The Journey Begins

Crescent moon over the mountains of southern Israel. We are only 25 km from where we began, but those kilometers were insane. For extreme hikers only, though Arlene takes it all in stride. She is utterly fearless and I can’t count the number of times she’s said “of course you can do this” whether it be climbing 20 foot ladders on a sheet cliff or walking with 40 pound packs on a narrow ledge 1000 feet up or just the endless rock climbing.

She is always there to offer me the end of her hiking pole or her hand just to get me UP. Today I actually ended up sliding down a rock and sitting on her shoulders. She has ingenious ways around impossible situations. This hike should not be done alone. In fact it’s a good place to take someone you want to get rid of.

We are exhausted by about 3 pm (we start at 7am). Tonight I looked to see why my toes were hurting and my second toes were completely blistered right under the toenails. Red and disgusting. My shins and knees are various shades of purple and green. That said the scenery is breathtaking. We saw an ibex the other day but were too exhausted to even take any picture. Someone from the hostel cached water for us but we were a day late getting to the campsite (due to the extremity of the trail). We walked an extra 4 km after going to the wrong park.

A bus offered us a ride but whizzed past the entrance to the park and so there we were hiking again up another hill. On a positive note we had run out of water a few hours earlier so at least we weren’t suffering under a load of H2O. The guys from the Shelter Hostel also left us wood so we had a campfire and all was well until a wind blew up in the middle of the night. Arleen’s tent was blow into the thorny arms of an acacia tree where the fly sheet suffered some serious damage. Have some great photos of tent malfunctions!

At the moment we’re sheltered under a rock ledge (there are falling rock warnings). No  surprise. Israel is full of rocks wadis and black rock, gravelly trails, water pitted boulders – you name it’s here.

Read Arleen’s blog “the flip side of fifty” to get an account of our failed Jordan expedition.

Much more I could write but tomorrow will be a hard slog,  20% grade and who knows what the evil trail masters have put in our path – nothing that regular humans could conquer, I’m sure. They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. In time I might be able to hoist myself over 20 foot rocks with my fingertips or crush walnuts with my quads. Arlene is very strong. Her hard work starting that you-pick blueberry farm has paid off big time.

Apparently there’s a 30 km bike ride ahead and a swim across two deep ponds in some canyon, the trick being not to get our gear wet.  So stay tuned!

Morning now. Slept well. I’ll cover up my toes with moleskin and hoist that pack once more over another formidable mountain. Wish us well!!

There were pictures but no power to send them at the moment. Perhaps tonight after a day on the solar charger.

Arrival

Well we made it! Long flights but uneventful, at least for me. Arlene was interrogated in Toronto by Israeli officials regarding the purpose of her visit, her bags were gone through. She was the last to board the plane. Interestingly enough, she met the original founders of the Shelter Hostel in Eilat (where we will start our trek) who were coming back to Israel for a holiday. We will be flying to Eilat this afternoon – on this cool stormy day in Tel Aviv. The beach is just across the road from the hostel. The surf is rough, the wind gusty but there are lots of joggers running along the street and sand. The hostel, which unfortunately smells a bit like an outhouse (bad plumbing??) is very comfy. There’s a kitchen on the roof. At the moment we’re perched on our beds looking out on the Mediterranean, writing and drinking tea. We’ve examined the contents of eachother’s packs and Arlene wins the award for most spare packer. I couldn’t find a single superfluous item which is impressive for even the most fastidious packer caves in for some sort of luxury item, even if it is only an extra Chapstick.

Because there is no public transportation after about 3pm on the eve of the Sabbath (Friday night) we had to take a cab from the airport to the hostel. the driver was a congenial fellow who complained about the price of everything in Israel. Basic apartments can be as high as a million dollars, food is expensive. I’m assuming people have average salaries but are taxed heavily, as he also complained about all the money being poured into he military. He had found himself a nice demure Polish wife because, in his opinion, Israeli women, after serving their obligatory 2 year stint in the army, were too aggressive for his liking. And Polish women get that way after being exposed to females in Israel! But would he like to move? Never. Israel is the best , the sun always shines….well not today.

After getting settled into our digs for the night we went out to check out the neighbourhood. We bought some kind of pastry thing filled with cheese, olives, potatoes, and were given a free sample of Turkish baklava by the shopkeeper, which we ate on the beach. Got myself an Israeli phone number – a good deal from the hostel – (it is recommended not to change money or buy cell phone plans or other paraphernalia from the airport kiosks). We kicked back and read and chatted, mainly about our good fortune to be here, to be able to pursue this adventure and all the positive things we hope to get out of this experience. IMG_0005It would be nice if my pack was 20 pounds lighter, if I could read Hebrew, and if Israeli power sockets used a quarter of the power they do (really, power mysteriously drains from newly charged devices – like some form of technological blood-letting. )We are hoping this is a quirk of this particular hostel and not a feature of Israel’s electrical system. We are also hoping that the solar charger, currently untested, lives up to its reputation. Other than that, all is well.Till next time….

Three More Days

Hard to believe but on Thursday, the adventure begins. One thousand kilometers through Israel. The 1,000 km is not what scares me, but rather the growing size – and weight – of my backpack. I was hoping to keep the weight of essentials to 15 pounds (clothes, tent, sleeping bag, ipad and camera with all their confusing array of poles, cords, adapters, power banks, batteries etc…,) then allowing an equal 15 pounds for food and water. Sadly, this goal was overly optimistic.  I must now sift through everything and discard whatever I can – a T shirt, my tiny toothpaste tube, socks, duct tape, the very smart looking keyboard case on my ipad etc… Being ruthlessly austere is the only fix for my groaning glute muscles. The first week will be the real test. Or maybe the first day… Carpe diem! We will seize the day and hope it doesn’t fight back.