Good Energy

The guys at Good Energy have been really supportive and excited about the expedition, so much so that they have made a contribution which allows me to keep the blog regularly updated during the expedition, so they and everyone else can follow the journey. Good Energy supplies 100% renewable electricity sourced from wind, water, sun and sustainable biomass. CO2 from coal-fired electricity generation is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Switch your electricity supply to Good Energy using this link and not only will you be supporting the pioneering community of independent green generators, but for every sign up they get they’ll make another donation to help get the bus around the world. It helps you cut your personal CO2 emissions, helps them grow a great business, and helps me get round the world.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Hot and Cold

“Gazi Antep has the best mechanics in Turkey. People drive from Van to see a mechanic here.” I’m told. Though presumably if your car can make the 700km drive from Van, then it’s not that desperate for a good mechanic.

On the edge of town I’m shown an industrial estate full of lorry mechanics. The bus looks dwarfed among the 44 tonners, reversing and gliding through narrow gaps with effortless grace.
Tradesmen huddle together outside Europe, which makes them easy to find. If you want a guy to repair your fridge go to the end of town with all the fridge-repairers. If you need a tube connector head to the plumbing neighbourhood.

My temperature gauge hasn’t worked since before I got the bus. I know it’s a problem with the backboard of the dashboard dial. I take it to the first mechanic and try to explain. He tests the sensor in the engine and then points to the dashboard dial; “Problem”. He sends me to a garage a few metres away where they specialise in repairing tachographs and dashboard instruments. Again I try to explain but they check the engine sensor and point to the dashboard dial; “Problem”.

The bus has drawn quite a crowd and the danger with excitable mechanics is that they break something else while fixing your problem. One quiet mechanic does a much better job than 4 fighting over who can undo the tough nut. Any mechanical work needs zen-like calm, and clarity of thought above screwdrivers and wrenches.

It takes 10 minutes to isolate the problem is a blown resistor. It takes an hour to find a replacement resistor. Three of us go through boxes of circuit boards testing resistors and debating what the resistance should be. It clearly says 220Ω on the one that is broken but this seems to pass everyone by except me, and I can’t make myself understood, no matter how hard I point at the faded lettering.

Eventually we find one, unsolder it from the instrument it used to be on, fit it and it all works perfectly, except the needle has been in the off position so long it sticks there. So my start up procedure is now: Ignition, pump accelerator, press start button (repeat until engine starts), sharp tap on the temperature gauge and we’re off.

On the drive back into town the bus warms to 80C before the thermostat opens bang on cue, and it’s unflinching in its German steadfastness at the optimum temperature. Seeing a machine working as designed has a calming effect on me, like having my earlobes massaged.

It even lights up in the dark now, I can’t wait to know the oil pressure at night, presumably the same as it is by day, but like the fridge door light you can never be sure. It’s going to be so cool, not having an anxiety attack at the top of each hill, thinking the engine is about to melt.

In fact melting is the last problem I’m going to face over the next week. I’ve been looking at the temperature map on the BBC website and between here and Tehran it’s going to drop down to 0C. The problem far from melting, is waxing, (or freezing). The oil may well set solid in the tank, then like a ship run aground on a spring tide I will have to wait for the summer before I can go anywhere.

I’m waiting an extra couple of days in Gazi Antep because one of my sponsors here should have a fresh batch of biodiesel ready tomorrow evening, and I want to fill the tank with bio, which should resist waxing. As a last resort I may mix in 5% of petrol. Fossil fuels! I know, but I can’t run the risk of having 1000 litres of oil turn to lard. I need a full tank, because I think in Iran it will be hard to find oil, and Pakistan will be a paranoid sprint with no time for pleasantries. Heating 1 tonne of grease is impractical because it will be coldest at night when the engine isn’t running. I've been meditating on the latent energy of oil waxing, and if there is some law of physics I can bend to my advantage. This is by far the most challenging part of the journey so far for the bus, and as for me, I hate the cold.

The promise of “Tehran 17°C, Sunny” waits over the mountains and like a delusional Fitzcarraldo I venture forth towards my dream.

1 comment:

  1. Just got this email - Brilliant.

    Hi, Andy,
    When we did an aid trip (in 1997, I think!) to Belarus, we used locally made pine vodka to stop our diesel from freezing - it was around -20 centigrade then! It worked and was probably eco-friendly!
    Keep safe!
    Kind regards,
    Tony Pritchard

    Alcohol and oil reacts to create biodiesel but also results in sludgy glycerine which will kill the Injection Pump, but I still love it.


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