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22/01/11 – Aanjar beauty and the reassuring face of waving Assad

March 5, 2011

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The night was a turbulent one – Harry had to twice get up and reattach his tent to the ground through fear of losing his topsheet in the wind. We were quite exposed perched up on top of the mountainside.

Fortnately we did all of the climbing yesterday leaving nice nice long descent into the Bekaa Valley to start the day. The first town we passed had an uneasy feel about it – probably due to the fact that we were weary about Hezbollah and various other groups anyway but we also heard this was their country. One guy went out into the road and tried to stop me as we went by – we just pushed on and he didn’t make any attempt to proceed after us. He was probably just a curious onlooker but i couldn’t help but feel if we had stopped it would have been another interrogation affair.

We stopped further up at a petrol station to do pot wash and refill our bottles with some slightly suspect looking water. A bit further up was Aanjar, a fantastically preserved Roman era(but not Roman) city that we had afforded the time to go and check out.

It was vast and spectacular. We were the only people there and were left to wander its ancient streets, clamber over the ruins and bask in the sunshine as we took it all in. It was a great break and a beautiful spot to slow down for an hour.

Aanjar itself was a christian village and I couldn’t help but feel a level of security here, away from the more tightly controlled towns we passed through earlier.

It was’t far to the border now, and up a small hill there was the Lebanese checkpoint. Exit was a smooth affair, and after surrounding a motorbike covered in stickers suggesting a long journey (it was from Turkey, but alas no driver was there to be seen) we went through the gate and were excited to be heading back into Syria.

We were abut anxioius about the possibility of getting tourist visas for Syria, after our last experience. The distance between the gates was long and slow and gave us time to ponder the possibilities if we can’t gain entry. Pictures of Assad on the roadside grew in frequency and his reassuring face with WELCOME emblazened in big letters in Syrian colours made us feel more at ease. He looks like Ian Rush.

We got to the border post and it was straight forward – we had our visas and were done in 15 minutes – result! However we were only granted 15 tourist visas so we would have to extend in Damascus.

The road out of the border post was super smooth (cheers Syria) and downhill. It felt great to be back, and with more time to stay in the country. We stopped to make camp on the roadside in a small forest, and Harry cooked up some grub to celebrate his last night in camp with us 😦

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