I wasn’t sure what to expect from my Syrian crossing. It was the first time I would have to use my Carnet (bike passport) and I didn’t have the mandatory visa. I figured the Carnet part would be easy, but I was a little worried about showing up at the Syrian border without a visa. All the guide books say you NEED a visa issued in your country, unless your country doesn’t have a Syrian Embassy, in which case you can get one in Ankara (Capital of Turkey which I didn’t visit). A number of overland travellers have reported that you can get a visa at the border if you’ve been out of your country for a long time and the border guys are in a good mood. In this happy case, the crossing takes 6-10 hours as they wait for permission from Damascus and such.
So, I arrived at the border, went through Turkish formalities without any problems and then hit the Syrian side and… It was a breeze! No visa? Spend 30 minutes carrying pieces of paper from one window to another getting insurance, bike stamp, pay your taxes, and voila! I was through in less than an hour all told. It was odd- almost deflating. I had made sandwiches, prepped my kitchen stuff to make a hot meal for later, had books ready- everything. And, nothing- I just went through without causing a ripple. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, but, well, you know- just, but.
Through customs and on the road, Syria was quite pleasant- olive groves line the road, with well monitored livestock munching on the roadside grass. Like most of the riding since I left Iraq, there really isn’t anything to report- straight roads of indifferent quality with drivers of dubious quality. The riding was fun, though I knew some big tests where ahead- my GPS maps for Syria showed about a half-dozen roads and my paper maps weren’t much better. This actually wasn’t an accident, it was a plan- of sorts. I needed to get used to riding without my GPS being able to whisper the answer in my ear; to get a feel for the roads and how they work in countries where the average person can’t read a map and road planning isn’t even a twinkle in its daddy’s eye.