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Qalat Jabar, Continued

Lake Ice and Raqqa

semi-overcast 15 °C

It took a long time for us to getup to waist level. Neither of us had the balls to do what is far less painful in the long run, and jump in.

Eventually it got to the point of no return. Kit had been an inch ahead of me both of the way, but I was the first to go all the way and pull my head underneath. Once in, we cleaned our hair (it had needed doing for a while) and then swam to the other side of the inlet, which was probably 30 or 40 metres away. Once there, we got out, shouted out some profanities, then got back in again and swam back to the other side. By now we were properly cold, and I don't mean pathetic-Brit-whining-cold, I mean muscles-giving-in cold. With our inching in and whimpering we had spent hours in freezing cold water and hadn't realised that we were near-hypothermic. It took us ages to stop shivering, but we rested on the bank in the knowledge that we had at least managed what we set out to do.

We went back to camp, and then set about collecting wood for that evening's fire. Half the time was spent searching for the wood, and the other half commenting on how manly it was to go searching for wood, and how Ray Mears we would feel later on when it lit all over again and we could relax next to our manly fire. We split all the wood up into massive piles until we figured we had enough for hours.

After this, we went back down to the restaurant again. We had what we had eaten before: Chips and Homous, but Abdullah tried to charge us more than last time, so we had a bit of an argument, and left having argued him down to last night's prices. He was bloody pissed off though. Between that and the boat, he must have thought we were totally tight-fisted.

Anyway, with the wolves howling all over again, we made our way back up the hill to the tent. This time we had managed to bring a torch, so it wasn't quite the terrifying experience it had been the night before. At the tent, we laid out the fire with to the wood we had collected, and lit it. We revelled in our Ray-Mearsness as the pines cvaught instantly, and then chilled for hours reading again. This fire was way better than the one before, so we were there for ages.

We listened to some World Service programme on Depression, during which someone wrote in from Cyprus. Hearing this, I suggested that we should go to Cyrpus. We got the map, Kit agreed and that was decided. We've subsequently found that flights there are 120 quid though, so it depends if we feel we can break the bank later on.

Nothing much happened after this. We Chilled, and the wolves were less vocal than the night before. We had to take our first shit in the wild. Then we slept once the wood ran out.

Next day we got up, packed up, and went back down to Abdullah's for breakfast. He wasn't pissed off anymore, so we got some Homous, and then set up for a big hike, as we were trying to get a little way East to Raqqa. In the end we walked probably 5 or 6 miles down the road to get back to the main road. Only a handful of cars passed us in the entire time, but thankfully a Latvian bloke in a hired Ford Mondeo stopped for us and drove us the remaining 4 or 5 miles to the main road to Raqqa. He was pretty chill, on his way south.

Then we waled up to a nearby gas station, got some tap water and wacked some water purification tablets in it. There were some Germans there. Normally we say hello to all the foreigners we see, but they were dressed up in traditional German kit. It was pretty weird, truth be told, so we ignored them and began hitching with a Syrian on the side of the road who was also trying to get to Raqqa.

We got a pick up pretty quick, which took us 2/3rds of the way there, with us just chilling in the flat bed at the back. We had wanted to do this for ages-figured it was such a cliched backpacker activity that it was totally necessary to partake in it at some point. Tbh it's genuinely pretty wicked travelling at 60 mph through the desert in Aviators, standing up in the flat bed of some pick up. We had to get out some way down the road and start hitching all over again, with Raqqa not far away.

I've mentioned before that Syrians don't seem really to get teh idea of hitch-hiking, they tend just to give you confused looks and "what the fuck" hand signals. This time someone did that, flew down the road for a little way, then presumably worked it out, turned around 200 metres down the road, and came back for us.

It was a minivan thing, so we chilled out in the back on the way to Raqqa whilst the Syrian dude got in the front and chatted to the driver. But once in Raqqa, he got out and the driver started talking to us. He drove us to his shop, and we chilled with him and drank some tea. He had pretty good English, and then he drove us to a hotel, which was awesome.

The hotels he dropped us off at cost like $45 a night, so we went back on the lookout. We asked the taxi driver to take us to a street name from Lonely Planet, but instead he took us to the Train Station. When we tried to explain that this wasn't where we wanted to be, he thought we were claiming that this wasn't the train station, so he physically guided us into the station. He didn't understand us at all, but eventually we managed to get him to understand through someone else that we wanted a cheap hotel. Eventually we got there, but the cheapest hotel we found was 1000 SYP for the night in the cheapest shittiest room.

Anyway, we went to check out the town. Tbh one of the few things Lonely Planet's been right about is Raqqa. It's a small, dusty town with no attractions and shit accomodation. Still, tbh it wasn't the worst place to be for the night. Good to see a standard town for one night only. WE got some Falafel for 15 SYP, then bought some junk food and went to watch the whole of Robocop from teh comfort of our beds.

The next morning we packed up, and set off. We bought a couple of falafel and then walked to the Immigration Department in Raqqa to sort out our stamps (you're meant to report there after 15 days in Syria). We had only come to Raqqa because it had an immigration department. Once inside, we were invited into the head bloke's office. He wasjust well friendly and smiled at us. He looked through our passports and told us there would be no problem. From this we concluded that the whole Visa system was probably a total mess (ever person we've met has said something different), so he's probably right and there will be no problem. We hope. So we just left and began hiking to the main road, from which we hoped to get to Palmyra.

Posted by bj_945 12:27 Archived in Syria

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