12/09/2010 - 13/09/2010
The reason we chose this whole adventure destination was because of the inspiration-seed planted by Beirut and it's nearby cedar reserve. Lebanon used to be famous for it's cedars - when I say used-to-be I mean in the middle eastern sense of time eg. Soloman-from-the-bible's temple was apparently made from lebanese cedar. As were the roofs of roman palaces etc. A cedar leaf is in the centre of the lebanese flag. But unfortately, as is the way of these things, there are few cedars left now (greedy romans) but there is one reserve left covering 5% of Lebanon's land and more trees are being planted all the time.
En route we stopped at a pretty and very french feeling mountainous village of Dier al Qamar. Being an upmarket and small place there wasn't any affordable accommodation here so in the end someone suggested asking up at the convent for a camping spot. The super kindly, smily and multinational nuns didnt bat an eyelid and offered us the ahem...carpark of their school. Not that we needed it but even had the affectionate guard of the young dog who had followed us all the way for he stayed the night and trot and frolic at our heels back to town the next morning only to disappear without even a bark goodbye. I shall remember you fondly Swivel (named after the french for "to follow" = suivre)
The chouf cedars cover hills and hills of space although we only skirted the edge for 10k basking in the views over the valley and breathing deep the clean cool air which was tinged with the piney scent of the cedars. Exeactly as we'd imaginge. The only shame is that without a guide you aren't allowed to go off road so we didnt get to wander as we leased but we did manage to sneak down one track for a bit and take in the vastness of the reserve on the other side of the valley. We hitched a ride back to town on a leaving tour bus (by hitch i mean we asked at the ranger's hut for a taxi and the ranger dashed out to stop it and bundled us on)
We finished up in Zahle in a small faded-elegant hotel which would have been the perfect setting for an Agatha Christie film, including tea in the drawing room drawing room with a nature loving american couple and their grown son and shuffling maids Zahle is well situated for the Bekka valley... a name that should be familiar to you Uncle Gary (hello Uncle Gary!). More later.