Since everyone is all nervous about Ahmadinejad’s visit to town, and all roads are closed (which resulted in a wonderfully quiet Ras Beirut this afternoon!), I figured I’d entertain you with some more relaxing stuff.
What struck most of us was that of the some 20 people that had heeded the call for a mountain hike, only 3 were home-grown Lebanese. The rest were either foreigners, or Lebanese visiting Lebanon on a holiday. It could be that as a Lebanese you know your country so well, that you really don’t need a guide to go on hikes like this. But I seriously doubt it if you had seen the jungle we had to slash our way through; it was almost ‘machete work’. It could be that as a Lebanese your Sundays are filled with family obligations and that you cannot go on hikes like these. It could also be that as a Lebanese you probably do not visit these areas, just as I haven’t see half of the things in Holland that any old tourist probably has 27 snapshots of. Or it could be that as a Lebanese you really have better things to do that hang out with a bunch of foreigners like us that like to hike through the mountains.
But I can tell you; it was fantastic! They always say that Lebanon is the country of 4 seasons. I used to disagree with that, because it is either hot-hot-hot, or it rains-rains-rains. But now that I spend more time outside Beirut, I notice that there really are four distinct seasons. Just not in Beirut.
We had this guide with us who was a real tracker, a regular Sherlock Holmes of the woods. Constantly with his nose on the ground, rubbing leaves between his fingers, sniffing everything and gazing absent-mindedly in the distance, spotting foot prints on our path and what not. It was kind of funny; he reminded me of those old cowboy & Indian movies where a posse of cowboys are chasing an outlaw, and every now and then the Indian in their midst would get to the ground on all four, sniff the air, and say cryptically: ‘Four men, going east, 50 minutes ago, one horse is lame on the left front. They have no more water.’
I shouldn’t make fun of the guy, because he showed us spots where porcupines had passed (didn’t even know we had them in Lebanon), where wild boars had scratched their butts, and partridges were hiding among the bushes. And I’ve expanded my array of medicinal plant tricks, so if ever you go into the wild with me, I can now cure your tummy ache, or stop the bleeding and heal a cut without scar tissue. How’s that a city slicker from Beirut, eh?
We hiked through valleys where cars cannot come. We passed by an enormous sink hole that’s not even on the map or in the tourist guide. Only locals and speleologists know of its existence. And I can vouch for that because I walked right past it and didn’t see it; he had to point it out to me, some 50 meters deep (150 feet) if not more.What’s the moral of this story? If you don’t have anything to do, call one of these outfits. (I went with Lebanese Adventures on this one); they plan cool stuff every weekend. And they really show you the nooks and crannies of this country.