The Lebanon Mountain Trail

Trip Start Apr 20, 2013
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Lamaire Hotel
What I did
Horsh Ehden Bcharre
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of Lebanon  , North Governorate,
Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Lebanon Mountain Trail is a string of calm rural villages busy with orchards, sweeping valleys, a sprinkle of shotgun shells, the occasional warble of Muslim prayer and the full set of Christian icons. If you have the knees and the boots for it, 440km of trail wiggles from the top to the bottom of this small but intricately rendered country. The following entries are a brief summary of the highlights of Sections 6 through 11 of the LMT. I did these over a six day period, 100+km, completed yesterday. I should confess I took one rest day though so I only did about 85:-) If you want to dive in quickly, check out these photospheres from the walk.

The Fall Trek was organised by the LMT Association and about 15 people attended. The walk theme was coexistence of humans with nature. We took this seriously by having discussions with people shooting birds for fun along the way. On day 3 I spontaneously started collecting shotgun shells, each one arguably representing an attempt to kill a bird. This was an interesting exercise.  There was a point where I suddenly realised that the shells were everywhere. This lead to some misgivings about my saying the country was safe in a short interview the first day on national TV (LBCI). Against my instincts about how not to look like a criminal, I kept the shopping bag of shells I collected and even brought them to my hotel in Beirut, where I counted 87. 

Let's make a couple of assumptions on the way to using this sample to estimate the number of shells along the Trail. I only collected nice looking shells.  This is because I started off putting them in my pocket and didn't want to get too dirty. This meant I left about 75% on the ground. Let's also assume the culprits are not sharpshooters, expending 10 shots a bird. Also, I know I was a bit lazy that day and probably left behind 13 "nice" shells, meaning my sample size should have been 100. Another thing, that section of trail was about 20km. Recalling my estimate that my sample was only a quarter of what was on the ground, this translates into 20 shells a kilometre. Perhaps more disturbingly, this is about 1 shell every 50m. From my experience walking the trail I'd say that's about right. 

If you are especially confident in my obviously quite standardised, confound-free method (not) you are welcome to tell your friends that Scientist Wil has established that there are something like 440x20=8800 shotgun shells on the LMT. This is 88 shopping bags, although note that my sample overestimates the bulk as they were all plump shells not crushed by cars. Given the majority of the ones I left behind were squashed, and a crushed shell takes up about 1/3 (33%) less space, we might say there are actually ((88/4)+((88-(88/4))-((88-(88/4))/3)))= 66 shopping bags of shells on the Trail. This is still kind of useless for understanding scale though so let's talk in terms of car boots. From my memory of growing up, a typical family weekly shopping trip results in 6 bags of goods. Those nicely fill a (sedan) car boot. So next time you are at the supermarket, count 11 cars side by side and imagine each of their boots stuffed with shotgun shells. That's a lot of car boots of shells spread along the walk.  

Recalling my probably offensive guess that it takes 10 shots for every kill, those 8800 shells represent nearly 1000 dead birds for the entertainment of humans. Just along the LMT. I must stress that a primary goal of the LMT is to put a stop to this, and they partnered with a NGO in the past to pick up all the shells along the trail. This needs to be a regular thing obviously. 

One last estimate before I exhaust all my credibility. One day the leader said he knew of 12 trails (separate route options) to get where we were going to that day. Hunters use these trails from which to shoot. Let's be conservative and only multiply the LMT by 5. Who knows whether so many options exist for all sections but also hunters probably use dirt roads accessible by car/moto that the LMT avoids. So that's 20x5x440=44000 shells (44000/10= 4400 dead birds, ((440/4)+((440-(440/4))-((440-(440/4))/3)))/6
=55 car boots of shells) scattered throughout the Lebanese countryside, in a nation the size of Wales

 My attempt to make the scale easier to understand with car boots breaks down here, so we can consider it in terms of how long it would take that many cars to drive past at the usual speed people do in car parks, a snail's pace of 10km/h (2.7778m/s). A common car in Lebanon is an old Mercedes W124, 4.755m long. Let's assume a half metre gap between each of them since they are going so slow. So the distance we're talking is 4.755x55 + (55-1)x0.5 = 288.525m. Divide that by 2.7778m/s and you get more than a minute and a half (104s) for all of them to drive past. That's right, according to my (poor) sampling it would take roughly one and a half minutes for all the shotgun shells spread on the ground throughout Lebanon to be driven past you :-) That's a long convoy of cars filled with shells and is well and truly as much effort as ever should have been expended estimating things from that small sample I ambled along collecting one sunny day on Section 8 of the LMT :-)
Later edit:

I found out that it was not a NGO that the LMTA partnered with in cleaning up shotgun shells but rather students of Melkart College. They collected 240,000 shells (50 garbage bags, see photos) on Section 14 of the trail. They did this in only 2 hours!!! In other news, do not trust Scientish Wil's sampling techniques! 
The macabre subject of these estimates risks obscuring how beautiful and rejuvenating was this walk. This is because, despite the above mentioned problem, I had an experience of coexisting with a thriving swathe of nature. I really needed to do this. In the lead up to this holiday I discovered my endurance limit for being in Kuwait. It was 57 days since my trip to Dubai and by about the 42 day mark I was starting to go crazy. I was snapping at people during meetings and avoiding going out. I also just needed to see something other than flat desert. Something with trees, slopes, cultivation, winding roads and people dressed in a way familiar to me.  I got all of these things on this trip with the added bonus of not having to worry about dying every day at the hands of Kuwait's crazy drivers. Lebanese ones are also pretty aggressive but the lack of wide, straight line highways means they can't go fast and engage in so much brinkmanship.

So, without further ado, hit "next" for LMT Section 6. I should say we spent the first night in the lovely Lamaire Hotel in Ehden. The picture of the orange Discovery being loaded up was taken in the car park – we all piled on top of the car and inside (about 12 of us at this  stage of the walk!) and the driver did very well not to topple over picking his way through the tight corners through the town to Horsh Ehden, a nature reserve that one of the walkers had helped to set up.

PS serendipitously, I collected just the right number of shells to spell "Coexistence on the LMT." ... The full stop at the end being the one AK47 bullet I picked up:-)
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Béatrice on

It was nice to share this hike with you Wil. I love the way you used the shells !

Hind on

Was nice to meet you on the trail ! Hope every think is ok for you ;-) ! I will keep your shell, so you didn't miss it, you had the exact number for your sentence :-) !

Ben on

Hey man, wow you are really getting out there and seeing a lot! cool.

Tabsoun on

look like google man enjoyed and had fun

Fabienne Ziadé on

Hey Will, it was lovely hiking with you. Thanks for all the information. I hope you got over the Lebanese "tourista" better then I did ;-) Keep in touch and come back to Lebanon! All the best

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