On the border
Decision had been made – we decided to cross Syria via Kasab. The first thing we heard from the first guy we met on the Syrian border was: “Welcome to Syria and ohhh…. how do they say..God bless you”… The welcome part was not really encouraging, rather scary…
On the border we spent over 3 hours doing all paper work. In the meantime officials were checking our car. We were advised by Syrian Embassy in Warsaw that we should have declared all of our electronic stuff, while our friends suggested that we should have hidden our camera, GPS and other things properly. What we did was something in the middle. We didn’t go to declare what we had but we also didn’t hide anything. We drove with GPS attached to the windscreen, laptop and camera were visible. One guy wanted to see some photos in the camera, so we needed to show him…photos from Antakia and little trip to Harbiye with our new Turkish friends (Cleverly, we downloaded the photos which you can see on this blog, and deleted from memory card earlier). Car inspection was quite quick and went smooth and as a bonus Charlie got some coffee and bananas for his breakfast.
Now in some points I will write about paperwork and issues connected with it:
1) We got visas for 15 days, but time of being on Syrian territory for us got shorten to 3 days – due to not stable political situation
2) It was the first country our carnet de passage was used
3) We needed to pay around 150 USD (this cost is valid only for a week) for our car including a really high diesel tax. Firstly we pay around 210 USD or so, but they were confused and they were counting many times how much we were supposed pay for that tax and finally they gave us 60 USD back, which was very honest(!)
4) Unfortunately, our Laos Visa from previous trip made us a trouble. The main official supervisor was not convinced about the background of it. He thought that visa was coming from Israel and we were trying to hide something. We were trying to explain and show him where Laos was situated, but the guy was stubborn and he started comparing Laos’s letters with Israeli ones.
5) They didn’t want to speak with me (Ada) at all. I was ignored most of the time and whole paperwork took twice long as Charlie was called to do everything.
After more or less hours we could finally move on…..
On the way
When we left border post, I was going to text Charlie’s mum that we were in Syria and everything seemed to be fine. When I was just about to send it, I dropped the phone as we got stopped by first check point, and it was no army! We got seriously scared. We saw four guys – 3 of them looking quite normal like clerks or teachers and one of them with long beard and gun (I don’t know what was longer??) and not friendly face expression. They told us to get off from the car, but only Charlie left and opened our back door for them. When they saw that we didn’t transport any guns only duvet and camping stuff, and noticed stamps from our previous trip to Morocco – they converted themselves into very nice guys and one of them said: “ohhh u have been into Morocco, isn’t a lovely country. Nice to see you and welcome to Syria” We got confused, but when they told us “you can go”, we didn’t have to hear it second time.
Next stops or check points were only by army, but when they stopped us, they only waved to us, asked whether we were fine or just thanked us for being in their country.
To get to the highway from the border we needed to drive through one city called Latakia. Unfortunately, finding that motorway wasn’t an easy task due to road works and congested streets. We lost there an hour, but finally somehow we found the proper way. During our 500 km drive in Syria we didn’t hear any shot guns or bomb explosions, however we saw some smoke coming from main cities (Homs and Damascus) and as I already mentioned lots of army and tanks.
We didn’t want to refuel the full in Turkey as it was not really logical!!! Turkish diesel and petrol prices were insane! We wanted to fuel up in Syria, not only because we paid diesel tax, but also due to a price for that good – around 0, 50 USD per liter(!). Unfortunately, diesel in Syria was not that accessible as we thought and we were in trouble as in our tank wasn’t enough of fuel. Almost every petrol station was abandoned and closed. Very rarely we saw like 10km queue of cars and trucks which, was leading to a gas station, where was a small possibility that some day, soon, maybe someone delivers some fuel. On the first petrol station we stopped, people didn’t really bestow us trust, but after our explanation that we were trying to get to Africa they really wanted to help us. Those men were showing us their empty tanks. One of them decided to pour us 10 liters, which allowed us to drive to a next petrol station. On the second place, queue was even bigger, but again those people were absolutely amazing and that time they poured diesel to the full from their generator and they charged us the actual price of 0, 50 USD/liter. Moreover, manager of this petrol station asked me to follow him to his small shop and gave me two cold cans of coke. He didn’t want any money, it looked that he was pleased, because he could help us.
When we finally arrived to the Jordan border, everyone was sort of surprised seeing a van with the UK number plate and two independent travelers. Everyone was staring and saying to us: “Welcome to Syria”… It seemed that no one could realize that we had just driven through the country, I guess even we had problem in believing in that fact …