The no-man's land from Lebanon to Syria was equally as brutal (with an extra 200 meters of climbing), my legs were feeling it but luckily the Syrian border was only about 10 km away. I arrived at the border at about 4:30 pm, thinking that since I had previously waited 3.5 hours for approval from Damascus at the Turkey-Syrian border, they would just issue me another visa sans hassle (after all, I received approval only about a week before). But no....each entry requires unique approval from Damascus and two omelets, three overprices chai's and about 5 Seinfeld episodes later, the sweet Syrian ink touched my passport and I was officially back in Syria. This was at about 10:30 pm. It was pitch black and surprisingly cold, I cycled about 8 km before finding a place for my tent on the side of a rocky hill. This was about 1 am. I slept extremely hard as this was the most vertical elevation I've climbed in a single day this entire trip! There's also this unnerving feeling when sleeping this close to borders, especially when it's classified by our former President as a rogue state.
The next day I arrived at the ancient and charming city of Damascus. I ended up staying with some British students who were studying Arabic and living in a huge flat near the old city. This was my first experience with Couchsurfing.org and I must say, it was quite positive. Their place was in a great location, just above a never ending fruit and vegetable market, away from all tourists except yours truly. The locals were extremely nice and after asking where I was from, would almost always reply with a warm 'Welcome to Syria'. The cost of living is extremely cheap in Syria, I've practically been living on 25 cent falafel sandwiches, 20 cent plates of hummus, $1 kebab (shawrma) and fresh juice.
I'm practically running on these fried chickpea circles with cumin spice
The 24 hour market below the flat
After 3 days in Damascus ('Sham' in Arabic) I headed towards Dar'a, the border town between Syria and Jordan. I absolutely flew through that flat stretch (125 km before lunch!). The next day I said my final farewell to Syria, changed my money from Syrian pounds into Jordanian dinars and once again payed my exit tax to Syria. That same day I reached the fabulously preserved and restored Roman city of Jerash, with ruins dating back to 100 AD! Here's what I found.
These are the original stones that paved this area
You could still see chariot tire ruts in the stone
Just as the sun was setting the rain started to fall. There was a small hotel just near the ruins but after the owner quoted me and another traveler a ridiculous price for the simplest of rooms, I was back on my bike, cycling in the rain and pitch dark. I ended up sleeping in yet another partially built gas station.....this time I shared the floor with a younger (<75 yr old) Egyptian man who worked on and guarded the place.
Gas stations have been good to me
I'm currently in Amman (the capital of Jordan), where I'll ditch my bike for a few days and take a side trip to Israel (Jerusalem, Bethlehem, etc). I was also hit by my first Jordanian rock today, which feels a lot like being hit with a Kyrgyz rock, Pakistanie rocks stung a little more (Pakistanies are crazy about cricket). I've also been hit by Syrian rocks and Indian rocks, although the suspects were typically under 8.