arrive to my destination. Sell it, send it back or just leave it somewhere, it was not as important as to be on the road going south. That decision proved to be the correct one. I would have a lot of time to think about it (or not to think about it), and a weight was removed off my shoulders.

Nevertheless, when I arrived in Dakar, I looked for the Grimaldi offices. Grimaldi is a very well-known sea shipping operator that have those Europe to West Africa routes. When I found it, a very nice lady gave me the bad news. To send the Scooter with them would have cost me a lot of money because they would accept only complete containers.
Afterwards, she gave me two options.

The first option was to board the ship as a passenger and the scooter would go with me as luggage. I was immediately enthusiastic with this solution. Furthermore, travelling by cargo ship for 10 days would be a great experience. And it will be a great experience one day, because although I didn’t choose this way of returning, I wrote it down on my “must bucket list”. The price was good, much less then the 2000€ solution. The problem with this solution was that the ship was going only to the north of Europe, to Hamburg in Germany. In short, I had to wait almost a week for the ship, the journey to Hamburg would take me 10 days and then I had to come by train or road to Portugal. The cost would increase to an unknown amount and time would span to an unknown number of days. An original solution, though.

The second option was to contact a local company, doing groupage in containers, meaning that they put a lot of stuff inside a container, coming from a lot of clients, my scooter included, prepare a container and ship it to Europe through Grimaldi or other sea shipping operator. She gave me a business card of one such company and I went there. I found a small office and warehouse in the middle of the industrial area by the harbor. It didn’t look very organized, but I found the people very nice and efficient. The price was a little more than the price of Grimaldi first option, I reasoned that with a plane ticket for me on top of it, I could be in Lisbon in a couple of days. At the time I had some setbacks that I will explain in another post and I already had taken the decision of returning home in the following days. I took the decision to send it through this small company and pray that the Fly would arrive safe and sound at its destination. The plan was to put the Piaggio ”Rocinante” Fly inside a container in Dakar, ship it to Le Havre in France and transport it by sea or by truck to Lisbon.

In the end, the only problem I had was with the cost. Already in Portugal, when I exchanged some emails with the transporter about the delivery date of the scooter, they warned me that I would have some more cost in addition to the initial payment. I have to say that both companies gave me an excellent email support during the wait for the arrival of the scooter. In the end, I think that I also had some responsibility, as I didn’t detail with them the total costs when I ordered the service. There wasn’t enough time in my mind for such kind of detail at that moment. I had to make the decision very quickly about what to do. And that was exactly what I’ve done. You know what some people say: “It’s better any decision than no decision”. Also, they didn’t know very well the implication of such service in Europe. In the end I had to pay more 60% of the initial agreement, not to the Senegal company but to the European company. I had to pay some more for the transport of a “dangerous goods”, the handling at the European warehouses and to pay for the customs in Portugal.
The timeline was the following:

  • I left the Fly in Dakar warehouse on the 22nd of November 2011
  • The vessel shipped from Dakar to Le Havre on the 5th of December 2011
    (13 days later)
  • The ship arrived in Le Havre on the 15th of December 2011
    (10 days later)
  • The truck left Le Havre on the 28th of December 2011
    (13 days later)
  • The Fly arrived at Lisbon warehouse on the 4th of January 2012
    (7 days later)
  • After Customs and all paper work, I picked the Fly up at the Lisbon warehouse on the 11th of January 2012
    (7 days later)

In total, it took them 50 days to transport the Fly from Dakar to Setubal, Portugal. Much more than we both spent travelling from Portugal to Dakar by road.

I have to say that the scooter arrived in Setubal just like I left it in Dakar. No additional scratches and all parts where there: Two locking chains, the rear-view mirrors and the ignition key, as well as all the fuel inside. It was not working, though. Depleted battery or just plain stuck. It refused to start working. After a lot of kicks with the kick-starter, it just started to work. Also, some electric contacts were not functioning. The rear lights as an example. After a couple of days of usage and a pressure wash, it looks like it never left Setubal.

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