Welcome to our blog, we hope you enjoy following our adventures! We split our sabbatical in 2 parts: Part 1 was from March to June 2010 touring around in our campervan in France and Spain. Part 2 started on the 7th of July when we left Scotland to cycle through Europe and the Middle East to Africa in the remaining 6 months (back for Xmas). Have a look at the route below and we'll try to post pics as much as we can! xx
Syria and Jordan have been truly amazing cycling destinations! From Aleppo we cycled southwards
to the Dead Cities. It's an area full of ruins of Roman and Byzantine cities and villages, sometimes whole cities are still there and sometimes a new village has used the ruins as there vegetable garden!They don't know why exactly they were abandoned, which gives the ruins an extra mystical atmosphere. We slept in one of the smaller ruins, in the middle of what once was a nobleman's huge house. The local kids from the village over ran our campsite...so interested in these weird people on bikes camping in their playground.
We met an english teacher Mona and her family, who took us to their home and it was very interesting to have a proper conversation with a syrian family. The country seemed a lot more free than we expected, there is a mix of people in the streets from unveiled to fully covered faces and everybody is tolerant towards others. Especially to us and all foreigners, a lot of "Welcome to Syria" and "Do you need anything?". When we mentioned Scotland a lot of them said 'good scotch' and some petrol stations had a liquor store, while we thought there would be no alcohol! A lot of women we met were working and spoke more freely to us than in rural Turkey (where they stood behind their husbands and stayed inside all day). And most surprising was that Dan got chatted up by boys in the Aleppo souq! One of them told his friend in english: "he's gorgeous and he's straight, but not for long"! Hilarious!! This is starting to become a running theme...
But when you get the chance to discuss the situation with people you realise that there are a lot of bad things. Phones get tapped and people get imprisoned without trial. Good education is very expensive and only a few lucky ones can go to a good university. Earning a living is difficult and houses are expensive, a lot of people are poor. Many people we spoke to would go to a different country to study/work if they could...things are getting better, it seems? But all that aside, the country feels very peacefull, it's very safe and all the people are very frinedly and super hospitable.
We visited the ruins of Apamea and camped in the middle of it, seeing the sun rise behind those huge columns was very special.
To get to Damascus we had a few hard days through bare dry mountainous desert landscape, but then we had 3 days at Janwillem and Ingrid's wonderful new home. We enjoyed playing with the kids and being spoilt by Ingrid's cooking and did a bit of sightseeing in the city. We'll definitely go back to Syria and Damascus!
It was hard getting back on the bikes, Damascus had been one of our main destinations and a major milestone of our trip. But we soon got back into it and crossed the border to Jordan. We pushed a bit too far...well stopped for fried chicken! and had to cycle in the dark. Turns our there are a lot of massive mansions near the border, which makes for difficults finding a camping spot. Worked out in the end after a stone throwing 10 minutes...at wild dogs.
The countryside is more beautiful than Syria, with rolling hills and olive groves, red mountains and deep gorges (which are crap for cycling out of!). It is more modern and you see more richness around you (Giant Hummer SUVs everywhere). The people are very friendly and hospitable like in Syria, but it doesn't have this strangely peaceful feeling that Syria had.
We visited the ruins of Jerash, a roman colony. A beautiful complex with a big oval square and views of the mountains.
We're in Amman now where we're enjoying the more modern side of the city. So lots of cappucino's and a great dinner last night in a french restaurant to celebrate our 6400 km.
Tomorrow we leave to go float in the Dead Sea, cycle up the mountains to see Petra and camp in Wadi Rum. Jordan is great!