Hiking Along the Israel National Trail

There is a path that runs through the whole of Israel, from the North (not including the Golan Heights) all the way down to Eilat by the Red Sea. It’s supposed to take about 45 days to complete the whole thing, which is unfortunately way more time than I had for my school break over Sukkot. After discussing the idea with various Israelis in the campus office and the outdoors store downtown, a couple of friends decided to do the northern bit, from Tel Hai to the Kineret by Tiberias.

WOW was that a great idea. I don’t think any of us expected it to be as amazing as it was! When we were all back in Jerusalem in our rooms afterwards, all we could do was bemoan the fact that we were no longer dirty/subsisting on trail mix/sleeping in tents/seeing cows at every turn/wearing the same clothes everyday/carrying ridiculously heavy backpacks. Maybe not that last one at first, but I think we even did miss our backpacks a bit after a few days back in civilization.

It was truly a beautiful walk through the country. The path winds through hills, up mountains, through orchards, past cows and cows and cows, over stream beds and through tight gaps between boulders. The way is delineated by three stripes, blue, orange and white, painted on rocks all along the way. It makes it almost impossible to get lost, unless you are too busy looking at the cool lizards and fuzzy animals that run all over the rocks to notice the painted markings. In the evenings we stayed in campsites where we pitched tents and cooked on this miniscule stove that measured about three inches in diameter and was about 5 inches high. With two 2-person tents for five girls and five large backpacks, it was definitely a squeeze; but considering we were tired enough to fall asleep before 7:00 most nights, it wasn’t impossible.

We ended our trip at the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), which has a beautiful beach were we slept that evening. The next day 3 out of the group left (I think the group of Israelis doing karaoke all night a few meters from our tent may have pushed them over the edge… Who brings karaoke machines and multiple microphones to the BEACH????). I stayed behind with one other girl; we couldn’t abandon the beach so soon. After a very lazy and relaxing day, we abandoned the idea of climbing the next cliff that would take us to Tiberias (she’s scared of heights), and took a ten minute cab ride there instead. It’s funny how going over mountains on foot to get somewhere can take so much longer than those fancy things with wheels that they call cars.

All in all it was an amazing experience; I’ve never eaten so much trail mix, or been so wonderfully immersed in nature and the generosity of fellow campers! We were offered food most nights by others in the area; most of them were camping with cars, which did make cooking easier, but definitely made us look more hardcore with our huge backpacks… Pictures can’t do the experience justice, but I hope they provide a window into what I did!
Just click below to see the whole album.

Israel National Trail

A Journey Farther North

On Tuesday we left for Haifa at the bright hour of 6 am. After about 3 hours of taxis, sheruts (large taxis) and buses, we finally arrived inside the city limits and immediately ventured off to the Baha’ai Gardens. They are a breathtaking sight to behold, with perfectly trimmed symmetry, and level upon level of balconies descending down to the golden Shrine of the Bab. Members of the Baha’i faith have to make at least one journey to this holy site in Haifa during their lives.

During the evening we had the pleasure of listening to live country music covers out in the street near the Inn we were staying at. Definitely not the genre we expected, but it was great fun nonetheless! The next morning we were off to Akko (also known as Acre) , a wonderful old city on the coast that is reputed to have some of the ┬ábest hummus (pronounced CHoomoos with the back of the throat; I quickly learned that “Hummus” does not exist here, upon attempting to request it several times. “Ahhh, you mean CHHOOOMOOOS” they said).

I opted out of doing the tourist circuit in Akko which the rest of the group did. Instead I just wandered around the winding streets, peeking down alleys and into doorways, and occasionally consulting my guidebook in dark corners where no one would see me (not that I couldn’t be immediately pegged as a tourist with my backpack and camera, but I tried to maintain some dignity). I walked through the souk (market) there, and was greeted by the sight and smell of many flopping fish. Further on as I reached the marina, I also saw all the nets and fishing boats that had brought those fish; it’s nice that sometimes food here doesn’t come from two continents away. I had some delicious turkish coffee (that may or may not have been from Turkey) at a little shop decorated with sequined cushions, before reconvening with my friends for what would be THE MOST DELICIOUS HALF HOUR in Israel thus far. It was the hummus/houmus/hommos, details of pronunciation were transcended by the smoothness and amazingness of this miraculous stuff. It was like little heavenly clouds of tastiness on my pita.

And then we were headed back to Jerusalem, sherut-bus-taxi-campus, taxi-synagogue-taxi-dinner, and finally bed, after a very long day. Shana Tova!

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