I was keen to do some hiking during my time in Crete, and thought the Dikti Mountains in the east of the island looked like a good place to start. After picking up a map from a hiking store in Heraklion, and doing a little touring on the way, I was ready to set out for a few days walking in the mountains.
After heading west from Ieraptera, I wound my way up the freakishly steep mountains to the little village of Selakano; the last town before the Dikti Mountains rise to their peaks over 2000 metres above the Mediterranean. Searching for the walking track head proved quite a task, and I spent an hour driving around getting dead-ended in uncomfortably narrow roads until I found a track marker. As the marker was pretty much in someone’s back yard, I figured I would circle through the village and meet up with the track in the bush on the other side of the property. There I hoped to find a camp, as it was late afternoon and I was keen to get settled.
Passing through the village, I had stopped at a street crossing when I thought I could hear hissing from the front left of the car. I got out, and sure enough the tyre was going down at an alarming rate. I jumped back in to try and make it to a flat spot before I was sitting on the rim. I reached a little village ‘square’; a flat paved area with a wall and water font, and a small communal building at one end. When I got out the tyre was dead flat, so I lifted the hatch and pulled up the floor of the boot to grab the spare.
You can imagine my surprise when I found no spare wheel under the floor cover. I thought perhaps it’s one of those skinny emergency wheels and it’s stashed…well…somewhere else. I checked the side panels in the boot. Nothing. Must be underneath the car.
The light was fast disappearing, so I grabbed my torch and crouched down behind the Peugeot. No spare there either. There was no spare anywhere. The car did not have a spare wheel.
My second thought, after ‘you’ve gotta be fucking kidding me!’ was that he car rental mob must have forgotten to put one in after maintenance. I noticed a small trailer nearby, and thinking I could borrow a wheel to get to town. I checked the rim size. No match.
I went back to the boot to grab the jack so I could at least take the weight of the car off the flat tyre. No jack either. Or wheel brace. However there was a small air compressor. I hooked it up, pumped the tyre to 30psi, and watched it sag to flat again in under three minutes.
I rang the rental car company, and gave them my name and reservation number. ‘The car has no spare and I have a flat tyre’ I explained. ‘Yes the car does not come with a spare’ the staff member calmly explained. ‘The….car…has…no spare?’ I stuttered. ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you take them out of the car, or does Peugeot not supply them?’ ‘Peugeot doesn’t supply them. When you buy the car it has no spare.’
It took me a few moments to gather myself. Apparently when you buy a brand new Peugeot 208 it doesn’t come with a spare wheel. While I was trying to come to grips with this stupefying revelation the staff member said ‘There’s a compressor in the boot. You can use it to pump up the tyre and drive to a service station’. I told her that I had found the compressor, and that the tyre had deflated in under three minutes and I was an hour from the nearest servo. ‘Well we can send someone…’ I saw my travel budget dissolve before my eyes. I told her that I would figure something out.
It was dark and cold and I was in Selakarno village square with a perfectly good car that I couldn’t use as it had no spare tyre. I figured I would be sleeping in my bivvy bag in the square and trying to get help from the locals the following day.
When I picked up the compressor and put it back in the boot, I noticed a plastic bag with something inside that at first glance looked a bit like a fuel filter. It had a short inlet hose, a plastic body about the size of a peanut butter jar, and an outlet hose. I picked it up. It was tyre sealant.
Right. So instead of a spare you get a compressor and tyre sealant. I pulled it out of its bag, and found it had no instructions, just a QR code. There were some how-to hieroglyphics on the air compressor, but I thought that since I had only one shot at this, I’d better scan the QR code and have a look at that as well. I had nest to no coverage in the town, and had to climb onto a wall to get enough reception to stream the youtube video. It showed how to insert the plastic container onto the top of the compressor and attach the hoses so the sealant is driven into the tyre by air pressure. It then showed to inflate the tyre to 29psi, and if it stays up, you’re set for the nervous drive to the nearest tyre repair shop. If the tyre deflates again straight away, you’re set for an enormous fucking bill as you have to have your car towed to the repair shop just to get a puncture repaired as there is no fucking spare tyre.
I set it all up, figuring I had nothing to lose and that it probably wouldn’t work anyway, considering the puncture must have be pretty big. I fired up the compressor which shot all the sealant into the tyre. I waited until the pressure gauge reached 29psi, held my breath, and switched off the compressor. The tyre deflated again immediately. I thought that maybe I should inflate the tyre again, then drive back and forth to let the sealant circulate. So I gave it a shot, reversing back and driving forward again on the village square. I got out and watched the tyre begin to deflate once again.
So that was that. I took some food from my stash in the boot for dinner. My hopes for a hot campfire meal had gone, along with my plan to start the multi-day hike on the morrow. Disappointed, and still unable to fully grasp that my car not only didn’t have a spare, but that the lack of a spare was intentional, I munched in the cold, dark, silent village. Finishing my meal I switched the torch on and had another look at the front left. It had gone down for sure, but had not deflated completely. I pumped it up to 30psi, and drove back and forth again. When I got out and checked the tyre was holding. You beauty!
The road to the village was the typical Cretan mountain access; crazing inclines, hairpin bends and barely space for two cars to pass. I thought if I headed down the mountain tonight, and the sealant fails, I could be stuck on a blind corner with a 20% gradient, a rock wall on one side and a vertical drop on the other. Even if the sealant held and I made it to town there would be no repair shop open anyway. So I resigned myself to a night in the Selakano village square.
I grabbed my bivvy bag and climbed up a low wall to a patch of grass which had a couple of small trees planted on it. I laid the bivvy down and climbed in, pleased to be out of the cold.
Next morning I was up before dawn, and to my relief, the tyre had not deflated overnight. I eased the car back down the mountain, wincing through every tight right hand corner that would load up the pressure on the dodgy left front tyre.
I arrived at the tyre shop in Ieraptera just on opening. They fixed my tyre, charged me 15 euros, and I produced the empty sealant container and asked if they could replace it.
To my surprise they said they did not have it; I assumed that it would not only be new Peugeot’s that didn’t have spares, and therefore it would be easy to pick up a replacement container of sealant. Not so. The tyre shop didn’t stock it, neither did the auto parts store in town, nor the local new car dealership. I rang the car rental mob, who didn’t know where I could get a replacement either, but said if I couldn’t find the sealant kit to return to Hieraklion (over two hours away) and they would give me one.
I rang the nearest Peugeot dealer, 1.5 hours away in Agios Nikolaos. They initially said they didn’t have a sealant kit, but rang back shortly after saying they’d found one. It’s funny when you are in situations like this. You suddenly feel all blessed and fortunate that your luck has turned, forgetting for a moment that you should never have been in such a fucking ridiculous situation in the first place. I drove to the Peugeot dealer in Agios Nikolaus, and came out of the parts department with the sealant, and 35 euros less than I went in with. That’s $48 Australian dollars my friends.
Now let’s think about that for a second. If you have a spare tyre, you pop it on and go about your day, stopping by the tyre shop at some stage and getting your puncture fixed. It costs you 15 euros, and that’s the end of the story. Now, if you don’t have a spare, it costs you 15 for the repair and another 35 on top to replace the tyre sealant. It’s like you have to pay for the puncture repair plus buy a new ‘spare’ every time you get a puncture. That’s the great thing about having a spare – you can use it over and over again. Just for interest, you can get a brand new Dunlop tyre for the 208 for 58 euros in Greece. That’s just 23 more euros than the cost of the sealant. For a brand new tyre. Then all you need is a cheap rim from the wreckers and you have a spare wheel. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
In my situation, had the car been fitted with a spare, I would have changed the tyre, driven to the start of my hike, gone walking for two days, come back and driven to the tyre shop. No worries. Instead I lost the best part of a day getting the repair done and then replacing the sealant, and I was now an hour and a half away from where the hike started.
I don’t know what is wrong with the European car buying public, but if you are asked to pay 13,922 euros for a Peugeot 208 (the price of the 2021 model in Crete) , you’d bloody well demand the fucking thing came with a spare tyre. No one would put up with that in Australia, surely. No matter how advanced vehicle technology becomes, the basic, low-tech, been-the-same-since-pneumatic-tyres-were-invented fact is you can’t drive a car without four inflated tyres. In the future when I hire a car, I’ll be sure to check if there’s a spare on board before I sign on the line. Whoever would have thought you’d have to do that?
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