New Land

Posted: October 20th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Life & Travels, Route | 3 Comments »

It’s been a while since I last updated you on our journey. It’s not that we’ve not been traveling, more so that we were having so many impressions meeting people and seeing places that the writing had to go back in line several times. It might continue so for a while, but for now here’s a short update what we’ve been up to.

After the St. Paul’s Trail we rested for almost a month in Antalya. We rented motorcycles and rode east to Kas to go to Mais, a Greek island where we could renew our visas, since they were only valid for 3 months. A few days after returning to the home base in Antalya Phil told us his plans to go on alone. It was a sad parting but all felt that it was also good and that we’ll see each other again hopefully sooner than later. With Phil gone, also a new chapter of traveling for me and Chrystal started, until now we walked as a team of three, now it would be only two.

From Antalya we walked and hitch hiked along the coast down to Antakya, the ancient Antioch. The time in that city will be unforgettable. A catholic sister founded a house of peace there with the aim to support inter religious dialogue. The house has become somewhat of a hub for spiritual travelers of any kinds. During our stay there, we met many incredible people including two independent pilgrims that are also walking to Jerusalem.

From Chrystal:
Then from Antakya to Syria, finally a new country. We waited 5 hours at the border and got the visas! But they took all the money we had! 75 dollars. we decided to take the challenge and go without money, the next bank was a three days walk away or an hour or two drive. We turned down offers for rides, but took offers for food and places to sleep. There are not near as many little hotels here as in Turkey. It is much different here in Syria than in Turkey. So for three days and two nights we ate fruit from the pomegranate trees, mandarin trees, apple trees, and asked for water along the way. People cooked meals for us and one family gave us their bed, where the parents slept, and the family of 6 slept on the floor! We are contemplating going the whole way without money! But we got a hotel here in the city, two nights bad sleep, one on the concrete floor with mosquitoes as our intimate companions, made the hotel irresistible (we searched for a monastery without luck), we slept 12 hours without waking once in a room facing the loud center street.

Do not worry, yes this all sounds maybe crazy but we have been very safe. We have to be most careful walking along the road, as the cars pass each other very fast. We had some very long days, walking 40 kms (25 miles!) one day. I have learned my limits now. We like walking 25 kms, or 16 miles, and 30 k or 19 miles is OK, anything over that and blisters start forming, and the legs ache so bad each step goes by with awareness, no daydreaming. Also the weather is hot here, well humid on the coast and unlike turkey the roads are blacktop, so harder on the feet. Oh and the most fun news, we were inspired by the nun, who we met in Antioch, as she walked the whole way from turkey to Jerusalem by foot in 45 days with resting days. And also by two foot pilgrims who have been walking, one two years and the other 7 months, only walking! so we are trying, unless emergency to only walk. We also figure we will be in Jerusalem, now in around 45 days. Each family we stayed with told us to come back and please stay longer. They are so kind an hospitable, and they have so little. One family gave us a can of tuna they had and they ate only rice and yogurt. I need to sit down and write for myself a bit, my head is absolutely spinning and I have had no time to process the last 5 days. We feel ashamed of our flashy backpacks and high-tech sleeping bags and saying we have no money. So we are unsure what we want to do, we are thinking about it today. We just saw a side of Syria and traveling we know we would never have seen if we had money or took car rides. While just being here to some is crazy, when you have a livable amount of money and securities like transportation, you determine so much of how life goes.

One man was drilling us from the first minute we met him about how much money we have and how much money we will get from the bank and it felt so intrusive, I kept saying no I have minus money, debt, and trying to avoid saying how much Lukes account has on it (Syrian lira is 50 lira=1 dollar) and then we realized he has never seen a bank card or a visa card and he only wanted to know how it worked. He was the whole time asking how much it costs to purchase the card itself, not how much money we had. That was so amazing to realize, they are not at all begging for money and rather they refused anything we offered. One student showed us around the city, and he was so helpful, we assumed he was along for what he could get out of us (this happened many times in Turkey), but he secretly paid our meal, fresh falafel, mmm, and bought us ice cream! Syria welcomed us with a new level of hospitality.

3 Comments on “New Land”

  1. 1 Dan said at 5:58 pm on October 20th, 2009:

    Thanks for the update! I’ve missed you both very much this week… So are you in Lathqiyah now? I’ve been there before, but I don’t remember much. Much love from this corner of the world, -dan

  2. 2 Becky (Rhoads) Schick said at 7:01 pm on October 22nd, 2009:

    Hey, Chrystal! Just happened upon your blog (via FB, i think). Looks like you are having a tremendous time! Soak it all in. Thanks for posting the map of your travels. When did you begin back in Switzerland? Are you taking fotos? Enjoy!

  3. 3 seraina said at 2:03 pm on October 25th, 2009:

    It is so good to read from you! Thanks for sharing… We miss you both here in Switzerland!
    Have a good october!

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