I took this photo of Winston (not his real name) the morning of day 4. We woke up to him running around our camp in the dark, so excited to have us up and playing with him.
We had no idea where he came from, but he had a collar on, so we just figured he was one of the local dogs that was intrigued by the hikers.
He stayed with use for over an hour while we made breakfast and packed up our gear, but when the rain and wind started he got cold and began shivering. So we wrapped him up in a towel. (The photo was taken on my phone in the rain, hence the quality.)
This was all fine. But once we were packed up and ready to hit the road, he followed us. Right out the gate.
We weren’t sure what to do, and figured maybe he did this all the time (there was nothing to stop the dogs from leaving through the gate). But less than 5 minutes down the road, a car pulled up alongside us. The driver wondered if it was our dog, and when we said no, she asked, “Can I have him back please? He’s mine.”
We explained as best we could that we hadn’t been trying to dognap her Winston, but she was just relieved to have found him since apparently he hadn’t come home during the night.
We met another hiker along the way, who was heading the opposite direction by herself. She was having trouble finding the trail, so we walked with her a bit to set her on her way, and then got back on the path for our last day.
The path pretty quickly continued down to the river bed – a theme of all four days. Today was really green, but just as humid as the day before, so, once again, my photos from the morning aren’t usable.
The most exciting part of the day for me was rounding a turn and seeing Montfort Castle appear in the distance. The land of the castle was first settled in 1099, and while the castle itself dates from after that period, the beginnings of the fortress were established around that time.
The castle is, as you can see, at the top of the valley, on a plateau. (There is a good photo of the location here.) After 3.5 days of 14 mile hikes, Rafi and Shayna weren’t excited enough to climb the kilometer and a half out of our way to see it.
But I was.
The castle – really a fortress – is very much in ruins, but there are still archways and significant sections of wall remaining. It was incredibly windy and looked about to storm while I was up there, but that just added to the ambiance of what was the site of more than a few battles.
Inside the fortress, someone decided to draw their interpretation of it as it once stood – with a few embellishments:
What amazed me was that, despite being in the middle of nowhere atop a hill, and despite what must have taken untold thousands and thousands of hours just to build, the architects still found it valuable to spend time adding decorative touches to the stone.
At the very top of the fortress were HUGE stones stacked atop one another. Large enough that I have no idea how they lifted them, especially back then and especially, I assume, without the aid of wooden joists and pulleys (the trees in the area are tiny).
I found time for a selfie
before heading back down to meet Shayna and Rafi and continue our walk.
As we went on, the path got wider and more crowded (comparatively speaking), and eventually we found ourselves passing families with children and strollers. We knew we must be close to the main road and entrance to the trail at that point.
Around 11:30, less than four hours into our day, we had covered what appeared to be 2/3 of the distance of the day. We sat to rest at the entrance to the trail, and talked some shit about how early we would be done.
That cockiness would come back to bite us in the ass.
As we left the trail and entered the main road, everything got hot. Really fucking hot. And by this point we were on mile 50+ with feet that were absolutely destroyed and backpacks that were lighter than the day we left but still somehow amazingly heavy.
Me all sad and shit:
I knew from reading the blog linked in my last post that the end of our hike would take us through banana plantations. But what none of us realized was just how long we would be in there. While time passed quickly on the trail, with constant turns and climbs and changes in scenery, time dragged out forever on the sun-baked road through the farm.
At one point I commented that I didn’t know how many levels there were in Dante’s hell, but if there were another one, this would be it.
We walked for ages and ages. We walked for so long that we thought we must have outwalked the map, and even asked a lone car driving through for directions. The man spoke no English though, so all we could do was ask for the Sea, and he pointed in the general direction we were headed.
By the end, the road ran out and we walked through one of the covered banana groves. The other side ended in a barbed wire fence backed by 10 meters of thorny plants (in Israel, everything has thorns), but we could see a road on the other side and were so done, so we just said “Fuck it” and squeezed through the fence and bushwacked through the thorns to emerge on the other side.
Finally! The Sea!
After four days and 90+ kilometers, we had made it from the Kinneret to the Mediterranean. This is very roughly the route we took (the closest I could get on Google maps), but should give you an idea of our travels.
One of the traditions for the Yam l’Yam is to fill up a small bottle of water in one sea, and dump it into the other. Shayna had the questionable honor of carrying that bottle for us the entire time.
We asked a couple on the beach to take our photo, and the woman asked where we had come from. When we explained we’d just finished the Yam l’Yam, she said “Oh yeah, that’s a really nice hike.”
It’s a pretty popular route, clearly.
We all looked bad by the end (not seen – both of Shayna’s ankles were bandaged) –
– but I think Rafi had it the worst:
We hung out on the beach for over two hours, cooking the last of our mujaddra and trying to work up the courage to make it into town.
Eventually we limped our way to a gas station, called a cab, and got a ride in Nahariyaa, where we had celebratory beers (somehow not very satisfying) and had planned to wait for the 8:20pm train. It was only 5:45, but it was Shabbat, which means the trains didn’t start until after sundown. Fortunately, there are always monit sherut available, so we caught one to Haifa and then switched again to Tel Aviv. It cost about 15nis more than the train, but got us in two hours earlier, which was totally worth it.
They also had mood lighting.
Getting back to civilization was bizarre, but having a bed (and all to myself!) was amazing. I took my second shower in a week, ate a veggie burger, and promptly laid down in my bed. It was great.
Oh, and I found a giant wooden smurf.
Blister count end of day four: Six.
Things learned: Everything in Israel has thorns. Don’t wear sneakers on a mountainous, four day hiking trip. Dried fruit is still amazing even on day four. We need more mujaddra in the US. And Israel is way more beautiful than I ever knew.