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45km Thawrah to the middle of nowhere

December 14th, 2007 1 comment


Beautiful sunsetSome days are better than others and this one was on the low end of the scale. Our policemen returned in the evening last night and the first thing we saw as we got out of the tent this morning was a white stationwagon parked a few meters away. Three policemen were inside. It must have been a chilly night for them but we were not so sympathetic; still angry from being lied to repeatedly and having tried in vain the previous afternoon to clarify what was going on. Our night was restless as a result. The stress of not knowing why we were being followed so intensely and having lost all our privacy stopped us from getting any sleep until well past midnight.

Our intention now was to backtrack to the nearest police station, ask for an interpreter and, if that failed, then to call our consulate for advice. A strong tailwind blew us into town and there the same situation we’d seen so many times before repeated itself. There was no translator. No one spoke English beyond “welcome to Syria” and after a good deal of frustration on both sides the police motioned for us to go, saying they would not follow us. This lasted about 10 minutes before the famous white car was again on our trail. We lost it. The car pulled up beside us. “My friend, my friend,” the police officer said. “No friend. Go home,” we said. Our voices rose and the police officer (who by now was surely as tired of us as we were of him) finally seemed to break. “No more police,” he shouted as the car drove off into the distance.

We were skeptical and considered hitching a lift in a lorry to escape the return of our minders, which we were sure would come eventually, but to our surprise we did not see the police for the rest of the day except when we passed a police station and asked for water. No white car returned to tail us. Success? We’ll see if it holds.

Our renewed freedom certainly gave a boost to our day but we had a host of other foes to deal with: a stonking headwind, rain, chilly temperatures and packs of wild dogs. We felt tired of Syria today and struggled to remember the wonderful experiences it had given us. We were too frustrated to even bother trying to go to Rasafa, an apparently wonderful archaeological site but a good 25km out of our way. By late afternoon we’d only gone a short distance but we were shattered. Eventually we found a building to pitch our tent behind but we weren’t very well hidden apparently since two men rolled up in their truck as we were making supper. They were very curious about our trip and gave us some much appreciated bread and tomatoes as they marvelled at our tent and how we would spend the night without freezing. The sun went down quickly and we were snoring before long, making our wish (as it seems we’ve done a lot recently) for a better day tomorrow!

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