The biggest storm in 10 years

Today was a long, tiring, slog of a day – although we did make the best of it and get a portion of things done as planned.

As it turned out, the storm which started yesterday is the biggest storm the region has seen in 10 years, and it raged all night with a vengeance.  The windows rattled as the wind howled, rain and hail lashed down, lightening lit up the room every few minutes and the longest, loudest thunder claps I’ve heard kept us up most of the night.  I’ve honestly never witnessed a storm like it.

In the morning, the storm just continued in the same vein, threatening all our plans to visit the ancient ruins at Byblos.  We eventually decided to put on our battle gear (all the clothing we have), and we ran out in the torrential rain.  We got soaked to the skin by the time we made it to the Byblos castle, at which point the rain stopped for long enough for us to visit the old castle.

The castle at Byblos has been around since the first few millenia BC, and has been restored, added to, and rebuilt by all the successive rulers of the area since.  The current main castle dates back to the 1100s, when the crusaders built up the citadel which still stands.  The whole area is very interesting and beautiful, set between the mountains and the sea.

The heavens opened again just as we were wandering around the ruins, prompting us to run through the old souks back to our hotel.

We packed up and left for the Jeita Grotto – a huge cave, full of some of the biggest stalagtites and stalagmites in the world – one particularly stunning specimen was over 8 metres in height.  Unfortunately, because of the rain only the upper cave was open, the lower cave – through which a river runs, and can only be visited by boat – was closed. We visited the upper cave, and then went for a spot of lunch in the restaurant overlooking the valley.

Then it was back in the car for a slog of a drive to Tyr – one of the oldest cities in the world.  We made it 3/4 of the way there, before the motorway disappeared, and we found ourselves at a military checkpoint, in the dark.  We got in a pickle, and stopped a couple of meters past the soldier (now shouting at us in Arabic).  Pointing a torch in our faces and shouting, we grinned madly saying “Tyr Tyr, sorry sorry” – to which he immediately lightened up, and  told us “Me this is my road, I say yes you go or no you don’t go – OK?”, OK, we assured him, can we go? “OK so me I say you can go to Tyr, you’re welcome”.  Saying our thank yous, smiling and waving, we pulled onto a dark, barely-tarmacked road, and hoped to heaven we were headed in the right direction.

At this point my trusty iPhone came in handy, and actually managed to navigate us through the backstreets and rural paths to Tyr, all the while the rain lashing down and the lightening flashing away.

We eventually pulled up to our hotel, to find our balcony door doesn’t  close, and our curtains are flying away in the wind.

However, they claim to have a sauna and steam room, so I’m off to find that now… and warm up.

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