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Cedars and Canyons


Cedars and Canyons

Inspire is delighted to have teamed up with Expat Life magazine to bring you more great content to do with Thailand

At the base of the mountains, near a shabby army camp, three young boys loped alongside our car until we had mercy and bought them a couple of watermelons. We passed no other cars during the long, hot drive back out of the Bekaa Valley and over the Lebanon Mountains. Halfway up, I left the car with the hazard lights flashing while Logan and I crossed the road and had a glorious, father-and-son pee looking East over the valley toward Syria. As we climbed, I heard thunder and saw a grey plume rising from a distant brown slope – heavy artillery practice.

An ageing lorry sat atop the pass. Its bonnet was up, the engine cooling. The driver was slumped on the steering wheel napping, until the boys rushed out of the car and started a shouty rock-throwing contest. The saddle was in the middle of a long, scalloped arc of desolate, tan mountains. When rain fell, or snow melted, all the water from an enormous catchment area flowed, mingled, gained force and gouged the parched ground. Through a haze of heat and dust, we could just discern the Kadisha Valley – Lebanon’s “Grand Canyon” – to the West.

In stark contrast to the monochrome brown mountains surrounding us, a broccoli-like burst of green spread below us. The Cedars of Lebanon! These slow-growing, uniquely branching trees used to dominate Lebanon’s highlands. But after thousands of years of logging, disease, infestations and climate change, cedrus libani survives today only in isolated groves. Protecting this tree, the symbol of Lebanon’s long history, strength and resilience, is one thing that an otherwise deeply divided country can agree on.

To reach the Cedars of God reserve, we had to pass through a gauntlet of souvenir stalls selling mostly wood carvings: swords, bendy snakes and the best-seller, cedar-shaped family trees with your names etched with a wood-burning tool into the branches. Surely, these weren’t made of cedar wood? Even if they weren’t, it was beyond bizarre, like selling imitation-ivory carvings outside an elephant sanctuary. The boys were starving, so we ordered a couple of pizzas and sat on a rooftop terrace overlooking the grove.

As we started down the trail that looped through the grove, I came to an abrupt stop. Improbably, I recognised the trees in front of me. But how? With a jolt, I remembered: the Bible given to me by First Lutheran Church for my Confirmation in 1982 had several pages of colour photographs. Later, I confirmed that the inside cover photo of my Bible was of this very spot – a cluster of four cedars with a hazy ridge of tan mountains behind it. How much my life had changed in thirty six years! But this was but a moment in the Methuselah-like lives of the cedars.


Source: Expat Life Thailand

Inspire is delighted to have teamed up with Expat Life magazine to bring you more great content to do with Thailand

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