|Posted by Peter Douet on April 16, 2011 at 6:19 AM|
Day 14: RS
Tuesday 12th April:
It was a good night sleep for some and far less good for others: Pete H had heard what he thought was an animal prowling around the vehicles and Jen reported hearing something similar with the added punctuation of the sound of the door handles being tried. Luckily we had locked the trucks as was becoming the habit and nothing seemed to be amiss in the morning, save for a good night’s sleep for Jen.
Once more Peewee and I went running: it was beautiful scenery as we had camped at the top of a plateau and could see across the interesting valleys: a stunning landscape indeed and a total privilege to be able to call this our exercise yard. It was, however, the coldest I have been so far on the trip: somewhat underdressed for the weather I came back from the run with no feeling up to my elbows and light snow had started to fall. James and Pete H were my superheros for the morning as they put the tent away whilst I sat in the car, heaters on full blast, trying to regain some feeling in my extremities.
The aim today was to leave Turkey, get into Syria, and find somewhere to camp. The Turkish weather was poor to say the least and rain, snow and sleet punctuated our drive to the border. The landscape appeared to become visibly dryer and the addition of several palm trees gave the impression that the ambient temperature should be higher: a cool 13 degC in the south but at least this was better than the zero degrees the day had started with!
We had read that the crossing into Syria would take some time and had obtain visas prior to the event to try to ease the process. At 3pm we started in the hope that things would progress in time for us to find a camp spot in daylight (the sun sets around here at 7.30 or so – plenty of time surely!?) Getting out of Turkey was the first entertainment and the game of being sent back to a former booth for a further stamp repeated itself. There was only one exit gate where documents for vehicles were checked and a hilarious scene ensued as 3-4 lanes of disordered traffic including cars, trucks and us with a bus attempting to enter the throng at right angles, jockeyed for position to get through the narrow gap as quickly as possible. The Captain was first and well on the case with the style of driving required. The Cruiser followed closely and, having beaten a car to the slot, were then the recipients of the drivers pleading face to be allowed to pass in front: when aggressive driving fails it seems he thought puppy dog eyes would work! All he got was Pete H explaining in sign language the order of things, whilst grinning. The Rangie rocked through too and the dealings with the Syrian side started: off the 3 vehicle owners headed to play the game with no instructions and where the rules change as the game progresses. This turned out to be the worst experience yet with a real sense of insult being gained when, despite a sign clearly stating that fuel tax applied to petrol buses, we were allowed nowhere until we had paid a diesel car tax. Despite phone calls to the British Embassy and an attempted call to the office listed on the back of the immigration card as 24 hour support for tourists (the number did not work), we were unable to confirm the validity of the tax but were advised by the embassy that if we were given a receipt showing the identification number of the official we had paid the money to then it would be a legitimate tax: no such receipt was forthcoming! After 4.5 hours of this ordeal, the sun had set and we were finally through, into a country that had done little to endear itself to us thus far. We also learned from the embassy that only 7 hours earlier the alert state for Syria had gone up due to the political situation which we understand to be caused by the populations dislike for the government whilst they like the president (he inherited the government from his father when he inherited the post). I suspect that you guys have learned more than us about the details as information here is limited.
Once more we were to find that our imagination of a country was not borne out by reality: we had thought that Syria was all fairly dry and desert like but the area we were travelling though was abundant with rich soil and crops growing for as far as the eye could see. This sprawl continued for absolutely miles with discernable definition between towns and lights in every direction making the finding of a Gippo site a real challenge. We drove for an age and we were all totally knackered when we finally found a track through the crops which passed close to olive trees large enough to offer some cover. To get to the spot without alerting interest from any of the many lights too close for real comfort, we drove part of the way by moonlight alone and night vision. Fingers crossed we would not be disturbed!