The journey

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Wrexham, Wales, United Kingdom
For the past 5 years, me and my best friend Nathan have talked about the possibility of travelling around the world by land and sea, and so finally we have a route, savings and time to set off around the world. What we are doing is living out a dream, a dream we share with many people worldwide, a dream of travelling this vast, diverse, beautiful and interesting planet, but unlike the many others who keep it as a dream, we have the tenacity to make this dream a reality.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Days 15 & 16 - Syria

Day 15

We set out early yet again heading south through Turkey stopping off at the Underground City of Derinkuyu, which Nathan reckons is the best underground city he has ever been to. Only 10 percent of it is accessible to tourists, but it consists of connected caves and underground tunnels that have been carved out of the rock to create a settlement for a community of up to 50,000 people which includes dwellings, stables, cellars and even a chapel.

After Derinkuyu the plan was to get as far south in Turkey as possible so that we could cross the border early in Syria the next day. On our way south we noticed two problems with the Landrover. The first was a creaking coming from the transmission with vibrations when going uphill, and a liquid covering part of the engine. The liquid turned out to be diesel leaking from one of the injectors, which was easily solved by tightening a bolt on the injector intake. We had noticed we had been using quite a lot of diesel, and there was a strong smell of it in the Landrover, but we thought the smell was from when we filled up the jerry cans and also when a petrol station attendant enthusiastically filled the tank so far that it started pouring over the side.

The second problem we knew was the universal joints in the propeller shaft that knew would need replacing along the journey. We decided that the best thing to do was to find somewhere in Syria to fix it as Turkey is very expensive, and so we made a dash for the border and aimed to be in Aleppo before the prop-shaft dropped off.

The border was a nightmare. We changed all of our money into Syrian pounds, only for the Syrians only to accept US dollars. We managed to eventually get money changed and everything sorted and paid for within about 3 hours, and we hit the Syrian roads at night. These are by far the most crazy roads I have ever driven on. People drive with no lights on roads with no lane demarcation, past pedestrians standing in the road waiting for taxis in the pitch dark.

We made it to Aleppo and checked into a cheap hostel for the night. Also in the hostel were 3 other ‘overlanders’. We stayed up till early in the morning chatting about each others travels, drinking and eventually I got the guitars out for the first time on the trip and sang and played until the early morning.

Day 16

The Landrover needed fixing, and so with the help of Ali who worked in the hostel, we found a garage on the outskirts of Aleppo. We got into the garage pit to inspect the prop-shaft and found that we needed to replace 2 universal joints, but we only had one spare. The garage arranged for a second one to be brought, and after two hours observing the mechanic at work and fixing a few other small problems the Landrover was back to normal.

Whilst waiting for the parts we sat down drinking tea with the owner [also called Ali, who sends his regards to our parents in the UK: Salaam aleikum!] and inspecting the old universal joints which were completely worn away, but thankfully not so much so that the prop-shaft would have fallen off.

We spent the afternoon walking around Aleppo eating kebabs with random people in the streets greeting us in English as we passed. We still didn’t manage to get the laundry done, so Nathan has reverted to turning his pants inside-out so we can continue longer without needing a laundrette.

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