Published: April 17th 2010April 17th 2010
Is it possible to hike in my own language?
The Israel National Trail (H: Shvil Israel) is a hiking path that crosses the entire country of Israel. Its northern end is at Dan, near the Lebanese border in the far north of the country, and it extends to Eilat at the southernmost tip of Israel on the Red Sea, a length of approximately 940 km (580 mi) that's what the gods of WIKI tells us. And I've decided to go check it out: go hiking in Israel, mainly because I don't know the country or the people, as most of us, I don't know my own country. I know Tel Aviv, and I know that Tel Aviv is not Israel. I've decided to be a tourist in my own country and explore. And what's a better way to do so?
Sometimes, when I got back to my senses I've realized that this is another one of my ridiculous ideas: with my bad back and knees I'm not gonna manage for long hiking with 20 kg on my back. my heat sensitivity is gonna make me hate the hike, Israel and myself, and with my history, most of my hikes seemed like
near death experience (for those of you who don't know or don't remember: Sipi falls hike in Uganda
, Simien mt. in Ethiopia
, and I think I never wrote the story of my gorilla hike in Uganda but - believe me, It took me 5 days to recover from it.)
As usual with me, everything starts with the internet. Online I found the perfect hiking partner. Haim is 64, married with kids (one of them is my age) an Israeli who roughly shares my ideas about the hike: take it slow and enjoy it, the important thing is the cultures and people we meet , if tired of the hike or each other - we're only 3 hours from home. max. by bus.
I have shared with him the fact that "When it's hot, I'm not the only one who suffers." I didn't share with him the near death experiences. Thinking we will have to share some stories while hiking, those night near the fire (I didn't think we will fall asleep by 21.00 every night).
We've decided to give it a go. the first thing I did is to book a bed in the medical center
in Tel Aviv - assuming that I'll need medical help, or at least knees replacement, and the TLV center is the best - it's central, everyone can come and visit (Israelis and not, it's not too far from the airport), the best food can be delivered and - accessible wifi. What do I need more in life? The second thing I did was to panic over everything I'm gonna carry with me. Eventually, I've managed to squeeze all I need into 11 KG, 30 L bag (people, that's half of what normal people carry...)
we've started 7 days ago. The first week was planned to be two 64 years old guys and me: Haim, the main hiker and planner and two of his friends: S and Y taking turns.
The hike is great. The country is amazing, I'm visiting places I haven't visited for more than 20 years, maybe 50. The landscape is stunning (just check out the photos. there's nothing I can say more).
My knees are still doing great (I think it has something to do with being the slowest hiker on the trail) and the weather and heat waves are still behaving well.
Hiking with 3 men, all older than my father is great. They are in great physical shape, hiking for 15-20 KM a day, climbing rocks and mountains (o.k. it's hills in normal countries but mountains for us), talking about life, history, life experiences, hobbies, gender, modern life, etc. They are completely aware of their abilities (mental and physical: "where did I put this thing", "how often do you visit the toilets at night" etc...) and are usually reassuring my decision to hike with a "mature" crowd. Usually. When they are not kicking my ass by hiking too fast... yesterday I just had to ask them: what are intelligent men like doing climbing these mountains. Aren't elderly men like you suppose to sit by the pool with cocktails and funky umbrellas? They are still looking for the answer / explanation.
As always, the most important aspect of my travels is the people I meet and the friends I make. So far, in just 7 days I've met some amazing people. Some of them just stopped for few minutes to say something, offer water, explain or ask something, give us a hand. Two of them I found so
impressive I can't get them off my mind, and I believe I have a lot to learn from them: Dan and Miki.
Dan has the biggest heart I've ever seen. I think that's that all he has under his skin. A HUGH heart. It took me 5 minutes to notice that and recommend a good doctor. He's so generous, so kind, so cheerful and cute, I just wanted to adopt him, sometimes regretting I'm not 10 years younger... as he met us he offered us tea. and food. and some more food. and some more tea. All with a genuine smile, generosity and kindness bursting out of him.
Miki is an angel. On this hike, there are people whom are known as "the trail's angels" they help the hikers by giving them a place to sleep, offering a nice cooked dinner etc. Miki is one of them. Miki opens his house and heart to people. He has a great house facing the Sea of Galilee (H: Kinneret. I: il mare di galilea) we spent one evening at his place, people continued calling and stopping by for a night: he had 8 hikers staying at his place that same evening, all
feeling comfortable at his house, sleeping all over the house and garden, cooking whatever they felt like using his kitchen. He picks up the hikers, offers them a place to stay, a great conversation, he's curious, open minded, sharing, accepting, and it's amazing. I don't think those 2 men are familiar with the word "no". They've probably never used it. Maybe I'm not the only one who can learn from them. I'm happy I've decided to go hiking.
There are more photos below