22-Jun-2008 -- At the time of this visit, I was driving from Yemen, where I'd been working for three years, to France in order to take up a new job in Lille.
After a great time in the eastern desert of Jordan, where I visited 32N 37E near the Usaykhim Roman fort, I crossed into Syria and met up with my old friend Polly. We'd previously visited a couple of Confluences in Yemen together, and were keen to bag a CP 'first' in Syria, whilst travelling around this remarkable country. Quite a few CPs remained to be visited in Syria, and we settled on 34N 38E as being the most practical for our trip. We were driving from Damascus to Palmyra (Tadmur) to see the extensive Roman site there, and this Confluence lay just 12 km off an asphalt road in this area.
The journey went well. About 150 km NE of Damascus the road branches - one way goes to Palmyra and the other to the Iraqi border. Further up the Palmyra road, one can turn right onto another road that eventually links up with the Iraq road. This forms a sort of 'road triangle', and it is therefore possible to approach the Confluence from either the West or the East. We opted for the former.
At about 12 km from the CP, we went off-road, where a series of pistes and tracks took us quickly to about 4 km from the point. Then things get a bit more complicated, as it is necessary to cross a couple of dry wādiy beds and circumnavigate a hill covered in tire-ripping black basalt stones. At first, I foolishly tried to drive over this horrible surface, but soon gave up and took the less direct - but eminantly more sensible - route. After a bit of trial and error we were able to drive to just 40 m from the point, and amble the rest of the way on foot.
34N 38E itself is typical of the surrounding gravel/basalt desert. A few hills can be seen to the North and East, and our parked Landy to the West. There are no signs of habitation, although a few Bedu tracks can be seen in various locations. We lingered long enough for Pol to be silly on top of the Land Rover, and then went back to the main road by (as always) a more direct route. One can't get too lost here, as the main road is flanked by a line of electricity pylons that can be just about seen from the point itself.
We spent the evening at Palmyra, marvelling at the ruins and planning out the rest of our trip around Syria. This is my third visit to this country, and I never fail to be inspired by its ancient history, fabulous ruins, and impeccably polite people. I'm sure I'll return again and again throughout my life.
The story continues at 35N 37E.