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Hanging out

Hiking the Country of the Cedars on the Lebanon Mountain Trail

BEIRUT | Lebanon Travel Guide - August 16, 2013, 07h15

481 189 steps, 200 hours, 440 km. The Lebanon Mountain Trail is a difficult challenge to overcome. But what a joy to see Lebanon differently! ... We met some hikers that reached the last village marking out the path that crosses Lebanon from south to north.

The hikers are exhausted yet beaming with joy as they reach their destination after finishing the last section of the trail. They receive a warm welcome from the mayor of the charming northern town and are presented certificates in an official ceremony. Champaign, fresh homemade Saj and a group of cheering local scouts areawaiting the brave hikers who are sparkling with excitement and are happy to share their experiences of the walk with iloubnan.

“About three million Lebanese don’t even know that this exists”

Adrian, aged 72, came all the way from Hampshire in the UK to participate in the walk. This is the second time he has completed the giant hike. Initially he had come to Lebanon to visit his son who works in Beirut. Once in Lebanon, he decided to go on the hike in 2010 and immediately fell in love with Lebanon’s “magnificent scenery.” He is amazed about the fact that “about three million Lebanese don’t even know that this exists.” A passionate hiker, Adrian has gone on many hikes around the globe yet this is the first time he has gone on the same hike twice. When asked about the reason, he smiles and responds “I particularly enjoy the hospitality here. Everywhere we’ve been to people were hospitable, they invited us for coffee. This is something I particularly appreciate.” Also “the project [LMT] joins all the local communities together down the trail. For example a guide we had four days ago, came all the way up to see us.”

Rosine, a fellow hiker of Adrian comments “I don’t wanna go home, I want to stay here in nature. This is a very strong and beautiful experience.” She adds “it was so much fun to see all the beautiful nature, the sound of the birds, the smell of the plants, even that of the path and the soil, everything was such a wonderful experience.”

Supporting the local rural economy

The LMT is a network of pathways stretching over 440 kilometres along Lebanon’s mountain range from the north to the south of the country. It transects more than 75 towns and villages.This original project,which is the first of its kind in Lebanon,is the brainchild of Joseph Karam, president of ECODIT, a company providing environmental consulting services. Inspired by the beauty of his homeland’s nature and his experience of hiking the Appalachian Trail in the United States, he put the project into place in less than two years. The LMT was finished by ECODIT in 2007 with the help of a grant from USAID.

The noble aim of the LMT project can be summed up in three words: “conservation, education and development,” saysKarim El-Jisr, president of the Lebanon Mountain Trail Association.“We aim to support the local rural economy. Eco tourism is one way of supporting the economy without degrading the landscape. We have a different Philosophy,” he explains.“We protect what we have. We are not building concrete buildings and roads.” His vision is to “turn the Lebanon Mountain Trail Association into an educative system” to sensibilise the Lebanese on whose list of priorities environmentalism and conservation have been low.

The Lebanon Mountain Trail can be hiked at any time of the year. Maps and guidebooks can be bought from the LMTA’s office in Baabda. Their friendly staff, all of which are experienced hikers, can give helpful advice on hiking the LMT. Contact details of local guides and accommodation can be found on their website alongside practical tips on hiking equipment. The annual ‘thru-walk’ of the entire trail with guides, accommodation and transport arranged by the LMTA is an excellent opportunity to explore the trail. Those who cannot spare a month to complete the entire walk can join the walk for any length of time.

Lebanon Mountain Trail Association
Sacre Coeur Hospital Street GhalebCenter, 1st floor
Baabda; Lebanon
Phone: +961 5 955 302 or 3
Fax: +961 5 955 303

#Balades, #EcoTourism, #LebanonMountainTrail
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