December 06, 2013

Dutch on a Bus

How do you get a couple of Dutch really happy? Stick ‘em in an old Lebanese bus, complete with fringed curtains  and a multi-toned horn!

On the bus

Not sure what it is that gets us so elated; maybe getting on the bus reminds us of school trips.  We do not have these kinds of vehicles back in Holland, but we sure are not the only Dutch that are enticed by an old bus. There’s this one Dutch man (John Veerkamp) who dedicated an entire web site to busses in Asia, and Lebanon features prominently with the old Dodge. That’s how I learned that the bus we drove is one built by a Lebanese company, Adjib Al Jamil & Sons, one of only two bus builders, both of which are currently defunct.

A bus built by Adjib al-Jamil and Sons

They’re not expensive, and you can turn into interesting campers, but for the most part they still function in Lebanon as means of public transport.

The reason why we got into the bus is because we went on a hiking trip. Work and chores have kept me in Beirut these past weeks, so I was glad the opportunity suddenly came up to go hike with friends. And in a region that I am not all that familiar with. I know of Baskinta, but if you want to hike a region well, you need a guide from the place itself. Luckily the Dutch community here is quite versatile, and one of us is a Baskinta native. The problem with a hike is – unless you walk in a loop – you always end up somewhere else then where you last parked the car. Hence the bus.

On the trail
We hiked from Mount Sannine down to Baskinta along the ‘Literary Trail’, which is part of the Mount Lebanon Trail (MLT). It was good hiking weather, or at least it was until it started raining yesterday. It’s too hot in summer, and too wet in winter, but fall and spring are good times to get out into the mountains. When you walk with someone who is from around the neighborhood, of course you’ll run into his family, because everyone is related to one another in some way. And so the 22 of us barged into someone’s quiet Sunday lunch, plopped ourselves down in front of the stove, ‘ordered’ coffee and tea, and got out our deck of cards. We were invited to a slightly stronger drink, a locally brewed Arak, but we were not even halfway down our hike, and feared we might not be able to complete it if we went for the spirits that early, so we had to decline.

The only way we can get our kids to come along is by telling them that the ‘other kids’ are also coming. They’ll only walk with each other. It won’t be long before even that ploy won’t work anymore, and we’ll walk alone.

In the end we managed a mere 9 kilometer, and walked past the birthplace  of a number of  authors that made quite a mark on literature outside Lebanon, such as  Mikhail Naimy (1889-1988) , and Amin Maalouf , among others. Apparently in the 1800 there were a number of foreign missions here that had schools, making it a center of education for the region.
Mount Sannine seen from Baskinta, while the un is setting

It was good to get out of Beirut before the rains.

 Here's an interesting article on the LMT)

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