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10/02/11 – Tarek gets me to a good start and I break the daily km record!

March 5, 2011
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I rise early to find Tarek is already awake and waiting for me to stir to get the breakfast cogs in motion. He sees me wake and rushes out through the door that I guess I’m not privy to pass through (guests can only see the showroom) and orders to what I assume is the women of the house a hearty breakfast to be prepared. And sure enough his ladies deliver, with more macdoose, eggs, a huge pot of tea, and olives. I eat heartily again until I can barely move then Tarek disappears again and comes back with a weighty bag full of macdoose, olives and a whole bag of bread to take on the road with me. I can’t thank him and his family enough for their hospitality. I pack up my stuff and tarek offers to take me to the edge of town to show me on my way. We reach the edge of town and he even tries to give me cash before I leave. I refuse and we make our goodbyes. It’s been a great night in Al Qaratayn.

The weather is great, the wind is behind me, the desert is vast and never ending; I make great time and hit 80 km before I’m even hungry again. My plan was to get to Palmyra some time tomorrow, but at the rate I’m going I’m going to make it today, and with time to spare.

I cross some of the most desolate scenery I have encountered, and it’s magical. I don’t see another person or car for hours.  I stop and relish the chance to get some memorable shots of myself in various bike touring poses.

The last 30 km prove quite tough as I’m developing some tasty saddle sore but I make it to Palmyra about 3pm, with plenty of time to take in the ruins once again and be here for sunset, which is a true bonus to behold. On arrival I spot the green backpack of John and Kimberly in the distance, my Kiwi friends from Mar Musa. They’re just leaving after having a great time but the lack of cash points has meant they’ve had to make a break back to Homs to get some money. They tell me of another cyclist ambling about in the ruins somewhere and I’m excited to meet the possible new cycling partner if he’s heading the same way as me.

It turns out he is – his name is George, from Germany, and has been on the road about the same time as me, heading towards Turkey and to Iran via Northern Iraq. We make vague plans to camp in the ruins that night and head off tomorrow until I see Axel ambling up the way. Small world! Me and Axel got on great in the monastery and I can’t turn down the prospect of a bed at reduced rate in his hostel and some dinner. I turn down the prospect of camping and go and chill with axel. We eat some slightly poor value dinner and drink some even poorer value Syrian beer, smoke some Shisha, get some real beers (efes, nice one Turkey) and retire back to the hostel to watch Four Lions, the most perfectly un PC movie to watch in a country like Syria.

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