I was sweating, but it wasn’t because I was wearing a pair of woollen socks given to me by a friend’s mother, motorcycle socks, thick thermal-ish tights from Turkey, pants, knee protectors, motorcycle pants, motorcycle boots, a bra, merino top, merino jersey, one pink jacket given to me in Iran, amour jacket, black water/wind proof jacket, motorcycle jacket and the warmest/ wind proof buff (please note – i had taken off my woollen gloves and my motorcycle summer gloves and in my bag was a pair of yellow rubber gloves for rainy days and my warm three fingered over glove that a friend gave me were stashed in front of my Speedo).
No it wasn’t all of these combined that was making me sweat in the 13 deg temperature at the Turkey-Syria border. It was the fact all of my equipment was laid out on the road for everyone to see, and amongst my gear were one laptop and one camera they were trying to find.
Where, you might ask, would one girl hide a laptop and a camera on a motorcycle with everything on the ground in front of five burly border guards, curious about my bag of tampons and my underpants. I had cleverly hid my camera body in with my sockmonkey making stuff, so it just looked like a bag of brightly coloured socks. My laptop was awkwardly stashed in my motorcycle jacket pocket normally reserved for a protection plate for my back. One guards even asked me, what is that on your back? I calmly showed him my back protection and he gobbled up the lie with ease and told me to go and pay for my visa.
After three hours at the border I was given a police escort who helped me change my Turkish money into Syrian (I didn’t want to jinxs myself by doing it in Turkey) and I was taken to a hotel in the next town. However, along the way, I heard a clink and was lucky to see in my rear vision mirror my rear sprocket I had so clearly zip tied to the inside of my pannier frame, rolling down the street in the opposite direction. Wow, I thought to myself that only lasted 86 kilometres not the 20,000km I was expecting! I turned around and picked it up. As I was working out how to carry it for the next 20 kilometres, the armed escort arrived looking worried. I pointed to my sprocket which was still in my hand and to where I was storing it… and they just took it off me and tucked it under my new cargo net I brought on impulse in Istanbul. I’m starting to love this net!
I was almost asleep in my expensive room in the hotel my police escort made me stay at, when I heard a knock at the door. Opening the door, I found the hotel receptionist standing there. “Can I come in and talk to you?”. I look in my room and back at him and said “No, you cannot, ask me what you want here at the door”. He refused to and asked once again. Again I said “NO” and impolitely shut the door on his face. What is with hotel owners and workers thinking I’m available to anyone? Is this how they treat all tourists? A call came through my hotel room “I’m sorry miss” I replied “ok, but you do not enter a room of a lone girl” and hung up.
I was escorted out of the township, and released as soon as I was on the road towards Homs. For some reason they wouldn’t let me travel through the desert like I had planned with the border guards. It didn’t make any difference to me which direction I went in, I just thought maybe I could visit something along the way, but instead I went from one check point to another. They always asked ‘Do you have a camera?” I shake my head “A phone?” I showed them my old colour Nokia phone, they laughed and said “Welcome to Syria!” Now it was time for me to laugh – what a welcome.
I drove south, heading to Jordan. Just past Damascus it started to get dark, 60 kilometres from the border. I pulled over behind a mound of dirt, pitched my tent and with no food I just went to sleep to the sounds of traffic and a dog circling my ten,t barking all night. I woke shivering and prepared myself for yet another border crossing, hoping it wasn’t at all like the last.
ps. I wasn’t allowed to take any photos hence why I thought I would add a couple of drawings in to show you what I saw in Syria