Day 396: The Slow Boat to Cyprus

31.01.10: It was one of those mornings upon which it's far too cold, gravity seems to conspire against you and the snooze alarm makes it far, far too tempting... all too easy... to fall... back zzzzzzzzzzzz. BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEEEEEEP BEEP BE BEEP!! Groan. Okay okay! I'm getting up! After a decent shower, I headed out to get the daily fast ferry to Cyprus, Nation 142 on my list. Suddenly stuck by a crisis of confidence – the boat didn't leave from Silifke itself, it left from the nearby town of Tasucu. How nearby? Well, I had absolutely no idea, did I? So instead of doing the sensible thing and taking the bus, I did the stupid thing and took a taxi. In the event, it was only ten minutes down the road, but in my not-quite-wiped-the-sleep-from-my-eyes state, I forgot to remember the golden rule: all…

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Day 395: The Silopi Slope

30.01.10: I had checked in to a local hotel in Silopi, sharing a room with a few other guys to get the price down to $10 (which was pretty extortionate if I stopped to think about it). I worried that I had mucked up the time difference between Iraq and Turkey and would find that my bus to Silifke had left half an hour ago, but that didn't entice me to rush and I squeezed every last bit of sleep out of the situation that Chronos would allow. The bus station was just across the road. I wanted a seat on the 8pm bus to Silifke, the town from which I could get the boat to Cyprus and therefore tick off that last remaining country on my list of European Nations. However, the bus was sold out and so I found myself hanging around for a…

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Day 394: Chav and Chav-Nots

29.01.10: You know what though – all these dangerous places I've been to, I haven't seen one gang of horrible teenage lads hanging around on a street corner with their hoods up threatening passers-by for no better reason than they're too stupid to think of anything else to do. (Plus nobody stops them.) When I lived in Orrell Park in Liverpool, I wouldn't let them interfere with my wish to go to the shops at night, but even I had to admit that their presence made me much more anxious (in terms of fearing of injury or death) than my time in Lagos, Kinshasa, Johannesburg, Nairobi and Iraq put together. So next time somebody tells you not to go to such-and-such dangerous place, might I suggest you take them by the arm and go for a stroll to your go see your friendly neighbourhood scallies hanging…

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Day 392: Drunk… with an AK-47

27.01.10: Londa hails from a place called Colorado in a little out-of-the-way country called America not far from Comoros, Sao Tome and Djibouti. She's been living in Iraq now for more than six months and seems to quite like the place. I guess it makes a change from fast food, big fat fatty fat fats and weird ball games that nobody else in the world plays. She's working in the school here in German Village, as (seemingly) are most of the people who live in these apartments. Funnily enough, I'm not Londa's only CouchSurfer; she's also hosting a lovely girl from Amsterdam named Felia, who is interviewing ethnic Kurds for a ‘Uni’ project. Today, I went out for a walk around the town, got my beard trimmed and stuffed my face with kebab (the only food seemingly available round these parts). If I can just make…

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Day 391: The Invasion of Iraq

26.01.10: I blame Lonely Planet. The nearest town to the border of Iraq according to my guide book is a place called Sirnak, the real closest town is called Silopi. If I had known this in advance, I could have got off my bus in Silopi instead of foolishly staying on it until Sirnak. This meant I had to backtrack somewhat. Yesterday when I asked for a ticket to Sirnak, a Turkish man said to me “why do you want to go there? It's very dangerous... [gestures firing a machine gun] Best you go to Cappadocia.” Cappadocia's fairy-chimney charms aside, this remark annoyed me more than scared me – it's no secret that the Turks aren't particularly enamoured with the Kurdish people that live in the border regions of Turkey, Iraq and Iran. Irritating buggers who have their own fancy language and customs – how dare…

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Day 390: The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch

25.01.10: It was the wee small hours when we pulled into Aleppo in the top left corner of Syria. Not one to stand on ceremony and after last night's jiggery-pokery I couldn't get out of the place fast enough and soon I was over the border and doing a little victory dance in my 140th country of this damn fool idealistic crusade. Although I hear 'crusade' isn't too much of a buzz word around these parts. So I found myself in Antakya, Turkey. In times long past, it was known as Antioch, which observant members of my congregation will remember from the 1st epistle of St. Graham (Chapman). Talking of Holy Grails, Antakya is not far from Iskenderun, which used to be known as Alexandretta. Those who have been studying the history of archaeology (well, watched the Indiana Jones movies) will know that Alexandretta is where…

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Day 389: A Blizzard In Beirut

24.01.10: Before you could say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, I was on the coach heading to the Lebanese border. Again, Lebanon has a bit of a bad rap when it comes to popular opinion. I'm of the age when an untidy bedroom would be described as 'looking like Beirut'. It's a sad (and yet achingly familiar) tale of three peaceful religions sporadically showing the world just how peaceful they are by brutally murdering each other. Lebanon's civil war raged for over a decade, and Israel is more than happy to test out its swanky new rockets and helicopter gunships every now and again at the first sign of trouble. Lebanon therefore finds itself between a rock and a hard place, which makes it all the more remarkable that it still manages to be an attractive and inviting place to visit. It's like a hardened guerilla fighter who can also…

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Day 388: The Road To Damascus

23.01.10: Jordan was awesome. I really felt as if I had finally left Africa behind me and was back on the backpacker trail, rather than the backbreaker trial. I was in no hurry to get to Damascus, so after a fairly lazy morning, Abby and I walked to town (it was a nice day, why not?) and then we went to visit the oldest townhouse in Amman. Abby is friends with the caretaker and before I knew it we were being plied with free cups of tea, a delightful experience for a tea-loving Brit like myself and one which I hope will continue throughout the Middle-East. Around midday, I finally prised myself free of Amman's seductive grip and, after saying my good-bye-byes to Abby, I was in a service taxi to the border. Would I get a visa? I still didn't know. I had had my…

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Day 387: CouchSurf United

22.01.10: Up early and back to into Jordan, no probs. I really should have left Amman for Damascus this morning, but by the time I had got myself together, it was already 2pm. I still don't know if I can actually get a visa for Syria on the border (Marc was wrong about Siwa...!) and I don't fancy being stranded at the frontier for the night, so I gave my Couchsurf contact Simon a call and asked if he fancied meeting up. He told me that there was some sort of CouchSurfing event taking place and that I really should go to it. Not being one to turn down a party, I took him up on his offer. Syria would just have to wait. So I whiled away a few hours writing up my blog and eating tasty kebabs and that evening, I headed over to…

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