We don’t know if regular use by two (sometimes) stinky cyclist bodies are anything to do with our misfortunes but between the mysterious holes which appeared in France, a love-in with an over-amorous cat, a pair of trapped crickets and a troupe of hungry ants, our tent (lovingly known as Bessie) has a few holes after six months of cycle touring.
It has taken some time to figure out the best way to get more permanent fixes for Bessie. She’s currently held together with drops of silicon sealant and a dash of colourful darning on the mesh doors. Nothing has damaged the structural integrity of the tent, but we’re nervous that any sealant that comes off will expose holes big enough to get caught in something which could then be the cause of a larger rip.
Initially we contacted Hilleberg in Sweden to ask for advice. The company had kindly sent out silicon sealant after Bessie’s first bits of damage in May. So we wrote at length explaining our current situation, pointing out our great ‘where we sleep’ slideshow (shameless plug I know) and explaining that we couldn’t afford a new tent so needed to find another solution. They answered our short novel on the situation with a couple of paragraphs, including this:
Hilleberg Sweden on November 03rd, 2010
This we didn’t understand, having had our GPS unit repaired and returned from the UK without a quibble, ditto plenty of bits of kit shipped over from the UK. Sure Turkey isn’t part of the EU but we had assumed a tent being shipped for repair was of zero value to customs, in fact our GPS repair was returned from Garmin UK with an explicit customs declaration explaining there was no commercial value as it was a repaired unit.
After further dialogue we tried Hilleberg’s dealer in Switzerland on the basis that they were also outside the EU so customs duty may be cheaper. However they came back with a similar response – customs would prove to be prohibitively expensive and we should find a skilled repair person in Istanbul.
At the same time as emailing Hilleberg we were following up local Istanbul leads, but with little luck. According to this article, a modern kite builder would have the appropriate machines for the job. An initial internet search located a fabric manufacturers district somewhere in Istanbul, however I couldn’t locate contact details for specific stores or an address for the complex which possibly housed it. Local outdoor stores had nothing to suggest except buying a new tent and in fact seemed barely able to understand why we would consider repairing our tent at all.
Eventually we ended up talking about our plight with an Istanbul art store owner while we drunk coffee in his shop. He summed it up nicely: there would be someone, somewhere in Istanbul who could do the job, but it would take a lot of asking of a lot of different people to find that person. Even with fluency in Turkish he considered this to be a near impossible task. We had to be more creative.
Hilleberg offered us the names of two reputable service partners one in Germany and one in Scotland. Our good friends Cat and Graham were visiting from London and had carted over a hold bag filled with bike bits for us. It didn’t take too much convincing for them to return with Bessie, promising to see her off safely on her trip around the UK.
Fingers crossed Bessie will soon be properly patched up, and we’ll find someone who is happy to escort her back to Istanbul. This whole complicated business leaves us curious about how other people get tent repairs when they’re on the move. Is this how it works in the expedition world? What do you do if you’re somewhere actually remote and you need a good patch job done on your tent? Although maybe Istanbul is more remote than it seems…