March 08, 2007 GMT
Syria, 8 March 2007

We've seen a number of high and low points the last month.

Entering Syria the scenery underwent a dramatic change from Turkey. The mountains became hills and the bike was grateful to be pulling us along flat roads after day after day of mountain bashing. The joy of flat roads seemed to provoke machine culture shock and it responded by breaking down. More of this anon....

To celebrate entering a new country, we also suffered a health breakdown. Our first stop in Syria was the sea-side town of Tartous, a good laid back place, ideal for spending a few relaxing days. Unfortunately the few days turned into a week after consumption of an octopus stew of dubious heritage. Sascha spent several days bed bound before deciding that a course of anti-biotics was the best course of action. Myself, I suffered mildly by comparison and inflicted suffering on others in equal amounts as Sascha assured me that the bug was manifesting itself in a vicious case of halitosis.

Health restored we headed on to the city of Hama. Noticing a strange and ominous 'death rattle' from the engine we decided to strip it down for inspection. This revealed a broken piston and the replacement had to be ordered from home. It was rather disappointing to suffer severe mechanical failure so soon into the trip but as mitigating evidence in favour of the Bullet the piston was an e-bay purchase of uncertain origin and by the time of leaving home had already ridden from Lands End to John o Groats and back and seen action on a track day. This before pulling us two folk and luggage around for three months.

Piston broke! - sorry couldn't resist it

The breakdown however happily proved my axiom that some of the best travel experiences happen through breakdowns. A supplier cock up resulted in the piston being sent to us via standard air mail rather than courier and took two weeks to arrive. Special mention has to be made to the guys at the Cairo Hotel in Hama who allowed us to keep the bike and work on it at their home. And who also followed the delay in the parcel arriving up through a contact in the Syrian post office, called our hotel in Damascus (they had to call several as they didn't know where we were staying!) to let us know they had found it and went to the post office with us to ensure we got it without paying too much import tax. And then the guys at the machine shop who did a fantasticly careful job of the rebore and then refused payment and instead invited us to their home for drinks!

The time spent waiting for the piston was used fruitfully in taking bus trips out of Hama and seeing the sites of Syria and not so fruitfully by Sascha's stomach which acquired another bug needing a doctors visit and more antibiotics!


Bike now fixed and tested we are in Damascus on the cusp of crossing into Jordan. Syria has been a wonderful experience; so much sincere hospitality that gives you faith in human nature once more. At risk of sounding like an awards ceremony we've got to mention the guys who have been so kind to us - the guy at the wedding banquet hall roadside on the way to Tartous who gave us a slap up meal for free after we walked into his business hq as feckless tourists thinking it was a restaurant. The guys at Expresso coffee shop in Tartous. Cairo Hotel management who helped us so much with sorting the bike. The guys at the machine shop who rebored the cylinder and fed and watered us! And Issam whom we met in Palmyra who took us out to a really great Bedouin style knees-up.

As we will be in Arabic speaking countries for the next couple of months we are making concerted attempts to learn more Arabic than the usual ps and qs. The guidebook has been of some help, though the phrases 'can I breastfeed here' and 'is this a gay-friendly bar' have not been so useful. People have been delighted to help us with our rather feeble efforts but progress has been made...

That's all for now, next posting from Jordan enshallah!

desert castle.jpg

Posted by Richard Miller at March 08, 2007 06:00 PM GMT

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