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8/1/2011 – Lattakia to Tartus – Autobahn zatar lunch upgrade

March 1, 2011
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I’m pretty sure i saw a big rat clambering over the panniers in the flashes of lightning during the night. I’m glad i decided not to sleep on the floor – images from room 101 and Winston Smith getting his face bitten off by rats in 1984 all too apparent in my mind. Hassans super coffee brew – coffee with cardamon and something else wakes us up.

We say our thanks and goodbyes and set off under the sun. We wind our way along minor roads before arriving in Jablah – The Middle East is here, the smells are different, spices, kebabs, coffee and tea. The roads are hectic with no real sense of order yet everything seems to work, people drive the wrong way down the streets, people wander out into the road have a conversation then continue on their way, the streets are alive with life – men watch, women in headscarfs wander around window shopping and chatting with their female friends and the sun shines!

We pick up lunch supplies then get on the motorway. I really hate motorway cycling – noise, pollution are only two annoyances the real thing that gets me is that all the detail in the landscape is lost. You cant watch things going on, the few times you pass something of interest you see it as a brief over view not as the small parts which make it up. But we have to do it or else we wont make the 3 days to Lebanon that we have been granted.

Motorways breed despondence but i can say that we saw alot of plastic greenhouses growing tomatoes and lots of industry along the coast of the Med. Stop for lunch at a cafe which has a great view of the Sea. We order teas and enquire if it would be ok for them to heat up our flat breads in their oven. The guy gestures at the two pots sitting next to the clay oven, i nod, and they come back coated in Zatar (Middle eastern herb like Thyme) and oil and home made tomato sauce free of charge, result. Motorway blues begin to fade away as we sit on the terrace munching our upgraded lunch, drinking tea and wondering what the tanker moored out in the bay is doing.

We’re joined by a couple of Syrians who speak English and we tell them of our travels, they ask if we need anything (very Syrian), Harry jokes and says money and the guy without hesitation pulls out a wad of notes from his pocket. ‘No, No, we’re only joking we have more than enough" they certainly would have given us money – quite taken aback we share a tea with them.

Tartus is the next city on our whistlestop tour of the Syrian coast. A strange place which is full of newly built apartment blocks completely empty, the road system is being ripped apart and upgraded and there are huge holes everywhere revealing the infrastructure of pipes and cables which circulate beneath the surface. There must be a huge population waiting somewhere in Syria to move into their shiny departments, either that or theres been a hell of alot of land speculation going on. We’re stopped by a police officer on a bike as a huge lorry delivers the largest box i have ever seen! Initial thoughts are that the circus has come to town and Ele the elephant is being delivered to the show. Turns out to be a generator, boring.

Out of the city we find a campsite just next to an archeological site, litter is strewn everywhere but we manage to find a clearing and set up.

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