It’s obvious to say that we have Lebanese people in Australia, we just never realized the extent of the connection we have with this country and its people
. Australia is not just a faraway country that people hear of occasionally in the media… it’s a country where their families live, it’s a place they do visit or would like to visit sometime soon, and it’s a place that provided refuge during a time of war. I can hardly think of a meeting where the stranger we met did not have a relation living in Australia. Today we hitched a ride back from a day’s skiing in the cedars and I asked the lady if she had any family in Australia, she gave me the ’you are a dumb idiot, don’t ask a stupid question’ look. The man running the hotel in the ski village first joked with us saying "sorry we don’t allow Australians here"………."just kidding mate, I used to live in Dover Heights and run a restaurant in Thredbo". There’s even a town close by to Bcharre that has a Parramatta road, and is half full of returned Australians. Our hotel manager in Tripoli tells us that his village now only has 50 families living there, the other 150 have moved to Australia…….it’s all really quite strange.
We've just walked about 25 km through the Qadisha valley, a massive gorge that opens up from Bcharre and heads 50 km to the east. There are a few Maronite monasteries built into the caves that line the walls of the valley. Apparently it has always been a popular place for hermit monks and we could see why
. Dramatic waterfalls fell down the cliff walls of the valley into a beautiful river, there were lots of grassy meadows in the breaks between the trees, and there wasn’t a building in sight (except for the churches). Given how built up and developed everywhere is in Lebanon, the Qadisha valley was a very unique and calm oasis in a very dense urban country.
Skiing wasn’t really part of the plan….is there really skiing in Lebanon? Well yes, but first you must get some friends together. Me and another Australian, Tom, arrived at the ski fields at 8.30 (opening time we thought) to find everything closed. You need at least 20 people to arrive before they will start the lifts….on this particular day we were in luck as by 10 o’clock we had a crowd of 25…just enough! We bought our $23 lift passes, hired our gear for $10 and away we went….4 hours of madness and the slopes virtually to ourselves, by the afternoon there were less than 10 skiing with us.
Weelllccoommeee tooooo Lebanon, they yell as they race past in their BMW's, Mercedes and old smoke blowing diesel taxi's on the mountain roads around Bcharre, a mountain town at the base of the snow covered Cedar Mountains about an hour inland from Tripoli. (No not the Libyan Tripoli, although it was our plan to be there about now!!) They should probably slow down a little as it’s a long way down, there’s a car coming the other way and we’re walking on the road as well………there is nowhere else for us to stand……..I think the Lebanese have not heard of footpaths, not here nor in any of the other towns we’ve visited….never mind they always seem to miss us and give us a huge smile as they go, some even stop and ask where we are from, they seem so happy that we are from Australia.