At left, Ben and cedars.
Then the real fun began. We headed over the mountain pass on a decent road, meaning paved, but not without occasional dramatic potholes or chipped off bits, and definitely sans guardrails. Up and up, lovely views all the way to the sea, and then over and suddenly views of the Bekaa Valley on the other side, with the sparse vegetation more scrubby and brown. We descend and then make a bold left turn into the unknown.
On the map it looks like a main road, a big red line. But on the ground what little pavement there may once have been quickly disappears. For close to two hours we tread over the rocks and ruts in our rented car, passing only 2 houses the whole way and, oddly a restaurant where they rent ATVs, which is REALLY WHAT YOU NEED for this road. Honestly, the road has the feel that it was possibly destroyed on purpose, perhaps something to do with the marijuana fields we start to see?? We had heard about this but never seen it before. We spot a sign lauding USAID and the European Union’s projects on watershed development and miss the opportunity for a truly memorable photo as there is some pot growing right next to the sign! But the road is so cruddy and our navigation so tense that we are reluctant to stop. Thankfully we reach the crossroads of an actual highway and enjoy a few minutes of smooth sailing before the turn off to Al Jord Ecolodge, our destination.
Unfortunately, another rough road of several kilometers lay between us and the lodge. But our rental is up to it, with Tom's able navigation. The scenery is really lovely and the accommodations nice enough—traditional (Bedouin) style tents—but not worth the $65/person/night we pay. Apparently that was supposed to include all meals for two days, but we had only one dinner and breakfast. They even wanted to charge us for the coffee we had on arrival but we protested.
Well, OK, maybe the stars at night were worth it. Incredible array, full Milky Way. Just breathtaking.
In the morning we have a nice hike around the area, led by a boy of about 10.
Above, men making fire inside the tent. At right, on the hike, no idea what Ben is doing.And below, right, wonderful stone steps to the lodge's owner's home.
On the way back to Beirut, somewhere after the mountain pass, we stop to buy some apples from a family along the road. The lady was selling whole crates of apples, but we wanted just a kilo or two. So she wanted to just give them to us, and we had to force the money on her. She invited us for coffee, several times.
Photo at right is a gorgeou gorge, on the Bieurt side of the mountains, near the apple lady.
Coming back into Beirut we see “Xtreme Paintball/For once, war is just a game”
Other local interest items:
-Another paintball sign: “Veit [sic] Nam Paintball” with drawings of jungle scenes and people in fatigues, at a facility that is part of a large KFC, near Bourj Barajneh Refugee Camp in southern Beiriut
MAN the lion truck
-ACS is experiencing hits highest enrolment since before the Civil War—that’s 1975.
-I skype Bank of America to let them know I will be using my new credit card in Lebanon. “Can you spell ‘Lebanon’ for me?,” the customer service person asks.