Transportation adventure/disaster...

Beirut Travel Blog

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After a ridiculously long series of flights (3 different ones) and a 9 hour lay over in Frankfurt (during which we visited Mainz, had sauerkraut and sausage and watched a world cup game on an outdoor TV screen on a beach), we've finally made it to Beirut! One thing I can say is that everyone is friendly; in fact, everyone is ridiculously friendly. The guy who sat next to us on the plane invited us to share a taxi and got us to the place we wanted to be. (Nice person #1)... but we'll get to the rest of the nice people in a bit.

The main problem with Beirut is the arrival times of planes coming from Europe. What on Earth can you do at 2:00 in the morning, especially if you're not staying in Beirut right off the bat?! In hindsight, we should have just gotten a "cheap" (because there is no cheap without quotations in Beirut!) hotel, slept off our jet lag and started fresh in the morning. However, we are die-hard budget travelers and didn't want to blow 70 bucks... so we had it all planned out. We would get a taxi from the airport, stop in an all-night restaurant, eat some non-airplane food, chill out and then take the bus at 6am to Tripoli where we rent a car and drive to Bcharre, the mountain town we were going to be at. We had read in the guidebooks that the traffic in Beirut was something to be feared, so that's why we were going to rent a car in a more provincial town. The total cost would have been around $10 for both of us, plus whatever snacks we would have while we were passing our time at the restaurant. But as the saying goes, the best plans of mice and men....

The very nice gentleman who we were sitting next to on the plane indeed got us to an all night restaurant, but this one was more like a take-out restaurant, with a small counter, but not what we had imagined. Then he had told the taxi driver that we wanted to go to the bus station after. So the taxi driver came back immediately after dropping our seat mate and his wife and proceeded to wait for us to finish our meal. We tried to explain to him that we wanted to wait, but it didn't seem to sink in. He kept saying that we shouldn't go to the bus station now, he could get us a hotel for cheap and then we could rent a car in Beirut in the morning. Well, we should have been more assertive and told him that he could leave and we would get another taxi. Instead, we finally just gave in and asked him to take us to the bus station, that we would wait there. It was 4 am. He drove us by the bus station and it was SKETCH--literally under a bridge in a run-down part of town! He said that he didn't feel comfortable dropping us off there, and we definitely didn't want to be dropped off there! We should have once again just asked him to bring us back to the restaurant, but instead we had him take us all the way to Tripoli (an hour away), where we would just wait for the car place to open.

On the drive there, the taxi driver, Ferous, was nice--really nice actually. We bonded while he played his favorite arabic music, dancing while he drove. Jeff and I secretly cringed when he told us his favorite music was Celine Dion and Britney Spears... ouch (imagine a very masculine 30-year-old former body guard telling you that!) We thought he was kidding at first, but nope! We somehow were able to communicate with whatever basic English he had; he even called several times to wake up his English-speaking friend at 4:30 in the morning so that he could better translate something I had said. He showed us pictures of his little niece, invited us to his family's home for dinner when we returned to Beirut--all in all the best of a bad situation.

We passed 2 checkpoints with armed guards, one of which had only 1 guard but 6 tanks. Definitely eery--but not to worry, Ferous said, just say he's a friend and not a taxi driver. Other than that, he never explained why they were there, and they gave us no problems (being as friendly as anyone else we had encountered thus far). Anyway, we arrived in Tripoli, which was definitely the more run down city. Ferous had asked, "Why are you going to Tripoli? People are crazy there! Stay in Beirut!" It was definitely a bit more on the rough side. We arrived at 5am and the streets were amazingly full of people, so we stopped and got our first taste of Turkish Coffee from a street vendor. Delicious--WAY better than American coffee! We found the car rental place, but once again, time was our problem; it didn't open until 7! (Why didn't we wait at that restaurant in Beirut?!) So Ferous drove around looking for a cafe that we could wait at, but once again no luck--places weren't 24/7 like they were in Beirut.

Finally, more out of frustration and defeat than any sane logical thinking, we had him drive us into the mountains to Bcharre--another hour and half drive! So our comedy of errors ended up costing us quite a bit more than $10... But finally at 7:00 in the morning, after a spectacular drive along a crazy twisted road, we arrived in Becharre...
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62 km (39 miles) traveled
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Beirut
photo by: vulindlela