Crossing into Syria

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.

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