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Soaking in the Mediterranean

We woke up once again amidst the sea of bodies at Talal’s New Hotel in Beirut and headed out in search of breakfast and connectivity. The hotel had advertised wireless Internet, but the wireless network was actually more like a tiny drizzle of information, which was being split between countless unwashed laptop-toting backpackers, where actually loading a page was an excuse to celebrate.

We had been corresponding over e-mail with our Red Bull contacts in Lebanon, and we needed to call them to confirm a meeting for the next day. Doing this over Skype, on this network, at least, would be impossible, so we set out in search of SIM cards.

Before we got too deep into that endeavor, however, we would need to feed ourselves. Today we headed out in the opposite direction, searching for breakfast.

We ended up selecting an interesting and quite delicious place, by the name of “Le Chef.” It was decently affordable, and massively tasty. The staff was also quite fascinating, for they had been trained to yell at people as they passed by on the street, and to whoop in celebration when people entered the place. However, in all other interactions they were the most somber, understated and disinterested service people you’d encounter anywhere. They were particularly baffled when Scott and Claudia came in, but I lingered outside, doing some quick repairs on Claudia’s bike, whose chain had lost tension. They ended up whooping twice in false alarm as I busied myself with her Speed D7.

Stomachs full, we picked up once again the search for SIM cards. After repeated attempts to purchase them, however, we were sorely disappointed to discover that even the cheapest cards were in excess of $50 USD. After paying only two or three bucks in most of the countries we had visited to date, this seemed positively ridiculous. So we decided to head out in search of a payphone, ducking in and out of the little call shops which are attached to many of the gas stations here. Payphone prices too seemed unreal, charging 60-75 cents a minute for local calls, so we wheeled on, determined to find a way to make the contact without paying more than a night in a Chinese business hotel to do so.

Finally we were able to locate a seaside beach-resort-restaurant-and-bar type place, which allowed us to make a call for free on one of their waiter’s cell phones. Scott paced around, triumphantly talking with the folks at Red Bull and scribbling data onto a spare AsiaWheeling business card. Meanwhile Claudia supported our benefactors by purchasing some ice cream.

With the meeting all set for tomorrow, and directions to our meeting place in hand, we left in high spirits and climbed onto the Speed TRs. We headed back up the hill that overlooked that classic Beirut seaside view, and made our way back down the gentle incline toward the city’s many beaches. We had strapped swimsuits and sunscreen to the bikes and had all intents and purposes to spend the day at the beach.

Most of the beaches, however, were attached to swanky clubs and restaurants, and charged for entrance. We were much more interested in finding the people’s beach. So we wheeled on for some time,  when we spotted a particularly beautiful section of coastline that was not your classic sandy beach, but did appear to be a people’s swimming hole. We decided to take a Rauschenberg and head in to investigate.

We made our way down the cliff, along a rather treacherous stretch of gravel road to the seaside, where we found plenty of people swimming and fishing in close proximity, along with a plethora of cobbled together structures that  housed restaurants, bars, and hookah spots.

We locked the bikes next to a bunch of fisherman’s mopeds, and headed out on foot, picking our way over the rock formations and following the sound of people yelling and splashing in the water.

The swimming hole we found was gorgeous. It consisted of deep, crystal clear blue water, surrounded by startling picturesque cliffs. The water was easily approached by the network of large plate-like formations that were so emblematic of this coastline. We found an open spot on the rocks and began to relax.

I whipped out the ukulele, and we began to strum and sing. Soon we attracted the attention of some picnicking Lebanese chillers, who invited us over to join them. They were all college age chaps, enjoying an idle summer soaking up rays in Beirut. They spoke only a tiny bit of English, but we managed to joke around and even find a few songs that overlapped between their taste and what I knew on the ukulele.

Before we knew it, the sun was sinking low and it was time to jump in the water. So in I went. The water was cool and welcoming. It was also plenty salty, making it quite easy to float. Getting out of the water, on the other hand, was none too easy. The tide was low enough that the rim of the rocky plate was about two feet above me. So I watched the other swimmers and studied their methods. It seemed that the way to get back on land was to wait for a wave to come in, and let it take you up high enough to grab onto the edge of the plate and scramble up.

I swam over slowly, biding my time, and paying attention to the approaching waves. As I got closer to the edge of the plate, I could see that it was indeed a very lively place, covered with sea plants, and all kinds of little spiny creatures moving around, squirting out little jets of water, and generally being crustaceous. I took a deep breath and hoped I was not about to get a torso-full of sea urchin spines and began to scramble.

It worked, and with only a few minor slices, I made it back onto the rocks. It must have looked gnarly, for neither Scott nor Claudia followed me in.

We continued to idle there with our new friends until the sun sank below the horizon.


  1. Ahmed Eid | October 7th, 2010 | 8:53 am

    Love the blog guys
    I travel to wherever you guys go everyday because of your blogging

  2. Henkes | October 7th, 2010 | 9:30 am

    Damn. The end of that post looked like great fun!

  3. susan beltramo | October 7th, 2010 | 11:04 am

    I’m loving reading about your adventures and wonder, Claudia, if you’ll share them with the students in the women’s group when you return to the BA. Susan Beltramo

  4. susan beltramo | October 7th, 2010 | 11:04 am

    I’m loving reading about your adventures and wonder, Claudia, if you’ll share them with the students in the women’s group when you return to the BA. Susan Beltramo

  5. susan beltramo | October 7th, 2010 | 11:04 am

    I’m loving reading about your adventures and wonder, Claudia, if you’ll share them with the students in the women’s group when you return to the BA. Susan Beltramo

  6. Jackson | October 12th, 2010 | 4:28 am

    Beirut looks great.

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