Day three began in the freezing cold. Israel may be a hot country, and we definitely spent our hiking days sweating, but at night, especially most of the way up the mountain, it got real cold.
For the first time, we made a proper breakfast by cooking up some oatmeal and adding dried fruit and nuts. It wasn’t the most filling breakfast, but it did set the day off on a good note, feeling like we were properly fueling and setting ourselves up for the day.
As we descended the mountain, the cold air began to lift and things got super humid. As such, most of my photos from the morning are too hazy to use, which is a shame.
We spent the morning hiking through a landscape that gradually changed from mountain forest to scrubby, cattle-grazing brush land. It was pretty flat and very, very straight, and more than once we found ourselves lulled into a state of daydreaming and missed a turn.
The day before, at lunch, Rafi and I hiked a kilometer or so into town to visit the gas station and try to get water and, more importantly, snacks. (At that point I was really sick of eating nothing but dried fruit and nuts and mujaddra (and the occasional apple).) I figured it would be open since it was a gas station at a very popular hiking spot on a holiday (when many people hike). Unfortunately, and as Shayna predicted, it was closed for the holiday. 0/2 on gas stations. Oh, and on the way back the cops asked Rafi if he was a member of ISIS.
Day three, I had marked on our map that half way through the day we could get on a main road and walk a half K to a gas station. This time it was no longer a holiday – though it was a Friday, sandwiched right between a holiday and Shabbat. Still, with our feet aching and Shayna and Rafi running low on water, we decided to climb up the embankment next to a bridge and walk into town.
Luckily for us, the gas station was open, and even had tables where we could rest and rebandage our wounds. I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much on gas station junk food (side note: most junk food here is vegan, since mixing meat and dairy isn’t kosher and most snacks try to avoid having either for that reason (you just have to look out for eggs)). We must have looked a sorry lot, too, because a woman getting gas asked us if we needed help getting somewhere.
Refreshed, we continued on our way, back down the embankment and onto the trail. The trail turned into an unshaded dirt road, and we baked in the sun for hours without much in the way of interesting scenery or ruins. This was what I had expected most of the hike to be like, though, so having been pleasantly surprised the first two days, I wasn’t too bothered that it wasn’t particularly amazing.
Eventually, and exhaustedly, we started working our way through what I can only describe as the ‘boonies.’ It was interesting seeing a poorer, farming side of Israel.
For most of the hike, we were following a route that I had found on this site, which was incredibly helpful. It noted that on this night, they had stumbled upon a gated community not far off the trail where they were invited to set up camp and refill their water by the basketball court. Not knowing where else to go, we walked literally to the end of the road, where the community was located. It was gated, but unguarded, so we walked in hoping for the best.
The second car we saw stopped for us, and we spoke with a hilarious orthodox man who asked us what we needed. When we explained we were looking to camp, he asked if we needed camping facilities. “No, just land to put our tents on,” we replied. “You want land?” he said. “Take the land!” He then directed to the basketball court I had read about online, and left us to unload and set up camp.
We washed up in the tap (“Haha, I thought this was dirt, but actually it’s a bruise!”) before even setting up camp, and I cooked us an early first dinner while Rafi looked for firewood (he really likes campfires). The community, Abirim, which I walked around briefly, was amazing. It was settled atop a plateau, with great views in all three directions, and most of the homes around the central (circular) road were very artsy and well maintained. It didn’t seem wealthy or glamorous, but instead a community of very intentional people who took pride in their homes and their community. There were even a few cafes run out of the homes, and an art gallery or two. And all the dogs, which were collared, ran around unattended because it was so quiet and safe. It’s how I imagine the US suburbs felt in the ’50s.
Our bodies were in rough shape, and we all spent more time treating our feet (Rafi and me) and knee (Shayna).
But on the plus side, I noticed a really cool wave had formed in my stomach hair during the day!
And I took a photo of Shayna’s lighter, because it was very cute:
We debated going to one of the cafes to relax after second dinner, but instead opted to build a fire instead.
After checking our phones to see that it was supposed to rain over night, we settled in to sleep. Nearly all the gear I had been using on the hike belonged to my Israeli friend Alon, including the tent. It was a two person tent, which was great when we thought the hike would be just Rafi and me, but with three people it was more than cozy. And with the rain fly on, even despite the cold weather it got very hot and stuffy. I actually turned around part way through the night and slept with my face by their feet, just to get a little bit more breathing room.
Blister count end of day three: Six…ish? My heel blister had been pummeled into submission, and I barely registered the pain anymore (but mostly because my toes were so excruciating). I had also officially developed a limp.