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Eight days on top of Ethiopia

Rachel - Simien Mountains

I love to hike, but I don’t think my body does. I can’t predict the future but I think by body can. Every time we have been about to embark on a long trek I have been struck by some bug or other. In Iran I had diarrhoea, in Lebanon it was stomach cramps, in Malawi it was vomiting and this time, the day before we were going to head up to over 4000 metres in the Simien mountains I got hit with a nasty cough and cold.

So we started a day later than planned while I felt sorry for myself and tried to recover from the cold and bumpy 4 hour, 5am start bus journey under the covers in our hotel room and dave went to rustle up donkeys and food etc. I think I had it lucky though, our original guide had to cancel on us because his wife had just gone into labour, although super helpful he was so we had to forcibly send him away to his wife’s bedside in the end.

Day 1: Our new guide Shaggy, The scout Den and two nameless mule handlers, Dave and I made our way through the small dusty flat town and its equally small dusty market and down to the smooth rocked and meadow edged river which marked the start of the hills. We crossed the river by rocks and up through the gentle grassy hills, through forest and later wide open plains to our first campsite “Sankaber”. Dave and I had chosen to cook our own meals instead of hiring a cook and in the cooking area we one-by-one met the cast of this week’s stint in the mountains. Although each group would be walking with their guide in their own group and set out at different times we would invariably find ourselves meeting at the lookout points and rest stops and of course in the campsites over the next few days.

Day 2: Our first view from a height of the volcanic created and then river eroded valley floor. Wow. We shared our lunch with a troop of non-plussed baboons. At first we we thought they hadn’t seen us and kept quiet but then we realised they weren’t bothered in the slightest. We later caught up with some French walkers and while we approached we were hushed as if a rare shy creature had been spotted close by. As we approached we saw that we were looking down on what can only be described as a hilly baboon hobbit-village at some distance. We humoured the French for a little while and then strode noisily into the middle of the pack and watched as baboons of all ages gambled and grazed around us while others pelted themselves down the far woody hillside and chased each other round rocks. The guides had to drag us all away assuring us that there were hundreds more baboons ahead and, to paraphrase, could we, like, get over it already because we had some miles to cover :-p To which we replied “5 more minutes” :) Eventually we followed on, waving goodbye to baboon city and continued a gentle up over open gentle rolling plains, through fields of alien looking giant lobelia and small villages of round thatched houses to the stunningly situated campsite “Gitch”. Although it feels like the campsite is in the middle of nowhere there is actually a village somewhere hidden nearby and we were told we could buy a chicken there for dinner. Which we could…a live one. So while Dave went off to witness the butchery (in the halal sense) I started the sous-cheffing as the sun set and watched the cattle and horses being driven to lower ground for the night (check out the photos of the sunset and location of camp when Dave puts them up – it was breathtaking). After chopping a mountain of ginger, garlic, onions and carrot we made a tasty (if extremely rubbery) marinated chicken. Pah, who needs a chef. The campsite is at 3200 so as soon as the sun sets it gets mighty chilly so we all huddled round the campfire and turned in early only to wake at dawn to find the ground and tent covered in frost! This is not what I imaged Africa to be like! But it only added to the site’s beauty and didn’t last long at all once the sun was up again.

Day 3: Wow…again. This was by far the most spectacular day of the hike. We were climbing higher and higher along the edge of an incomprehensibly high, vertical dropping escarpment and so each turn revealed a new view of the still-high-in-their-own-right plateaus below as we climbed to 4070m to have lunch (where a sheep stole Dave’s lunch hahaha). One particularly good look out was the fabulously names GoGoMater which in Ethiopian means “go go old woman” and is named for the place where a local old woman chased after a foreigner who was walking past. Really it should have been called “Bugger me we’re high up and you can see for hundreds of miles in every direction” because we were stood on the jutting out point of the escarpment which meant you could see the craggy rocky mountains and plateaus on one side and a sheer drop and other face of the escarpment on the other. The guide pointed out where the path would take us on the other side of the vertical cliff, right along the very edge, and I think that should have been named merely “gulp”. It turned out no to be too bad because the path was a few metres back and the slope of the path was towards safety but even Dave had to lie down to peer over the edge and admitted to feeling a bit queasy when looking down. The sheer scale addled my little mind they did. The escarpment took us direct to the third and cutest of the campsites “Chenneck” where we all regrouped, lounged in the sun, drank tea, washed our steaming socks, watched the campsite baboons and eagles, and shared our “wow, wasn’t that amazing”s of the day.

Day 4. This is where all the groups parted company because there are several routes through the Simiens and we were going for the highest peak Ras Dashen. So the two of us made the slog alone down down down through the valley and along the river to the Ras Dashen base camp, stopping for lunch and some provisions shopping in a busy village having its market day. Ambiko camp is right next to a village and unfortunately it has many beggars, particularly children, who come to the camp – partly for entertainment I think - so it isn’t the most relaxing place unfortunately. I mean tot write a little separate piece about the relationship between tourists and locals later on but this place is a particularly interesting example. In the past you could stay in the village in a local person’s house if you wanted. This would give a bit of income to someone from the village and you were able to (in an admittedly small and surface way) get an idea of how people live up in the mountains. But the National Park authorities have put a stop to that – claiming reasons of “hygiene”. Which means that the village is denied an income from tourists except to beg, and tourists are forcedly separated/elevated(?) against their will from the people area they’ve come to visit. And why not in that case *teach* the villagers about hygiene which can only be a benefit to everyone? We thought it was madness and made for an uncomfortable situation all round.

Day 5. The previous day I had decided not to climb Ras Dashen with Dave because I was still coughing very badly from my cold every time we stopped for a rest so Dave went to the summit while I pottered around in camp and made friends with, and did small tasks (what they’d let me!) for the chefs who were preparing meals for the walkers. Dave was first back off the mountain and said it was a lovely walk on top of the world and despite being over 4500m wasn’t too strenuous. Everyone who came down was greeted by the chefs and mule drivers with a “Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back from Ras Dashen” song and a small posy of flowers which was a really sweet touch. Mood in the camp that night was understandably high, with campfire singing and dancing, but everyone was pooped so it was an early satisfied night for all.

Day 6. Was merely day 4 in reverse and a tough slog up up up. But at Chenneck we met a few new faces and shared our various experiences so far. Oh and a baboon stole Dave’s tea but put it down without spilling a drop just to teach him a lesson I think…cheeky baboon :) One of the newly arrived guides had a history degree and gave us all an interesting history of the country which filled in a few gaps and answered some questions not in the guidebooks. He knew much more about European and british history and politics than any of us did and made me quite ashamed how little I know. Must get one of those ‘orrible history for kids books when I get back

Day 7. We spent the day on the gravel/dust road to cut out Gitch and Sankaber camps and go straight to the site clostest to the final town. Although normally we shun the roads we were quite glad in this case as it was easier walking when we were both quite weary and footsore by now. We spent the journey piecing together what parts of history we could work out (“normans…they were important for something weren’t they…we they before or after the magna carta?”). We arrived at camp super tired after the longest days walk yet but we had promised the guides a chicken so we bought another two live chickens and together we prepared a local spiced meal and shared it with everyone. It was a real sense of achievement for us and even without much language we had a few moments around the small fire.

Day 8. We hobbled the final 4 hours back into town with various blisters and aches but finished at last to share a beer and take winners photos. Tell you what, I was looking forward to sitting on that bus back to Gonder.

I think the Simiens have been some of the most spectacular walking I’ve ever done….and I’ve been to Scotland! You should go.

Posted by rachndave 06:45 Archived in Ethiopia Tagged mountains hiking Comments (0)

Aftertaste of victory

Rachel - Nyika Plateau

We stopped in the town of Rumphi, just south of Nkiya national park in the north of Malawi. We stayed in a lodge attached to an orphanage and farm that we had been recommended but unfortunately we arrived late and had to leave early so we didn’t get a chance to look around much.

We had arranged with our guides that we would make our own way to the campsite at the top of the plateau and so next morning we jumped on the back of a truck and then waited and waited and waited as it filled up with more and more people and goods and finally we set off. The road we were taking would go north up to the Zambian border but also goes through the national park where we would get off at the junction and hope there’d be another truck going into the park itself or otherwise have to walk 18km to get to the campsite.

Normally I love travelling by pickups but this was the most uncomfortable three hours I’ve had yet with men falling asleep on my shoulder and pushing me into sleeping babies I was trying to protect while an old women restricted any possible movement of my legs while I was sat above the wheel with no suspension and feeling every jolt up my spine. Meanwhile Dave was sat up high on two comfy sacks of flour with the wind in his hair! I need to learn to get high early on in the packing process and hold my ground... But anyway when we arrived at the gates of the park we were called back by the young lad, Twembe, who worked the gates who had called our guide who was following some way behind since he was concerned that we’d not get a lift from the junction to the website and there was a risk of being found by poachers, hyenas or leopards and normally all visitors out in the open should be accompanied by a scout with a rifle. Twembe asked us to stay with him at the gate and we would be picked up by our guide when they arrived in a few hours.

So we waited. And waited. And bought some dried fish for cooking an evening meal, And waited. And it got dark. And we waited. And the park gates officially shut. And we waited. In the end we came to the conclusion that something had happened and so Twembe broke the rules, quite seriously for him, and allowed a timber truck through who were waiting outside the closed gates to bring a mechanic to a broken down friend inside on the condition that they took us all the way to the campsite.

We had an enjoyable 2 hours bumpy ride through the pitch black park, dropped of the mechanic and finally arrived at midnight. Woke up the unhappy warden, set up camp, put on all of our clothes cos at over 2000m it’s COLD, lit a fire, put on the iPod and finally sat down to our meal of fish, tomato, garlic, onion and some chilli powder and pasta at 1.30am. Many weeks wait to try this meal and we have to say it must be an acquired taste. The fish is a bit metallic and gritty tasting. Not terrible but not really tasty either. Still we felt chuffed to have accomplished this feat all by ourselves at last so it had an ultimate aftertaste of victory :)

The next morning Dave left our little tent for a wee and found a sunrise over the vast open hills in front of our site and four zebras grazing not 10m from our tent. Apparently I wasn’t to be woken without a sledgehammer so he managed to catch them on video – they stayed for ages he says.

Our guides finally arrived the next morning – the car had suffered two flat tyes and so they’d had to abandon it and walk 15km to the gate and then get a lift to the site in the morning. They were really worried we’d think they’d made off with our deposit cash but actually this hadn’t even crossed our minds. But in the end they were too late to organise the porter and scout and so we had a day to explore the closer areas of the plateau. So I hopped on a bike and dave by foot went out to see what we could see. For a seriously furious pedal in places I was rewarded with a small herd of zebras and some Roan antelope. I love the zebras; they trot off to a safe but still distance and then just stay staring back at you until one or other of you gets a bit bored and moves off. They didn’t seem bothered at all by the bike until I got off and they moved away. I wonder what they’d make of a unicycle, if i could master that perhaps I could pat one... I saw undulating grassy valleys, heather, patches of trees in little nooks, rocky crops. Wish I’d had the camera but maybe I can find a picture on the internet to show you. But no wonder they call Nyika the Scotland of Malawi.

I’ll skim over the hike because pictures always speak louder than words in these matters but it moved from the same vast open grassy plains we’d seen the day before to forests and through some picturesque and leafy villages on day two, over a river and ending on day two in a village market square, the edge of which, strangely, we made our camp and were allowed to use the toilet of a nearby family home. That afternoon, after our 5am start 17km hike, we were shown to the “where we could take a bath”. So we followed past the house, down a lane (okay...), out of the village (...!?), over a bridge, through some scrub and down to the river :) But what a bathroom view! And soooo refreshing for our hot feet and sore muscles. We had the place to ourself so dave even got nekkid oooOOooo (i didn’t look of course, i was too busy trying to keep my cup from floating away downstream)

On the last day, and another 5am start, we had a pretty easy dirt road walk up to Livingstonia past dozens of people filling in potholes and resurfacing the road with hoes as part of a self-help community project. We arrived about 10 so we had time for me to do some internetting and Dave wondered around the town.

Livingstonia is a strange place for a settlement really although it was successful for the missionaries in the sense that this was the first place they moved to where they didn’t lose everyone to malaria because of the healthy climate. It’s perched right at the edge of the pretty much vertical Rift Valley escarpment which leads right to the lake so the views are stunning but it’s only reachable from a truly terrible rutted dirt road. It’s a strange town as well with lots of colonial buildings widely spaced out and so as the guide book puts it “the impression is as if somebody started transporting a small Victorian village to the edge of the Rift Valley Escarpment, but got bored before they finished the job”.

After a stroll through the town we finished the hike by walking for another hour or so, stopping for a little break by a 100m waterfall. We passed under another kind of waterfall on the way – light rain seemed to be falling on us from a noisy tree and a local pointed out the large winged insects that we have heard making a very loud chirruping noise everywhere we go, and the “rain” is actually their excretion. Piss insects...nice. Fortunately we finished our hike in the pretty open air showers at the awesome Mushroom Farm – a place that people take pride in reaching even when they haven’t been walking for 3 days already what with it being inaccessible by public transport and up that 10km long and steep hill. They should make victory badges.

Posted by rachndave 12:27 Archived in Malawi Tagged food hiking Comments (0)

Ups and Downs - Mulanje Massif


We had gotten up before 6am to try and catch one of the more reliable but crack-of-dawn-leaving 7am buses but our breakfast took too long to be prepared so we took our time instead and caught a series of minibuses, via one of the big cities Blantyre to buy food and cooking pots for the walk and change some cash. The market there was huuuge and crowded with no real structure, which leant it the feel of a slum especially by being cut through by sludgy water in places and by having a nearby free bus station toilet which is honestly the worst I have ever…. EVER seen and I’ve been let into the squat toilets in men-only coffee houses in Iran. But the market sold clothes and gardening implements and more than we’ve ever seen before or since so we had no trouble getting everything we needed.

We made it to the foot of the Mulanje Massif, a plateau which rises to the highest point in Malawi (which looked like someone had painted it in the sky it was so pretty) as the sun was starting to dip and were immediately met by some porters and guides offering their services and accompanied us all the way up to the hostel. We had a bit of an ethical dilemma however because we had a personal recommendation from someone we met in Cape Maclear and who had climbed the massif, but the guides up to the plateau are supposed to operate on a rotation basis to provide everyone with some income. However we were too late to go via the official office and still be able to leave the next day, but these guys who had just followed us for 2km were sitting outside waiting to see in which way we were going to break the rules – in their favour or not. However the lady in the church-run hostel (in a beautiful setting by the way at the foot of the massif) associated with the plateau management assured us that the rota system didn’t really work for a variety of reasons and so if we had a personal recommendation then we may as well go with that. So she sent for the guide, Nedi, in order to vouch for his character and then we spent the night planning together. Dave and I really wanted to cross the whole plateau which should normally take an easy 5 days because some days you would only walking 3 or 4 hours on the paths between the various official mountain huts in which you would stay, and so we thought we could do it in 3 days. But Nedi refused to budge, doubting our enjoyment potential, so because of logistal constraints we agreed to explore the south west corner.

So on our first day we rose early, had a welcome wholesome churchy breakfast of porridge, fruit and tea and set off up the steep earthy, bouldery path into the sky.

Right at the top of this path (thankfully) I started to feel exhausted and none-too-right but after a whole hour the previous night trying to argue that we were fit and fast walkers, well, pride made me go on. Until I had to sit down, and then couldn’t move, and then was sick. How embarrassing. Hoping it was just the heat (and it was very hot), and actually feling a bit better I carried on but after some lunch which I brought straight back up again it was starting to look a lot like I’d caught the cape maclear bug. I think it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done to continue the mostly uphill path for another hour and a half, in the heat of midday, with an empty stomach, on an empty energy tank, knowing that noone could help, stopping often to pant or be sick (thank you Dave for always standing in front of the sun and creating me some shade as I did). But I did it and I’ve never been so relieved to see a destination before.

The hut was basic but cosy and full of other walkers making dinner in the fireplace and bedding down on the floor (adventure points to dave for earlier browsing someone’s Lonely Plant guide which warned that there were no mattresses in this hut which meant we brought our rollmats and sleeping bags with us…some people were caught out and were literally sleeping on the floor). There were even a few beers and cokes being kept cold in the nearby stream.

Weirdly I didn’t *feel* ill, just unable to keep anything down, so after a mostly good night and a test breakfast of porridge I decided to continue. Fortunately we were mostly going downhill on day 2, over areas that looked just like the Peak District or Yorkshire Dales withgreen rolling hills with the odd huge grey rock patches and streams. Unfortunately with an hour or so till home again I started feeling unwell again and have never been so glad to see a toilet when we arrived :) After a bad evening of cramps and dashes to the outside loos I thought it best to have a proper recovery day.

I’m so glad we stopped another day because the hut was like an american woodcutters hut with a open porch that ran all round the outside where you could sit and take in the tree fringed plains of gentle grassy hills. Although we were over a thousand metres up you’d swear you were somewhere in the middle of England – even weatherwise because it’s noticeably cooler up there with a gentle breeze. And it was the height of cosiness inside with old dark wooden furniture and bare floorboards, a roaring fire in the communal living/dining area and candlelight after dark. We were the only ones here so we ignored the dorms and slept on the “overflow beds” next to the crackling fire and I felt like I could move in and raise chickens.

Next day I made house and chatted to the workers re-planting local cedars to replace the non-indigenous and invasive pine while Dave climbed a nearby peak. In the evening we went to explore some nearby stream-fed pools and look out from the edge of the plateau over the towns below. A candle lit game of scrabble was the height of excitement and we enjoyed watching our guides try and work out how to cook the spare packet noodles we’d donated them (we’d all only brought enough food for the trip but fortunately I’d skipped a meal).

The next day was Dave’s birthday and back in tip top health (almost sadly) we trickled down easy tree shaded bouldery paths, broken by further views out over the side of the massif, getting more and more tropical as we descended. For lunch we stopped at a waterfall straight out of some advert for shampoo. Dave dived into the icy cold clear and deep water while I slid in ooching and eeking but it was sooo refreshing after the tropical trees. We dried out in the sun and then made the last few km back to base.
As a special birthday treat we were passed by a local church gospel choir who were staying at the hostel and were going on a trip to the waterfall but singing as they went. It was great to pass them one by one in a line and hear the different harmonies.

We finished pretty early in the day and Dave requested dinner out and dancing in the big city so we didn’t even have a shower but gathered our bags (dashed off that last blog entry) and hopped on a bus to Blantyre – after being given a lift to the next town by an ambulance who was returning to base and picks up some passengers for cash when he does. T.I.A. This is Africa.

Posted by rachndave 03:55 Archived in Malawi Tagged hiking muontains illness Comments (0)

The big Dana to Petra trek


Dana village is an interesting place. Jordan's "national trust" the RSCN has transformed it from a semi abandoned old farming village into a sustainable tourism destination by building a nature reserve centre and ploughing the profits back into the community and training it's inhabitants in traditional crafts and new eco production methods.

There's not much there though: three large families, 4 hotels and 48 cats. And from the dusk chorus we heard echoing round the valley every night I'd guess two dozen dogs and an orchestra of braying donkeys. It's a remote place at the very top of a long winding valley connecting the viallage with another RSCN reserve - Feynan - and all you can really hear is birdsong (during the day that is...see above)

The valleys that make up the reserve are also part of the great Rift Valley which stretches from Africa to Turkey and it was decending into this great valley which took up our first day's trekking to finish of in the wide valley floor passing only the Feynan eco lodge and a few bedouin tents on the way (stopping for tea of course). We arrived in camp, meeting our support driver and other guide Ali for more tea before making a 2 hour further round trip to walk up a stream, to become a river with increasingly large boulder stepping stones to cross on the way. We could have gone further but it was getting darjer and tea was calling back in camp. A sweet reward after 24kms of walking.

That night we slept out under the stars beside the fire on the mattresses they had brought along and even saw some shooting stars :)

Day two was very much off the beaten track and took us through vast canyons of sandstone formations carved by the wind to look like hills of giant skulls. Ali our second guide brought his beloved donkey along (nicknamed "Pause" by Dave and me because every time he stopped he didnt move a muscle as if someone had pressed pause) who struggled on a few bits: he fell down a salty crevice and had to be dug out, and at one point slid off a 2 meter drop but seeemed to be totally nonplussed and merely took it as a chance for a little sit down while we scrambled down to convince him back up. That night we arrived tired and ready for more tea but our support guys were nowhere to be seen - they had gotten their wires crossed about the meeting place. No matter - we gathered some firewood with the headtorch, made some tea at the top of a rock, gazed at the stars and waited for them to eventually turn up and start cooking a delicious bedouin speciality. We were almost a little disappointed to be recued but I'm glad we didnt have to fight for the only blanket Ali had brought with him - all our stuff was in the back of the van.

Day three, after a side trip for a refreshing shower in a waterfall, was mostly hard going desert and steep, sandy, rock strewn, yellowy hillsides with no shade and little variation and, although he didnt like to admit it, our original guide Abdul didnt really seem to know where we were at a few points :-s We finally had to stop walking up hill after hill after hill trying to get some phone signal because it was getting dark so again dave and I collected the firewood from the few scattered trees while Abdul enlisted the help of the passing Ministry of Agriculture workers who were patrolling the reserve for poachers and unauthorised campers to locate the support truck. At least we knew we could always stop with the bedouin who were only over on the next hillside. Eventually everyone was reunited and we had a delicious soup made with yoghurt all poured over bread made in the ashes of the fire.

The final day was more like the impressive skull 'n bones scenery from day 2 and took us down into an open valley leading to "Little Petra" where we had a chance to explore the tombs, stairs and meeting places carved into the sandstone. We finished the next three hours walking the ridge of sandstone cliffs to the edge of Petra itself, bantering with bedouin children along the way, and finished off the last mile or so of asphalt on the back of the support truck to a hotel and hot shower. No sleeping under the stars tonight, not for a few days at least...until Wadi Rum.

Posted by rachndave 01:59 Archived in Jordan Tagged hiking eco-tourism Comments (1)

A monk's picnic

Like everywhere we have been so far the summer months are hot and dry but the winter months bring snow and lots of it. Iran gets 10 moetres we were told and everyone in Lebanon and Syria are also proud of their four seasons. Bcharre, in the north west of Lebanon, is a skiing village which serves the nearby Cedars resort during the winter but in summer it is the best place to explore the Qadisha floor which is supposed to be one of the most beautiful areas in Lebanon. After the hot and dusty yellow sandstone landscape of Baalbeck we were ready for some green again.

After making a plan to meet up in the same hostel 4 hours away we left Amy and Daun in Baalbeck to wander round *our* ruins ;) for the morning while we made our way straight to Bcharre

The hotel and taxi drivers assured us that the best way to get there was to get a shared taxi to a nearby town and hitch the rest of the way. So we jumped confidently out of the first taxi only to be laughed at by the locals in the sleepy little village we were dropped in. But we soon had a team of children flagging down cars (to no avail) and eventually a passing australian-lebanese man said he fancied a drive anyway and took us most of the way there and from there we managed to flag a shared cab for the short final hop. And I had a chance to practice my school girl french with a softly spoken and smiley local man in the back. I just can't get to grips with Arabic so it's been lucky for us that everyone here speaks French.

I mention these moments really because catching shared taxis and stopping in smaller towns is the main way that we meet local people and get to swap our countries stories - this is how I get my flavour for the country but it's difficult to share that with you precicely but it'll be a reminder for me when I look back on this when i'm old, so bear with these little bookmarks :)

We climbed into the mountains and wound our way round the side to see a cloud sitting in the valley below - a very pretty sight - and under that cloud was Bcharre. The town itself has a very seasidey feel partly due to the fog/cloud I think and the fact that the houses are built up the steep sides of the valley and so as you look out you cant see anything on the other side for the fog and so it could easily be the sea. It was so cool up here that I had to use my jumper (hooray for packing it!). We pootled about the town, had dinner with the girls, and got an early night ready to start our hike at 8am sharp.

Fortunately the cloud stayed away the next day and revealed the sights that were hidden the previous day. Wow. The valley is steep, and full of green orchards and vegetation. There is a river in the bottom and the odd little houses dotted on the other side...heaven knows how they get bread and milk because there were no roads on the other side that we could see. Dave, James-the-Australian-teacher-eight-months-into-his-year-sabatical and I scrambled down the valley side to join the donkey tracks and then footpaths along the side of the valley. The valley is famous for harbouring persecuted religious minorities throughout the centuries, mostly of the christian maronite order, all that is left now are old monasteries and cave hide-outs you can explore. However some of the monasteries are still working and have been since the 11th century. We spent the day scrambling up hills to check out caves, visiting the old hermitages (these maronites like to be left alone), monastery museums (we saw the first printing press built in the whole Middle East...and lots of wine making paraphenalia...no wonder these monks like to be left alone) and scrumping apples, grapes, walnuts, figs and blackberries from the orchards, monastery gardens and even those provided legally by nature, like, just out in the open. We resisted the urge to climb into the little steel cables transport box to cross to the other side...so *that*s how they get their milk and bread.

We were making our way back on the road, pestering local goats and watching the sun sink behind the rock speckled valley, happy but weary, when our dream finally came true....!! a pick up truck stopped to give us a lift!! so we rode back home along the top edge of the valley with the glowing sunset behind us, waving like idiots at all the groups of old men sitting outside shops. James didnt quite get why were were so excited but we grinned like loons the whole way home :-D

I was still smiling when we finally fell into bed (after the walnut-tasting competition of the monk's spoils, a beer, a shower and a good meal). Good day.

Posted by rachndave 07:58 Archived in Lebanon Tagged food hiking religion transportation valleys Comments (0)

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