Axles of Evil: Bike tours in the badlands
It was a feeble joke in 2001 and it still is ...
My Axles of Evil Tours pages are about trike touring not about SUVs or any of the other more recent uses of the Axles of Evil tag OK?
I happen to have travelled in some of the countries that George Dubbya once said constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world and the tour reports are (mostly) easy bite-sized pieces about the stuff you need to know about touring in each place - visas, money, food and so-on together with a few bits and pieces from my journal (the practical, the whimsical, the painful) plus a few photos of variable quality
By and large I've tried to avoid the the sometimes problematic political, social, economic relationship(s) between the 'muslim' world and the so-called 'West' but it's not always possible and besides I've staked out my position already haven't I? Still, if you want to delve into this stuff, check out the Bookshelf
Of course, given the drawn-out intercine (or for the pedants out there, internecine) conflicts that are part of the so-called 'Arab Spring', much of what you'll read in these pages is now of historical interest only
Such is life...
Like a lot of things, these tours were rather acidental. I planned to ride in Syria in October 2001 and altho there was a lot of noise after September 11, I stuck to my plan. In short, I experienced something quite different to what might be expected in a rogue state at that time. Perhaps it was this reason; perhaps it was a fascination born of a couple of lifetimes ago when I worked in Sudan and Morrocco; perhaps it's just the road less travelled but whatever the reason, over the years since 2001 I've toured (some of) the other Badlands
Iran A mini tour in 2006/2007
I was planning to spend April 2003 riding my trike thru Iran but as Dubbya seemed hellbent on attacking neighbouring Iraq at about the same time I opted to try for Libya instead. Libya didn't work out either... I finally made it to Iran in December 2006. And yes, you're right, not a great time but the trip was short anyway
Iraq Another mini tour in 2012
A quick whizz thru northern Iraq - Kurdistan if you will - in October 2012 before heading home after my EuroVelo 6 adventure
Libya The one that got away, a failed trike tour in 2003
I had hoped to spend April 2003 riding my trike thru Libya. The triking bit of trip didn't work out, but the 'tourist' part was OK (if expensive)
Syria The best yet! A truly brilliant tour in 2001
I spent October 2001 riding my trike thru Syria with brief excursions into neighbouring Lebanon and Jordan, what follows is an account a trip that can best be described as awesome. I met wonderful people, ate sublime food (and some not so sublime - thank goodness for Imodium), saw spectacular sights of both the modern and ancient worlds and well, just had a great time
What did I find?
I'm not really sure what I expected to find... altho each place is completely different - d'oh - one thing they had in common was an incredible friendliness, wonderful hospitality and, well, the adjectives tell the story don't they?
A little cameo - in a far corner of an almost deserted Libyan restaurant patronised mainly by dark-skinned youths (from Chad on their way to Italy perhaps?) I was lectured by an elder gentleman who said he had once been employed on an American airbase in Tripoli and whose son had lived in the United Kingdom for many years about the oft re-iterated they hate us for our freedoms mantra. I have often pondered this gentleman's premise that there was nothing to hate for while he had tightly constrained freedoms, I had illusory freedoms that amounted to not much more than the freedom to spend money and that what passes for democracy (out-of-control spin, lack of real choice between tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum political parties that offer limited scope for individual like himself or I to influence policy, that have draconian policing to enforce internal discipline blah blah blah ) also amounted to an illusion. 'Twas a most thought-provoking, if slightly surreal, Axis of Evil moment
And I still rate Syria as the all-time Number One on the best bike tour list