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8/02/2011 (julian solo) – Dayr Atiyah to Homs – Fırst ventures ınto the desert

March 6, 2011

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Morning comes and the sun shines through the window of the café, all bad weather has passed through and all that remains is the glorious sunshine.  Rami comes to the shop picks me up in his car then we head to his university.  Kalamoon is quite famous in Syria, it was the first private one and is highly regarded, its even on my map.

We head to the enormous shopping complex attached to the university and eat in the supermarket café, Rami pays for everything including a granary bread stick im going to have for lunch, ridiculous hospitality.  Walking around the university is very much like a scene from an American teen movie, all the people are dressed well the car park is full of flash cars, the layout of the university is even quite US-esque.  Rami’s banger stands out like a saw thumb, but I reckon he’s probably one of the few that has actually bought their own car,  Highlights of the university was definitely the wolves and ostriches they had in enclosures, obviously not the same one because that would be silly.  Watching the wolves stalk around timid of human presence but once in their pack seemed industrious.  We cycled around the complex and visited the various departments, no Geography mind, but a good arts and architecture department.  Rami buys me a momento Kalamoon university hat to remember the experience, I try to tell him I won’t need a hat to remember the past night and morning but he insists.

Back at his café I say goodbye and off into the desert in the sun.  First day of good weather and the solitude of the desert, filling me with positivity I even manage to fix my bike computer.  Pass some interesting mud domed architecture and Bedouin encampments, but there is little else that passes me.  The huge expanses of nothing stretching to the horizon are beautiful, the ground is dry, rocky and monotone but its breathtaking in its own way and thoroughly relaxing to pass through.

I also see a lot of Syrian water towers – first saw them on 3 day stint a month or so back.  Their slender vertical presence and alien form in marked contrast to the horizontal landscape.  Simple and modern in design they are well-proportioned and elegant.  My mind drifts and I envision them wandering through the landscape, their long legs propelling them great distances at a time.

Approaching Homs and minor road that ive taken has yielded some fantastic cycling, sparse landscapes and water tower day dreams.  The harsh reality of a huge main road into Homs T-bones that tranquility.  At least its smooth I guess, but its full of trucks and im not really sure where I’m camping.  All the wooded areas which run the length of the road aren’t dense enough to hide a tent and they’re strewn with rubbish and over run with shabby looking canines.  Camping panic returns once more and isn’t helped by the knowledge that Homs is fast approaching and is a very industrial city so factories and depots begin to become apparent.  I could go into the city and find a hotel or something but I have to face this fear so continue to look for camping options.  The light has faded drastically and I think I’ve found a spot just up on a hill but out of sight.  I hear a whistle, damn I’ve been spotted – Its one of those times where you feel like saying to them can you just leave me alone, but you can’t be rude and I cycle down to talk with the two security guys that have seen me.

They have approachable faces which eases the situation, I explain that I’m trying to find somewhere to camp and they immediately invite me into the grounds of the industrial site which contain a large array of road clearing machinery and huge piles of aggregate.  My bike, coated in sticky mud is whisked off to be cleaned, I keep in tow just to ensure its safety but its fine and they guy power hoses all the mud from the guards.

This is the Municipal Road maintenance depot for the Homs region im told over multiple glasses of Matte, the Argentinean tea that seems to hold a special place in Syrian hearts. I sit in the security office with Feras and his two colleagues drinking tea, explaining the trip and exchanging broken English and my improved broken Arabic (since last nights lessons).

Feras shows me where’s good to camp and even helps me clear the ground, I set up and cook dinner and Feras comes back to make sure I’m ok.

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