Thursday, 7 August 2008

Pilgrimage from Zighrin to Latakya 29/07/08

I was warned last night that the coffee would start flowing at 4am but I didn't think they were serious! Lucky for me they are happy to work around me and apart from being disturbed by the occasional noisy minibus I get to sleep till 8am.

Heading off in search of breakfast it isn't long before I find a restaurant with the owners cleaning up from the party last night. And by the looks of things it was a hell of a party!

"Are you serving food at the moment?"

"No, but sit down and have a tea"


They all stop working, come for a chat and before I know it the table is loaded up with breakfast :) Awesome!!! I know Syrians have a sweet tooth but I have to cringe when the woman pours the sugar into my cup straight from the packet! It appears sugar is measured by the centimeter here rather than the spoon, sure enough my tea tastes like fairy floss juice :)

Clearing the last ridge the road starts it's decent towards the sea. Down the bottom of the hill I spot my first military checkpoint, this will be interesting. I have been curious as to what type of response I'm going to get from these guys wandering around with my camera...

No "Hello" or "Welcome" here, straight away the older guy stands up and points to my camera...

"What's that?"

"A video camera"

"What are you doing?"

"Walking to Latakya"

"Where are you from? Where is your passport?"

"Australia" I go to drop my bag and retrieve my documents

"Aaaaah, Australia! Welcome, welcome. Ok, have a nice day..." He waves me off and returns to his seat.

That was easy :)

Passing through cute little towns the walk is great and around lunchtime I find a construction site to stop for a rest. My laptop comes out and no sooner than me fingers touch the keyboard a voice sounds in front of me...

"Hello, where are you from?"

"Hi, Australia"

"Aaaah, welcome welcome! Come next door for tea"

"Thank you but I have a few things I need to do..." This is one problem with the locals being so friendly. I don't get a single second by myself to write or relax ;)

"No no, come for tea"

Sighing "Ok sure" :)

Leading me to the construction site next door I sit and chat for thirty minutes before heading back to my sanctuary where I promptly fall asleep...

Waking to a car pulling up out the front I can hear footsteps approaching. Still pretending to be asleep I hope they will leave me in peace. The footsteps stop next to me and the guy whistles to get my attention...

Ok, ok I'm awake...

Opening my eyes I find a big guy standing over me making eating motions and pointing next door. I have to laugh, here I was thinking I was about to get kicked out...

"Thank you very much, but I am fine"

He doesn't look convinced and continues to point next door...

"No, no, thank you" :) What I really feel like is some more sleep...

He smiles, shrugs then leaves me to it. Crashing back out I wake thirty minutes later and decide to make a move. No sooner are my bags packed than the guy reappears still making eating motions and pointing next... :)

"Ok, sure"

Muhammad smiles broadly and takes me over to where he lives with his family. A funny guy and he does a good job of keeping me entertained before lunch arrives. We have a great feed and as I go to leave he tries to convince me to stay the night. But unfortunately this pilgrim wants to be in Latakya tonight. I have some friends arriving from Damascus early tomorrow morning...

The road is flat and boring and turns into a highway as we approach Latakya. I push hard wanting to arrive before dark and around 7pm make the outskirts of the city.

A mother and daughter spot me walking past from their verandah and call me over for a drink. I only wanted to stay for a quick chat but every time I'm about to finish what's in front of me some more goodies arrive :)

"How old are you?"


"Are you married?"


"What do you think of my daughter? Is she beautiful?

"Yes, she is very beautiful"

"Do you want to marry her?"

"Sure, what's she doing tomorrow?" :)

The daughter is suitably embarrassed but the mother finds it incredibly amusing. I take my leave and head off towards the center.

Latakya is bigger than I expected and an hour later it's dark and I still haven't located my hotel. Spotting an internet cafe I get their number, give them a call and it isn't long before I'm showered and relaxed in a great little room.

Along with a couple of other guests I buy some beer, head to the roof and we have a nice little gathering before bed...

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