Wednesday, 29 August 2007

On The Road To Damascus.....

Finally we bought a carpet in Cappadocia. After crash course in Turkish carpet production and its history, we settled on one just the right size to fit under the mattress in our roof tent. After waving goodbye to Cappadocia - our longest home yet - we headed across what we think were the Taurus Mountains. This road was fantastic. The highest point was at 2000 metres and it felt as if we were in the middle of a quarry. There were lots and lots of trucks travelling up the road empty and down the hill very full of terracotta coloured soil and travelling very slowly. We barely saw any other private vehicles and at the top great swathes of the mountain side had been taken away; even one mountain top was completely gone. It was slow road down the other side as we remained high in the mountains for a long time.

After coming out of the mountains we sought out a tyre repair establishment. We had been looking for a few days but all we could find in Cappadocia were grotty sheds which seemed to specialise in bicycle tyre repairs so we were resigned to pumping up the tyre every morning- it was a very slow puncture and Gavin did enjoy having to use his compact compressor. However, Lassa was a much more sophisticated set up; they even had a portable wheel balancing machine. After playing with Google Earth, drinking tea and enjoying the comforts of the proprietor’s air-conditioned office we paid the hefty charge of £2.50 and headed to Anavarza.
We understand Anavarza to be of Roman, English and Spanish origin. Spectacular as it was it was difficult to find out any further information, but we had a lot of fun climbing all over the ruins.

We decided to stay in Turkey for one more day. It was not going to be much fun queuing at the border for Gavin on his birthday. So we headed for the beach and found a beautiful and deserted part of the Mediterranean coastline. While we were parked up - for two hours or so - only one other vehicle drove by. The water was decidedly warm and crystal clear.

The next day we spent three and a half hours at the Turkish/Syrian border. First impressions of Syria are of a somewhat chaotic place. Firstly we were obliged to queue at a counter for an hour only to be told that we needed a visa, "no" we say and point to the visas in our passport. "No, no" we must go through the unmarked door, through a corridor and find another unmarked office. We duly follow orders. Here our passports were closely scrutinised and still the official had difficulty recognising the visa his embassy in London had issued. Eventually they agree that it is OK and our passports are processed. Then we have more fun and games with customs with the first customs official declining to sign us off despite being satisfied that there was nothing amiss. Eventually after a customs officials conference another customs cfficial agrees to sign us off based on the original customs official’s inspection. Then we were off to get the all important Carnet de Passage processed. So all our fees are paid, tax for this and for that . Then we realise that we paid some extra money to one rather dour chap behind a glass screen and we have no idea what it was for and we have no receipt. Finally after some discussion with him, neither party understanding much of what the other was saying, we did get a receipt for a fraction of what we had paid. So I continued to stand there interrupting his business and persisting in showing him how much he still owed us I finally got back the rest of the money. I suspect he was going to pocket for himself.. Throughout all of this just about everyone was as courteous and polite as they could be.

Syria has some amazing sights. The Souks in Aleppo are like nothing I have seen before and I even enjoyed a visit to a rather grotty Hamam. What a wonderful experience. I felt as if I had entered into a secret world. It was a little odd to be scrubbed, and I mean scoured (I still have the grazes) by a woman in her bra and knickers, smoking cigarettes, who 10 minutes later was indistinguishable from most other women after she put on her Abeyya and veil.

On Monday (I think) we visited the Krak de Chevalliers, a Crusader’s Castle that has been described as a Castle to fulfil every child’s fantasy. It is such good condition we spent hours exploring all the nooks and crannies. We camped in the shadow of the castle.

Thanks Mohammed for the tip to visit Palmyra which is one of the most impressive places I have visited. We camped a very short stones throw from the ruins. We first visted the ruins in the evening sun and the following day surveyed them before breakfast in the crisp morning sun.
Unfortunately we are unable to spend as much time in Syria as we would like to, but the $100 weekly fuel tax and the need to sort out a few repairs on the car make it necessary for us to hot tail it to Jordan- the spare parts have been sent out to Amman.
Before I go however, I am very much aware that we have visited some places of which we really have very poor background knowledge. If anyone reading does have any interesting information to share about any of these places please feel free to enlighten us by leaving a "comment".