Thursday, 7 August 2008

Pilgrimage from Latakya to Snobar 01/08/08

Sleeping on the roof is wonderful, apart from being woken by flies in my nose and ears first thing in the morning :) I still manage to sleep in till 8am though...

Tomas is probably wondering why I didn't turn up last night so I head straight to the internet to see if he's given any more directions, but no such luck. Nothing to do other than sit and wait...

Finally around 10am he calls and we arrange to meet at my hotel in a couple of hours. Going for breakfast at my new favorite restaurant I then head back to the hotel...

"Hey Tomas! Great to meet you and glad you made it. Sounds like it was a bit of a mission to get here!"

"Hi, yes, a long trip"

"Do you feel like walking this afternoon?" :)

Laughing "No way, let's stay here another night"

"No problems" Even though I'm pretty keen to get moving as this will be my third day off in a row I figure he deserves a break ;)

Tomas books himself into a room and we head up there to work out our plans...

"So you want to start walking tomorrow?"

"Yes, I need to get moving again, let's stop for a couple of days in Tripoli or Beirut"

"You want to walk down to Beirut from here?"

"Yes, that's the plan"

"I thought you said you were happy to bus around? In my schedule I can probably only walk four or five days..."

Ooooops...looks like we have a bit of a miss communication :) Tomas sent an email before leaving Slovakia asking if it was okay if he walked some then bused and hitched the rest because he only has a month and wants to fit more in. I let him know it wasn't a problem but I didn't realize he was expecting me to accompany him on the busing and hitching sections! He isn't interested in traveling by himself and thought I was going to be a travel partner through the Middle East...

"Shit, sorry mate. I would love to bus around with you but I'm committed to finish this thing first"

"Hmmmmm, so what should we do?" He doesn't look so happy and I can imagine why, he's come a long way :)

"I think we just need to keep in touch. Work out a plan of where you want to go and if we are in the same area at the same time come walking for a few days. There are heaps of backpackers traveling around Syria so I'm sure you will be able to find someone easy enough to hang out with"

"Hmmmm, maybe"

"But first do you want to go to Salahadeen castle today?" If Tomas wants to be a tourist and I'm going to be staying around anyway I might as well do some sight seeing...

"OK, sure. But let's get something to eat first"

Tomas has never eaten Syrian food before so I take him back to the same restaurant I ate breakfast. He's well impressed with the selection. Hommus, babaganoush, cheese, olives, jam, weird sesame dip, pickles, salad, eggs and bread...more food than we can possibly eat and for $2 each! Awesome!

Making our way to the castle I'm glad to have made the effort. Perched up on steep cliffs it makes for an impressive sight, but an hour wondering around is more than enough.

On the way back to town I make the decision to start walking this afternoon. Since Tomas isn't going to walk with me anyway I have nothing to wait for. He doesn't look so happy when I let him know and I can understand why he would be a little anxious. If I didn't know that Syria is an incredibly safe place and that the people are super friendly I would stick around but I know he has nothing to worry about. And also, there is a constant stream of backpackers coming through the hotel so I'm sure he will be fine...inshaallah :)

Heading back to the hotel and packing all my stuff I'm ready to make a move. Saying a big "thank you" to Muhammad and "good luck to Tomas" I get going. My stomach is feeling a bit dodgy again and I don't have an appetite, one of the disadvantages of eating $2 lunches ;) I feel I need some fuel to keep me going so stop for some baklava and cake.

"Can I please get the bill...?"

"Where are you from?"


"Aaaaah, Australia! Welcome! Welcome"

"Thanks" :) "How much is the bill?"

"No, no!" He says while waving me away...

"Welcome to Syria, welcome..."

Champion! :)

My legs feel great after such a long rest and I fantasize about making 30kms. Once again all the tea sellers want me to stop for a chat and it's hard work keeping them at bay :) Syrians are just too friendly!!!

A taxi pulls up next to me and I have to laugh at the sight. If I could draw a picture to challenge the normal preconceptions people have about an Arab country this would be it. A guy and a girl are in the front with the driver and an older woman, a child and another couple are in the back. All the females are wearing headscarves but both the younger ones have their arms draped over their (possible) partners shoulders in a flirtatious way. Both the guys are drinking beer and they all combine in yelling at me out the window... :)

"Here, drink, drink!"

Laughing "No, thank you" :) With my stomach not doing the best I'm happy to avoid beer tonight...

"No, drink, drink!!!"

"OK, OK" I take a can and have a sip...

"More, more!"

I take another small sip and succeed in passing it back...

"Welcome to Syria!"

Around midnight I have made 15kms and finding a paddock decide to stop. As I search around for a good place a family on a nearby balcony spots me and calls out. I head over to explain myself but am blocked by a big drop off. They are still too far away to communicate with so I figure if I'm causing them too much concern they will come and track me down.

As I'm setting up the families 12-14 year old kids make an appearance...

"What are you doing?"

"I'm going to sleep here the night. Is that OK?"

"You will sleep here!?!"

"Yes, is it OK?"

"It's dangerous! There are snakes!"

"No problem, no problem" :)

"You are not scared of the snakes???"

Laughing "No, they are fine. Do you mind if I sleep here?"

"If you are not scared of the snakes it is fine"

They leave me to it and I decide to try my luck without the tent. Thirty minutes of getting bitten by mosquitoes and I concede defeat, out it comes...

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