Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Kobayat

Part 8. “On the Wild trail of Mount Lebanon”: Aaychieh; (Mar.13, 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.

He crossed Lebanon from the upper northern town of Kobayat to the southern town of Marje3youn in June 2008.

At 8:30 am Pierre and his part-time companion Chamoun walk toward the south: destination unknown.  They pass by an improvised station for washing cars by an irrigation canal.

They had decided to take the asphalt road for fear of cluster bombs that Israel haphazardly dropped on South Lebanon in 2006, in the last three days of the 33 days of the July preemptive war. At noon, they take a rest under the lone oak tree in the vicinity.  They eat at a restaurant in the village of Kfarhouneh: homus, chich taouk (chicken), and a large platter of salad.

It is Sunday and calm. The break is extended: Pierre’s friend George called and is joining the walkers with his girlfriend Farfoura.  Pierre visits alone a convent because the cleric seemed antipathetic; a local TV team is filming the inside of the convent.

By 7 pm, they are in Zeghrine. The Moslem Muezzin is calling for evening prayer.  Adolescents are eating ice cream and dropping the paper where they stand.

Next destination is Aaychieh.

Three armed civilians ask for ID; Pierre responds by asking for their ID first.  The armed men contact the Hezb HQ.  Two brothers invite the walkers and bring them fruit juice; the youngest accompany them to his house in the village; after a hot shower, the travelers join the family for dinner and sleep in an apartment.

In the 70’s, Palestinians killed the father; the family has now forgiven and looking forward.

The next morning they pass a house; the man invites them for tea.  The town of Marje3youn appears on the top of a mountain.  There is an army post.

Private Ali from Akkar whom Pierre met a couple of weeks ago holler to Pierre: Ali confided that he is no longer satisfied with army life and its small rations.

The Litany River valley separates the travelers from Marje3youn in the south and the Crusaders’ Beauford Castle (Chekeef Arnoun) on the west.  Several pauses were necessary during the steep ascent.

In Marje3youn, Pierre orders mankoush and soda; the owner refuses to accept money. Pierre finds a church and takes off his boots.

The residents in the second floor of the opposite building call the army; two soldiers arrive and search all the belonging of Pierre.  Pierre told the fat harassing soldier that he will meet with the Army Chief and will suggest to him to order all soldiers and military personnel to walk Lebanon from North to South; the fat corporal is not happy and takes Pierre’s conversation very seriously.

Chamoun arrives with Nasser, a good-hearted man (aleb tayeb); they eat at Nasser’s house where the family was ready to have dinner around an outside table; all kinds of food were arranged on the table.

Pierre asks to care for the barbecue since he does not feel hungry yet.  Then Pierre locates the mayor to negotiate the proper location for planting the cedar tree. Political infighting with the council is exacerbating any decision.  The travelers spend the night at Jamil’s (Nasser’s nephew) house.

The next evening, a correspondent from the daily Al Nahar had an interview with Pierre; Chamoun tried to pressure Pierre to lie and say that Chamoun coincidently walked in a separate trail. The photographer Alfred arrives and takes photo sessions for the planting ceremony. They had a car ride to Jezzine to perform another planting ceremony.

Pierre got into thinking: it is these warm, good-hearted and welcoming families who represent the true character of Lebanon.  End of the 22 days walking trip on the wild trails of Mount Lebanon.

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 4. “On the wild trails of Mount Lebanon”: Toward town of Tannourine ; (Mar. 7, 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 from the upper northern town of Kobayat to the southern town of Marje3youn  in June 2008.

Pierre ascended a steep and arid mountain; he took a break at 10 am at one of the goat shepherds’ tent.  You think from afar that the shepherds are having a good splendid life of liberty, then you realize the hardship when you enter the tent, see, and hear; especially, the conditions of the children.

From the vantage point on the mountain Pierre could see the cedar trees of the next target town of Tannourine (natural reserve that I had visited two years ago).  Within an hour, Pierre was in the forest of cedars.

A conductor of a 4*4 broke Pierre’s napping under an old tree saying “This is the most beautiful napping that we can dream to have.”  Pierre resumed his walk toward the town of Tannourine Al Fawka (upper). The trip lasted 3 hours since Pierre lingered watching wild flowers on his path.

After visiting a bakery, Pierre napped for an hour in the forest.  He decided to go forward to the village of Balaa; the gas station attendant told Pierre to take the regular road.  He ate and gathered cherries off trees.

Pierre was not lucky in Balaa: a woman refused him taking a shower (she was an urban lady visiting her hometown for the weekend).  He finally located an abandoned house and slept under a chestnut tree.  Pierre’s days are long; he starts pretty early and ends very late: an average of no more than 6 hours sleep.  The next day some people redirect his trajectory: destination Akoura.  The trail is a descent and he accelerates the rhythm; he reaches the town in one hour.

Hassan invites Pierre to sleep in his motel for free.  Pierre enjoys a hot shower and spends the evening on the terrace with Hassan’s friends who turned out to be guides of the region. Pierre declined a walk after supper (Hassan’s friends seem to forget that he has been walking a lot lately).  Hassan’s father had died a couple of years ago as a landmine detonated under his feet, killing him and his two hunting buddies.  Pierre sleeps on a real bad this night.

Akoura counts about 40 churches; the ancient ones were sepulture and were converted to churches. The photographer Alfred arrives at 8 am for a third photo session of planting a cedar tree in the municipal garden.  Alfred then gives Pierre ride to Tannourine for a planting session photo shoot.  At noon, Pierre eats another “mankoush alla saj” and then talk with Hassan’s mother, daughter, and two smaller children.  The 6 years old first refuses to take his tray to the kitchen and then obeyed tears in his eyes as a consequence for his previous stubbornness.  The mother would not like Pierre taking his tray to the kitchen but Pierre knows better by now.

The next target town is Afka.  If Pierre has to escalate the high mountain and then turn around it then he would not reach destination by night fall.  Thus, Pierre is obligated to taking the regular asphalt road.  On the road, he is invited to a glass of raspberry syrup and then another one of cherry as he passes by a cherry orchard.  He arrives at 4 pm in Afka and spends a couple of hours amid women preparing tomorrow meals and men returning from work.  Afka is predominantly of Shiaas and Pierre felt frustrated with the conversation.  The hosts felt more affiliation with Iran than with non-Shiaa Lebanese: the danger in Lebanon is to belonging to a religious sect.

Afka is famous for its grotto and the abandoned Roman Temple dedicated to Venus.  Pierre decided to resume his trip to the village of Lassa. Ninety minutes later he stumbles on goat shepherds; they correct his direction.  The shepherds are not at peace with Pierre presence in the region: they want to know from where he is “Mnein int?

Lassa is still further down in the valley and Pierre spends the night in an abandoned house, the only one on his long path.  By sundown, the Islam Muezzin of Lassa answers another Muezzin: a chain reaction starting from south to north.

Part 2.  “On the wild trails of Mount Lebanon”: heading to town of Asaymout; (Mar. 3, 2010)

Pierre Bared, a middle-aged man, tall, svelte, with graying beard and three children decided to walk 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.

Pierre is now heading toward the town of Asaymout, an abandoned Christian village during the civil war because the neighboring villages are all Moslem Sunnis.  Two hours of marching amid squirrels, wood coal makers, and beehives.

There is a coffee shop by the dry river.  The next town is Sfire that has a school and a nearby ruin of a Roman Temple as shown by the guide-book.

Pierre sleeps in an abandoned house. The town of Sir El Donniye is in the valley but Pierre would have to retrace his step if he wished to continue south; thus he skipped this village.

In Douraya he met Halima and Nizar; the rooms are not connected: you have to get out to enter another room.  Water is heated outside and the toilet is Moslem or Turkish style at floor level.

Pierre learns that girls are married by the age of 14.  Pass the age of 18 girls are sent to Beirut for a second chance to get wed.  Nizar is the eldest of 18 offspring from the same mother; the father managed to marry another woman: Nizar has no idea how many half brothers and sisters are around.  Women and girls decline to have photos taken of them.

On the fifth day, Pierre let go of the heavy tent and left it at Nizar’s home:  he realized the tent will be of no use in tiny Lebanon where in any day of marching leads to many villages.

Hani, brother of Nizar, is a soldier assigned in south Lebanon; the time to reach his village on his rare vacations then he is about to rejoin his camp.  Hani told Pierre one the running myths in the region “the next small village was evacuated by its inhabitants because the sky rained stones because a church and a mosque were built side by side.”

The next target is the town of Ehden where he has to meet someone for a photo session planting a Cedar tree.  On the way he could vividly see the city of Tripoli on the sea-shore and the three tiny islands.

Pierre crosses the villages of Karm El Mohr and Bchennata on a hill-top. To reach the village of Souaki, Pierre had to cross a rickety bridge over a river. Many passerby warned Pierre that the only way to reach Ehden is by taking the asphalt road; Pierre avoids asphalt roads and he tried different wild trails to no avail: there are villages that cannot be reached unless you take formal roads.

In Ehden, Pierre sleeps at the municipality guest house and plants his tree and eats “mankoushi” before heading to his next target of Kannoubine (The Valley of the ancient Maronite Patriarchs and Saints).  Pierre recharges his cellular phone in Ain Tourine and discusses with a group of youth. It is routine for discussions to start with religion, especially with a stranger.

The purpose is to delimit the confession of the person and locate his origins in order to consider compatibility in mentality.  I tend to agree with Pierre that “Everyone has his religion; it is generally different by many ways from the religion of the group he adheres to”. 

On the trail, Pierre is surprised to see two wild horses. He eats cherries off the trees.  When he reaches Kannoubine the nuns first denied him access to the convent on the ground that doors are locked at 7 pm.

The nuns changed their mind at the pitiful sight of Pierre and let him in; the nuns bring him hot water, iodine, and rough salt to clean his blistered feet.  Then, they bring a platter of food.

Pierre sleeps in the nearby church of Sainte Marine. (To be continued)

Part one: “On the wild trails of Mount Lebanon”; (Mar. 2, 2010)

            Pierre Bared walked alone for 22 days on the wild paths of Mount Lebanon crossing it from the upper northern town of Kobayat to the southern town of Marje3youn; he was following the guide book “Le sentier de la montagne Libanaise” that was no help most of the time; actually, the only time that this guide was of help was when he recognized a scenery or a ruin that was shown in the guide and knew that he recovered his direction.  Mostly, when no one was around to ask for direction he had to backtrack and retrace his ways several times after climbing and descending precipices for useless hours. 

            The hardest part of the trip were the monstrous blisters that plagued his feet: Bared must have forgotten to carry with him the appropriate medicines for blisters; worst, he didn’t realize that he should get some training with his boots before undertaking this arduous walk.  Bared liked to taking short smoking breaks after hours of feeling lost to recover his will to resuming the trip. 

            You think Lebanon is a very tiny country until you try to discover its wild mountain region where people are a century behind in their life style: no electricity, no running water, eating from what the land produce, and what the goats deliver in milk. People tell you all kinds of myths; for example, a young man reproduced a story of a small village that was evacuated by its inhabitants because the sky rained stones on the ground that a church and a mosque were built side by side. Many villages were emptied during the civil war when the confession was different from the neighboring villages for fear of reprisals.

            Pierre Bared didn’t offer much of his identity; the photo shows a middle aged man, tall, svelte, with graying beard.  He has three children whose memory extends comforting relaxation during difficult moments when he decides to slide on his behind for rough inclines with no one on sight. Bared feeds on powder milk and cocoa on the trail; he eats solid food when reaching villages or when invited by mostly hospitable families.  His backpack weight 15 kilos; he had to let go of his heavy tent five days later because he realized that he was not using it: in tiny Lebanon you always find a village even in the wildest of regions in a day walk.

            Pierre started the trip at 8:30 am, Friday of June 6, 2008.  Friends drove him to Kebayat. The next town was Akkar Atika (Old Akkar) covering a large area around the plateau of Kamou3a. Then you reach the village of Zabboud surrounded by heavy fogs; a lady of 50 of age invites Pierre for a cup of tea.  He bunked in an unfinished house but the howling winds disrupted his sleep. The next morning, he eats cherries directly from trees; a shepherd fills his empty water bottle.  Pierre washes his face and clothes in a spring.  He discovered a coffee place amid the nowhere and recharged his cellular.  A couple of Lebanese living in Sweden comes in to eat.  Pierre eats many dishes and is surprised that the tab is only $4.

            The destination for his second night is Michmich according to the guide.  People he met had no idea that Michmich exists.  He stumbled on the village of Fnaydek and Pierre declined the nice gesture to be given a lift on a “mobylette” (a bicycle with a tiny motor).  Two men approach him and play the game of security person of the village and asks him questions and then demand his ID; in response, Pierre ask them for their ID (most probably men in these remote villages have no peaces of identifications) and the men laugh it out and leave him in peace.  He sleeps in the municipality house of three rooms and enjoys his first hot shower.

            The next day, Pirre descends a valley for 45 minutes and join a family having breakfast of labneh, eggs, and baking bread on the “tannour”.  Two brothers work in Beirut and return to their village on week ends; they wake at 4 am on Monday to go to work; the third brother is in the army: There are no families in the Akkar district that have no members in the army.  Women refuse to have their photos taken.  The mother prepares a bag of food (zouadeh) for Pierre to eat on his journey.

            Pierre avoids asphalt roads but there are villages that cannot be reached unless you take formal roads. (To be continued)


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adonis49

adonis49

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