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Published: October 6th 2009
Liz stands on a bullboos, a type of fossil
On April 29th at about 8pm ‘Guide Ram’ decided that it would be good to go off to the Negev Desert for a few days hike and start the Israeli Trail. So within a couple of hours all was packed and we headed down into Haifa to catch the night bus heading to Eilat
which departed at 11.30pm. After five hours we arrived at our destination which was Timna. We started the hike with trepidation, have to say the luggage we were carrying was killing. It was not things like make-up clothes or non-essentials it was mainly water. I was carrying about 6 litres and Ram was carrying 9 litres. Between us we carried the bare minimum in clothes, wash gear, sleeping bags, bed rolls, cameras, cooking equipment and food for the few days trip, but still I think Ram was carrying 20 Kilo’s and I was carrying close on 15 Kilo’s. Why so much I hear you ask, well, bloody thoughtless of them over here, but they have omitted to fit taps along the Israeli Trail! Will have to write a strongly worded letter!
The first day was madness, and had I realised how hard, how heavy the gear
Climbing up and out of the gorge
and how long it would take to walk a mere 28 kilometres, I am not sure that I would have set out. Or if I did, I would have made sure I had a really decent nights sleep before, and a bloody good fry-up for breakfast. It took two hours just to walk from the bus stop to the gates of the Timna park
, we then headed into the desert, which is incredible, bloody hot, and very beautiful. It seemed to me after the first three hours ‘easy’ walk that the terrain was just up, up, up. Added to this the pathways were very rocky and not that wide. The assent was torturous. For a long part, along a very narrow ridge, which at the best of times I would have found difficult as I am not that good on heights, but this was made worse by the sudden intermittent gusts of wind which I was sure were going to blow me off the ridge especially as I had the backpack on me which made me very unstable. I was very scared and at times thought I was not going to be able to carry on, but being bloody minded
We arrived at the top of the next gorge
knew I had to. The only thing I can say is a VERY BIG thank you to Big E. We had been talking of his trip to the Himalayas and he had said how glad he was that he had taken walking poles…..I took this on board and had an extendable pole, which was to prove itself to me time and again on this trip, and on this particular ridge helped to give me that bit of confidence needed to continue. The whole day was a series of up and down mountains, sometimes scrambling, and at times I thought I would never make the end, it was hot, the load was heavy, and the assent huge. But as with all good things, this day finally ended, after 13hours 52minutes (not that I was counting) at a village in the middle of nowhere called Shaharut
. Now I know I have moaned on, but it was also an amazing day, saw some incredible views, fossils, rock formations and loved the peace and solitude.
Shaharut is the home of Eran, Ram’s cousin, who has his own business - Mar Midbar
- doing treks, jeep and camel excursions within the desert. When we
Snake in the bush
...thank god I had not seen it the previous night...
arrived he was fairly amazed that we had done the journey in one day, especially when he felt the weight we were carrying. He was very kind and gave me a lovely cold beer that tasted like nectar, let me have a shower and cooked a very welcome supper for us, which was just as well or we would have starved, we were both shattered.
It is amazing how quickly the body repairs after a good night sleep. The next morning Eran drove us about 20k to the nearest (and probably the only one for miles) Café/Shop where we had a good breakfast. After this we had to hitch hike the next 20k to the start of our days walk which was headed for Zihor Wadi. It took nearly an hour to get a lift from a nice young guy heading north. We then walked for another 6 hours, this was not as tough as the day before as it was mostly on level ground, but after a few hours the feet do start to feel every little pebble underfoot. This was another hot day, and I was lucky enough to see Ibis in the wild. We made camp
So after breakfast we had a little stroll up yet another mountain for an hour or two
at the entrance to Vardit Canyon
(gorge). Had to collect firewood and make up a fire before we could think about food which was a gourmet supper of noodles, followed by tea and cake. I was so tired, but despite this did not sleep so well. We had jettisoned the intended tent due to weight, and were sleeping under the stars, which on the one hand was great (watching shooting starts, the sun rise etc), but with a vivid imagination like mine, which seemed to work double time as soon as I closed my eyes. Was I going to be bitten by a snake, or scorpion, was that a tiger I heard, oh god was that a spider I felt, what was that noise……..and on and on, I slept little.
However, next morning arrived, not so hot, a bit overcast, and after breakfast we set off around 8am on the next leg of the journey. This was again quite tough as we had to climb ladders, pull ourselves up on handles, walk along narrow ledges and the first part was all up again ending on a plateau with amazing views of the area. This was followed by another few hours of walking, not too taxing on the ascents and I saw wild mountain goats, more ibis and various birds of prey. We arrived at the top of the next gorge, which was Barak Canyon
. This was the first time we encounter other walkers. Looking down into the gorge was scary, and the walk down into it was slippery, narrow and long. It is so much easier to walk uphill with a load than downhill, thank goodness for the walking pole again. This canyon was a series of downhill climbs on ladders, ropes, and handles into what would normally be water filled pools, it was hard, but so worth it. It ended after about two hours, onto level ground, we then had to walk for another few hours until we got to the area we intended to camp and ten hours after we set off we finally arrived, absolutely worn out.
Our camp was made just outside a Moshav (a bit like a Kibbutz, but all farming, and privately owned houses) called Parran
, here they had hundreds of cattle, grew among other things peppers and had acres of shade houses where these were grown, it took us over an hour and a half just to walk past these into the Moshav. There seemed to be a high population of people from Asia, Thailand, working here. This night I slept slightly better, not so worried about the creepy crawlies, but was sleeping on rock which has so little give, my poor back!
Our return bus was due to leave the junction of the Moshav at 2.30pm. So after breakfast we had a little stroll up yet another mountain for an hour or two. On our way up the mountain I gaily walked right passed some horrible snake, that is fairly deadly…….thank god I had not seen it the previous night. I have the photos to bore you with later. Then we walked back to the Moshav where we found a shop and had chocolate as a reward, and rested until it was time to walk to the bus stop.
The Bus arrived, nearly on time, and it was with sadness and relief that I climbed on. Got some funny looks, and felt sorry for the person sitting next to me as I think I was fairly smelly by now…..poor chap, five hours next to me. I realised why the funny looks when I got to the first rest stop and found a mirror….what a mess I looked……never was fond of mirrors, if I don’t see them I can fool myself that I look great….ha.
This was quite a trip, pushed me right out of my comfort zone, taught me a few things about myself, made me realise what I am capable of, even if it is uncomfortable…..would I do it again I hear you ask……give me a week or so rest and you try stopping me. The Israel Trail is 900km, 60km down, 840km to go.
Now planning the next adventure……
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