Travels With Nate #15: Deir e Zur – Abu-Kamal – Aleppo

Deir e Zur – Abu-Kamal – Aleppo

November 6th

Deir e Zur, Pick-ups, Abu-Kamal, Drinking, Iraq, Jail, Drinking, Pickups, 3-Wheeled Motorcycles, a Mini Van, Aleppo…

My god Nate and I have been busy! The last few days have just gone all funny indeed. We have decided we never want to leave Syria. I just haven’t figured out how to get another visa yet. (Nate could stay forever since stuffed monkeys have no need for visas.)

We left out packs at the hotel and just took our day packs and some food with us. We had no idea how long it would take to go the 100 miles (161 km) to the Iraqi border by hitching so we thought we should all travel light and bring some type of lunch.. We left the hotel early but were unable to leave the town in a timely manner. It took us forever to walk down the street since everyone wants to say hi, chat, and have a cup of tea with ya! Oh well, it’s all good fun.

We managed to get some rides out of town about noon, and before we knew it we were kicking it in the desert waiting for someone to pop by. After about 15 minutes a truck pulls over and motions for us to hop in the back. We followed the driver’s command and’ lo and behold, the truck is full of pillows! I’m not kidding at all, the truck was hauling pillows and there must have been thousands of them – not bad stuff at all!

Unfortunately the guy was only going about half way there and all too soon we had to jump off (Nate really hopes that we will be able to find another pillow truck! For once I totally agree!). We soon got in another rig, and they dropped us off in town. The whole thing only took a couple of hours, and we went into the market to hopefully meet some people and get invited to dinner or, even better, to spend the night! (I know it’s kinda silly, but we really wanted to live with a family for the night.)

It took all of an hour before we were getting invited by a very nice man by the name of Wallid to come to his house and meet the family. We tottled off after him and soon arrived at a modest block of apartments. We came inside and were greeted like long-lost relatives. It was wonderful. Wallid’s wife Ali and their three children were charming, and soon after we sat down tea and fresh fruit appeared. We gingerly ate and chatted to the family.

Well, it was getting to be about 8pm, and Wallid had invited us to dinner with some of his friends. We took the invitation (even though we were not asked but more like required to go). When we arrived, we were blown away. The dinner setting was an old outside restaurant that some friend owned. The place was closed for the winter, and they convinced him to open up so they could have a private party. So when we arrived there was a great big table laden with food. Big pizza ovens were alight to provide warmth, and there were candles everywhere. They also had purchased arak (The local version of ouzo, and some beers). So the night was spent chatting, singing, eating, and drinking. Wallid’s friends are awesome, and it really made me miss my group of buddies back home. They have all been best friends for years and years, and spend at least one night a week just kicking it! About 2am we went back to one of the guy’s house to drink coffee, dance and then finally go to sleep. We didn’t get to bed down at Wallid’s until very very late!

The next morning Wallid and a retired English teacher we met earlier in the previous day arranged for us to go to the Iraqi border. So we went. It was all very hush-hush, and with some convincing they let the border police allow us to go to about 50 feet or so inside the Border!

We took some pics and all smiled lots, and then things started to get a little shacky. The Iraqi police showed up and started asking why the whites were here and why are they taking pictures. Wallid handled thing really well, and put us back on a truck and we booked out. So we did it: we saw Iraq and were almost detained by the police! And to think Nate thought there would be problems.

We went back into town and started going through the market to buy stuff to make lunch. Ali really wanted to cook us a nice meal and demanded that we stay one more night so she could do this. We agreed, and she pranced around the house all morning…

Before lunch could happen though, the police detained us. They wanted to question us about the Iraqi border and why we had gone. I tell you, the Syrian police are so nice. We drank tea, they offered to buy us lunch, and they gave us all more smokes than we could ever want to have! All in all kicking it with the police was more fun than going to the border. So after a couple of hours we were apologized to – for everything taking so long (they have a lot of paperwork they have to do) and told to enjoy our lunch.

Lunch was great, and Ali was beaming as we all stuffed our plates. The kids got home from school, and I degenerated into a 5-year-old and ran around the house tickling them and just being stupid. Wallid’s little son decided I was going to be his big brother (he has always wanted one), and he followed me wherever I went. Cool stuff.. He is a cute kid, even though we can’t talk to each other! So I just pulled faces and he giggled a lot. We all bedded down for a nap and chilled for a while. With everything that was going on we need to just stop and relax.

We awoke to laughing in the other room. Bleary-eyed we wandered in to discover the boys (Wallid and his buddies) all kicking it and waiting for us to get our lazy butts up! They had planned a special treat for us tonight (I know, we are all starting to feel a little bad about how nice they are being to us). About 5 years ago the boys built a Jamaican-style beach hut out in the desert, and tonight that is where we were headed. Again the night was spent eating, chatting, and drinking some homemade wine they had been saving for the new year. These people are so cool. I just wonder if I would have gone to all this trouble if a foreigner had showed up in Seattle. I hate to say this, but I really really doubt it.

The evening was a hit, and all too soon we had to say good-bye. We bedded down at Wallid’s house for the last time. After waking we left bright and early to hitchhike back. Saying good-bye to such wonderful people is truly horrible, and I think we would all have like to stayed. But visas are running out, and I have to get to Thailand soon. So off we went.

Soon we managed to hop on some trucks and begin the trip to Deir e Zur. During our travels we managed to get a ride on a homemade motorbike pickup thingy. It was really cool and the driver and his mates put the contraption into high gear and we zoomed off into the distance. The ride was fun, but thank god he stopped and dropped us off after about 10 minutes. I don’t think it’s all too safe and stuff! We said good-bye and waited for our next ride, which was the best yet. Two young guys in a mini-van going on a road trip around Syria! Cool, sounds like something I would do with my mates too! We headed out and soon were all chatting away. They bought us munchies and even let me drive. I drove all the way into Dier e Zur, and we stopped and wished them well. Like with everyone the last couple of days we attempted to give them some money for their troubles, but again they wouldn’t take it. We have not been able to pay for a thing here. Wow… It’s going to take a while to let all of this sink in.

We picked up our packs and hopped on the next bus to Aleppo. Six hours later we arrived and crashed out. Done, done, done… Nate and I are headed for a shower now, and to sleep forever…

PS: If you have any questions about places I’ve been or am going feel free to e-mail me at complexfire@hotmail.com

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