Fuel Crisis: The European Propane-Cylinder Saga Continues

I’m perilously close to concluding a post about our day at the Gallipoli battlefields, but first let me vent.

Our European propane-cylinder nightmare

Recently I wrote about the trouble we’ve been having getting our European-propane tanks refilled.

Well that was six weeks ago, and now we’re in the soup.

Two weeks ago we finally ran out of propane. That means we can’t cook, heat the van, or power our refrigerator when we’re free-camping. None of that will kills us but it’s a huge pain.

Heating the RV

In late September Turkey is still warm and sunny, so we don’t need to heat the van. Yet.

Cooking in the RV

We recently procured this small Turkish burner to make our morning tea, among other things. There is no way we can enjoy ourselves without a morning beverage. One of our campground hosts called the local gas company on our behalf, and about an hour later a Turkish fellow brought this small tank on his scooter. Cost: 40 TL (about $20) for a deposit, the fuel and the burner unit. Hooray!

This was money well spent, because in our desperation for morning tea, we were starting to go out for breakfast a lot, a massive budget buster.

Refrigeration in the RV

Welcome to our most urgent problem. By far.

These days we do a lot of freecamping, because here in Turkey campgrounds aren’t as common as in the rest of Europe. (Besides, while we’re traveling from place to place, free camping save us a ton of money.)

No campground means no electricity. That means we need to power the fridge with propane. So no propane means no refrigeration.

And in the Turkish heat, everything spoils quicker than you can say günaydın. In recent weeks I’ve tossed out yogurt, cheeses, fruit, leftover piyaz and more. Lovely things we just couldn’t eat up fast enough. Very frustrating.

Propane-Cylinder Adapters

It’s possible to fill the cylinders from certain service stations if you have special adapters that make your foreign tanks compatible, but we don’t have those. We could have bought them from a camping store back in Germany, but at the time we didn’t know we needed them. Perhaps they’re sold somewhere in Turkey, but if so, we haven’t been able to discover where.

So now we’re on a quick run to Greece to renew our Turkish visas and—hopefully—find gas. So far it’s not looking promising. We’re hesitant to buy Greek bottles for several reasons. We’ve already bought three bottles (2 German, 1 Turkish) since starting out, and we don’t have much storage space. Buying bottles is expensive, too. Though if push comes to shove, we might have to buy a Greek bottle and then try to rig up some kind of connector to fit it to our gas line.

About an hour ago, the hostess at our Athens campground sent us to a nearby service station that somehow opens bottles without adapters and fills them illegally. Elated, Mark sped right over, but when he returned within half an hour, I knew he’d struck out. The attendant told him the police are cracking down, so the station can’t fill bottles any more.

The campground hostess seemed to think this was BS, because when we told her, she huffed up and started flipping angrily through a list of telephone numbers. She made a call, gave Mark a new address, and then sent him on his way again.

But once again he came back empty handed. This time the attendant was willing to do it (thanks to the phone call by the hostess), but the valve didn’t fit any of his hose adapters. Argh! So close. Sp flipping close. Tomorrow we’ll try to find a camping store in Athens where we can buy an adapter, a daunting prospect.

Are you planning to RV through Europe?

Good! Do it. It will be the trip of a lifetime, and you’ll never regret it.

But heed this piece of advice.

If your rig doesn’t have a built-in LPG tank, make sure you swing by a camping store (Germany has a good selection) and pick up adapters for many of the countries you plan to see outside of Western or Central Europe. Also make sure you have full tanks when leaving central Europe, even if you have to exchange half-full tanks to do it.

Well, that’s it for now. Wish us luck. I’ll be glad to get this nonsense sorted out once and for all.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Grubstreetnm September 29, 2011 at 5:27 pm

Easy for me to say, I know, but celebrate  the country to country diversity while it lasts.  Before it all becomes one big entity called Europea or something and all the plugs fit all the other plugs and they all speak — whatever.  Love your blog, good road to you!   With envy, Leslie

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2 Renee September 30, 2011 at 11:44 am

Ha! Thanks, Leslie. I take your point…begrudgingly. 😉 I just wish we’d been aware of the issue before heading out, when we could have prepared for it by buying adapters. My pre-trip research didn’t reveal the bottle-type problem, I suppose because it’s not an issue for most people. They’re either traveling for much shorter periods of time and don’t run out of propane, or they have newer rigs with built-in LPG tanks, which can be filled at numerous local fueling stations the same way you pump petrol.

Today Mark’s off to another refilling station 20km away that supposedly has adapters. Fingers crossed it’s not another wild goose chase.

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3 Jason September 30, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Who would have thought that finding fuel adapters could be so hard. But, its all part of the adventure, right? 

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4 Renee September 30, 2011 at 3:27 pm

It’s astonishing. Have been chatting to other long-term campers today, and everyone’s having the same problem.

Today I met a fellow with a full German bottle he’s willing to exchange with one of our empty ones. Mark’s been gone all day trying to deal with all this, but if he comes back empty handed, at least we’ll have that.

But as you say, all part of the adventure! 🙂

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5 Technosyncratic September 30, 2011 at 3:30 pm

I just discovered your blog and have really enjoyed reading your back posts! My partner and I RVed around the U.S. last year, then sold our rig a few months ago to travel internationally.  We’re now housesitting and renting apartments (traveling quite slowly), which is nice…. but we miss RVing.  We’ve just begun to seriously consider buying a small campervan to explore the U.K. and parts of Europe, so I’m glad I can learn from your experiences before we dive in.  🙂

Cheers!
Christy (and Kali)

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6 Renee October 4, 2011 at 7:28 am

Thanks guys, much appreciated. Yes, camping through Europe has definitely been one of the best things we’ve ever done, and I can’t recommended strongly enough. What kind of rig did you have?

Housesitting sounds like a fantastic way to see new places. We’d love to try it but I doubt anyone would want us since we travel with our little dog.

Cheers,
Renee

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