2-up to Jordan & Syria on a KTM 990

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Vicks, Dec 3, 2009.

  1. Vicks

    Vicks gets stuck in sand

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2006
    Oddometer:
    3,398
    Location:
    Dubai
    The plan was originally made in 2008, to travel to neighbouring Jordan, Syria & Turkey on our 2007 KTM 990S. However, due to some bad luck, visa issues and shortage of time, the plans changed to 2009 and Turkey got shunted out. So, it would be Jordan and Syria over a period of 3 weeks.

    The ride would involve a very boring stretch of 1400kms from the east coast of saudi arabia, to the northern border with Jordan at a town called Tabuk. This is a road that runs along an old un-used oil pipeline next to the Iraqi border. Then, we would cross Jordan, while stopping overnight in Amman, before proceeding to Syria. After riding in Syria for 10 days, we would come back to ride around Jordan for another 10-odd days.

    This is how our route looked roughly.

    [​IMG]


    We wanted to avoid riding the long stretch in saudi so that we don't get bum sore on the first day itself. The bike was hence packed off onto a palette and FEDEX'ed to the border town of Tabuk where it would be held for a day or two untill i would pick it up. Me n the Mrs would drive down in our trusty scooby ('06 subaru Impreza) to Tabuk.

    The preperation was pretty hectic, with a lot of "what to take and what not to" moments & discussions between us.

    [​IMG]


    The packing list was made, revised and re-re-revised a few times, but i still managed to get confused with a few things when the final packing time came...

    [​IMG]


    The day finally came and after sending off the bike, we drove off in our car towards Tabuk. We started at 5pm (office work had to be completed !!!) and reached a nearby town of Hafar al-bathin 500kms away. After getting some rest for the night, we neared Tabuk by evening.

    [​IMG]


    Thats the Mrs there in her recently acquired versace gown

    [​IMG]
    #1
  2. Vicks

    Vicks gets stuck in sand

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2006
    Oddometer:
    3,398
    Location:
    Dubai
    Immediately after reaching Tabuk, i picked up the bike from FEDEX. After staying in a service apartment in Tabuk for the night, we woke up early, packed up the bike and left for the border crossing between Saudi Arabia & Jordan, which was 150kms away. Earlier, the better.

    10kms into the ride, we are on the highway leading to Jordan and we are stopped at the first check point (abundant around this part of the world) where the policeman logs in all our details including the bike's and are pretty sweet (all bcos of the motorcycle, otherwise they don't give a crap about us travellers). Its a cold morning of approx 10-12DegC for us coastal people and the cops invite us for a tea, but we have to hurry to the border crossing.

    The first friendly saudi cop, we gotta take a picture to prove it :lol3

    [​IMG]

    A few kms later, we are on our way to the Jordanian border and i notice a highway patrol car following us. He is only following us, but not signalling to stop (no flashing head lights or siren sounded). But, to be fully sure, i pull over and stop, the cops stops behind me and asks me why i stopped him. I told him he was behind me so i thought i had to stop, so he tells me to go on and start moving. Thats when i remember reading somewhere that cops usually follow/escort motorcyclists to the Jordanian border due to security concerns. So, its true. Sure was an experience for me, being escorted/followed by a cop for a reason that would not cost me time/money. Or maybe the saudi cops just wanted to make sure that we got to the border and out of their country :evil . Sorry no pics of this event, for obvious reasons.

    The customs/immigration people at the saudi side of the border were quite friendly (surprise !!) surely bcos of the bike and the fact that the Mrs was riding with me. A lot of questions were asked (including but not limited to why we still didn't have kids even after ...... 1.5yrs of marriage !!!) and tea was generously offered at all points during the process of exiting saudi arabia. We finally got to the Jordan side and bought a 4 week insurance to cover our entry and re-entry after 2 weeks, for 40JOD (Jordanian Dinar, approx 7USD). The importation fees was also quite reasonable (20JOD, if i remember correctly) which was paid up and we headed towards the city of Ma'an on the desert highway.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    We were now finally out of saudi arabia (atleast for the next 3 weeks) and a sigh of relief was actually let out.

    After another 30mins of riding, we stopped at a dilapidated building (which we realised was an abandoned/wrecked gaurd house by the Hijaz railway tracks) for a short snack/breakfast.

    [​IMG]


    Thats the Mrs, the "Big Blue" and the now dys-functional Hijaz railway line

    [​IMG]


    Thats our family of three (fourth one, the scooby is missing cos she's back in Tabuk)

    [​IMG]


    Thats the road to Ma'an and then onto Amman, Jordan's capital.

    [​IMG]
    #2
  3. Goride

    Goride ISR adventurer

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2007
    Oddometer:
    268
    Location:
    Jerusalem, Israel
    Awesome!!
    I'm gonna follow this one closely!
    stories about Syria are always interesting, especially when Subaru's - my second love - are involved.
    Is the 2.0L normally aspirated version? the car looks cool!
    I used to work for Subaru here in Israel for 3 years in 2002.

    Keep the good work!
    #3
  4. Yellow Pig

    Yellow Pig Allergic to asphalt! Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2004
    Oddometer:
    9,595
    Location:
    SoCal -T.O.
    Nice!

    Looking forward to this ride report.
    #4
  5. Fustercluck

    Fustercluck Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2006
    Oddometer:
    339
    Location:
    Asheville, NC/ Muntinlupa City, Philippines
    Very cool, nice pics! Nice bike and car choice too!
    #5
  6. Vicks

    Vicks gets stuck in sand

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2006
    Oddometer:
    3,398
    Location:
    Dubai
    Yes, it is the 2.0R, i wanted the WRX but they were not selling it here in 2006 (they said that there were some sand related issues with the turbo chargers, though i don't believe them fully).

    We love this car absolutely.
    #6
  7. GB

    GB . Administrator Super Moderator Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2002
    Oddometer:
    70,250
    Nice!! C'mon Mr. Vicks... let's see Jordan and especially Syria :thumb

    :lurk
    #7
  8. Vicks

    Vicks gets stuck in sand

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2006
    Oddometer:
    3,398
    Location:
    Dubai
    I just opened up our daily log (yes, we kept one, albeit updated every 2-3 days) and noticed a few things that i had missed in my first post.

    On the day we were driving from Hafar al-bathin to Tabuk, the Mrs had cooked some rice n beans with tomato-onion curry, and we had stopped somewhere in the middle of nowhere, for our lunch. The food was so good and the Mrs was quite excited about the trip that she did a jig right then and there. A suburban with a saudi family was un-fortunately passing by and the saudi man's wife caught this act on the side of the highway, and i caught the look on her face (technically, not the look on her face, cause i could not see her face - she was fully covered) and it was one of those hilarious moments.

    Then on the day when we crossed the border into Jordan, we were overwhelmed by the friendliness and warmth of the Officials, not just the regular people, when they saw us. Every sentence ends with "welcome to Jordan". Its true that wealth (usually) brings arrogance to humans. The oil rich kuwaitis and saudis are well known for their arrogance/superiority complex (even among the gulf/middle-east neighbours) while the warmth of the poorer countries with no oil wealth, like Jordan & Syria is immediately noticeable.

    So, then, we headed towards Ma'an and we stopped at a road-side gas station to re-fuel. The gas stations in Jordan are usually in bad shape and not easily noticeable if you dont have a keen eye. All you can see is one or two dispensers and a few oil stain marks on the ground. No fancy signboards reading out the days gas rates, temperature & time etc.

    Its at this gas station that i noticed the coolant overflow tank catching coolant from the radiator. The temperatures were not that high, so this should not have happened. I had flushed the coolant and burped the system before we left from home and i had even ridden the bike for a week to ensure there were no issues. However, this was now happening and it would give me some grief later on untill i found out the cause (my own mistake).

    On the highway riding towards Amman, i kept an eye on the coolant overflow tank and whenever the level rose too much, we stopped and let it cool down. This happened a few times and now i was almost sure that the new radiator cap that i had installed before the ride, was acting up/faulty and was the source of the problem. It probably was leeting the coolant escape at a lower pressue than normal and hence the overflow.

    So, we reach Amman, a capital city built in the hills. Each road goes through numerous up & down hills, and coupled with several up hill traffic signal stops, the bike started over heating, the coolant temperature reached 6 bars (normal - 4 bars), radiator fan working over time to cool the engine down. Thankfully, the headlight by pass switch and the additional underseat battery i had installed were helpful. We were lost in the horrible traffic, we didn't have any idea which way we had to go to reach our hotel, we were hungry, the bike was overheating, i was having hallucinations about the radiator exploding right in the middle of the road, but we kept moving cause i had to keep the airflow in to the rad, to try cool it down. I switched off the headlight to covserve battery power and we kept going on untill we found a pizza place.... thankfully. !!!!

    We parked inthe lot and after a nice pizza, i set down to work on the bike. Opened up the right side cover and bled/burped the coolant system while the Mrs very nicely helped me with the its n bits. Thanks sweety. Coolant system bled, the bike ran better and we reached downtown amman, where the traffic was worse and the roads steeper. We were looking for Farah hotel, which we couldn't find even after half an hour of riding around. All the roads were "One way" so we had to ride around in loops passing thru several traffic signals, which made it quite tough. I even managed to drop the bike at a right hand turn. We were almost stand-still and no damage was done. Getting the fully loaded buke up was the bitch :lol3 .

    After a while, i stopped by the roadside and set out on foot to find the damn hotel and found it 200mtrs away from where i had stopped !!! :huh
    But again, i couldn't find the road to reach the hotel, and we chucked it, and settled down in another hotel ("Garden's Hotel", yes i know its spelled wrong, but thats how they named it !!! ) that we found on the way. This one had (luckily) a parking area in the rear (concealed from the main road) where i could work on the bike if needed, and i found out later, it did. We negotiated the price at 25JOD incl B&B. Stuck in all the above crap, we never took pictures of all these small adventures, thinking back now, i feel we should have had the sense to take some.

    After unpacking at the hotel room we set out to see downtoam Amman. There was a Roman amphitheatre near by and the few interesting places in Amman were all walking distance.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    After seeing the ruins of the amphitheatre (not great, and they had closed for the day, so we couldn't get inside) we walked to a nearby cafe for dinner.

    [​IMG]


    The next day, we rode to the Amman citadel for a view of the city from a vantage point. We stopped on the way at a downtown restaurant for arabic breakfast of phool (baked & mashed beans with lemon juice, olive oil and some spices), filafil (fried balls of lentil & some herbs/spices), arabic bread and some tea.

    [​IMG]


    When we came back to the bike, i had a bad sight waiting for me......

    [​IMG]

    Coolant was puked all over and it was running down the road. Now, this was bad. I then sat down next to the right side of the bike and there was coolant dripping from the overflow pipe of the tank and thats when i notices oil on the engine near the clutch cover. Now i was worried. was the overflow being caused by coolant getting pressurised doe to a leaking head-gasket ? was it a faulty radiator cap ? was it air in the coolant system ?

    The first possibility meant "The End" to our ride. The other two, i could handle. So, with all these things (and future action plans) going on in my head, we headed to the Amman castle.

    [​IMG]


    The place was nice and the views were good. The history of these ruins were interesting, but all that was going on in my head was about the bike puking coolant. we still managed to take a few pictures but it was obvious i was disturbed.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    View of Amman from the castle.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    The roman amphitheatre

    [​IMG]


    more pics

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    #8
  9. Vicks

    Vicks gets stuck in sand

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2006
    Oddometer:
    3,398
    Location:
    Dubai
    After seeing the Amman castle, we rode straight back to the hotel parking lot and i set down for more work on the bike. First i checked the source of the oil leak using the old talcum powder trick and to my delight, found that it was not the head gasket, but the clutch cover gasket (which i had made myself from gasket paper, due to non-availability of the KTM part - thats a different story). So, i bought 1ltr of castrol GTX (thats what i'm running right now in my bike) some coolant etc from the neighbouring auto shop, topped up the engine oil, re-bled the coolant system, this time more rigorously and then tightened up the clutch cover screws once again. all doner in 2hrs, i started up & let the engine idle for enough time to ensure that the coolant bleeding had indeed worked this time, and oil leak from the clutch cover gasket had significantly reduced (slight leak is not an issue, i can keep topping up the oil from time to time - but as i found later, i never had to cos the screw tightening worked). I was visibly worry-free now :D

    [​IMG]


    So, we now packed up and set out for Syria. We would come back to Jordan 10days later.

    On the was to the Syrian border, we stopped at a restaurant on the Jordan side for a snack as we had no lunch in the noon.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    A short distance from the border, it started getting dark, it was 3:30PM for gawds sake !!!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Then we crossed into Syria. The Jordan side departure went well except for me temporarily losing my saudi exit re-entry visa (used to be a sticker in the passport earlier, but now its a seperate piece of paper - a big headache if lost) and the Mrs going ballistic on me .... well every dog/bitch has his/her own day :lol3 . Did not have to pay tourist departure tax (5 JOD) as were were existing Jordan within 3 days time (considered as transit). We also checked with the officials that we can get visa on arrival when we come back again to Jordan after seeing Syria. The official spoke to some one on the telephone and confirmed in affirmitive to us.

    Then we entered the Syrian side... di-organised counters, un-manned and typical "take-it-easy" attitude and we felt completely at home (as in India) :rofl . However, the 180USD customs duty for the bike had me getting a cardiac for a moment. Lots of paper work, lots of photo copying of documents, lots of signature taking from various officials, but seeing that we were on a motorcycle, all of them were very helpful and eager to do their job properly, themselves :lol3 . Got the trip ticket (no need for carnet) one thing that hits you is the amount of smoke/cigarette smell in all closed buildings. People smoke lihe chimneys burning damp wood !!! irrespective of the place, time and situation, they keep smoking away.

    All formalities completed, we headed to the Syrian town of Dera'a. It was drizzling lightly and pitch dark at 5:00PM !!! We reached Dera'a and stopped next to a taxi to ask for directions. After giving us the directions, the driver came out of the car, without realising that the car door was open, i tried to ride away and the right side luggage case on my bike, hit his car door and we had a small fall (in which i realised later, my 3yr old, well used and scratched up sunglasses broke).

    [​IMG]


    Reached a hotel in Dera'a and the security guard allowed us to park it right next to his watch place (no parking space at the hotel). Ate some lentil soup/rice and went to sleep. Tomorrow our ride around the historic & fabulous country of Syria would start :clap .
    #9
  10. Vicks

    Vicks gets stuck in sand

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2006
    Oddometer:
    3,398
    Location:
    Dubai
    We left our hotel at Dera'a after giving a 50SYP (1USD = 50SYP) baksheesh (tip) to the security gaurd for keeping an eye on the bike (i'm sure he kept an eye, cos the bike was still there in the morning !!) during the night. We headed towards the roman ruins at Bosra, on our way to the historic (and famed to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world !!! ) city of Damascus.

    The roads were still wet from the last nights rain, but the sun had started getting outo f the clouds nad riding beside olive and orange groves was a nostalgic experience for us, after having driven on the barren sand filled landscape of saudi/UAE/bahrain for 3 yrs.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    It was cold but sunny and made for a fantastic weather to ride/walk around.

    entering the city of Bosra

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    After we reached the ruins at Bosra, we found a restaurant right next to the ruins and stopped for a good breakfast of arabic bread, omlettes (we are both vegetarian, but do eat eggs in situations like this when we cannot find any decent veggie food)

    [​IMG]


    a view of the Bosra ruins

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    the Mrs. got back into business (of shopping)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    local bikers

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    our breakfast arrived :clap

    [​IMG]


    local transport

    [​IMG]
    #10
  11. Vicks

    Vicks gets stuck in sand

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2006
    Oddometer:
    3,398
    Location:
    Dubai
    pictures of the Syrian president were all over the place and as we later found out, adorned the walls of restaurants, homes and even shopping malls !!! This actually is similar to the practice found in the gulf kingdoms of UAE, Oman, Qatar, Saudi and Bahrain, where they do (and are supposed to, by law) put up pictures of the ruler/King/Sheikh and sometimes, their predecessors at all places.

    [​IMG]


    we then proceeded to visit the castle/ruins.

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    the amphitheatre (much better shape than the one in Amman, Jordan)

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    This place was not spared from the "no idols/statues/images" belief of the muslim invaders/rulers.

    [​IMG]


    but we did our bit to restore them a little :D

    [​IMG]


    retro-graffitti

    [​IMG]


    weapons collection

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    After a while, a group of guided tourists swarmed the place and we took some more pics and left the place.

    sorrounds of the ruins

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    this one if for all YFFs who whine about pillions/weight on the bike

    [​IMG]
    #11
  12. Thorne

    Thorne Sherpa-ing around

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2008
    Oddometer:
    1,206
    Location:
    Lone Pine, ON, Canada
    :lurk
    #12
  13. Questor

    Questor More Undestructable

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2005
    Oddometer:
    4,775
    Location:
    Thousand Oaks, CA.
    Very nice! :clap

    Thanks for showing me a part of the world I will probably never get to see.
    It's amazing that those famous ruins are not crowded.

    Glad your bike was not seriously broken. I too get distressed when my bikes' are not happy.

    Q~
    #13
  14. kktos

    kktos on a bright side of life

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2005
    Oddometer:
    2,368
    Location:
    in front of Mare Nostrum
    Nice trip so far !
    Sorry for Turkey. I hope you'll be able to reach it for the next trip. Worth it !
    And who knows.. you may even see a beemer :D
    keep going ur good work, we're enjoying it so far !
    :lurk :thumb
    /thierry
    #14
  15. Bowes

    Bowes Oman Dirty Biker

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2008
    Oddometer:
    214
    Location:
    Sultanate of Oman
    Mr Vicks Excellent so far! I worked in Syria for 6 years so nice to see the place again. From your planned route it looks like you are heading near to Palymyra - well worth a stop to see the ruins if you get the chance. Please keep it comming:thumb

    It'll be very interesting to read your impressions of Syria. Enjoy and stay safe.
    #15
  16. Dessert Storm

    Dessert Storm Dances With Drunks

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2005
    Oddometer:
    1,134
    Location:
    On the cut
    Fantastic report and photos. Ampitheatre is amazing - there can't be many that well preserved, anywhere? Beautiful statue you're standing by in one of the photos :D
    #16
  17. Vicks

    Vicks gets stuck in sand

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2006
    Oddometer:
    3,398
    Location:
    Dubai
    Hey Bowes,

    We have completed our ride (11th Nov - 3rd Dec) and back home now. A total of 750+ pics have been uploaded. This one is a looooooooooong ride report with a lot of pics to come. so, take your time and enjoy. I am sure that you, like us, would have similar +ve experiences about Syria & its people.

    @ questor :yep, i was quite upset when the bike was having problems, the burping solved it and proved that its usually the idiot who is at fault most of the time, than the machine itself.

    @ kktos : I hope we will be able to ride Turkey some time. We met some other travellers in Syria who had been to Turkey and heard very good things about the country. We will surely be there. When are you riding there ?

    @dessertstrom : Hey man, thx for the comments. how r u doing ? hows life treating ya nowadays ?
    #17
  18. GB

    GB . Administrator Super Moderator Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2002
    Oddometer:
    70,250
    Take your time with the report and pics.. to give more inmates a chance to see this beautiful and rare trip through the middle east, I'm going to sticky this thread for a while :thumb

    Thanks for the detailed report and pics.

    :lurk
    #18
  19. Vicks

    Vicks gets stuck in sand

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2006
    Oddometer:
    3,398
    Location:
    Dubai
    Edit : Thanks for the sticky GB. I hope all the inmates enjoy the RR as much as we did riding in these two fantastic countries (especially syria), taking all those pictures and now writing this RR.

    After the ruins at Bosra, we picked up some handicrafts (small ones that could fit in the limited space we had) and left for the town of Al-suweida to visit the roman ruins at Serail (wonder what is the history behind that name ? ) and then to Qanawat. But first we had to re-fuel and the first gas station we saw, had this sight waiting for us.

    [​IMG]


    We had enough gas to last another 50kms or so, hence we moved on. On the way, we were greeted by some very nice rolling hills and a clear sky with some scattered clouds.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    The next gas station had real gas and nearby was this fruit bearing cactus

    [​IMG]


    Syrian pride

    [​IMG]


    vineyard

    [​IMG]
    #19
  20. Vicks

    Vicks gets stuck in sand

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2006
    Oddometer:
    3,398
    Location:
    Dubai
    a town on our way to serail

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    locals at the syrian town

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    interesting design of traffic lights

    [​IMG]


    umm, which way do we go ??

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Then we reached the ruins at Serail.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    a flower inside the ruins

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    wonder what i was thinking ??

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    These ruins were of a city housed within the high walls and there were some interesting details

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    This gives us an estimate of the height of the building in the city

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    A wash basin ( ? ) infront of the remains of a house inside the ruins

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Small doors for security/privacy purposes

    [​IMG]


    outside the ruins

    [​IMG]
    #20