A Journey of a Million Steps
July 01, 2010
Experiencing the awe-inspiring majesty of nature on Lebanon’s newly established mountain trail – from torrential rivers to deep gorges, and massive snowfields to idyllic meadows – is nothing short of life changing. Hana El-Hibri, author of the newly released book A Million Steps, went on a month-long trek that turned out to be a transformative journey of fulfillment.
In her book, El-Hibri documents her adventures and reveals an intimate side of being immersed in Lebanon’s great outdoors, renowned hospitality and rich heritage.
For centuries, Lebanon has been dubbed “a slice of heaven on earth,” and rightfully so. With its wonderful climate, beautiful nature, pristine beaches and stunning ski-slopes, there is an activity to suit every taste and preference. But beyond the typical mainstream destinations lies a fascinating and little-before-seen world that is unspoiled and can only be discovered on foot.
The mountain and all its glory
Developed and maintained by the Lebanon Mountain Trail Association, the Lebanese Mountain Trail (LMT) is a lengthy hike from the north to the south of the country on a 440km path that runs through the Lebanese mountains. In her book, El-Hibri gives a deeply personal and intimate account of the daily adventures and discoveries that she encountered during her journey.
She vividly describes the stunning splendor of the LMT, detailing her impressions of the wide range of fauna and flora that she encountered on the trail from goats to storks, marigolds to poppies, junipers to cedars, as well as the diversity of the scenery around her. “It never ceases to amaze me how frequently, and within such a short space of time, the scenery changes; the color of the soil, the trees, the flowers, the rocks, moving from soft hills to dramatic gorges,” she writes.
The author’s delightful discoveries extended beyond the natural environment; she was often startled with the enduring traces of history, like a place frozen in time, through the ancient ruins from the time of the Phoenicians to that of the stately Roman Empire along the trail.
El-Hibri narrates how every village the group ventured into during their trip welcomed them with the warmth of true Lebanese hospitality. Everything from the simple life in the country to the mouthwatering homemade traditional cuisine was such an uplifting and welcome break from the fast-paced life that comes with living in the city.
A human touch
Perhaps one of the most important experiences of this journey pertains to the deep and intimate intellectual interaction amongst the group members and all those they encountered on the way. Along the LMT, El-Hibri immersed herself in every possible facet of Lebanon’s heritage by staying with families of all confessions, professions, political associations and wildly different personalities – an extremely enlightening and profound part of the journey.
El-Hibri also talks about the truly moving passion the group shares on subjects such as Lebanon’s heritage and its endangered natural beauty…it is food for thought, and sustenance for the soul. She hopes her moving account will shed light on Lebanon’s many hidden treasures and help the mountains thrive.
Lebanon’s foremost sportsman and mountain climber, Maxime Chaya, lends his voice to El-Hibri’s cause in the foreword of A Million Steps recommending the book to those in search of renewed hope and answers to life’s questions. “Not only did Hana El-Hibri find the time to walk across Lebanon from north to south, but she also chose to chronicle her journey. This yielded a document that is not just valuable in itself, but which can also spread the gospel of natural beauty, conservation, generosity of spirit, companionship, and personal achievement to people of all ages and nationalities,” he wrote.
Take the Challenge
You too can experience the LMT in its entire glorious splendor; this once-in-a-lifetime journey will not leave you unchanged. El-Hibri’s book is but an inspirational taste of the thrills and wonders that await you when you experience the journey first-hand.
The LMT Association will help you plan your entire hike. You can even become a member and benefit from trail trips organized by the association. Their website provides a checklist detailing everything you need to pack to ensure your trip is an enjoyable success.
Several options for accommodation are available. Depending on your preference, you can find lodging in guesthouses, monasteries and even hotels. Biking buffs will be thrilled to know that the LMT is divided into 26 sections, many of which are bike-friendly and include agricultural dirt roads – a fun and welcome break from getting around on foot!
For anyone considering embarking on this adventure, an essential item to take along is the LMT guidebook, an excellent resource for hikers, which will ensure you truly discover the magnificence of the Lebanon Mountain Trail. Visit the LMT Association at http://www.lebanontrail.org to start organizing your trip!
Surrender to the all-consuming spirit of fun and adventure, challenge yourself beyond your limits, dare to tread beyond your self-made and all too familiar boundaries, take a leap of faith and leave your comfort zone. Explore, discover and forge new friendships. Be ready to experience a vacation like no other, one that will make your life far richer, and best of all, make memories that will last a lifetime!