Into the wild again
19.08.2009 - 20.08.2009
From Homs we decided to head into the desert, into the wilds of Eastern Syria, away from civilization, away from the crowds. So we got a minibus to an unknown town eastwards, accompanied by looks that said 'why the hell are you going there' (exactly what we were looking for), we got out onto the main highway east and stuck out our arms.
It wasn't long before a tucker picked us up for a small distance until he had to turn off, leaving us under a motorway bridge, conveniently shaded from the baking sun. A few minutes later a man in a yellow fiat picked us up, and we raced into the desert. Little did we know this man, Abu Ahmad, was a complete nutter, drinking 13% strength beer (although he insisted he'd quit for ramadan), driving at 140 kmph and racing his friends that drove coaches, bringing us close to death more than once. He would spray himself with cologne to mask the heavy stench of alcohol in case the police stopped him, and asked me to take responsibility for the can if we were stopped. Eventually we got out of the car on a turn off in the middle of nowhere, and he started demanding ludicrous sums of money. We flat out refused, and the yellow fiat raced off into the distance.
This turn off we'd got to led to a place called Ar-Rasafeh, an old roman town that was heavily fortified as it was a defense post against the Persians, as well as a stopping point for caravans on the silk road. It is walled collection of ruins in the middle of the scorching desert, miles away from anything. To get there we had to wait for over an hour at a little truck stop 2km from the turn off, having been given tea by some locals, just waiting for any kind of vehicle to be going our way. Eventually a pick up obliged an we hopped on the back and went down an empty dusty road, amidst a completely empty, beige sun baked landscape.
Ar-Rasafeh was worth it though. Lonely and isolated, the church and a few building are still in okay condition. The Cisterns were by far the most impressive thing there though, massive underground vaults, with shafts of sunlight breaking through like lasers from holes above. We were alone for much of the time, until 2 robed Arabs mysteriously turned up, took some photos with us and promptly disappeared into the desert.
Then we got onto the road nearby that led to some sort of inhabited area and stuck our arms out again, throwing ourselves onto the winds of chance. Fortunately, we were soon picked up, and this began our 2 day Syrian Pharmacist adventure... (more to come)