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12/02/2011 (julian solo) – Al Ghab to Aleppo – pelt ıt!

March 6, 2011
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The view in the morning is spectacular, the last of the mist is being burnt off by the sun creating a hazy atmosphere which sits above the healthy green of the early wheat sprouts.  I want to try to get to Aleppo today so on the road early as the workers turn up and begin on the fields.

The track wind past some surprised by not gawping people and out towards a huge power station that I’m hoping will sit in front of the road to Aleppo.  As I make my way down the track im stopped by a guy on a bike and he gestures for my passport.  Without any indication of officiality I play dumb tourist and explain that I’m from “Ingelterra” and im ‘Biciclette Ingelterra to Hind (india)” this doesn’t seem to sit well and he seems to be unhappy with  my presence near the power station and confused as to why a tourist would be cycling between fields many hundreds of kms away from the nearest tourist attraction.  I ask him for ID and he shows me his Military card and his jumper beneath his jacket.  He seems ok so I show him my passport.  Still slightly unsure he gestures for me to continue and shows me how to get onto the road to Aleppo.  I shake his hand and try to explain that without ID how can know he is police or otherwise, he seems to understand and I continue on my way.

The road to Aleppo winds up over the other side of the valley and I can see the patchwork of fields behind me, its beautiful but camera battery dies just as I try to snap a shot.  I pass groups of kids selling locally picked mushrooms on the roadside and continue to wind through small towns before heading onto the motorway bound for Aleppo.

I sit just above the road side and tuck into some chicken I bought im joined by a couple of young shepards and their flock of goats and sheep.  The younger one blurts out Arabic to which I cannot reply the older one gets the idea that communication can be achieved using simple words and hand gestures.and we joke about the weather, that Aleppo is a long way and that they move the sheep in different areas each day.

I have a mission to get to Aleppo tonight, a self-made mission, this trip has become much more about slow travel but every now and again it’s nice to have a little distance challenge.  I don’t normally enjoy motorway travel but for today it offers anonymous travel, I can listen to music and cycle in my own lane and pelt it into the city.  I put on some Ancient Methods, some deep and heavy techno music and begin the onslaught.  Its 60km into Aleppo and 3.30pm will make it just when its getting dark.  On the motorway I stop for some water and see a figure in the distance, from what I can make out it has a backpack and doesn’t look Syrian.  Coming closer I get a wave and an old lady with a gum shield comes into focus.  Pascal is French and has walked all the way from France by herself, with only a backpack.  She tells me that she asks people if she can sleep in their houses instead of camping and asks when then next village is.  I can’t really remember but I reckon its about 10kms, I manage to exchange a few questions with her before she scampers off into the nearest village, quite a strange lady I wanted to ask her so much more.

Coming into Aleppo the sun has all but gone but my spirits are high and music has now moved to the hypnotic percussion of Shackleton’s Fabric mix.  Entering Aleppo I  have no idea where im going to sleep but im full of adrenaline and enjoying the adventure.  Aleppo is hectic but it doesn’t fase me.  I ask a few people if they know a cheap hotel and get invited into a plumbing shop for tea, they’re really helpful and tell me where is a good area and their contact details in case I need anything when im in Aleppo.  I head to the area which is full of restaurants and the streets are alive with young and old wandering around and chatting.  After a few attempts and a bit of bartering I find a damp but decent room and have a well-deserved shower before heading out and indulging in some of Aleppo’s finest cuisine in the shape of Kibbeh (deep fried bulgar wheat and mince), Grilled goats cheese, Aleppo kebab, washed down with some locally brewed beer (shocking but slightly better than the piss that is Damascus beer) and some Arak.

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