July 26, 2001 – Tartus – Krak des chevaliers – Beirut (2)




Very quickly, I understand that I am not on my way to Tripoli in Lebanon, it is not the right highway. It doesn’t matter, the bus should go to Beirut. At the border everything is done very quickly, mostly because I am the only foreigner in the bus and the only one who can waste some time. My driver is a genius to bypass all the lines to have my passport stamped. Iala! Iala! Here we go! At the Syrian post I meet 2 French girls who are waiting here to find a means to buy another visa because they had only a single entry visa. That will cost them 50 or 60 USD. For Lebanon, I only take for free a transit visa valid for three days, so on Saturday I will have cross the border again.


Once we are in Lebanon, we start stopping from time to time to leave people at crossroads. The big difference with Syria is besides the number of gas stations, the heavy presence of military forces in the area with all the equipment: tanks, anti aerial guns and soldiers everywhere with the hand on the trigger. Many campgrounds are established along the road and the Syrian army seems to control the valley. I thought that this kind of military presence would be only near the Israeli border in the South. Well it’s strange.


On the way, my driver announces me with a big smile that we are not going to Beirut but we will stop in Chtaura a big crossroad not very far from Balbeek but at about 50 to 60 kilometers from Beirut. I look at the map of Lebanon and I understand my mistake I used the French name of the city: Tripoli instead of the Arabic name: Trablous so since the beginning they didn’t understand where I want to go!! In Chtaura, I change my last Syrian pounds because I came into Lebanon to withdraw some cash at ATMs because you cannot in Syria. The first minibus driver asks me 2,000 LL (approx. 1.33 USD) and 2,000 for the bag so I decline the offer. Another is okay and here we go destination: Beirut. I sat at the back near the speakers and even with my hands on my ears I can perfectly hear the music!!! It is unbelievable how many checkpoints are on the road from the North to Beirut, I stop counting at 30.


Arriving in Beirut, the driver asks me where I am going to: Charles Helou Station. It is not his road so he tells me to take the minibus behind us to go there. Ok no problem. We are driving for 5 minutes when I suddenly realized that I don’t have my little bag with me, I have forgotten it in the other minibus that took an unknown destination. Inside this bag I have my plane ticket, the camera and some other things like films, this roadbook. A huge panic. The driver stops at a runabout and asks for a policeman to come. He wants to know the plate of the minibus, a description of the driver but I really don’t know these details. So he stops 4 minibuses behind us and come back telling me that one guy recognized me and he wants to help me. I can’t believe this because it’s my first time in Lebanon and no one knows I am here. This driver is the first one I saw in Chtaura!! Like my father says we always meet twice in a lifetime.


So I hurry up to get into the minibus and I start speaking English with him but he can’t. He doesn’t speak French but German because he spent five years in Germany. Suddenly all my German comes back to me. He explains to me that the minibus I took is doing all the time the trip between Chtaura and Beirut and the driver has a specific itinerary in Beirut so we will try to find him. We don’t stop looking the both sides of the street but we see nothing. We go near the airport and after 45 minutes of searching the driver tells me that if we don’t find him in the next 5 minutes he will have to resume working but he will drive me to a police station before. And here is a miracle, suddenly a minibus with tinted glasses stops in front of us and it is my minibus. I jump out of the minibus and the first driver shows me the bag with a big smile. Big Choukrane! Congratulations (Mabrouk) to my precious second driver. He answers me in English: Welcome to Lebanon! Fr sure I will remember my first stay in Beirut. I want to offer him something to thank him helping me but he declines, he is happy to help me and this is his gift to me. I find a French banknote of 100 FRF it’s all that I have, it’s my present for him.


He dropped me near a taxi. I have only 1,500 LL (or 1 USD) and I don’t know where I am and where is Charles Helou Station with many backpackers’ hotel. The taxi driver is nice and he drives me there for 1 USD after his prayer. We start laughing about the bag and he proposes to wait in front of the hotel if there is no vacancy. But the manager of the Tala’s new hotel has a room for me.


The manager laughs a lot when I tell him the story and he offers me a coke, my first one since July 15 because this drink is forbidden in Syria, it would be imported here through Israel!! He also tells me that I will not have a normal bedroom but I will sleep on the balcony. It’s perfect I am too tired and there is no problem I slept on many roofs in Syria. Let’s do it.





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D1 : Lyons – Damascus

D2 : Damascus (1)  (2)

D3 : Damascus

D4 : Damascus – Palmyra

D5 : Palmyra – Hama

D6 : Hama – Apamea – Aleppo

D7 : Aleppo

D8 : Aleppo

D9 : Aleppo

D10 : Aleppo – San Simeon – Aleppo

D11 : Aleppo – Qalaat Al Saadin – Tartous (1)  (2)

D12 : Tartous – Krak des chevaliers – Beirut (1)  (2)

D13 : Beirut – Tripoli

D14 : Tripoli – Damascus

D15 : Damascus – Maaloula – Damascus

D16 : Damascus

D17 : Damascus – Bosra – Damascus

D18 : Damascus – Amman – Dead Sea – Amman

D19 : Amman – Jerash - Amman

D20 : Amman – Madaba – Amman

D21 : Amman – Kerak – Dana

D22 : Dana

D23 : Dana – Petra (1)  (2)

D24 : Petra

D25 : Petra

D26 : Petra – Wadi Rum

D27 : Wadi Rum – Aqaba

D28 : Aqaba

D29 : Aqaba

D30 : Aqaba

D31 : Aqaba

D32 : Aqaba - Amman

D33 : Amman

D34 : Amman – Lyons




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Last update : January 2002

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