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May 18, 2002

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From Tripoli we pay our innkeeper, Peter, to take us into Lebanonís interior. Normally, we would travel by bus Ė Lebanese buses cheaply transport people all over the country Ė but we chose a route over the mountains where public transport doesnít venture. For $100 US (most people in Lebanon use US dollar rather than Lebanese Lire) Peter is willing to be our guide and driver for the day. In his black Mercedes, he drives us through the steep and green Kadisha valley.
Towns like Bucharre sit gorge-side and offer spectacular views of the Kadisha valley. Old monasteries cling to the cliff walls. This is Lebanonís Christian heartland.
By afternoon we pass over Mt Lebanon. Steep embankments of snow rise above our heads. Then we descend into the hot plains of the interior where the snow has long since melted.
By mid afternoon we reach Baalbak, Lebanonís most famous site of ancient Roman ruins. The Romans built on a massive scale. Itís hard to pick us out at the bottom of these pillars of Jupiter.
Friendly neighborhood Hezbollah. We met this young man on the bus back to Beirut. He talked our heads off for hours, not realizing we were Americans, and in a charming, scatterbrained way asked us a lot of questions about computers, Christianity, and our impressions of Lebanon. He said heíd rather have a computer job, but Israeli bombing killed his brother and forced him to take up arms, learn about bombs, and join Hezbollah.