Published: December 4th 2011December 4th 2011
An evil brew
Not sure what it was or where it came from, but for about €25 it was not cheap!!
Out of 1.9 litres of oil I got down to about half a litre… low enough to cause catastrophic engine failure! So pretty low :-(
But before I go into the embarrassing explanation of how that happened, perhaps first some lighter news.
The Iranian Highway Code
Having now spent about five weeks in Iran I think I have grasped the road rules here. They are unusual, and not like those in Europe and Australia, but fortunately they are short. So, in rough order of importance:
1. Speed: the appropriate speed is determined by estimating the minimum safe stopping distance. You should always travel at greater than this speed to maintain priority (right of way) - see Rule 2. This is a minimum speed, not a maximum speed.
2. Turning: turning traffic, traffic crossing your lane, or traffic entering your lane (see Rule 3), will have priority if it can safely pull in front of you and block your path. Obeying Rule 1 will reduce the chance of this happening; albeit only slightly.
3. Lanes: the number of lanes on a road is
equal to the number of cars that can fit in the given space, mirror tips touching.
4. Giving way: you should never give way unless an accident is absolutely unavoidable; instead apply Road Rule 1 and Road Rule 3.
5. Roundabouts: officially you must give way to vehicles entering the roundabout. However, due to excessive traffic this rule must now be ignored or else all roundabouts would cease to function. Instead apply Rules 1, 2, 3 and 4, as appropriate.
6. Overtaking: if it is safe for the car in front to overtake it will also be safe for you to overtake, as long as you are travelling within five metres of their rear bumper. This rule applies no matter how long the queue of cars, and irrespective of whether you can see the road ahead or not.
7. Indicating: as achieving priority/right of way on Iranian roads requires an element of surprise, indicators should not be used. If they are to be used, they must only be turned on at the last possible second.
8. Motorcycle headlights: these should never be turned on, even
at night. To do so undermines their effectiveness for their true purpose: flashing at cars to warn them you are coming.
Needless to say, ‘close shaves’ are quite a feature of Iranian traffic. Having cars pass you with centimetres to spare is all ‘just part of the experience here’. On the plus side, even though by European standards they have nearly run you off the road, there is a good chance that they will have waved a cheery hello during the manoeuvre!
Where we were up to… before the bike ‘broke down’
The three other bikers, Markus, Oli and Esther, from Dogubeyazit finally caught up with us again in Yazd, and promptly decided a celebration was in order. Not so much because they were pleased to see us, but more because they had managed to find a willing supplier of alcohol (alcohol of course being illegal in the Islamic Republic of Iran). I say “alcohol”, and possibly that’s what it was, but the more telling comments about it were “it tastes like sheep’s piss”, “it smells like petrol, and leaves an oily feel in your mouth”. It was pretty bad. We tried mixing
it with coke, which only served to enhance its oily qualities. It was still pretty bad. We tried making cocktails with mango juice and lime. It was still pretty bad. As bad as it tasted, it was made even worse by the fact that both Tanja and I had just read a newspaper article about a woman who died in Bali after drinking ‘bootleg booze’ full of methanol. We drank some, we survived, I am not sure we enjoyed it too much. Mark it down as an ‘experience’.
Apart from eating a tasty camel burger, there is not much else exciting to tell from Yazd; few mosques, few sights, the usual travelling fare. Except, perhaps that we were joined by another biker, Harry from Austria. The nice thing about Harry being that he made our packing look quite minimalist. He is a big bloke, and he was on a big bike – a BMW R1200GS Adventure – but it was loaded. Like properly loaded! He was carrying at least twice as much luggage as us, plus two spare tyres and wearing almost a full size back pack. It was an achievement to get it all moving. Even
What no oil does to motor!
more impressively he is planning to cross the Himalayas like that. In winter. Over passes that are probably 4,000 metres high, and probably snow covered. He appears to like a challenge.
Oh the other thing about Yazd, I talked about changing oil. In fact I talked about changing oil quite a lot. I almost bought four litres of the stuff too, but one of the bottles had been opened so I didn’t. I was even thinking “it has been a while since we checked the oil, maybe I should get up early and change it, just to know it’s done and all good”. But, as I didn’t buy the oil I settled on “it’ll be alright until Bam, it’s only another 500 odd kilometres and we’ll definitely change it there”.
A poor decision.
I don’t know if there’s a good reason to stop at Rasfanjan. However, there is certainly a bad one. It starts like this “f**k, my bike just lost power”, “what was that about?”, indicate, pull over. “Oh good, it’s back to normal again”, keep going. “F**K!!! now my bike has lost power and is making a
horrible whining noise”. Pull clutch in, engine stalls. Not good.
It is not a happy moment to realise you have broken your bike by running it out of oil. Even less so when it happens in Iran, where there are no Suzuki dealers, no Suzuki parts, no other DR-Z400s and a rash of trading sanctions between you and any replacement parts.
As it says in the title, a real low point on the trip.
A rescue, of sorts
1.4 litres of oil later and the bike was back to full. Considering the DR-Z holds 1.9 litres when bone dry that didn’t leave a lot to circulate. We tried to start it. It would barely turn over, and then only just fired up. When it did fire up, it rattled. Loudly.
Into the back of a little blue truck went the bike. The nice thing about Iran being that everyone is so friendly and helpful that the first vehicle we tried to stop did. The little blue truck and its non English speaking driver then took the bike and I all the way to Kerman, our planned stop
A more suitable bike for me
After seeing how slow I was on the YZ, they suggested I try this out for size.
for the night. Tanja followed along behind, if only just. Despite numerous requests not to, my driver insisted on following the ‘Iranian Highway code’. I gather keeping up with some crazy Iranian driving, on a roundabout tour of Kerman, after it got dark, was no easy feat. Thanks to Tanja’s riding we didn’t lose each other; things were bad enough already.
Understandably the others couldn’t wait for us, and after we didn’t find their hotel they headed on to Pakistan the following day.
Fixing the bike
Harry (pilot of overloaded BMW Adventure mother-ship) had a phone number of someone in Kerman who was into motocross. He had never met him, or spoken to him. He was given the phone number by a different motocrosser he met briefly near Tehran. We called the number. Well, we didn’t speak Farsi, so our hotel guy called it. We were told he had spoken to the person’s son, and that “Ali would come tomorrow”.
Tomorrow Ali turned up with an ‘English translator’, Milad. The bike was briefly inspected, a phone call was made. Another small truck turned up. My bike was loaded
in. It was taken to Ali’s house. My engine was pulled out by Reza, with me interfering. Me interfering in a state of some horror as I watched all my bolts, nuts and small bits go into a bucket, and all my big bits of bike get piled in a corner. The engine was stuck, one bolt was corroded. “Motocross now, fix bike later” we were told. So we watched Ali’s 11 year old son, Matin, ride his YZ250 on the back wheel all the way down a main street in Kerman. We followed him in the car. Matin was unbelievably fast around the track. They gave me a ride on Matin’s YZ, I was unbelievably slow. As Tanja said, on the video she made of me “It probably feels faster to him”. It did.
Back to Ali’s. They got my engine out. It left in a car to another mechanic. The women were sent upstairs, and the men had a drink in the garage. We went to see my engine. It wasn’t pretty: piston seized, cylinder head ruined, camshafts stuffed. My bike was now spread between two workshops, nuts and bolts in buckets, none of it
labelled, and we didn’t know any of these people. Nor did we know how to find our way back to either place. I think we both thought this could be the end of the trip.
In the end a good friend organised all our parts in the UK and sent them DHL (thanks Shaun!!). The parts arrived in about a week, and all the bits in the buckets found their way back into their correct places (or so I hope). Again with me interfering, to make sure it was done right. Although, I did get a sense that my ‘assistance’ was not entirely welcome, after all what would I know being stupid enough to run the bike out of oil in the first place.
So my bike is now going again, and I am about one thousand Euros poorer. Lesson learned: check the oil EVERY DAY!!!. But, I have now thoroughly checked over both bikes and (fingers crossed) all is well.
Real life in Iran
Given the chance again I would check the oil and not have the experience, but there has been an upside; and that has been our
wonderful hosts in Kerman. We have been invited into many Iranian homes to hear Iranian music, to taste Iranian home cooked food, to learn to cook Iranian food, even attended an Iranian party. We have been taken to restaurants, coffee shops and tea houses in old Hamams. We have never been allowed to pay for any of it, despite numerous attempts to try. My bike was fixed for free, and when I tried to pay Reza (the mechanic who pulled the engine out) he simply said “No, no. No money. Brian and Reza friends”.
It has been a long time in Kerman, three weeks by the time we leave, and in truth at times we really just wanted to move on; but in hindsight I am sure it will be our fondest memory of Iran. Thank you to everyone who has helped us out.
And now we wait for one more biker, who rides from Esfahan today (yes, there is a never ending stream of them!) and then we set out for Pakistan.
There are more photos below