Syria Journal Entries

Anyone want to go to Iraq?Bolstered by our positive experience in Turkey, we continued on to Syria.

Some members of our family were worried that we wouldn’t be welcomed there, but they didn’t need to fret so much. Syria turned out to be nearly the friendliest country on our tour, only slightly overshadowed by the kindness we found later in Iran.

And the food! Simply fabulous, from falafels to hearty soups, freshly roasted chicken and Lebanese red wine, we ate and drank well in Syria, on the slimmest of budgets.

83km Hatay to Urum as Sughra

Posted on:
3 Nov 2007

It’s hard to know where to start with our latest journey, one that took us from the southern coast of Turkey and plunged us less than a day later into Syria – a country we already feel very much at home in. Our marathon leg started with a night bus from Antalya to Hatay, a

37km Urum as Sughra to Aleppo

Posted on:
4 Nov 2007

Today we witnessed what we thought we might never see after leaving Europe – an amazing bike mechanic who took Andrew’s broken spoke, pulled it out, replaced it and trued the wheel so it rolls straight as an arrow. Then he moved on to Friedel’s wheel, which was also suffering from the wobbles, and in

50km Aleppo to Taftanaz

Posted on:
9 Nov 2007

If you ever wondered what it’s like to be a celebrity, just try cycling in Syria. It was a surprise for us to discover the days of being able to stop a whole street in its tracks just for looking different are far from over. Our first chaos-causing moment was at Aleppo’s market. We pulled

15km Taftanaz to Idlib

Posted on:
11 Nov 2007

Such a short day, and yet such a long one at the same time. We left Aleppo after getting Friedel’s wheel fixed with a nifty new Chinese rim (how long it will last is anyone’s guess but hopefully long enough to get back to Turkey) and after fighting off a nasty stomach bug. We both

30km Idlib to Marayan

Posted on:
12 Nov 2007

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

56km Marayan to Kafran Booda

Posted on:
13 Nov 2007

Working our way around the world slowly – the initial idea behind this trip – is taking on a whole new meaning in Syria. In the space of just a few hours we had three invitations to come home for the night, countless offers of tea and at least a dozen people who followed us

65km Kafran Booda to Hama

Posted on:
14 Nov 2007

Sometimes on this trip (very often in Syria, as it’s turning out) someone touches us in a strong way. Today it was the turn of Wafa, a 17 year old girl from the village of Kafran Booda, to take a place in our hearts. She and her brother found us last night in a field

60km Hama to Ein Halaqim

Posted on:
18 Nov 2007

Our traveller’s bug is proving hard to shake. It’s been over a week now since Friedel first got sick in Aleppo. We spent several days feeling tired and without any real appetite and then, just as we started to feel better in Hama, Andrew had a relapse. We extended our stay in Hama to rest

53km Ein Halaqim to Msheirfeh

Posted on:
19 Nov 2007

Crac des Chevaliers. It’s perhaps the most famous crusader castle in the world but on the road we had some uncertain times trying to figure out where it was. Not until the last few kilometers did some signs start to appear but by then they were a bit useless since you couldn’t really miss the

65km Msheirfeh to Hisyah

Posted on:
20 Nov 2007

The rain pitter pattered on our tent throughout the night but by the time we emerged in the morning it seemed the clouds were clearing. We crossed our fingers for a sunny day ahead and set off southwards, continuing to hug the Lebanese border. Of course this meant checkpoints, checkpoints and more checkpoints. We went

55km Hisyah to Almarh

Posted on:
21 Nov 2007

Winter decided to make its presence felt today and we weren’t very happy to see it. The weather forecasters had promised sun and balmy temperatures so when the icy wind and rain showed up we felt more than a little betrayed. It was cold enough that we could see our breath all day and bus

65km Almarh to Damascus

Posted on:
22 Nov 2007

Today may well be one for the record books after we cruised into Damascus in less than three hours, landing in the souk before midday instead of at sunset as we’d expected. Until we hit the road from our hilltop campsite, we had no idea that much of the distance between us and the world’s

61km Damascus to Khilkhileh

Posted on:
27 Nov 2007

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

63km Khilkhileh to Ura

Posted on:
28 Nov 2007

We’ve never had such a hard time spending our money. All day we tried to buy things and over and over again local people refused to take a cent from us. A litre of gas for our stove. A huge bag of oranges. A bottle of cola and some cheese. These were all given to

79km Ura to Mhajjeh

Posted on:
29 Nov 2007

Our lunch break today got a dose of excitement when three gun-carrying soldiers and two sergeants marched towards us for a visit. The conversation started like most do in this country with a hearty “welcome to Syria” but we knew this was no ordinary welcoming party and soon we were informed that we’d actually been

72km Mhajjeh to Damascus

Posted on:
30 Nov 2007

There’s not too much to report from our trip back into Damascus. We just put our heads down and focused on knocking off kilometers, letting our minds wander as the pedals spun round. We thought back to cycling through Europe, what lies ahead as we steer towards Iran and also dreamt about a large coffee

68km Damascus to Abu Shamat

Posted on:
3 Dec 2007

This wasn’t our best day on the bikes. It started with a few niggles and ended with a real scare. Perhaps the first clue that things weren’t going to plan was from our hotel manager who was snoring on a mattress in the reception area when we went in search of breakfast. Nothing new there

98km Abu Shamat to Al Busayri

Posted on:
4 Dec 2007

This day was made for cycling. The sun came over the mountains and lit up the straight roads. From the west, a little tailwind helped us fly along through the flat desert landscape. We were glad to put yesterday’s scare behind us and the whole day we only had good experiences with other truck drivers

88km Al Busayri to Palmyra

Posted on:
5 Dec 2007

We left the Baghdad Cafe under clear skies, ready for the last leg of our journey to Palmyra, but we couldn’t get started until Sultan showed us Cliff the camel’s speciality. Out came a soda can, which Cliff took in his lips and then tilted high in the air, draining every last drop before he

58km Palmyra to Al Hial

Posted on:
7 Dec 2007

For all their wonderful qualities, the Syrians haven’t yet mastered the art of queuing. Elbowing and shoving was the way to move forward in the line at the immigration office when we went to get our passports renewed and it was a similar scrum this morning when we tried to get bread before leaving Palmyra.

95km Al Hial to Kbajeb

Posted on:
8 Dec 2007

Another sunny day greeted us as we rolled down the hill and onto the road this morning. We’d expected more rain for this time of year (and we may well get it yet as we head further north) so the dry weather of the past few days has been a nice surprise. The only town

63km Kbajeb to Deir-ez-Zor

Posted on:
9 Dec 2007

We emerged from the desert today after a week in its barren yet beautiful landscape. In a way we were sad to leave the scenery behind but after some of our encounters we were equally relieved to be back in more populated parts. Our return to civilisation came courtesy of the city of Deir-ez-Zor. Our

62km Deir-ez-Zor to Halabiayh

Posted on:
11 Dec 2007

The old saying “be careful what you wish for” was never so apt. It was just a couple days ago that we were feeling slightly vulnerable and nervous after our experiences in the desert and perhaps the Syrian police force heard about our plight because today they gave us two minders of our very own.

92km Halabiyah to Raqqa

Posted on:
12 Dec 2007

We were surprised to see our police minders already up and ready to go when we emerged from our tent this morning. They had a long wait, anxiously revving the motor on their stationwagon as we made our coffee, packed up our bags and slipped onto the road a good hour later. Our day started

74km Raqqa to Thawrah

Posted on:
13 Dec 2007

What a mess. We handled our police escort in good humour the first day, reluctantly the second day and by today we were fed up. When we first left the hotel this morning we thought we’d been set free but before long a motorcycle was on our tail. “Enough,” we said to him as he

45km Thawrah to the middle of nowhere

Posted on:
14 Dec 2007

Some 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

81km from the middle of nowhere to Maraka

Posted on:
15 Dec 2007

One of the things we’ve always believed is that people are generally good. It’s something we have seen over and over during our trip regardless of nationality or religion but recently we’ve found this basic truth hard to remember after encountering more than our fair share of bad apples over the past week. So it

109km Maraka to Aleppo

Posted on:
16 Dec 2007

It was early morning when we first hopped on our bikes under cloudy skies and completely dark by the time we arrived in Aleppo. The weather had turned for the worse and we felt more than a little grotty after three days without a shower so we had two good incentives to push hard into

A Syrian Footnote

Posted on:
24 Dec 2007

“The awareness that we are all human beings together has become lost in war and through politics. We have reached the point of regarding each other only as members of people either allied with us or against us and our approach: prejudice, sympathy, or antipathy are all conditioned by that. Now, we must rediscover the

44km Aleppo to Qalat Samaan

Posted on:
28 Dec 2007

After nearly two weeks in Aleppo it was time to wave goodbye this morning to our good friends at the Hotel al-Gawaher. We had so many wonderful evenings cooking, chatting, dancing and sipping wine that we really had started to feel truly at home. Time flies when you’re having fun and it was only the

53km Qalat Samaan to Midanki

Posted on:
29 Dec 2007

There aren’t many better views to wake up to than ancient ruins all around your campsite in an olive grove. With the sun warming our backs, it would have been a perfect morning until we realised our stove wasn’t working properly. We set to work fixing it, cleaning and replacing nearly everything we could think

55km Midanki to Killis

Posted on:
30 Dec 2007

Turkey is notorious for being hilly so it wasn’t a surprise when we saw plenty of peaks looming in our path as we approached the border. We’d hoped to reach the crossing point well before sunset but it turned out to be a last-minute dash because we took so long working our way through the

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