Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Calmness of Bcharre and the Wonders of Baalbek!


2110 (local time)

Phew! Another massive travel session! So for the past 5 or 4 nights we have been staying in probably the coolest and nicest town in my travels! This place is called Bcharre. This little town is renowned for a few things, Firstly its awesome snow fields and the highest mountain in the Middle East that we attempted to climb, the famous writer Khalil Gibran who wrote the famous book ‘The Prophecy’ he grew up and lived in Bcharre, Bcharre has the most 2 beautiful church’s/monastery’s that I have ever seen in my life. This lovely town also has some of the best views I've seen in my journey but most of all the thing that kept me there for so long was the people. I thought in Damascus, Syria the people were amazing. Well Bcharre they are no match... ok well for example!

Ill be walking down the street and ill see a local “Manhaba, Ke-fuk?” which translates to “Hello (peace be with you), how are you?” They will rattle off some Arabic and then ask, where are you from. To which I reply “Australia” Almost as soon as you say this, they walk towards you with a massive smile on their face. After alot of talking, they invite you into their house to have tea and coffee. This is fantastic if you don't have anything to do that day, but when you on a bit of a schedule you unfortunately have to denie their lovely offer.

The first time that we accepted an offer into someone’s house was when we were trying to find our Lebanese-Australian friend. After 5 minutes of yelling out his name from what we thought was his house, I ended up asking a car that was driving past too see if they had heard of Sam. Anyway, after a few minutes of chatting, the kind people in this car, happened to call Sam to see where he was. Sam was going to be late, so the people from the car, invited us into their house, so we could wait for them. They served us Nescafe and Tea, and just started speaking to us about why we came to Bcharre and what we thought of it. To our surprise we were told, that the Husband and Father of this household was actually the Mayor of the town. I was impressed! We chattered for hours, I thought the Daughter was quite cute, until I realised that she was only 16! The kids here are so more mature than back at home. We were also speaking to the sun of the family, Greg and I assumed he was at least 23... but no, he was 18! Anyway, Sam rocked up and we had some dinner at a local hamburger restaurant.

Ok so during my time in Bcherre, we attempted to climb the highest mountain in the Middle East, but failed. We scored a lift to the famous St. Alishas monastery where hermits from all over the world lived and died. We had 2 bonfires up in the freezing cold mountains, in which we saw the sunset and then rise again at 7am in the morning (it was a big night). That night I went to sleep at 9AM and woke at 1PM to attempt to walk to the Cedars, which is about a 4 hours walk, I happened to walk past a basketball stadium on my way up, I walked in to see a bunch of 16 to 18 year old kids in their basketball kit ready to play a game. I recognised one of the boys, it was the Mayors son! I asked him if they needed an extra player, he explained to me that ‘it was the two Bcharre teams playing in a friendly game’ “AWESOME”. So I hung-over and tired Steve tied his shoelaces and hit the court. I was in the jump ball, I tapped the ball to my team mate, got it back at the top of the 3 point line and drove to the basket for a nice lay-up. Fouled as I put the shot up! I looked at the umpire for my 2 shots, but he just gave me a side-lined ball. From this moment on, I knew I was playing Lebanon rules!

I had an absolute ball, our team went down I think by a few points, I played pretty average. All the boys were giving me a hard time, because I was getting the ball stolen off me as I was dribbling, and I wasn’t ‘manning’ up on my player.

When the game finished I made sure I got a group shot after the game. There you will see a red faced Steve Flack.

After the game finished, I got a lift from Sam back to my hostel called Barham’s Hotel. That night, the boys had organised another bonfire where we met Chris who is the local photographer and resident chef. So he cooked up some amazing potatoes with salt and homemade tomato sauce! It was amazing.

In the morning, I was being picked up by another Sam, who is also an Aussie from Sydney that has family in Bcharre. He took me to the oldest Cedar that is over 3000 years old and is the tree used in Lebanon’s Flag! After here, we attempted to get into the Lime Stone Grotto (cave) but it was closed. So we continued driving down the hill and back up the other side until we saw another beautiful monastery, called St. Alexandria (I think) this church is actually built into the mountain, it looks stunning. There is another small cave aka Grotto, next to it that was used for the Mentally Troubled and Disabled. They put these chains around their necks for a certain amount of time and apparently they are cured.

After visiting the monastery, Sam continued to drive me over to his fathers village, but as we were coming over a bump, he punctured his front passenger tyre (again). So I went to work, trying to take this tyre off. Ill let you know, I've never had to change a tyre in my life, generally when there is something wrong with my car, I take it too the mechanics and say “eww, my car is broken, fix it” but today was the day, I manned up and rolled up my sleeves and took his tyre off! I felt tough!

Anyway, at 2.30 I caught a bus back to Beirut so I could catch another bus too Baalbek. According to the Lonely Planet (which I don't endorse) Baalbek is the most important Roman site in the Middle East. In Baalbek it has some amazing ruins of old Temples. “Don't you think you have had enough ruins Steve” well yeah I have, I’m pretty over them, but this definitely snapped me out of that rut. Not only was Baalbek renowned for its amazing ruins, but also it is where a majority of the Hezbollah hang out. Now I didn’t know all that much about it, but I got a generally gist about what it is all about... and it doesn’t sound great! But once I get a proper knowledge on it, ill start talking about it.

But more importantly, the ruins were amazing. Some were in great condition whilst others wernt, but you were able to imagine what it would have looked like when it was built in 150AD.

Anyway, Today 6th, myself at 4 others got a car together and jetted off back over to Damascus so that I could venture up north of Syria! So I can’t wait until I get into some new towns!


Figure this sign out...


One of the 7 crucifixes on the peaks in Bcharre!

In an the old St. Alicia's Monastery, this is a naturally formed rosary beads!

"Who put this thorn bush here" Preston... Legend!

Chilling out after one of the treks!

The apple crates that look like Lego pieces!

The Bcharre basketball team! I was on the red team!

All the boys!!

Me preaching at an outside monastery!

The Oldest Cedar in Lebanon! This is the Cedar thats on their flag!

An old monastery in Bcharre!

The broken car that we had to fix!


Again, i think its Columns of the Temple of Jupitar

Ruins in the Great Court!

Standing next to one of the pillars!

The 6 Standing Columns of the Temple of Jupiter

Thats how big they were!!!

6 Collums of the Temple of Jupiter,

One of the collapsed Columns, this is my friend i met in Baalbek!

The Temple of Jupiter, definitely Roman Architecture

The Temple of Bacchus

Cool photo i reckon!

Cute photo i reckon!


1 comment:

  1. Good to see you are back on the air - great photos Stephen.

    PS - We like the beard!!