April 05, 2010

A Road Trip

I took my parents on another road trip. The idea was to go straight to the Balaa Sinkhole, but this GPS of mine is not always functioning properly. It gets the general direction all right, but will send you to the right when all there is, is a steep cliff, or to the left when there is a path that a donkey might be able to take, but not my car. It sees roads where there are riverbeds, or fails to see major roads that obviously have been there for a number of years.
The indications of my GPS where to turn are not that clear either, so I’m in the market for a more updated & precise devise. I want one that can record my track and altitude as well, so you can see where you’ve been afterwards. We ended up doing a lot of scenic driving with plenty of turns.
Jabal el Laqlouq

The scenery was stunning though, and very little traffic on the road.

Near Balaa there’s a rock wall with a number of troglodyte houses inside. It is not quite clear how old, or original they are. The last occupants were Lebanese army soldiers, but unless they were extremely bored and hewn these spaces themselves, they probably moved into these existing dwellings.

Troglodyte dwellings near Balaa

I then dragged my dad into the Balaa Sinkhole (or actually the gulf, as it is called, which is the wide open space in front of the hole) and out again. The river still ran over the edge; in summer it will eventually just trickle down. A lot more people were then since last time I visited it. Maybe I shouldn’t put down coordinates anymore. :)
It was busy at the Balaa Sinkhole
In Balaa I listened in on a conversation between a rather portly & potbellied man in olive green fatigues and as local. The potbellied man was explaining how he was one of 8 Lebanese army commandos who were training here, together with some French commandos. “Aha,” I was thinking, “so that’s what those foreign looking guys with the 6 packs were.” How a fat guy with a huge belly like that can be a ‘special commandos’ member remains a mystery to me.
Tannourine Gorge

From Balaa we drove through the Tannourine Gorge and had lunch in Wadi Tannourine. ‘Wadi’ means valley, and ‘Tannourine’ is the plural of the Syriac word Tannour. A Tannour is an old stone oven used in ancient times. We had a mana’oushi on the sage though.
Mana’oushi on the sage

We hung out with the locals. In Holland we have the phenomenon of ‘hangjongeren’. Hangjongeren are in general groups of teenagers causing a nuisance while hanging around in public places. These days, we also have ‘hangouderen’, i.e. senior citizens monopolizing city benches and terrorizing the neighborhood with their scoot mobiles. They do not seem to have these problems in Wadi Tannourine.
'Hangjongeren' in downtown Wadi Tannourine

Downtown Tannourine

We passed by this house somewhere near Lehled ; I put it on the list of my next renovation project. The other one didn’t work out. It was on governmental land, and they weren’t interesting in selling. Maybe the owners of this piece are willing to let it go.
My next Home Depot Project

I then tried to find Hjoula, which is known for its fish fossil beds, according to my guide book (highways and Byways of Lebanon). However, the map didn’t show it, and my GPS didn’t recognize the name. I tried spelling it many different ways, but no Hajoula to be found. So we went to Haqel instead.
Everyone goes to Haqel for the famous fish fossils that you find ‘en masse’ in the riverbed. We thought these two fossilized cars on the side of the road were much more interesting.
While we were making pictures of the pink Cadillac (or is it?), the owner came out and gestured we check out another car. He still had a 1960 Plymouth Fury standing, in relative decent condition. It still ran but that gas prices and narrow roads made it difficult for him to drive it. It’s for sale!
And that was it for the day.


Anonymous said...

I can't believe I made it somewhere in Lebanon before you did, but I actually took my children to Hjoula a few days ago, follow the directions in the H&B and then once you get to a big monastry (sorry I can't remember the name)take the road down the mountain on the left of the monastry, go round the valley until you reach the mosque in Hjoula. The book says the fossil quarry is opposite the mosque but that has been paved over now, there is a little cemetry down the road and there is a huge fossil quarry opposite that and we spent a we had a lot of fun looking for (and finding)the fossils. The trick is to look for the stone made of flat slabs and open them up, the fossils are usually between the slabs.

joseph said...

Welcome to my village! We are from Tannourine and live in the laqlouq (weather permitting)

Hope you had fun and enjoyed the place.

Did you manage to check out Deir Houb?

Anonymous said...

Marhaba Siestke,

I am from Tannourine, and you and your parents are the most welcome to my village, it's a lovely coincidence to see also that the hangouderen in your picture are actually My brother (sunglasses and hat on) and my uncle (with the white kaffieh and stick) and my friends...

Hope you enjoy the rest of your trips in Lebanon.