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TRAVEL EXPERIENCES routelog # 15

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LEBANON

LEBANON CONTENTS ‘SNOWY TEMPLES’

“... its not unusual to see a ‘definitly-not-roadworthy truck’ being overtaken on the inside, by a brand new tinted Mercedes/ GMC in a residential area at 130 km/h, with a car on the wrong side of the road moving directly towards the other vehicles and the driver waving to his mates on the roadside.” Continued on Page 2

Baalbek ruins

Jon looking at snowy mountains

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Roar!


DAMASCUS - BAALBEK - HOMS!

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Dam (14 ascus /02 /09 Ho )( 18/ ms 02/ 09)

“SNOWY TEMPLES” Kilometre's cycled: Approximately 200 kilometres Punctures: 1 Repairs: With so much rain and mud we needed to adjust various bits and pieces. The stove also has been playing up. We hope we can get this resolved soon, as lunchtime hot drinks have proved very good for spirits during days in the cold and wet. Road conditions: Damascus-Lebanese border: The Syrian road was in good condition, and with a hard shoulder, however there were many ‘cowboy’ drivers, yahooing out of the windows and using their vehicles for intimidation. We think it is purely for fun, and they seem to enjoy being in their position. It has been terrifying at times. Terrain: it’s a climb out of Damascus, and rises to 1300m at the border. Border to Baalbek: We arrived at the border just on dusk and the road deteriorated. We understand that infrastructure was attacked during the most recent war, so roads throughout this region were still in

Lebanese Syrian border

Narrow roads

“... many ‘cowboy’ drivers, yahooing out of the windows and using their vehicles for intimidation.”

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No mans land

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DAMASCUS - BAALBEK - HOMS!

Dancing Boy

Morning camp view

dis-repair, meaning slower and bumpy cycling. Terrain: The road drops down from the border, and then continues on the flat to Baalbeck in the middle of the valley with snow capped mountains on either side. Baalbek-Syrian Border: Again the same as above, slower cycling due to bumpy tarmacked roads. Terrain: Moderately flat until you leave the Lebanese border control. You then drop down for possibly the longest ‘nomans-land’ we have crossed, around 10 kms to the Syrian border control. Syrian Border-Homs: An immediate improvement in the roads as soon as we crossed the line. Terrain: Moderately flat. Weather: From the relative warmth of Damascus during the day, we were in rain gear as soon as we crossed the border, and had a cold night in the tent with temperatures around zero over night. Dark heavy clouds brought snow and biting cold temperatures as we arrived in Baalbek. At 1000m its a cold place in comparison to two weeks ago, and we took advantage of tailwinds to get us up the

valley towards Syria, where we dropped down to 300m again to slightly warmer cycling, and more rain. Liters of water consumed/ day/person: 1 L Litres of water in plastic bottles consumed: 0 L Flavour-some Food: Jon found sweet condensed milk, which brought back memories of Ethiopia , and we have had more falafel, halawa (a sweet sesame seed substance, its very hard to explain the texture, and comes in a plastic tubs, Jon loves it, Aukje enjoys the version mixed with chocolate). Aukje continues to enjoy Lebneh, a thick and sometimes tangy natural yoghurt for breakfast, with honey. Also: self-made flat bread sandwiches with roast chicken, segment cheese, Pringles and left over dinner from last night. Physical Well-being: Aukje had a pretty bad cold, has been coughing and spluttering and we have done our best to avoid the really heavy rain days.

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Raodside propaganda

People: The ‘cowboys’ on the road around the border were not amusing, and in general on this road even when we arrived at the border we experienced some atrocious drivers. Our brief experience with the Lebanese has been good, very friendly and helpful with directions. We camped behind a service station and had some entertaining company in the morning when we were packing up the tent and urged to move on. The young

man danced, sang, and buzzed around on his moped. Then escorted us down the road 5 or so kms and then asked us for money. The farmers all had great smiles. We had the feeling that the officials at the Syrian border hadn’t seen too many tourists before, let alone on bikes. They questioned, searched the passports, questioned again, went and asked others questions, came and asked us more questions, like our father’s name etc. Aukje

Team Dynamics: Good

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DAMASCUS - BAALBEK - HOMS! smiled and smiled and smiled. Animals: Dead dogs, and some very alive and thankfully on chains in Lebanon. The breed of dog has changed, and now looks bigger with longer hair to cope with the colder conditions. Jon had his fix of adrenaline on a number of occasions. Memorable Quote: ‘My name! My name!’ – the banker at the border who pointed to us saying ‘My name? My name?’ to which Aukje first replied: ‘Aukje’. Then seemed to want to know what country we were from, but he still uttered the same phrase: ‘ My name!’ Aukje replied ‘Holland’, and then when he asked country or nationality (though neither of these words were said), and Aukje again responded again ‘Holland’, he thought about it, then gave up and we think he wrote name and nationality as Holland. When it was Jon’s turn, and the same ‘My name?’ question was asked, Earle proved a little difficult, and so did ‘New Zealand’, so it’s best just to choose something simple sometimes. Typical: It took 2 hours to re-enter Syria due to the many questions that were asked from officials, the bank man (same as above) that was taking a nap when we arrived to pay the money for the visa, and lots of waiting time. Old cars, scrap metal cars etc. If you are looking for parts for old American cars, and many of them classics, this is where they are. Rust buckets everywhere, and amazingly some of them even drive too. Piles

of rubbish everywhere, billboards for the new smints or mentos every 100 metres and absolutely crazy driving – its not unusual to see a ‘definitely-not-roadworthy truck’ being overtaken on the inside, by a brand new tinted Mercedes/GMC in a residential area at 130 km/h, with a car on the wrong side of the road moving directly towards the other vehicles and the driver waving to his mates on the roadside. All of this, with us on bikes in the middle. Woah! Quite the experience. As mentioned above, some roads Rust buckets haven’t been repaired since the most recent war. Infrastructure was targeted, in this we mean, roads, water supplies, power supplies etc. Power is expensive and still businesses/homes rely on their own backup generators for maybe 8+ hours per day. The hour’s power is available changes from day-today, so that the noise of generators isn’t always at the same time, and hot water etc. can be heated. Waterways and supplies are still ‘said’ to be contaminated with dumped waste, and it is very visually evident. It was quite an eye opening experience. Unexpected Disappointment: As the visas for Syria at the border proved quite expensive ($94 for the both of us), we were disappointed when

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“Old cars, scrap metal cars etc. If you are looking for parts for old american cars, and many of them classics, this is where they are.”


DAMASCUS - BAALBEK - HOMS! we found out that a multiple entry visa for Syria is not issued at the border, only to be obtained from an Embassy prior to arrival. Because we wanted to take a detour through Lebanon, that meant obtaining new visas when reentering Syria, and another 94$. Lebanon was also more expensive than we thought. One of the reasons why we went to Lebanon was the possibility to spend a day on skis in the Lebanese mountains. Unfortunately, due to bad weather the roads up into the mountains were closed, and the only option was to go via Beirut and the West Coast, which would have meant another 3 days. We opted out this time, and with plenty of new snowfall, it was a tough choice to make. The snow was ‘calling’.

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unique backdrop. It’s a little odd to be called Monsieur and Madam, and to be able to communicate with the locals in French. Jon was very impressed with this archeological site, which is surprising, as ‘old stony or sandy buildings and ruins’ are getting a bit tiresome for him. Aukje almost always enjoys ancient history, and this one was a real treat. Hints For Traveling This Section: Cold, so take plenty of thermals, and rain, so take an extra change of socks, etc. Although this section was expensive, it was very rewarding, and it would have been nice to explore Lebanon further. *** we hope no cowboy were offended whilst reading this routelog, we do not have a cowboy prejudice.

Secret Spot: Baalbek is gorgeous, the roman temples with the snowy mountains in the background creates a

Local women

Propaganda

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Lebanon Travel Experiences