It was 8am and I was waiting out on the sidewalk for my friend to turn up in his car. We had made this arrangement a couple of nights ago and as the time grew later I became concerned that he had forgotten our appointment. For me this was really important. I was about to buy a motorbike and needed his help to complete the paperwork.
By the time we left, I had already sorted everything out in my head. We would go and check for any debts on the number plate first, then make sure the bike was not used as collateral for any loans. This should take less than an hour so we will be able to head over to the house of the owner and buy it off him, secure that all is well.
It didn’t happen like that.
A typical sight in Corrientes while moving around the city.
The Owner Not The Owner
Instead, we headed to the main council chambers and discovered that there was a debt outstanding on the bike. This was for four years of unpaid fees for the number plates. Since it was not a great deal of money, I was still happy to proceed with the purchase, but there was a complication. Our current owner was not the man listed on the official paperwork.
So before we could do anything else, we needed to track down the real owner to see if he was willing to sign the necessary papers. Without his signature, all would be worthless because the bike would never end up in my name legally. Even more interesting was that if the guy was married, even though she is not mentioned on the papers in any place, she must sign the paperwork too or it is still worthless.
Back at the home of the seller of my bike-to-be.
Our first attempt to find the guy started at the home of the guy selling the bike. He shows us an old tatty receipt and claims that the scrawled signature is that of the cousin of the owner and that it is enough to prove that it is his bike. He bought the thing back in 1988 of this cousin but never knew the owner. The cousin had since returned to Brazil and he had lost contact with him.
Our seller was happy for us to search out the owner and gave us as much information as he could remember. It was not a great deal, but when we checked on the debt for the number plates we also were given the last known address for our missing owner. The address did not make sense though, as it did not exist.
So with nothing left to lose, we drive to the last house on the street and ask if they know where we could find a house numbered 1000 more than their house. Being a very old lady, she kindly smiled and told us that even though the street on the other side of the big school was now known by a different name, it really was the same street and we would find our house down there. Its name was changed by a politician wanting to give fame to one of his friends (or something like that).
The house we were looking for turned up easily enough, but after knocking for a while we managed to stir only the dogs. Nobody answered the door for us so we assumed they were all out. My friend, Sergio, thought it wise to ask at a local house, and owing to the very strong social networks in this society, we struck gold.
Well, maybe it was fools gold, but it was the best we had to go on at the time. The neighbours told us that nobody lived in the house now except for the grandmother and she was not answering the door to strangers. The son, who was our missing owner, lived somewhere unknown, but they heard him every now and then on one of the local radio stations. That was all they knew.
Finding a Radio Station
So tuning into Radio Sudamericana, 100.5 we listened for something that would help us find out more. Sure enough, after a short time a phone number for the station was given out over the air and in a shot we had given them a call. They knew about this person we were searching for, and even were kind enough to give us his mobile phone number, but when we rang it there was no answer.
The Radio Sudamericana building.
Our options were turning slim, so with nothing left to lose, we headed to the radio station to see if they knew any more about this guy. After explaining our plight they inform us that we can catch up with him around midday, yet another hour away. Our morning was almost over and we had not even started the paperwork.
How to Spend an Hour
Rather than start the process of paperwork, which would be useless without the agreement of this guy to sign the papers we needed, we headed into town instead. Here Sergio started with some inquiries into distant education for his children for when they move to Africa in two months time. He had already determined that he needed to go to the forth floor of the second building for this information, but upon asking was directed to the sub-secretary of education. This office was found by first visiting the secretary’s office, and after a long wait he discovered that the information will probably be found in the secretary’s office.
By then an hour had already passed, so we returned to the radio station. Sergio entered alone, so that there were no foreigners visible, as many people in Corrientes ask crazy prices for anyone that is not from here. For example, Lehman and I asked about a beat up little 50cc motorbike and were told it was for sale for $1200 pesos. These bikes sell for $1500 pesos new. Being a poorer area of town the bikes should have been sold for lower than average prices, but because we were foreigners their price immediately doubled. These are not isolated incidents either.
Radio 100.5’s antenna in the middle of the city.
When Sergio returned, everything was sorted and the guy was happy to sign our documents in the morning. So now we will return once again in the morning to get all of the important papers signed. With that sorted, I will be able to take possession of the bike and then start all of the paperwork. Even this is not very straight forward.
The 3 Year Delay
As a foreigner, if I want to put the bike into my name, it will probably take about 3 years to do the paperwork. Being such an old bike, there is a lot of records involved and all of these have to be brought together in one place and then processed. If a person from Corrientes buys the bike then all of this paperwork will still take around 3 months. After that, if I want to change the bike over into my name, it will take significantly less time. Something to do with having all of the papers together in one place.
So there seems to be no other logical choice than to ask somebody that I trust to place the bike into their name first, then wait out the paperwork. After that, this person can transfer the bike over to my name and I only need to wait a short time. How short this refers to, I am not yet sure, but I am assured that a short time could be literally only a day. Most of my experiences tell me that it will be likely to be a little more than that however.
Tomorrow we check out the remaining chances for debt on the bike, sign the paperwork to put the bike into a friends name, pay the money, collect a receipt from the guy selling it, and walk away with a motorbike.
Continuing The Purchase
The purchase process is not over yet. We still need to fill out form 5 and form 13A, complete a simple sworn declaration, complete the payment of the number plate debt and change over the bike records to my friend’s name, sign a purchase deed before a Justice of the Peace, go to the police center and get them to check the frame and engine numbers have not changed, change over the ownership document into my friend’s name, and get a document proving that he is Argentine. Only then has the bike been officially purchased and ownership transferred.
That means that tomorrow we start the process. Until now it has only been preparation for the main event. But the best part is that I will soon be able to travel around in my Siambretta, even though official it won’t be mine for several months yet.