With their plans to reach Australia overland dashed, the adventure families set their compass for the south
RE-ENTERING TURKEY was simple and welcoming. “You may take off the head scarves now you are in a democracy. Would you like some tea?” These were the joyful words of the border guards – however tea was the last thing on our minds. After the paperwork was completed and the duty free was collected we headed for a beer at our Dutch friend’s camp not so far away. Returning to the camp we had left three months previously, we discussed our route again and planned on a quick stay, to clean the cars and reorganise the inside. It was also time for

by Richard Poskitt
Above left: A quiet place for breakfast in an extinct volcanic crater. Below: Back in Dogubayazit camp for the big clean up.

Pia and Milan to rid themselves of their stowaway passenger. During our stay in Iran a number of things had been eaten inside the back of their car, biscuits, sweets and a plastic container, toothpaste, asthma medicine and vitamins. The last straw was the water tank pipe. It had to be found and got rid of. It was going to be big and strong with healthy teeth but luckily for us it seemed to have a breathing problem. With everything out of both cars were felt reorganised and clean and rid of our new friend, even though we never did actually find

it. It was time for a service and to leave for the south eastern side of Turkey and onwards to Syria. We had reorganised our previous nightmare package to be resent to a DHL service point for pick up on the way, so we should not have the same problems as last time. We were almost all set to leave apart from one small problem. Just before entering Turkey we had discovered that the 130’s rear left drive member and halfshaft were worn out and in need of replacement. The parts were to take a few days to arrive so again we changed our plan. We decided to have a split for

a while. The Poskitt family would pick up the package and head down slowly south and the Poznic family would catch up before we all crossed to Syria. It was the first time we had travelled separately in five months.

Pia and Milan had met up with some Dutch friends returning home from India in their Series II ambulance conversion. They too had problems and we agreed to all meet up as soon as their cars were fixed.

Above left: The Crater Lake camp. Above right: Our Dutch friends and their ambulance.

Doomed by a reservoir project, the ancient Turkish city carved into the rock face is destined to become one of the most exciting diving destinations in the country.
The first stop for the Poskitts was the Nemrut crater, a non-active volcano which has a campsite at the Crater Lake. The most peaceful place we had visited in months. The Poskitts moved on towards Hasenkeif, an ancient city built into the rock face of a gorge. This place is to be flooded by the construction of a controversial

dam project scheduled to be finished in 2010. We felt for the people who would be relocated but also for this wonderful piece of history – soon to be the most interesting diving site in Turkey. Leaving Hasenkeif, the Poskitt family continued towards Nemrut Dag, the mountain of stone heads. We were still waiting for our package. The Poznic family and the Dutch couple had had their vehicles fixed and were following in our footsteps towards the volcano. We planned to meet at Nemrut Dag a day later as our last tourist visit in Turkey.



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LAND ROVER monthly February 2009 33


While enjoying the peace of the volcano, Milan heard a rattle in the tool draw. Cautiously he opened the drawer and it leaped out at him. The creature was still there! Happy that the free riding rat had finally run out of food and deserted them, the Poznic family hurried up to join us at Nemrut Dag. Nemrut Dag is almost 2,200 metres high and is home to fantastic sculptures of heads overlooking the surrounding country. The drive is steep and low gear is needed for the last 25 degree ascent to the summit. It was here that we discovered that our package was not going to be sent further than Istanbul. After much discussion with DHL once again we finally got the

It’s a long way to the top but the views are worth it.

package to be sent to a location 400km away from our original route. Irritated we decided to get it from the customs at the airport, refusing to have it returned back to Sweden a second time.

the happiest border

After four months and much hassle we received our long awaited package and were now off to Syria and onward to Africa! We had heard from other travellers that you could not get a Syrian visa at the border but there was no way we could apply in our home country so we decided to go for it and hope for the best. The border guards at the Syrian border were the happiest people we had ever seen. Their office was basic and broken but they worked

hard and had a good laugh. When asked about the visa we explained we did not have one. They took a look at the children and asked if we were going to go to Israel. We said no and the chief asked us to relax, enjoy some tea and he would sort it all out for us. Within two hours we had entered Syria – fastest visas ever! Other travellers were still waiting five hours for theirs. Sometimes it pays to bring the kids. We wanted to be in Syria for a maximum of two weeks as the cost of the diesel tax is high at US$100 per week. We headed for Palmyra, the ancient city with well kept ruins and a photographer’s dream. When we arrived we were following GPS coordinates given to us by a German we met in

Turkey. With no map we drove on small dirt tracks just inches away from the ruins and we thought this could not possibly be right. However, we came to a gate and, sure enough, ten metres away from one of the huge ruins was the camp. After a good evening walk around the site we relaxed, swam in the wonderful pool and checked the vehicles again as it was time to adjust the valves and clean up the filters – to come was the nightmare highway to Damascus. The road to Damascus is a double lane highway that you would expect to be able to drive fast and safe on between the cities. That is, in fact, not the case. You can drive fast but in actuality you have no idea if you

have two lanes on your side or not. Oncoming trucks and cars on either side in all directions kept our level of concentration high. Just in front of us on this road we witnessed a pick up overtake, swerve, hit the central reservation and fly metres in the air coming down with a massive bang. All this for us was in slow motion. We stopped immediately and checked the driver. He was OK. He had simply pulled out on the overtaking lane on our side of the road and did not see the heavily loaded truck heading straight toward him at speed. Luckily for him he was wearing a seat belt and walked, if unsteadily, from his flying machine (it was the first time since we entered Syria that we had seen someone using

Above left: The road to Iraq. Above right: The sun sets over Palmyra. Below: Looking across the Wadi Rum Desert.

a seat belt). He was put on the back of another pick up and presumably taken to hospital. We drove very carefully for the last stretch to Damascus, seeing numerous vehicles crashed and stuck on the central verge. This was not a place we enjoyed driving in.

my fridge is bigger

Damascus has been a key player in trade for centuries and it must be the influence of so many countries that gives the city its charm. It was a chance for us parents to have a night out each in the old town, wandering through the spice markets, being offered more carpets and any music and movie you could think of. It must be said also


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LAND ROVER monthly February 2009 35


that the food culture is impressive and after a number of months of similar, uninspired cuisine we relished the chance to adventure with new tastes in a peaceful, romantic environment. We stayed in a very European style camp site just north of the city. It was very popular with other overlanders and one such group from France kept us amused. Our introduction was straight forward enough: “Why do you drive a Land Cruiser then?” It turned out they had a Defender as well that they used for daily transport in Paris. We looked over each other’s equipment and discussed the pros and cons of it all in detail. One of them asked, in his Parisian accent “Why do you have such a small fridge? You are four people no, and you must starve no!”

Above left: Making a splash at a pool in Palmyra. Above right: Walking down the souk to the treasury in Petra. Main: Unexpected traffic. Below left: Kids having their life experience.

We were quite happy with our choice of fridge size and thought that we did not have the space for anything bigger. We asked what he had. We walked over to the rear of the Cruiser and he opened the boot. Oh my God! We were confronted with a 120-litre fridge

the border crossing was strict and time consuming, although very professional and polite. We had met a Swedish speaking Jordanian who informed us that if we were heading for Aqaba then we did not need a visa as it was a free zone, thus saving us 100 Euros. We followed his advice but

Aquaba is a modern town and home to the most expensive ferries in the region – there’s a fast one and a slow one, but who can tell which is which...?
full of white wine, fine French cheese, liver paté, and duck! That evening we sat apart eating our spaghetti with the smell of roasted duck filling our nostrils from a few metres away. Not jealous at all, we planned our entrance to Jordan. A few hours drive south we hit the border of Jordan. This time were told we had three days to register with the police in Aqaba. We wanted to see some of the sights on the way so it was going to be tight. First stop was the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth, about 540 metres below sea level. Swimming in it is a very short experience – the salt content is extremely high

and the slimy film that attaches itself to you is not enjoyable. And the feeling of floating in the water is just weird. We soon headed for the fabled city of Petra. There is nowhere to camp in Petra as the tourist industry abounds with luxury hotels and resorts all still trying to squeeze as much as possible out of the success of Indiana Jones. It is however an incredible place to visit. The walk down the souk to the treasury is magical, but not quite as magical as parking in the middle of the desert, setting up a camp and having a sunset with not a soul around. When we entered the desert of the Wadi Rum nature reserve we were amazed by the number of 4x4s waiting to pick up tourists, but surprisingly no Land Rovers. The entrance to the reserve is

just an abrupt end to the tarmac and then numerous sand tracks leading off into nowhere. It is just breathtakingly beautiful. It was a great test of the Land Rovers on deep sand ruts. With the tyre pressures lowered significantly and diff lock engaged we had no problems – a few tricky bits but the vehicles managed with all our weight excellently. After a night under the stars we headed for the coast and the ferry to take us to the African continent.

Above left: Richard climbing the desert rocks. Above right: Nappy change at sunset in the desert.

off to Africa...

Aqaba is a hectic yet modern town including McDonalds and Häagen-Daz ice-cream. It is also the home of great diving and the most expensive ferry around. There are two ferries, the slow one and the fast one. There is only two hours difference

between them but we chose the fast one as we did not want to travel overnight. We still don’t know if it was the fast one though. In any case the other side is the time consuming bit with reports of the border crossing taking up to eight hours to complete. We thought that we should spend a few days on the coast to regain some strength before entering Egypt. After a relaxing time on the coast we were ready to tackle Africa. Arriving at the port we went to the ticket office, parted with $700 and waited in the heat to board the ferry. It looked familiar and on closer inspection we discovered it was an old ferry that used to cross from Sweden to Estonia. Once loaded we headed on our two hour journey towards the Egyptian immigration authorities and hours of LRM stamping pieces of paper.

36 February 2009 LAND ROVER monthly

LAND ROVER monthly February 2009 37