61km Damascus to Khilkhileh
Our new camping mat arrived yesterday – a big thank you to Tina at Thermarest for getting it to us so quickly – so we were free to hit the road again. We’d spent the last few days debating where to go next and after flipping back and forth a hundred times we finally decided not to go to Jordan. There’s a lot we’d like to see there but the potential hassle of getting back into Syria would weigh on our minds since getting a visa at the border is never guaranteed. The last thing we want is to find our way back north towards Iran blocked.
Instead we’ve decided to stay in Syria, taking our time to explore a country that’s really grown on us. With that in mind, we set out on a loop that will take us down to Bosra, very near the border with Jordan, where we’ll explore the town’s famous ampitheatre and then head back to Damascus just in time to renew our visa for another 30 days.
Getting out of the city was surprisingly easy and soon we were on a quiet road heading dead south. We stopped for a little break to see a war cemetery which holds around 3,000 graves of soliders killed in the wars of 1967 and 1973. Our visit seemed to take the military staff on duty by surprise and they looked us up and down, then photocopied our passports and finally smiled as we pedalled off after spending some time in front of the large monument in the grounds.
The rest of our day passed quietly until we stopped for a break under a bridge close to dusk. A man came zipping up on his motorbike and before long we were being taken home for the night. A wonderful meal followed of a vegetable stew, rice, salad and desert. Then the fruit came out, after that nuts and finally, as a bedtime snack, flat bread spread with a thick yogurt and olive oil, folded over and toasted. All of this was of course washed down with heaps of tea; a buffet fit for royalty. Between courses we watched a bit of television and got a kick out of one of the soap operas. In the half-hour episode we watched the two main characters fall in love, get married, buy a house, had twin girls, bought another house and then the marriage started to fall apart. It seemed like half a lifetime covered in just 30 minutes and the storyline would have made for a whole season of shows in Britain. Fast-forward television.
At 11pm, after we were starting to fall asleep on the cushions, our hosts got the message and we were allowed to doze off. We normally slip into dreamland by 8pm when we’re camping in the winter so we were pretty tired and fell asleep instantly.