Day 038 Syria : Antakya - Lake Jabool

Day 038 Syria

Trip Distance 211 km (131 m) Total Distance 6410 km (3984 m)
Diesel Costs S£20    
Entrance Fess      
Lake Jabool
Wild camping N36.08964 E37.48950 The view is beautiful although the water smells a little as it's brackish however definitely NOT recommended


We awoke to a glorious day, spoiled ourselves with the hotel breakfast and set off for the border crossing into Syria.  We were excited that we would at last be able to see some of the Middle East and had heard some really good reports about the country.  Unfortunately our experience wasn't going to be very positive but at this stage, we were completely unaware and so we were anticipating our stay.

The border crossing was very simple and we were through in less than 1 hour and on our way to Aleppo, our first stop.  We arrived in the city and what an amazing experience.  The traffic on the Istanbul outer ring road was mild in comparison to the chaos and noise of that in Aleppo.  Trevor had decided that we would do this blind - he has since decided "never again"!  We drove around the old and new city for about an hour, negotiating nerve-racking yellow cabs cutting us off, hooting madly at the slow moving land rover and trying to find somewhere safe to park. 

We came upon a massive intersection with a traffic cop directing traffic and thought we'd ask him.  He saw us stopping and kind of gathered we needed some help, so immediately stopped what he was doing and came over.  Our experience of most local people in Syria is that they are incredibly helpful and expect nothing in return.  Note, however, that the traffic cop stopped what he was doing ie directing traffic.  There was an immediate cacophony of screeching tyres, hooting and shouting as the intersection descended into uncontrolled chaos whilst the traffic cop ignored all of this to help us.  He couldn't speak a word of English and we no Arabic but with signs and a fantastic waving of arms he indicated the direction of the Sheraton Hotel (just around the corner as it happens) where there is secure and safe parking for S£50 (US$1) per hour and within striking distance of the town and the attractions.  We found it and parked up for a break.  The hotel kindly provided us with a map and off we went. 

The information centre, museum and old town souks are within striking distance and worth a visit if only for the chicken shwarma's (a cross between a doner, wrap and panini) filled with incredible fresh chicken and sauce.  We spoke to the Sheraton parking manager  when we got back but he wanted to charge us US$20 for an overnight stay.  As the parking doesn't actually belong to the Sheraton, that price was without any toilets or showers which we thought was a big rip-off so we decided to move on.  We have to say though if you want to spend more than 1 day in Aleppo, this might be worth the money.  Locals did say though that camping was allowed at the museum parking and that we wouldn't be bothered by anyone.  But as we didn't fancy hanging around we set off.  As "luck" would have it, just as we passed the museum parking we realised we had a flat tyre. We pulled over and got the compressor out so that we could see if we could get some air in just so that we could move onto a place to change the tyre.  On filling it, there was air pouring out somewhere.  Turns out that our rim had split.  Yup, the RIM.  So it was a tyre change in the middle of Aleppo.  Locals came crowding around to see if they could help.  Someone ran off and came back with a garage jack, up Sully went and the tyre was changed in a jiffy.  We offered money and cigarettes but all they would take were our thanks and we off. 

We finally left Aleppo after 4pm and just wanted somewhere to settle so we checked the map and Lonely Planet to find that there was a lake close by - Lake Jabool - which was also a natural wetland reserve, so we headed there so check it out for a wild camp.

We arrived to find local Bedouins camped around so we drove a little further to find a spot that was out of the wind, had a little privacy and some beautiful views.  We set Sully up and fired up the kelly kettle.  A while later as we sat drinking our tea, I with the laptop out updating the blog, watching the beautiful sunset, relaxing after a busy day and congratulating ourselves on finding such a fantastic camp, a local from Jabool drove by us on his motorbike with his 3 grandchildren.  He stopped for a chat, had some water and off he went.  We were to see him again the next day, without his grandchildren and in a very different mood.  We went to bed after supper and prepared for a lie in the next day.

#1 trevorb on 6.13.2009 at 9:53 PM

No-one left a comment....well I have to! Gripping reading....glad it all worked out in the end but what a horrible day. TrevorB