In the style of the original Northwest Run, my Italian and I pulled off the Lebanese version. We were forced to take this route because the short route from Bcharre to Baalbek was still closed due to immense amounts of snow keeping the pass closed. Rather than backtrack (the worst kind of defeat), I opted for a run through the north on extreme back roads. A different set of obstacles presented itself on this run – military checkpoints, roads that could barely be called that, armed militants, etc.
Many people and particularly the soldiers at the checkpoints were genuinely shocked to see us. NO outsiders go up there. The guidebooks don’t even cover the area. And I only knew it was possible because we had purchased a very detailed map before arriving in Lebanon and were also in possession of a GPS unit – a sure recipe for interesting routes:
Northern Lebanon is an interesting place right now and not just because of its isolation. The other factor that makes it interesting at present are the thousands of refugees streaming in from Syria to escape the wave of violence there.
When we were in Tripoli, we were warned against our planned Northwest Run due to instability in the region resulting from the influx of Syrian refugees making their way across the Kabir River (which runs along the border). However, we –
A) did not perceive this danger at all when we passed through
B) had nothing but positive interactions with Syrians both in Lebanon and Syria.
For those of you playing along at home, the route I plotted out took us north from Tripoli to Al Abdah and from there we cut east to head over the mountains, passing through the towns and villages of Bibnin, Birqayil, Bzal, Hrar, Mishmish and Funaydiq until we reached Ash Shambuq. From Ash Shambuq we started dropping down into the Bekaa Valley by passing through Al Bustan, Al Humayrah, Fisan and Ash Sharbin.
Entering a typical village of Lebanon’s north… North Lebanon is poor; according to a UNDP study, about 17 per cent of the people there live in extreme poverty:
A village in the mountainous region of northern Lebanon:
Another town of the north… We entered a band of fog at this elevation:
Some of the views from within this band of fog:
Breaking out of the fog, we left all human habitations behind as we crested the mountains:
Another view of the mountain road… The road got much worse after this and I was forced to ditch the camera in order to focus on the driving. The road went completely to dirt and it was frequently not clear if I was on the “road” or just driving across the countryside:
Eventually, we dropped back down the other side of the mountains into the Bekaa Valley and visited the Hermel Pyriamid before proceeding on to Baalbek:
Another successful Northwest Run…