Sunday, July 31, 2011

Where, oh where, oh where....

It's been a couple weeks since I posted from Bcharre, the halfway-point of the LMT. I've been unimaginably busy, and, as has been the dilemma on so many occasions this summer, I'm faced with memories of far too many amazing events and experiences to possibly cover on my blog. So rather than going through the day by day details of the hike, I'm afraid I will be reduced to posting a few photos, which will hopefully communicate something of what I would like to:

After finishing the hike, I completed my final video (which was about the hike) went to the emergency room (I had become progressively more and more ill during the hike) went out and experienced some of Beirut's night life, burned dozens of DVD's, and got flew to Italy, where I am now. So that was the last week. Sorry for the lack of details and/or eloquence, but I hope you enjoyed the photos, and also that I'll have a chance to tell many of you the stories behind them in person.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

On The LMT

Warning, I've not had time to proof read this at all, so please ignore any embarrassing type errors. 

Well, I'm currently sitting at an internet cafe in the town of Bsharri overlooking the Kadisha Valley, a World Heritage Site, and among the more beautiful places I've ever been. The entire group is here, taking a well deserved break from the first week of trekking the LMT. And let me tell you, it has been a crazy experience.

The trail turned out for the most part to be not really a trail, but rather scrambling up cliff faces, over jagged rocks, camping in fields full of scorpions, and drinking questionable water. Everyone (except for our former Lebanese Army guide, Joseph, whom we have affectionately named "The Chuck Norris of Lebanon") has been sick at least to some degree, and exhausted beyond belief. So that's the negative... or the stuff that has made it such an epic adventure, depending on your perspective.

Every night we have stopped at a place that was seemingly more beautiful than the last, and while I may have been too tired to completely appreciate it at some points, I have tons of photos, which I will look forward to sharing, perhaps in this post, or perhaps when I'm in a place that I don't have to pay for internet by the hour. 

I've never met so many hospitable people, been invited into so many homes, or drank so many cups of tea or Arabic coffee. It's interesting how the more remote and primitive the village, the more welcoming and interested the people are, so in some ways the times that have been the hardest have also been the best.

Got to sign off now,

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Take A Hike

It's been a good week back in Beirut. Tomorrow, however, I'll be leaving again––this time for a two week hike.

I've spent the last couple says shopping and figuring out how I would pack my backpack. I apparently have the smallest backpack of anyone in the group, which could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you look at it. I mainly just didn't feel like spending a couple hundred bucks on regular backpacking pack back in the States, and besides, I've lived out of my little North Face Recon one for more than a week before, and that was carrying a computer too, so I think I'll be fine.

Yesterday I spent most of the afternoon shopping for a wide brim hat, only to be disappointed several times. Everything was either cheesy looking, or about four times what I was willing to pay for it. In the end I bought this biker headband thing that I will probably use in conjunction with the desert scarf that I bought in Jordan... so I will look like a Bedouin... but then that's probably appropriate.

So I think this will be a fun couple weeks. There are a lot of variables... like the people I'm going with, many of whom I haven't met yet, and whether or not my now overstuffed little backpack will be adequate, but I think it will work out.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

With Lawrence

Yes, in the below picture I am sitting with two Bedouins in Wadi Araba holding a gazelle's head. How I got into this situation is a rather long story, however.

Yesterday, two friends and I decided to take a trip out into the Jordanian desert––in the car pictured below:

After visiting Mt. Nebo, the place where––according to tradition––Moses looked out on the promised land he would not be permitted to enter, we drove down to the dead sea, something I had always wanted to see. Since we were planning on camping out in the desert that night, and it is almost mandatory that you take a shower afterwards, we decided not to go swimming. So that will have to be for another trip. After that we headed south along the sea and made the 200-some kilometer journey to Aqaba. Along the way we made two stops; several to pick of hitchhikers, and one to run out and frolic in the sand... and discover that our Honda Compact was not the greatest off-road vehicle:

Another was to walk with wild camels:

When we finally reached Aqaba, I had the strange sensation that I had seen the place before... and then I realized that I had––in Lawrence of Arabia. We then went down to the beach and rented a paddle-boat. The Gulf of Aqaba isn't exactly the kind of place I ever pictured myself using a paddle-boat, but it was fun in a hilarious kind of way. It was also a cool experience because from the Gulf of Aqaba it's possible to see four countries at the same time: Jordan to the North-East, Israel to the North-West, Saudi Arabia to the South-East, and Egypt to the South-West.

By the time we finished it was getting dark and we headed back out into the desert. After traveling into Wadi Araba we left the highway and drove along dirt (or sand, rather) roads until we found an abandoned hut-kind-of building with no roof and a walled in courtyard in back. The stars were just coming out when the first Bedouins came.

They spoke with Brett for about fifteen minutes and kept repeating that it was very strange for us to be there and that they had never seen anything like it before. They finally left and we went back to taking care of the fire. Just a few minutes later though, another one showed up, talking on his cell phone. He was followed by two more, and they were all adamant that it was not safe for us to stay there, telling us we would probably get shot or robbed or something along those lines. So it was evident that at this point the entire valley knew we were there––and wasn't particularly pleased about it. The also added that if any of these things happened it would reflect badly on them, since it was their territory. Thus, they insisted that it was their duty to take us to their home. We in turn insisted that we would leave and return to Aqaba and camp on the beach instead. They however, would not hear of this, and twenty minutes later we were following their white Toyota pickup back to their house.

So I spent the evening drinking large amounts of tea, sitting on cushions, and listening to Brett converse with them in Arabic for several hours. It was a surreal experience, and I'm tempted to write another post just about it.

They woke us up at six-thirty that morning with more tea, and flat-bread, which gave us more than enough time to get to Petra where I had arranged to meet my friends and professor from Bryan for the day.

Petra is something I had dreamed of seeing since I was nine or ten, and so coming to Jordan it was the main thing I was looking forward to seeing. In the end though, and even though it exceeded my expectations thoroughly, it seemed more like icing on the cake.

Late that afternoon, I parted ways with Brett and Jonny and took the bus back to Amman. I had some work to do there, and also wanted to spend some time catching up with my friends. I was still a little sad to see the previous two days come to an end, as they were definitely some of the craziest and best ever.