Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Bzebdine

Part 6: “Wild trails of Mount Lebanon” (Mar. 8, 2010)

Pierre Bared, a middle aged man, tall, svelte, with graying beard and three children decided to walked alone for 22 days on the wild trails of Mount Lebanon crossing it from the upper northern town of Kobayat to the southern town of Marje3youn  in June 2008.

On the 17th day, two Syrian workers, guarding a newly renovated villa, did their best to welcome Pierre. They reserved him one of the two beds for the night and purchased a roasted chicken.

Many Christians denied Pierre, even a listening ear, during his walking trip.  The place allocated to the workers was miserable: “the others” must have been used to miserable conditions!

Pierre descends a valley to the river and crosses a rickety bridge; he reached the town of Bzebdine by 1 pm.

It is Sunday; Pierre’s friends Joseph and Saba were to meet him for a picnic. The son of the owner of a building, studying for his public exam, gathers red and green prunes from his garden and offers them for the three men.

Two armed civilian militia of the socialist Druze party (of the warlord Walid Jumblatt) pay them a visit for questioning.

Pierre has hard time locating the trail to Kornayel using the useless guide book.  He traverses a forest and hears gun shots and various arms firing.  The forest is degraded by men.

By 6 pm, Pierre is in Falougha.  Kids are playing soccer by the church yard: it is an unknown notion in Lebanon to reserve playing grounds and spaces for kids.

In Falougha, the mayor stops to pick up and collect detritus off the sides of streets: an example that renders this town clean.

Joseph, a member of the association “Sentiers du Mont Liban”, meets Pierre in an ice cream parlor.  Joseph claims that the wild trails are not marked so that people call them up! What an excuse given that the association was awarded $3 millions for that project.  It seems that part of the budget was allocated to restore a few welcoming houses for travelers.  It is good to know that the project is done by volunteers and the private company is doing nothing.

Chamoun, the one who called Pierre to join him for the remainder of the trip, called Pierre and they agreed to meet at the main fountain in the morning. Pierre sleeps at Joseph’s house.

Next morning, Chamoun arrives decked in kaki outfit and all kinds of small flags pinned on the uniform; he even brought a spare boot.  They both ascend to Dahr el Baidar; an army post is there but did not disturb the travelers.  The walkers take a break under the shadow of a lonely tree.

They cross Damascus Highway to catch the old train tunnel: no train rails are left.  They see a quarry, so many unlicensed quarries in Lebanon that are disfiguring the landscape. Many Lorries are suffocating the climate with dirt.  They meet a 10 year-old girl shepherding goats: Pierre gives the girl water to drink.

A couple of old folks are gathering cherries and apricots; they welcome the travelers as if they knew them.  The walkers see another quarry that inflicts significant pain to the eyesight.  They meet an old cultivator who invites them to his one room depot.

They continue to Ain Dara.  They meet workers rebuilding the bridge of Mdayrej that Israel bombed in 2006; they eat with the workers at the central town square restaurant and good boy jokes fuse from everywhere. Chamoun is carrying promotional materials concerning his exploits, adventures, and recommendation in health care; he never stops talking once he is carried away for his aggrandizement attitudes.

Pierre and Chamoun resume their trip to Nabe3 el Safa; they cross a small natural farm of cows and chicken co-existing.  They come into an orchard of peach trees (best peaches in the world).  They stumble over a sofa under a tree: they could not let this luck be missed for a well deserved pause.

For the first time in the trail, Pierre sees a notice warning against landmines, cluster bombs, and unexplosed missiles left by Israel recurring bombing of Lebanon.  They reach the “Cedar reserve” of Chouf; the guard of the forest reserve offers them a room with two real beds and a real hot shower facility (5 stars accommodation).

The next day, the photographer Alfred shows up for photo sessions of the routine cedar tree planting.  Planting a cedar tree in the reserve cost $250, including entrance card to the forest any time, having your name attached to the tree, and a certificate; the tree has the number 116.  The mayor accompanies Pierre.

The walkers return to Falougha for another planting ceremony of cedar tree, and then to Mtein.

Chamoun calls up his sister to give them ride to the cedar reserve; she drops Pierre in Mdayrej; Chamoun calls it quit and returns with his sister home.  Pierre waits 30 minutes to be picked up by a truck to Nabe3 el Safa; the next target town for Pierre is Barouk.

Part 5. “On the wild trails of Mount Lebanon”: To Hrajel: (Mar. 8, 2010)

          The next target town for Pierre Bared is Hrajel; the path is visible; a rare case.  He follows an irrigation canal for one kilometer; he arrives at a fork: the right path should lead to Hrajel but he prefers to investigate the left path toward the mountain; an army helicopter is over him.  Hills succeeded to hills for four hours but the objective is not behind any of them and Pierre is losing hope; he starts thinking about his three children for comfort. The water bottle is empty.  He is in the real “jurd” high altitude arid lands; then he reaches a plain with hunting bullet casings scattered all over.

          Pierre observes a giant cross on a mountain and walks toward it in 20 minutes.  He can see Hrajel from this top.  On descending the mountain he meets people drinking the national drink “arak” on a terrace; they appear to be next generation cultivators because their hands are not badly calloused: Syrian helpers work the land.  They invite Pierre to join and they roast a giant piece of meat for him and prepare him a cup of arak.  First thing first, Pierre needs to have water badly.  The “keskoun” (to your health) fuses from every corner of the table.

          Pierre resumes his walk and meets an artisan linking to the main electrical cable (system D) for energy-consuming tasks.  Pierre crosses the Faraya highway and heads toward the town of Fakra.  Two harsh hours of ascent before descending to the small town of Bekaatet Kenaan; he had to ask for directions several times.  Pierre sits in the shadow of a church; he tries to revive a dying bird.  The trail leads to a dry river bed that he takes.

Pierre  has to climb many rocks in the river bed and bypass carcasses of trucks, cars, and mounds of detritus. An hour later, Pierre realizes there is no path on the left bank; he tries the right bank for half an hour and retraces his steps. He had to try creating a path through heavily densed thorny plants. At this crucial moment his cellular rings; a certain Chamoun arriving from the USA wants to join Pierre for the remaining section of his trip. Chamoun got wind of the adventure from the guide-book association; they decided to meet in the town of Falougha in a couple of days.

          Pierre is thinking that if any harms occur to him in this location then no one will find him.  Within 45 minutes he is in front of a newly renovated convent.  Pierre traverses the convent land and comes face to face with a Syrian worker cutting trees for coal for the convent.  The next village is Wadi El Karm with red tiles, arcades, and no cement for home construction.  Pierre sit amid adolescent boys by a shop.  One of them throws his soda can on the street.  Pierre resumes his trip to Baskinta.

          He heads toward a convent hoping for night facility; a monk is having dinner outside with two women; the monk adamantly refuses Pierre to sleeping over. On his way, an older woman sells Pierre a bag of chips and an orange juice; then the woman owner arrives and gives him a plate of tabouli for free. Lebanon is the country of contrast; you walk a couple of miles and customs change. Two women are having their evening walk; one is wearing jeans and the other a veil.

          Pierre stops for a hamburger and soda and then spends the night on the terrace of a vacant building.  On the 14th day, Mtein is the target town.  Pierre passes chicken farm.  A grape-vine is climbing three floors of a building to the roof.  Welcoming gestures are deteriorating: we are far away from friendly north mountain chain with ancestral traditions.

          Quitting the asphalt road of Baskinta Pierre is confronted with a stone fabric; Syrian workers sleep in open air.  A 65 years old woman is filling a 20 liters gallon from a tiny spring; Pierre carries the gallon to her car: the new VIP owner of the nearby villa diverted the water pipe to his unoccupied residence.  Within 30 minutes he arrives at Bteghrine.  At noon, Pierre takes a pause and a guy borrows a cigarette; the discussion reverts quickly to politics: the political figure of the region has bought the allegiance everyone.

          The next town is Mrouj; an hour walk.  Pierre eats “lahem bi ajeen” and yogurt on the terrace of a bakery; he recharges his cellular.  Around 2 pm, Pierre locates a relatively clean place in the forest to have an hour nap.  On the way, a woman is cutting parsley; she halted him a moment and emerges with a sandwich for Pierre.

          From Mtein Pierre arrives at Mchikla; two young men are having lunch and smoking narguileh under a nut-tree; they invite Pierre “tfadal”; Pierre asks directions to Bzebdine.




March 2023

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