Rrustan to Qalat Al-Hosn
Distance: 65 km
Time elapsed: 3:58:00
Average speed: 50.8 km/ hr
Max speed: 17.2 km/ hr
Temp: 20.5 C (night)
Weather: Warm by day, cool by night
We woke early with the sun, plugged in the radio, and in proper Syrian fashion listened to the morning melodies of Faruz, the infamous Lebanese singer. Between 6:30 and 8:00 am her voice can be heard from every Syrian house...
Chris and Isa outside his summer home
Isa returned as promised and drove us back to his house in town where we shared an Eid breakfast with 3 generations of family on the front porch. Little girls dolled-up in fancy shawls and shiny purses came by, asking for Eid coins.
Sharing Eid breakfast with Isa's family
As we left town one of Isa's sons took us (ie. guided on his motorbike) to his friend's house and invited us to watch them slaughter a cow. Chris stayed but I politely and swiftly escaped, walking down the street and trying not to hear the cow's bellows. I'm totally fine with people doing their thing, following centuries-old traditions, and killing animals humanely for the consumption of the meat-- but completely unwilling to watch the slaughter, not even for so-called anthropological observation or a Lonely Planet sidebox.
Moving on we biked the parallel road, a little taken aback by the extreme desolation and very not jamil surroundings (read: pretty ugly and full of trash). The road is almost completely empty of (what we consider usual) food stalls, markets, even gas stations, and the few that do exist are shut up and appear abandoned, though I suspect that is because of Eid.
Tree lined highway south
Is that SNOW?? nope, just a pool of chalk
Turning west near Homs, bypassing the city and following the ring road around to a highway skirting the Lebanese border, we continued toward Qalat Al-Hosn. Closer to the citadel's turnoff, the still-smooth highway slopes downhill, allowing us to coast several km into the sunset.
Luckily the water never stops flowing at the mopsques
Al-Hosn, otherwise known as Krak de Chevalier, is a large crusader castle, still mostly intact. Syria has many crusader castles, however Al-Hosn was made most famous by Lawrence of Arabia's memoirs.
We took a short break at an abandoned roadside snack stand (literally everything is closed today for Eid, giving the impression that the country has been abandoned) before beginning the long, steep, uphill climb to the citadel. By now I was overly exhausted and not at all happy to drag my bike up 6.5 km at a 45* incline. I mean steep!
About half way up I couldn't handle any more and flagged down a passing truck, who happily drove us up through a congested town and dropped us at the citadel.
Moonrise under the arches at Al-Hosn
Just as the sun disappeared, Chris and I were the lone diners on the patio of Panorama restaurant. Overlooking the castle, Chris ordered himself chicken and we shared hummus and tortilla, then we set up our camp spot along the outer castle walls. Nights aren't too cold here yet, al-hamdulilah! (thank god)- but there is nothing to do once the sun is gone, so we went to sleep early. Like 6:30. That's got to be a record...