On Tuesday after Ulpan class Eli, Amir and I got on a train towards Nahariya. It is a beautiful and seemingly more upscale town in the northern part of Israel. Amir has a family friend (Edina) who lives there and she hosted us for the night so we could get a good nights rest before our four-day long trek that we were about to embark on. Edina lived in a beautiful home and was an unbelievably gracious host. She is an artist and her artistic style was well displayed throughout her house. Example, her kitchen:
Given it is now officially fall (and still in the 90’s), I am a little upset to be missing the leaves changing and the Berkshire mountain views. However, Edina partly made up for it when she offered me a glass of hot cider, with just a tad bit of whiskey in it. We also had dinner outside on her porch sitting in a swing. I just thought it was so so lovely. During dinner we were talking to Edina about potential options for where we were to camp out. She told us it really did not matter where we did as long as we thought it was a good spot. When we brought up the idea of maybe not being allowed to camp in certain areas Edina said, “And who do you think is actually going to come and tell you not to?” Point taken, we later realized that this question would bite us big time in our butts.
After we ate dinner Amir, Eli and I headed upstairs to do some last minute checking out of things on the Internet and on our map and then headed to bed. We woke up at 4:30 a.m., got our stuff together, obviously had a cup of coffee, and had Edina drive us to the area of the Mediterranean Sea where we were to begin our hike.
As though it were laying in the sand waiting for us we found an empty water bottle and filled it a little with the Mediterranean water. Our plan was to then pour that water into the Sea of Galilee when we made it there. Unfortunately we ended up pouring it out at a train station.
We then made our way via the map to our starting point of the hike. The hardest part of this section was when we were walking there were so many thorn trees and bushes and it kept pricking my skin. We walked through banana groves but unfortunately none were ripe enough to eat.
All of a sudden we saw a highway ahead and realized we were at highway 70. We couldn’t believe we had already come so far and were so proud of ourselves. We had been hiking for a few hours at this point and decided to sit down, take a little rest, and eat some breakfast. The break was most needed on my back; the most challenging part of the hike I found was carrying all the weight from everything in my backpack.
After our rest we kept the pace and continued on. This was the first of many troubles. We were hiking through a mango farm and it all looked so delicious. Mangoes in Israel are a very popular fruit to eat and they are probably my new favorite food. Unfortunately we should have never seen that mango farm because we eventually reached a fence and realized we were on the wrong trail. Fortunately there were men farming and one of them was kind enough to help lead us in the right direction. We probably lost a good hour between getting lost and getting back, but we also started early factoring in the idea that we may get off course a few times.
Eventually again we were tired and hungry and decided to stop for lunch and a nap. It also is not a good idea to hike between 12:00 – 2:00 p.m. in Israel because it is so hot. We found a perfect little resting spot and worked towards regaining some energy.
In this area we had found trees with vines that grew heart-shaped leaves off them. You can only imagine how excited and in love with them I was.
At this point, we thought we were farther along than we were. But when we continued on and saw Montfort in the mountain we realized we were wrong. Whoops. Needless to say Montfort, a very old French Crusade built into a mountain, was gorgeous. It was one of many moments during my hike where I just took a breather, drank some water, and tried to soak in all of the scenery around me.
Though we were not as far as we had thought we kept on trekking. Our paths had started to change a bit, we were now walking on rocks with water below and balance was something I had to be very good at. Thank goodness for those yoga classes. We also had more hilly areas. At one point Amir looked at me and asked if I had seen a green marker (green was the color of the trail we were following) in a while and I looked back at him and said, “Nope.” This was when we realized we were lost for time number two. Fortunately we figured out where we went wrong and made our way back to the green-marked trail. We also were lucky enough to find some shortcut areas along the way (Ok so it wasn’t the easiest thing in the world climbing down some of the hills in the shortcut but who doesn’t love a challenge as long as it’s safe?)
We were so excited to see the green marker and it gave us all a little energy boost. At this point an energy boost was exactly what we needed, given it was almost 5:00 p.m. and we had been hiking for almost 12 hours. Unfortunately we came to a point where we realized we weren’t sure if we were to go left or right and a young couple was nice enough to try and help us out. They helped to solve the problem for us but unfortunately we realized that there was just no way we could hike that many more kilometers. We had already hiked about 20 miles and it was time to set up camp for the night.
We found a nice area that looked like other people had camped there before too. How did I know? By the amount of toilet paper strewn throughout the ground. There was also a fire area partly assembled and Amir and Eli worked on putting it back together and starting a fire so we could have a dinner consisting of sweet potatoes and roasted onions.
We then brushed our teeth, washed our faces, and made our way into our beds for the night. The first time we woke up Amir and I thought it was from Eli snoring. But when we heard Eli say, “I can hear you talking and that’s not me because I am awake” we realized that it was not in fact Eli snoring, but a wild boar grunting. Fortunately due to our voices we had scared the boar off.
The second time we woke up we had not even been sleeping for a full two hours when an Israeli man walked up and started yelling at us in Hebrew. He was a park ranger and informed us that we could not be sleeping where we were. We quickly had to gather our things, and continue…to…hike. Along the way the ranger also found other hikers who had made the same mistake as us and told them they also must gather their things and leave. These hikers were three Israeli boys who were very nice and in the end were kind of our saviors. They said that they have slept here in the past but unfortunately there is a new Israeli law about not being allowed to camp in that park. About a mile or two later (all uphill by the way) we made our way out of the park and the ranger explained to us that during the day the park is so populated that the animals won’t come and drink water or eat food. Nighttime is the only time they are able to do this and if we are camping there then they won’t come. Since many of these animals are near extinction it is crucial they can get their resources at night.
Did I mention the types of animals this ranger was referring to? Boars of course, but also wolves, porcupines, marmots, Persian kale deer, and other fun animals that I have only seen on Animal Planet.
Between the law being so new and our not 100% understanding of the Hebrew language our mistake was quite an unfortunate, but warranted, one.
At this point Eli, Amir, and I came to the obvious conclusion that since we had nowhere to camp out that wasn’t illegal we had to find a hostel. About three miles later (I like to say how I hiked the length of the Boston Marathon that day) we found ourselves in the town of Ma’alote. The Israelis helped to get us a cab and spoke to the driver explaining to him we needed to get a hostel. Unfortunately the hostel had no vacancy but the cab driver was nice enough to wait. He then brought us to another hotel where there was a room for an unfortunate amount of 300 shekels (about $80.00). The cab driver did however help us negotiate the price down from 500 to 300 shekels so I was at least thankful for that.
We came to the conclusion that there was no way we could complete Yam l’ Yam. By the time we got to Ma’alote we were exhausted and so far south from our trail. Our alarm was set for us to wake up in just a few hours yet we hadn’t yet slept at all. Since the next day was the Sukkot holiday buses nor trains would be running and so we had no way of getting back to Edina’s home in Nahariya. Fortunately this extremely nice cab driver (Israelis in general are so nice and do things Americans would never think of) offered to meet us in the lobby at 10:00 a.m. and bring us to Nahariya. After a restful sleep and three showers later Amir, Eli, and I met this man in the lobby just like he had said.
When we walked outside I looked up and said to Eli to look at how beautiful this place was. Everything is built into the mountain and I couldn’t help but be reminded of Nice, France. The cab driver picked up on our desire to see more and he offered to give us a free tour of the village. Bear in mind that this cab driver knew absolutely no English but fortunately Amir knows enough Hebrew that he could help translate everything for us and communicate with the driver. The tour consisted of the second oldest Synagogue in the world (not so sure if that was true), the city square, a factory that makes olive oil, and his mom’s house. Yep, his mom’s house.
After the grand tour we found our way back to Edina’s lovely home in Nahariya. We were so relieved when we sat on Edina’s couch and told her all about our adventures of the last 24+ hours. Unfortunately everything in Nahariya was closed for the day because it was Sukkot. But just like on Christmas, the movie theatre was open. We went and saw ‘Scott Pilgrim Versus the World’ with Michael Cera. Though I probably would have never seen this movie in the States I have to say it was so perfect for the moment. Stupid but funny, and truly comforting to the soul.
We then went back to Edina’s, took a nap, had another lovely dinner on her swing, and took her advice on walking down to the promenade on the beach. We found a nice place to sit and reflected on the fact that we were still looking at the Mediterranean Sea. But instead of getting disappointed about it we instead decided to go back to Edina’s and watch When Harry Met Sally. Nothing like ending this fabulous adventure with adorable Billy Crystal’s wit and humour. Needless to say, we have all decided to not give up and we will complete Yam l’ Yam. Until then we were very resourceful and decided to use our hiking food as a dish for the potluck dinner we had last night with other Otzmanikim still in Ashqelon. This time the sweet potatoes and onions were instead cooked on a skewer and not roasting by a fire.
Given that I am a very competitive person I was quite disappointed with the fact that we could not complete Yam l’ Yam. But I have no doubt that by June 2011 I’ll have a moment where I am running into the Sea of Galilee with a huge smile on my face and joy jumping up and down in my belly. When that moment happens I know that it’ll be even more rewarding than this time because I’ll be able to truly appreciate the value and hard work it takes in getting from one side of the country to the other.