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.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Van Man

If you run a body shop in Van, you’ve got a job for life. There’s no end of vehicles with smashed up fronts or rears driving around and parked up. I saw one this morning that had just had an accident and a few feet away the cow that had destroyed the front of his car was already being butchered by an irate villager.

I spot a Mercedes 309 bus parked by the side of the road in town. Its the first midsized Merc van I’ve seen since Greece, and from 30 feet I clock it’s 16inch rims. I’m still looking for a rim and have travelled all this way with a spare tyre but no rim.

I chat with the owner, the bus looks more like a 508, and I think it was made in Turkey. The instrument panel is regal. He’s rightly proud of his bus which has outlived the generation of Mercs that it started its life with in the mid 80s, all of whom have now been replaced by ford transits.

It’s got dual control pedals and a stool he sits on when teaching bus drivers. The rest of the time it’s a school bus. In the UK buses usually end up as school buses when they are old and knackered, so delinquent kids don’t get to damage anything nice and new. Here in Turkey kids are transported to school in the pride of the nations fleet of Dolmus vans.

He points me in the direction of a garage on an industrial estate where they had an old Merc which they were scrapping and with it a load of old rims they are using as anvils. I find the place but it’s too late, they’ve already ditched all the parts. No one needed them here.

The world over there is a hierarchy in workshops. There is the owner, who negotiates the prices but doesn’t get his hands dirty, then there is the guy that does the work, and at his beck and call he has the workshop junior. When you’re under a truck precariously holding a part in position it’s important to have an apprentice you can shout to to pass you the tool you need.

Haci (Hagi), the owner, has 2 wives, 15 kids, a set of immaculate ford overall, and seems to own a whole street of workshops. Our conversation is like a mime artist competition. His action for wives leads me to think they both have very pert breasts. He insists I eat in the canteen with all the mechanics, welders, and spray painters around a long table. Picture Pimp My Ride Turkey style, “Yo we gonna hook Andy up with a 1984 classic Merc rim for his spare wheel, then we gonna pimp his fuel filter with some cheap after market tat...”

Juniors are usually covered from head to toe in black oil, as they are the ones sent in to do the dirtiest jobs and haven’t yet developed the skills required to keep clean while working. Their little hands, which could just as usefully be holding a pen at school, are very handy for reaching into an engine bay to recover a dropped socket, and as parts are peeled off the vehicle in question they are the ones sent off to the stores to get replacement bit, and usually shouted at when they return with something similar but not quite right.

The junior in this garage, Umit, talks a lot to me, in between making tea and passing tools to his elder brother under the destroyed front end of a Transit, un worried by the fact I can’t really understand what he’s saying. But at one point he waves his fingers like a piano player and in the barrage of words I pick out “address” and “faysbuk”.

In Iran, now only 100km away, they are brimming with Merc parts, Haci tells me. I put off the oil change, rim hunt and replacing the alternator bearings until then.

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