Happy New Year!!

“Huh!” snorts the border guard as he throws the passport at me before turning away without further a word. I manage to grab the passport as it slips down the petrol tank of my trusty steed and look around for some sort of guidance can I go?. A Syrian man asks the border guard if I can go, at least I assume that’s what he asks but he, too is ignored, then he shouts something else and the guard half turns and waves me on annoyed.

Crap. I’ve been so focused on getting in to Syria that I haven’t really thought about it, the border controls (my second visit to the border) took all my dollars plus my British pounds and left me flat broke except for a few Syrian pounds which the “bank” kindly gave me, “enough to buy a few liters of benzine”, though another guy takes some of this later for some sort of stamps and gives me “enough to buy a cola”.

A guy riding a red, Chinese motorcycle, sporting a red and white tea towel and wielding an axe waves at me before chasing after some other motorcyclist who must have rubbed him the wrong way. The landscape barren and flat leaves me few choices for a campsite and I contemplate returning to Turkey, if not home. Desperate in the dark I knock on the door of a house, I am greeted by a family of eleven, gathered around a LPG stove trying to keep warm in the cold night air, who welcome me with open arms, feed me (food which I reluctantly eat as they clearly have little) and give me a room and my own heater (which had not previously left its’ box).

I have found Syria to be extremely hard, thinking of quitting on a daily basis or at least getting me and the bike to somewhere nice, wherever that may be. I have found people to either be extremely nice and generous and friendly or, the complete opposite. I find some things very difficult to take, people glaring, following me, staring at the bike, trying to sell me things, begging for money and asking the same questions…over and over again. On top of these seemingly trivial things, I was not seeing anything nice; dirty towns and villages, flat barren plains, garbage, taxis tooting constantly, smog.

I rode in to the desert though and things changed, there were mountains, and fewer people, a quiet rode, places to camp, silence…and the army; having to be removed from my camp spot by a dozen AK47 wielding soldiers as I was apparently camping in a military area….oops.

I rode through a sandstorm, managing 35mph at best into the headwind and eventually made it to Damascus, where I am now. I opened the Christmas card which I had written to myself(!) in Turkey and take on board all that I had written, it was extremely good to read as I was still very low…. “treat yourself” was one thing I had written…so I did I rode to the Four Seasons hotel in Damascus, walked in to the lobby past numerous security guards and a room full of onlookers, me; covered in sand and knackered from the previous nights debacle with the army. I enquired about a room, 200 euros….bit much even for my treat-mode, how about a meal….are you serving turkey…yes…29 UK pounds…ummm…. I sit outside and contemplate the cost for a very long time, chaging my mind over and over but keep hearing the words from my card “treat yourself” and go in to book with the concierge, she asks if I want to see the restaurant first…OK…the restaurant manager shows me around asks and even in to the kitchen where a few disgruntled looking chefs look on and I apologise if I make a mess in the kitchen!! There is so much food I can’t resist and book myself in immediately and look forward to it all day! And by golly, it was superb (though not as good as Christmas dinner made by my mum, or indeed being with my family), and I am glad I treated myself!

Todays treat was watching a couple of sheep being slaughtered in the street outside the butchers over a drain, not nice.

Next up, Jordan.

No photos I’m afraid the computer is poo.

Happy New Year to everyone and hope you had a great Chrimbo, thanks for the Christmas emails from people…I’ll catch up on those very soon I promise.