Trip to the islands

On Saturday we went on a trip to the islands off Tripoli. I was a little aprehensive of being stuck on an island but I have to say, it was great. We were supposed to head off early in the morning, but 10 o’clock turned into 11, which turned into 12 and we finaly left the house at about 12:30. On the way though, Said (Maissa’s brother) decided to get a trim and assured us it would only take 5 minutes. Just as he was getting out of the car, he asked me if I wanted a trim too and I thought “why the hell not?” so we both jumped out and ran into the barbers shop.

Little did I know that Said was getting the full works haircut and he ordered the same for me. Also, the chief hair cutter was a perfectionist and wanted to measure the length of each hair with his verneer calipers, and compare the length to a chart, and make sure it met the ISO standard. I mean, it was an OK haircut, but he took so long on Said, and then, once Said was done, he took probably longer on my hair.

We finaly left, once Maissa and everyone was thoroughly pissed off, with our shiny new haircuts (which I was hiding under my hat for fear of being lynched by the rest of the gang once we got to the boat) and headed off to the boat.

The boat turned out to be a simple wooden boat, with a tiller and a crude sort of long screw thread as a throttle control. the guy in charge of the boat would have been about 20, tanned till he was almost black, and just wearing his shorts. By this time everyone had assembled and there was about 12 adults and 10 kids. We all piled into the boat with all our stuff and we were off. The sun was beating down on us but the cool breeze off the sea was delicious.

I was amazed by the colour of the water. The deepest blue I have ever seen in parts, followed by the most beatiful aqua green in the shallower parts, there was virtually no waves and it very pleasant cruising over the water to the islands. There is about 5 islands off the coast of Tripoli, we were heading to the 4th, Palm island. I’m not quite sure why its called Palm island as there are no palms on it, but it has a nice beach where we moored the boat and unloaded. The water was so warm, I didn’t know the Mediterranian was so warm but it was so nice just to sit in the water and chat with the other guys. The kids by this stage were just about at boiling point and were running and jumping all over the place, particularly off the boat that brought us out to the island.

We had lunch and then some of us headed off on the boat to explore the fifth island. That island is called Rankin or Shark Island because apparantly there are lots of little sharks around there. This island was very rocky and looks as though it would be a great place to go snorkelling. We headed around the island on the boat and came accross a grotto where people were diving off a rock into the water. Mustafa (the guy in charge of the boat) dropped anchor at a point that I thought was too close to the rocks and sure enough within a few minutes he decided to move the anchor. When he tried to pull the anchor up, it became stuck on something, and all the while, were getting washed closer and closer to the rocks. He quickly put his snorkeling gear on and dived into the water to free the anchor, shot back on deck and we were free within about 60 seconds. He was so at home on the boat and in the water, I felt like he must have been born on the boat and had never set foot on land.

After that we headed back to the island, picked up the others and headed home. It was a really spectacular day and I’m hoping to get out there again to do some snorkelling.

He took his role of managing all these crazy people jumping in and out of the boat very seriously… [rest of post was truncated due to crap net access in Lebanon]

Internet access (or inaccess)

Well, it turns out internet access is a lot more difficult in Lebanon (or at least Tripoli) than we thought. And of course, things went wrong at the office, so I had to have access to fix things, but nothing seemed to work. We tried a few times, from net cafe’s and from Maissa’s sisters house but the connections kept dropping out.

Actually, the guy at the first net cafe was trying to be helpful, but he was obviously quite clueless. What made things worse was that he was quite happy to crap on as though he knew what he was talking about. He said that all the ports were closed except 80 and we couldn’t do anything except surf the web. I tried ssh and thankfully it was open as I needed to move some files around on then cocolo website. When he saw me using ssh, he was like “oh… so do you have a linux server or something?” and I said “yes” and then he asked me if I had studied computing and I said I had done computer engineering. He was like “Oh… me too! I have MCSE 1 and 2” I wonder if he could see the distain on my face. I tried very hard to hide it. At a later stage in my conversation, he told me that his ISP blocks mozilla because it downloads and uploads too much, and they do it by blocking port 5332 or something…. again, I was trying not to let the horror show on my face.

Yesterday, Maissa’s brother inlaw took us up the mountains in a four wheel drive. It was beautiful I have to say. We went up about 3500 meters, above the cloud layer, above the plants even. and there was even some snow up there. His 4×4 is a very old range rover, but he was telling us that it gets such a beating going up the mountains that its crazy to have a new one, and i have to say, it really did take a beating, and he really likes to drive it hard over the bumps. He goes up there once a week with his kids, and he has to change the shock absorbers every 2 months, and after each 2 trips, he has to adjust all the nuts and bolts that hold the car together because they all shift and loosen!

One of the things thats a little depressing about Lebanon is the peoples apparant disregard for the environment. The whole way up the mountain, there were plastic bottles and rubbish here and there, but worse of all was there seemed to be loads of shot gun shells everywhere. Why don’t people pick things up after themselves *sigh*?

By the time we were comming down the mountain, the sun was setting and the view across the hills and valleys, with the evening mist and the rosy pink sun was really stunning. I didn’t take any photos of it though as I couldn’t be bothered, so you’ll just have to imagine it.

Land of contrast

I have to say, that Lebanon is a land of contrasts. I read that in the Lonely Planet guide and its really true. Mountains by sea, rich next to poor, expensive cars driving beside the most claped out car you have ever seen. Its all here, and compressed into a tiny space. Beirut is bustling city, but once we left it, we were straight into mountains and valleys which were very beautiful, and very reminicent of Greece. I’ll try and post some of my photos a bit later.

When in Lebanon, do like the Lebanese

It’s interesting to see the different cultures of different people, and those cultures change and you move around the globe. As we came in to land at Beirut airport, as soon as the wheels touched the ground, about 10 people stood up and started queuing in the isle ready to disembark. The steward was strenuously telling them to sit down and wait till we came to a halt, but they just made out like they were deaf and couldn’t hear him. In the end he had to get up and tell each one, individualy to go and sit down. The contrast between that and landing in Bahrain was quite striking, even though it was the same people on the plane, there was no unrullyness as we came in there.

In the Beirut airport, there were many signs and audible announcements stating it was no smoking, but as soon as we got to the table to fill in our customs form, these two guys (who were not from lebanon) started smoking! Maissa gave them an earful but they just said sorry, and carried on. It seems when in Lebanon, do like the Lebanes.

We’re off tomorow.

Well, its about 12:34 am, and Maissa and I have just finished packing and sorting stuff out for our trip.

It’s been a nerve racking time, sorting out the tickets and planning this trip. We almost gave up on it but at the last moment, our travel agent came through with the goods and got us a great ticket. (thats a whole other story in itself).

Tomorow we just have to finish packing and stuff and we’ll be set to go.