Day 36

As expected, I didn’t sleep great so was tired when I headed out of camp. We were climbing Mount Karbolet today, known as the toughest hike on the whole trail, so had started in the dark as we were expecting 30 degree heat. The moon had already set leaving an amazing blanket of stars above our heads.

We hiked up a gentle climb as it slowly started to get lighter. My torch kept reflecting off something in the bushes. I eventually worked out they were small brown spiders with reflective markings on their back. At least this way I knew where they were!

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We reached the base of our first serious climb, by now the torches were off. I started climbing, slower than I normally would, knowing that I have a strenuous day ahead of me. We got to the top with ease and saw the notorious knife edge that we would be following. It wasn’t as bad as I was expecting as a lot of people had told us it was a scary walk. Although, after climbing Crib Goch (Snowdonia) in wind, rain and fog, my idea of a scary walk is probably different to most!

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We stopped at the top for breakfast feeling excited by the view and the walk ahead. There was a good breeze up there and I was making the most of feeling cool as I knew it wouldn’t last long.

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We then began the gruelling walk on the knife edge which rollercoastered on a continual up and down. I thought I would be more tired doing the climbs but I felt good. I was enjoying the walk, the scrambling over rocks and being able to find my own route rather than just following a path all the time.

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After a tough steep downhill section, we reached the last long strenuous climb of the day; a lot earlier than I expected. After reaching the top, I began the slow incline down through the valley. We passed some dried up water pits carved from huge circular shapes.

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The gentle slope soon turned really steep. The rock formations were unbelievable in places, so alien looking. It’s amazing how these shapes have formed over thousands of years.

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There was lots of climbing and scrambling. It was really difficult with the bag on as it changes your sense of gravity and also makes it hard to manoeuvre, especially if you have the rock to your back. Towards the end, my legs were starting to get tired. I found myself on one of the scariest parts of the climb down and I hoped that the rocks wouldn’t crumble as I was relying on 1 hand grip to get me across a steep drop.

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It was a huge relief when the ground flattened out. We’d done it! That last part was hard work with the bag and I was ready to get to the camp spot so I could rest, eat and get out of the sun. We still had 4km left to hike and in scorching heat. There was no shade anywhere. I felt like I was going to melt. It looked like we had landed on Mars, the area was so desolate.

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I couldn’t believe it when we reached the camp area. No factories! It was clean, there wasn’t a soul in sight and there was a box waiting with our water caching in, which also provided me with I tiny bit of shade until I found the effort to put the tent up and get inside away from the sun and flies. This place was perfect and I couldn’t wait to see the stars tonight and get a quite nights sleep.

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I cooked dinner and Gil accompanied it with his perfected garlic Pitta’s. Well deserved, I think!

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A hiker I passed earlier reminded me that the US elections had been and gone. My life is like a bubble now where the only news I hear is that of friends and family. I really wish I hadn’t of found out. I much prefer my simpler life where my only concern is when I next get food and water and how far it is to camp each day. Much nicer staying in that world than a reality where the most powerful man on the planet is Donald Trump!

Day 37

My knees were so stiff that I almost fell over trying to manoeuvre myself out of the tent in the morning. Tough climbs up rarely leave my body sore other than generally tiredness, but steep downs take it out on my knees. I was grateful to have a short hiking day, 14km, plus a day off so my body could recover a bit.

As we only had 4 hours of walking, we didn’t set an alarm. We woke about 6.20am when a noisy train passed nearby. I wondered if it was the ‘reggae train’ we had seen going back and forth the last few days!

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6.20am was a good lie in but we stayed chatting, warm in our sleeping bags while the sun slowly rose and heated the desert from its chilly night. It swings from extreme heat to extreme cold. We were off by 7 and eager to get to the awaiting shower. After a tough 7 days of hiking, myself and my clothes absolutely stunk. It’s probably a good thing there is no one about to endure it (Gil smells just as bad so doesn’t count).

The Mars like terrain carried on for a while and we had lots of small hills to climb over. I didn’t mind as long as we didn’t have to tackle that huge mountain ahead of us. We managed to get lost as the trail faded out at one point and used the GPS on our phone to get back on track.

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The rocks disappeared and the ground flattered. It was so dry my sinuses were hurting from the lack of moisture and my lips were cracking. It was going to be a seriously hot day.

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We passed a section where people had written their names and messages from rocks – literally hundreds of them. I’d always been taught to never move anything in the natural world. The rocks are the homes of the creatures that live here and the land has a natural system that should be left as we find it. In my eyes, this is just graffiti.

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We arrived at the campsite, another really nice spot. This is more like it! It’s a shame we won’t be staying, although the flies here were on a different level. They were wired looking and kept trying to get in my eyes. Gross! We had ordered a jeep from Negev Jeep (www.negevjeep.co.il), who offer a taxi service for people in the desert, to take us to Kibbutz Sde Boker where we had received a kind invite from Yanir and Netta to stay for 2 nights. Yanir has been organising our water caching and does it for a crazy cheap price. He is a hero in the hikers world!

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The Kibutz was completely different to the other one we stayed in. It’s smaller, lazier and has a real hippy vibe. The children run about with no shoes on and the bikes and houses are left unlocked. We made the most of the dinning hall but, unfortunately, the swimming pool was closed as it was out of season. The 31 degree heat is too cold, obviously!

We carried out all our usual hiker chores (laundry, food resupply, showers, fixing yet another hole in the roll mat) and I hit the jackpot when I found a white Magnum in the Kibbutz shop – I had been daydreaming about that ice cream for about 3 days now. With the end of our walk in sight, we have started talking about our next possible adventures and this kept us busy for the rest of the evening before grabbing an early night to make the most of the comfy bed.

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I am walking 1000km the full length of Israel. Part of the reason I have taken on this challenge is to raise money for Africa’s Children in Education. Each time I receive a donation it is a HUGE morale boost…please donate!