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15/02/11 – from bad to worse – day from hell rescued by helpful locals

March 5, 2011

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Waking up to rain again… great.

Rain, above all things, really gets me down. I goddamn hate it. It totally ruins my day. Today was no exception. I wasn’t in the greatest of moods, and it was made worse by the puncture I got just 5 km outside Al Hasakah. Disaster. I stopped under the relative (not) shelter of a tree and tried to fix the problem. All my spares were duff, so I tried in vain to patch the hole. Anyone who has had a puncture in the rain can testify, it’s not so easy when everything is wet, and today was no exception. Add into the equation the fact that my cheap ass pump from Damascus had also failed me, and I was soon on the roadside with my thumb out to try and hitch a lift into town to find a bike shop…

It doesn’t take long before a concerned sofa delivery man stops and wonders what the fuss is about, before stuffing my bike into his van and giving me a lift to a bike shop.

We find one and they get to work sticking a new inner tube in the tyre, offer me tea, and within 20 seconds the entire population of Al Hasakah descends on my shoulders. People are touching the bike, pointing at my piercings, making polite gestures about my beard and taking pictures of me on their camera phones. I struggle to keep cool as my stuff is everywhere and I’m hemmed in a throng of curiosity. Eventually and thanks to the help of the guys who gave me the lift I get out of the crowd and pedal away the proud owner of a newly inflated tyre and spare tube. Nothing they could do about the pump, but they tried to sell me one twice the size, even stuffed it under my bungees despite my refusal.

I escape the throng and find a small shop to pick up some supplies and ask for directions. As I stop an old lady approaches me and gives me a handful of sweets and carries on walking. A passer by stops and gestures to fill up my water bottles. The shop owner points me in the direction of turkey. My bad day has turned out alright in the end, saved by the kindness of the people of Al Hasakah.

I make my way out of town and I have a conundrum. My two maps of the area contradict on information about a border crossing I want to take, that will save me time on the road to Mardin, the first port of call on the Turkish side. I take the opportunity to get as many opinions as possible as to whether the border crossing at Darbasiye is open, and the overall consensus by 4 to 3 is that it is, so I go for it.

The weather is deteriorating (again) and the road is long and dull (again) I try and make a break for the border post but don’t quite make it, the bad weather and headwinds slow me down enough to concede defeat about 10km short of the town. I spot a good cattle shed on the other side of a field and attempt to cross is with the bike, trying to be quick to avoid being spotted. The field was recently ploughed and it’s not long before the mud has rendered my bike unmovable – it takes me a good half an hour and all my strength to get the thing across the field and out of sight. Amazingly I wasn’t spotted. I am totally exhausted. I set up camp and flop into my tent and fall asleep without dinner, only to wake up hungry about 10ish and cook up some rice.

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