October 08, 2012

Fall is in the Air

A Fall Collage

Fall is in the air. The temperature is dropping, although a little too slow for me. The first thunderstorms are on the horizon, we’ve had some rain, and there is some color change in the leaves. We’ve got a cousin over from France (like most Lebanese families, we’re spread over four continents, and maybe even a fifth), and so we took the tribe(s) out into the country. 

Balaa Sink hole (it drops another 120 meters from here)

The Balaa Sinkhole was the target. And although beautiful, the aim was just to ‘hang out’. Balaa is good for that. If you want some awesome geology, that sinkhole is pretty impressive. There were a number of people trying their luck at rock climbing. I don’t know (and I am pretty adventurous) but if I would want to get the hang of rock climbing and rapelling, I somehow would not give it a try right above a 150 meter drop (if not more).

Rapelling down the cliff

But the surroundings are even much more impressive. The place has a lunar-like landscape, with odd shaped rocks (all karst), and very few trees, except for the ones around the little river that runs into the sinkhole. And it was fall alright. The walnut trees were dropping nuts left and right, and the kids got very busy collecting and hulling them at the same time.  Everyone was happy until the cousin revealed that walnut hulls are actually used for black dye, and that it causes stains on your hands that are very difficult to remove

Picking walnuts

Okay kids, different activity. But there are trees to climb, and apples to pick (it’s the season), colorful leaves to gather, ticks to pick (from the dog) and a little river, so plenty of things to do. This time of year it gets quiet in the countryside. Most people have moved back to Beirut from the country side, since all schools have now officially started and fewer tourists are in town, and so you get the place to yourself again.

Picking apples

When I was young, we had this one activity at school that would return every year around fall. It was ‘make a fall box’. Probably not translated very well (herfst kijkdoos), but it was basically a shoe box that you would fill with all types of fall items from the forest; moss, acorns, colored leaves, buck eyes,  beech nuts and the likes. This is not a requirement here in school, as quite a few children do not really venture outside Beirut (and the shopping mall) on the weekends. Yet there is no greater (and cheaper, I might add) pleasure than to just ‘release’ them into the wild. 

Apple orchards

Even my 18-year old was willing to come, provided he would drive his own car. His ‘own’ car? Yep. Don’t get me started. If it were up to me, he’d be walking to school. His school is approximately 2.5 km from my house, his future university either 300 m or 1.5 km (depending on his grades), and with the traffic and the lack of parking spot, he’d probably be faster if he’d walk anyways.  But what can I say; he’s the product of a Lebanese/Dutch joint venture, and the Dutch connection has had to admit her defeat in this case. So he drove me for a change, and it was good.

Next week we're planning a camping trip. But then again, this weekend we were supposed to go back to last week's spot, and that didn't happen either, so planning is one thing . . . . 


Dan said...

I've been to Balaa few times, but the way you photographed it, it looked very different in the first pic so I barely recognized it...

Anonymous said...

ichDe herfst kijkdoos! Just recently, I tried to describe the magic of it to my american husband and utterly failed, of course. (!)
Thanks for your blog Sietske. Your journal entries are so delightful and remind me of why I loved/hated living in the ME so much.