30km Idlib to Marayan
With Friedel still recovering from a bout of illness and Andrew starting to feel under the weather, we were due another day of cycling in the slow lane. Just as well then that a friendly local man found our tent under a tree and invited us for breakfast. Omar turned out to be a local English teacher who was keen to take his language skills to whole new levels. Over tea and scrambled eggs he showed us a vast selection of dictionaries and papers for university courses he’s following, including studies of Shakespeare.
For a good hour we chatted about language and then he took us on a tour of a local school – one specialising in computer science. We were suitably impressed. About one hundred students, both men and women, were learning how to build computers and take them apart, as well as about graphic design, programming and electrical engineering. Everything looked quite modern and the course was fully funded by the government. Lucky students! After a few photos and the usual giggles at the sight of two such bizarre visitors we managed to make our escape, although not before two offers of a place to stay for the night and a third invitation to take a shower and have our laundry done.
The last option was the most appealing but we realised that if we didn’t get going we were going to lose all hope of ever getting to Damascus. It’s no exaggeration to say that every day brings multiple invitations and unfortunately we need to turn most of them down unless we plan to start touring Syria in 5km chunks. The day was a beautiful one for cycling and it’s just a shame we didn’t have more energy to take advantage of it. Blue skies, little wind and just the right temperature. We hope the coming days are as nice.
We rode through strings of olive groves, where families are out picking this year’s crop and trucks line the roads taking the freshly picked fruit to market. During one break under an olive tree a Dutch couple cycled up and we chatted for a while about their trip through Turkey and all the way down to the south of Jordan. We haven’t seen other cyclists in a while so it’s nice to know there are a few others out there. After creeping along for a while we settled on another olive grove as our home for the night. Amazingly we weren’t noticed at all slipping into the field, even though we could hear a family doing their work not far away. Before long the sun fell beneath the hills (this happens by about 5pm now) and we were soon fast asleep, hoping to dream away the last of our bugs.