May 09, 2011

Another Road Trip

While driving up to the Cedars on Saturday, we got side tracked by all kinds of interesting places. It started with a massive waterfall that we saw somewhere in a valley. But how to get there? My brother keeps telling me I should get an android telephone onto which he can download satellite maps, and then I can access Google Earth without needing the internet. The phone would subsequently function as a GPS. Well, he lost me at the word ‘android.’ 

The Valley seen from the top

But maybe it is not a bad idea, because this Lebanese GPS, and I’ve said it time and time again, is just not really up to date. Roads that clearly exist, with tarmac and all, show up as green, i.e. they’re not there, whereas roads that show up nice and white on my GPS screen, are actually donkey paths. I’ve just been through (yet another) lengthly discussion with hubbie as to why my car is – again - streaked with an incredible amount of scratches on both sides. Well, I can’t help it. These roads are just so darn narrow!  
GPS is lost (yet again), although there very clearly IS A ROAD!!!!!!

And so, while on the search for this waterfall, which we couldn’t find, we found the entrance the Qaddisha Valley.  Kadisha means "Holy" in Aramaic, and the Holy has sheltered a large number of christian monasteries for many centuries. There’s all kinds of different orders. I’m not a great expert at this, so I cannot really tell you the difference between one or the other. But there is Jacobites (Syrian Orthodox), Melchites (Greek Orthodox), Nestorians, Armenians, Maronites and Ethiopians. (this bit of info is stolen from Wikipedia) 
Qaddisha River nearm Mazraat an Nahr

It begins at the cedars forest in the Cedars, (or actually, that’s where the drop off of the valley starts, and it runs some 20 kilometers as a narrow valley with pretty steep cliff walls, until it gets to Tourza, some 20 kilometers later, where it widens. So we drove in from Tourza, or Mazret al Nahr to be more exactly, which is at the bottom of the valley where the Nahr Qadisha flows (map here).
A  cow in the Holy Valley (Holy cow!)

And some goats (deep down inside I'm a farm girl!)

The reason why all these christian monastic orders hauled up right here in this valley is because – they say – the place was rather isolated,  and this is where they hid from persecution during Roman times and later. Another reason is because this place is difficult to access, and monks could be alone and meditate in solitude. That was – of course – before they got me a pick-up truck. We drove up all the way from Mazret an Nahr to Fradis. But in Fradis, the road ends in a jumble of shacks filled with chickens and goats. End of the road. My GPS was of a different opinion however. Maybe there once was a road? In 1932, when they made these maps?  
Monastries in the Qaddisha Valley
So back to the mountain top it was. Then we find another road inwards that got us to a number of monasteries, among which St Anthony of Qozhaya, and Qannubin. I forgot the other ones. We ended up in the Cedars, where we got caught in a thick mist. 
Cedar forest in the Cedars (in the mist)

The idea was to continue to the Beqaa Valley, because a guide book had said something about a temple on the shores of a lake. We didn’t get very far though. Halfway up the mountain, the road was not only blocked by snow, but also by a little car with two lovely young people. They – unaware of the fact that even though it might be warm in Beirut, snow will cover the mountains in some places well into May - had tried to get across the pass as well, in a little car and wearing flip flops. It was quite a sight, seeing these ‘summery’ people trying to get their car unstuck. It didn’t work though. I could have pulled them out if I had a chain. They didn’t have one either. And so I had to return to Beirut. “Tell the army please, will you,” they asked as I turned around. The soldier at the first check-point said: “We will look into it. Later. Bye.”

Lovely. Did anyone read about them in the press? It's a wild place. It seems they just found a woman in the States after 49 days in the wilderness. When does this mountain pass open again? Be on the look-out for a little silver car.


Anonymous said...

step 1: go to phone shop
step 2: buy HTC Desire or something similar
step 3: pay the bill
step 4: call for step 5.

So far it is only shopping. You can do it!

John O'Sullivan said...

great photos!

John O'Sullivan said...

btw, does Lebanon import holstein cattle?

Sietske said...

Wat is een HTC Desire? Ja? uitleg graag. En hoeveel kost zoiets in Nederland, want wie weet is het daar goedkoper. Advies graag.

Danielle said...