Jordan » Israel » Palestine » Syria » Lebanon » Turkey
3,900 kilometers February & March 2009
We entered Jordan at the port city of Aqaba and then began steadily climbing towards the King's Highway to visit the ancient ruins of Petra. Lots of tough climbs left our leg's weary and stone throwing boys left our nerves frazzled.
Fortunately, relief came in the form of easy cycling along the scenic Dead Sea Highway. We crossed into Israel and the Palestinian Territories at King Hussein Bridge. The border crossing procedures were long and drawn out, but eventually we were able to enter Israel without a stamp in our passports. From 400 meters below sea level we cycled up to Jerusalem at 800 meters, a tough climb which started late in the afternoon and dragged on well into the evening. After a few days playing tourist and soaking up the atmosphere, we returned to Jordan, taking a back route to the border which passed through Palestinian territory and the ancient city of Jericho. This time the border crossing procedures were much swifter and we were able to leave Israel without an exit stamp and re-enter Jordan without problem and cycle north towards Syria.
We were slightly nervous about the Syria border crossing, because if there is evidence of having visited Israel travelers are barred from entering the country. The immigration officer behind the counter at the border crossing near was suspicious of a sticky substance on the back of our passports and proclaimed, "This is from Tel Aviv!'. Of course, we vehemently denied the accusation. It was true. The Israelis had put some sort of sticker on the back of the passport to claim luggage after a security check. We got our Syrian visas in the end, although this was thanks to the kindness of the immigration official. Syria greeted us with rain. And lots of it. We made our way to the beautiful and lively city of Damascus, spent a few days there seeing the sights and roaming the souqs before heading on towards Lebanon.
On the pass between the two countries, we encountered the worst weather of the entire trip. A snowstorm hit and we were stranded at the mosque next to the duty-free shop. Our original plan was to visit the ruins at Baalbec, but the weather dissuaded us from spending time in the mountains. Instead, we swooped down to the Mediterranean coast and spent a week in Beirut drying out and warming up at the home of our Hospitality Club hosts. We followed the old coastal road north, stopped off at the ruins at Byblos, and enjoyed an afternoon wandering around Tripoli before crossing back into Syria at the Kalakh crossing. Off the main road, the countryside is beautiful, the hospitality couldn't be warmer and we loved riding through the small villages. We arrived at Crac des Chevaliers in a downpour and the rains hardly let up the entire time we were in Syria. After visiting the ruins at Apamea and the Dead Cities we made it to
We arrived at Crac des Chevaliers in a downpour and the rains hardly let up the entire time we were in Syria. After visiting the ruins at Apamea and the Dead Cities we made it to Allepo. From there we took a detour to visit the monastery at Saint Simeon and finally crossed into Turkey at Bab al Hawa.
Turkey is a huge country with much to see, but cool stormy weather and time constraints dictated that we stay as far south as possible and avoid high mountains. Through the Hatay we headed towards Iskenderoun then on to Adana and Mersin slowly making our way to Antalya. The quiet road between Silifke and Gazipasa winds and climbs its way along the coast and offers some fantastic riding through beautiful pine forests. We loved this stretch of road, although I imagine things get quite busy during the summer months.
Mass tourism blights the coast between Alanya and Antalya and the whole strip is just a succession of beach hotels and restaurants with a scattering of petrol stations. At least the road is flat.
From Antalya, we headed inland over some high, snow-capped mountains to Denizli, famous for the nearby ruins at Pamukkale. We decided to take some backroads and got stuck in the mud, which brought back memories of all the bad roads in Africa. From Akhisar we headed towards Bergama, yet another famous archaeological site. Our map showed a scenic route passing through the villages of Kozak and Demeridere before reaching the coast. We decided to take it and our efforts were rewarded with spectacular mountain scenery and quaint villages.
We continued along the North Aegean coast passing through Edremit and continuing directly along the coast after Kucukkuyu, where the main road heads inland. This wonderfully rural stretch of road passes through tiny villages and groves of olive trees, with fantastic views of the sea. From the picturesque village of Assos, we continued along the scenic road passing through Korubasi , Gulpinar, Geyekli and Kumburun until we rejoined the main highway at Akpacinar. The riding was excellent, although a lot of work with many hills and strong winds. From Canakkale we crossed into Europe and continued along the coast and then inland to the border at Edirne.