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21/01 – Beirut to Jdita – Up into the Hills

March 4, 2011

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I think this is the 3rd goodbye to Beirut. Its sunny and busy we say goodbye, eat a croissant and work our way towards the motorway thats going to take us straight up and over the mountains which provide Beiruties (can you say that?) with a rest from the heat in the summer and into the Bekaa valley to Anjar (Omayyed ancient site) and onwards back to Syria and the next stop Damascus.

The mountains clearly visible from our resting place in Beirut become closer, at the lights a guy leans out of his car and asks “Your going up that? You be climbing for hours” Great! We have no choice our intital plan to head south of Beirut and sneakily enter the valley around the mountains could not be followed up based on advice from Hezbollah/Alma people we encountered the other day.

The hill isnt too steep but its pretty unrelenting and combined with the huge amount of traffic, pollution spewing out of every exhaust pipe straight into our lungs and the sun beating down make this a really difficult one. To make things more interesting theres roadworks taking place, we’re periodically overtaken by a flat bed truck which holds 4 or so guys coated in soot who jump off at every pot hole and pour boiling tar into the gap before jumping back on and advancing to the next rupture. We plough on for a good few hours before stopping off at a petrol station where we’re offered a welcome hit of caffeine and a place to rest if we need it. Back to the hills and at least the road works and traffic have died down.

Towards the top a big sign proudly announces that the next section of road has been funded by the Italian government, i have no idea why but its a good stretch. We make it to the summit, with no more climbing in sight we find a camp spot on a track which hugs the side of the hill.

Absolutely knackered, a whole day of climbing in the heat and pollution knocks us out. The wind however wants to party and picks up, the tents groan and bend in the gales and at midnight i get up to re peg my tent and find harry’s top sheet ready to return back down the hill to Beirut. Repegged, sleep is intermittent as the wind howls.

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