1st of November 2021
I'm near Lake Salda in Turkey, it's 12°C outside and my hands are slowed by the cold while I'm typing this. I'm writing on my laptop sitting at the small table behind my car. I have been trying to learn Turkish with a moderate amount of success. I'm using these little notebooks that fit in the pocket like I did ten years ago and built myself my own little Turkish-English phrasebook. It took me some time to get used to this lifestyle again. And I'm not sure I'm even used to it now. Since I entered Turkey, I have almost not cooked a single meal as food is so cheap and delicious here. I did enter a supermarket yesterday and bought ingredients to make homemade hummus. I have met Moritz & Neomi, a Swiss-german couple from Glarus traveling with a van, in Istanbul. Now I'm 600km South camping by the lake and playing with the four dogs that were waiting for me when I arrived.
When I crossed into Slovenia, I noticed my fuel tank was leaking significant amount of diesel. After crawling under the car, trying to figure out the location and reason for the leak, I noticed a small screw pointing towards the top of it. Sh*t! I screwed inside my fuel tank! But still I found it strange that such amount of fuel would leak from what would have been a tiny hole. I couldn't make sure because there is barely space for my hand to get there. As a temporary solution, I tried to plug the hole with a chewing gum (yes, I know) and paper towel. The leakage promptly stopped and I kept inspecting it every time I would park. But then, after filling the tank fully in Turkey, I realised it was leaking again. So today I used my car jack to lift the car and went under it again. Removed the paper towel and gum and started to think how I could fix the problem before I could have a talk with a mechanic. Then I remembered the sap (résine) that fell from the trees on my windshield not long ago. I had used it to plug a tiny hole in my windshield not knowing if it would matter but just liked the idea. I went around the pine trees surrounding my car to collect sap, warm it and crawled under the car again to plug the hole. When I will get to Antalya, I will stop by a Renault mechanic to do the service of the car and try to talk to him about the fuel leak. I'm just afraid he won't speak anything but Turkish.
To be honest, I don't have much more to say for now. My goal is an expedition that goes all around Africa by 4x4. And here I am in Turkey about to drive thousands of kms through Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia and winter is catching up. Borders between Turkey and Syria are closed except for a handful for humanitarian aid and Syrian citizen during holidays. North of Iraq (Kurdistan) is open but so-called Arab Iraq (Mosul, Tikrit, Baghdad) has many military checkpoints on the road that will turn you back as I've heard. I might try to put "Baghdad" in the GPS just for the amusement it would provide but I'm skeptical about the viability of this road. Plus there is the safety question for this part of Iraq. So the only viable road today is Iran and then a ferry from Bandar Abbas to Saudi Arabia in order to retrace steps North to Jordan, Egypt and then finally enter Africa. It's a huge detour and almost a whole trip in itself. Or as my friend Rich puts it: "Your trip has some real unpredictabilities." Let's see what happens and I'll report back hopefully with warmer hands next time.
2nd of November 2021
The next day, I went to a Renault & Dacia garage that was very well rated on Google maps. The situation unfolded exactly as I anticipated, the mechanic only spoke Turkish and soon enough we were having a conversation on Google Translate. First, he told me by translating, if there is a hole it's a big problem and we need to replace the tank. So I asked how much would it cost and after a quick check on his computer he quote me the price for a new tank which was not far from 800$. Then I translated, can't we just fix the hole with epoxy, maybe we can drop the tank and have a look. The mechanic was a young man probably my age, he was friendly and helpful and I really liked the idea that I could somehow participate in the operation, or at least have a look. He quoted me 800TL for dropping the tank which is about 80$. I agreed. Now there was a small problem, I just had filled up the tank so that I could show him how it was leaking without having to make big explanation. So we had to empty. He tried to siphon it with a tube and I felt bad for him when diesel came in his mouth. Because a few minutes later, he translated : "We can't empty the tank because of safety. You need to come back with empty tank. If we work now diesel will pour all over on us" (I understood it in the way that there is probably a mechanism that prevent people from siphoning your fuel tank). I was puzzled. To empty it I would have to drive about 750km which would mean that I would have to start the whole explanation process elsewhere. Finally, I said teşekkür ederim (thank you), really meant it for the effort he put, and left.
Then there is a short episode of me buying a tube in a hardware store and trying to siphon my fuel tank on the side of the road. Thinking somehow he might not have done it right. I felt like if I could have the jerrycan lower than the tank by parking uphill I might be able to siphon it easily. And I was curious about this 'safety' thing. Please everyone know that I don't wish you ever to try this and get diesel in your mouth. The feeling is horrible and after brushing my teeth twice and spitting large amounts of water I still couldn't shake off the taste of petrol. Yuk! In the end, it was useless because I couldn't siphon more than a few drops before it would eventually stop.
Sitting in the driver's seat by the side of the road, I paused an instant to think the whole situation through. I ended up going through each garage comments on iOverlander app and picking another one. The evening had came already but I felt like I had still a little bit of energy left and if I could just have a meaningful conversation with a good mechanic I would call it a day. When I arrived in the 4x4 Garaj in Anlaya, the guys where working on Land Rover Defenders and Toyota's, you could see in a blink there would be knowledge here. What ensued was one of the most effective problem-solving I have ever witnessed in my life. A few back and forth on Google Translate later, the mechanic asked me twice if it was okay for him to make a hole in the frame of my car. Tamam, tamam, I quickly replied (OK, OK). He cut a 5cm hole in the frame, inserted a screw to plug the hole in the tank and sealed it with epoxy. Covered the hole with a plastic to finish his work in a proper way and even redone my electrical earth connection which was the reason for this whole mess in the first place. I was impressed! I translated for him that I will fill the tank in the morning to ensure it is not leaking anymore. To which he replied, translating with a grin, don't worry, no problem we have done this many, many times.
I was happy to learn I was not the only one to have pierced my fuel tank while following tutorials on Internet. You see the thing is when you are working on your 12V system for the first time, you are so caught up by the details of the electrical part. So when the tutorial says make a hole in the frame and put a screw to make your ground earth connection you do it without thinking about what might be behind the frame. Anyway, I asked him Ne kadar? (how much?) to which he replied 50. Fifty turkish liras is 5 euros. The problem was solved. Genius!