Following the Levantine Coast
We set off from Lattakia far too late, as usual. On the way out of the hotel I stopped off at a digital shop to buy a cheap Compact camera to replace the one I lost in Ath Thaura. I didn't want to lose the ability to continue to take photos through the trip.
We had decided to hitch-hike down to Tartus, and as is so often the case the most difficult objective of the day would be to find the correct road to hitch off. We set off walking, and it took us a good 2 hours to follow the coast round to the south of the city. Once here we began to ask for directions towards Tartus.
As usual, it proved totally impossible to communicate our intentions to anyone. No-one understands hitching, so we end up pretending we want to walk to the next place. They inevitably laugh at you for being crazy, and relentlessly explain to you that it's 100 km away.
Anyway, eventually they pointed us in the right direction and laughed at the crazy ajnabes as we walked off into the distance.
Eventually we got a lift in the back of a pick up from a bloke who took us 5km down the road. We set up shop here, on the main highway to Tartus. We had another argument with a guy selling water on the side of the road, who also didn't understand what we were doing and tried to get us to flag down busses. He just couldn't understand why we were flagging down pick-ups and ignoring service busses.
His friend could speak English, but he was simply unbelieving when we insisted that we had hitched from Aleppo to Ath Thaura and back.
Eventually a massive Mercedes truck stopped, and said he was going about halfway to Tartus. We hopped in, and immediately the smell of Cannabis hit us. We looked over, and the guy was smoking a spliff and grinning at us. He drove at about 30 mph the whole way.
We got out of his truck maybe 20 minutes later and resumed hitching. The next ride came almost immediately, in the form of some massive Volvo truck. The guys were wicked, they loved us and we chatted in broken arabic for a good while. Then we lapsed into silence and watched the sun disappear out of the window whilst the Mediterranean flowed past.
The guys dropped us off on the turn off to Tartus, and we were left to find a ride in the pitch black. I was feeling pretty pessimistic, but in the end we got a ride into the center. We drifted about and found a good cheap hotel.
Then we went out looking for some food. We went to an expensive barside restaurant/bar, where we paid a small fortune for an ice cream. But it was a cool place, full of hot young girls.
Then we returned to the hotel. Underneath it was a small ice cream shop. We stopped for an ice cream, and the shop keeper invited us to stop and talk to him. He was a total legend, and we ended up chilling there for a good hour whilst he gave us free ice cream and we talked about England and Syria.
The next day we got up and decided to go to look for a bank for Kit to get money out. Whilst on the lookout, we came across a guy called Hafez who drove us there and invited us to meet with him later. He drove us around town. He had been studying in Birmingham, and had the best English we had heard for weeks. He also gave us the first interesting political conversations we had had for a long time. He was very anti-government. He ran a construction company that was involved in the development of the beach front of Tartus and clearly had to deal with government corruption on a daily basis.
We left him and chilled around the city for a while.
Later on we met back up with him and went for a meal. He took us to a really expensive restaurant in Tartus, so we had a couple of steaks and chatted more about politics, religion and the ME. Afterwards we went driving round the town again, and then in to bed.
Next morning we met up with Hafez again, early in the morning. Hafez showed us a place where we could get our clothes cleaned, and after we dropped them off, we just drifted around the town. Kit wasn't feeling very well, so we had a very quiet day, reading and then checking out the sunset from the beach. Tartus is a busy port town, and the sun set directly behind one of the cargo ships.
We left Tartus the next day, for Homs. Hafez organised a taxi for us out of town, and we started hitching. Within no time we caught a lift from a pick up, and we rode up front all the way to Homs. From here, we could see the Lebanese mountains, and as it happened we got to Homs very early. We decided to keep moving on to Hamah, so we walked out of town and kept hitching.
Our first ride was with a guy driving a massive brand new SUV. He was from Texas, but originally Syrian, and explained to us that he had ran a successful business in America, but had decided to return to Syria since he could live like a King cheaply now that he had retired. He had only been in Syria for a short while: the car still had stickers on it, it had done about 400 miles.
He dropped us off and we hitched a ride for another few kilometers with a Renault driver, and then with a truck driver into Hamah.
In Hamah we were picked up by a family as we walked towards the town. They showed us around the town and even drove us to a hotel. The hotel was in Lonely Planet as being cheap, but it cost loads-around 1000 SYP for the two of us. We were both knackered from covering hundreds of kilometers, so we just crashed out. We went out to get Falafel, then watched Indiana Jones.
In the morning we got up and watched TV til 1 PM. This is the danger of TV. We turned it on to find out whether the US Health Bill passed, then ended up watching the whole of Scary Movie 4.
Anyway, eventually we emerged and went out to have a look at Hamah. We only had one day there, but I think we saw most of what there was to see. We looked at the Nourias, and then went up the Citadel to watch the sunset. Once back at the hotel we had a chat with an Italian, and a Swiss biker who was crossing the whole world on his modified BMW.
Next day we got back on the road towards Homs. We walked out of town. We set up hitching, and the first car we stuck our hand out to pulled over, and said he was going to Homs. It was a pick up, and we hopped straight in the back. We couldn't believe our luck, the day seemed so set. We were still revelling in the success, and waving at Bus drivers when he pulled over after 10 miles at some turn off. He was going off to a little village, so we set back up hitching. Better than nothing anyhow. Shortly after we got another ride in the back of a pick up all the way to Homs.
We decided that we could make it to Tadmur, so we took a taxi across town, and set back up on the road to Tadmur. We got a ride about 1/3rd of the way and then found a pick up going the whole way. We hopped in and sat there in the back of a the pick up, watching the sun go down in the middle of the desert. It was an awesome sight, and we were pretty pleased with ourselves as we rolled into Tadmur.
Then the gypsy driver tried to charge us. This was the first time this had happened to us, but we accepted to give him 200 to diffuse the situation, and then we found a hotel and a place to eat. We ate at "Venus restaurant", but it was pretty expensive and not that great. Tbh the whole of Tadmur was much like this.