Castles in the sky
Trip Start Oct 04, 2008
67Trip End Nov 04, 2008
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With Jim at the wheel and people hanging out of the door and the terrace, watching for low wires, cars and buildings we wound our way slowly up through the town to the amazement of the population who turned out to watch and applaud. Jim needed a couple of runs at one steep corner but we finally hit the summit. By now we had collected on the route the owner of the hotel we were aiming for. The lure of showers, food and soft beds was too much. The last little stretch of road saw JC fending off a low wire with a broom and helping it over the air vents in the roof. Jim was buzzing with the exhilaration by the time we arrived. Getting the bus to such a stupid location as this was no mean feat.
We left the following morning a few boxes and bags lighter as we donated some kit and crayons to the local school. Bill drove up the lane and to a chorus of "Whao, whao", which he ignored, drove straight in to an overhanging balcony. A superficial wound to the fibreglass and he became the 4th driver to come acropper. This could be another gaffer tape job as we threw away the fibreglass repair kit a few days ago. Damn !
Khalid, our castle guide spoke very good English. He said this was from spending many years in Australia. Its a huge building, apparently hauled up there as raw ingredients around the time of the crusades. They've done an impressive job there. Nice views over the surrounding valleys too. It was apparently big enough to house 4000 knights and peasants in its heyday. Khalid was actually born in the castle as it was used as accomodation by many before the French began restoring it. By midday we were back on the road, getting stuck in a narrow one way street in Homs on our way out to Palmyra. The relatively fertile coastal strip gave way to dry, arid scrubland and eventually proper desert with just about nothing growing. We passed military bases as we passed roadsigns to Iraq. We were less than 200km from the border.
Palmyra was a Roman town built on the Silk Road at an oasis. There are still many well preserved columns and buildings in yellow sandstone. The heat was sucking moisture out of me. It is so hot and dry you are unaware you are sweating.
I tried to fit in a brief internet session and food before sunset as we hoped to be at a temple on a hill to view it, but it wasn't to be. We missed the sunset and set off towards Jordan. Its a blistering pace but we were still somehow behind schedule. The plan was to drive through the night in to Jordan to the Dead Sea before moving on to Petra the same day.
We had a brief hiccup when the bus failed to start after refuelling. Somehow we had a flat battery. A helpful trucker with some leads got us going again and we were on our way to our next country.