We didn’t set an alarm as we were both feeling tired. We were slow getting ready so didn’t start walking until 7am. We followed a flat road that led us towards the mountains. 2 day hikers, a father and son, passed us and insisted that we take their snacks – apples, dates and pretzels. It still amazes me how generous everyone is with sharing their food here.
We saw a massive family of mountain bunnies, all sat on rocks watching us as we passed. They’re normally so quick and shy I can’t get a picture, but these didn’t seem bothered.
The path cut through the narrow Baraq canyon, the walls towering above us on either side. It was one of my favourite views so far.
The climb up was steep and all with the aid of ropes and ladders.
When we reached the top, we followed a path cut into the side of the mountain, before it flattened out over rocky ground. I listened to my favourite album of all time, Songs of Distant Earth – Mike Oldfield, twice. There is no better way to listen to this album than on full blast, hiking through the desert.
Before starting the equally steep descent, we stopped for a lunch of peanut butter on crackers, under the shade of a lone tree. Climbing down is always scarier than going up, especially for Gil who is afraid of heights. The first 2 sections were fine. Then we reached a flexible wire ladder (I hate ladders that move!) that curved over the edge and dropped into nothingness. It’s horrible not being able to see what is coming next. Gil asked to go first and slowly started to descend. I could see he was nervous so told him to drop his sticks, which were hanging off his hand. I threw mine down as well – I just wanted him to focus on climbing.
He disappeared from my view and went quiet. Eventually he called that he was down and I should follow. The first section was fine but in the middle the ladder started to turn sideways. It sat flat against the wall meaning you couldn’t get a good grip with your feet and the whole structure swayed. I can see why Gil went quiet.
I made it down and joined Gil to look down into the canyon where our sticks lay. I didn’t even consider that the ladder might not lead all the way to the bottom. Not my smartest moment!
There was an old bit of rope lying around. The drop to the bottom was about 3 metres. Gil was sure he could get down but wasn’t confident he could get back up, especially as the rope wasn’t strong enough not to break and the sides of the wall were smooth from water that sits here in winter. We tried for a good hour and a half to get the sticks with the rope. We looped them a few times but, with no hook, they just slid through.
It was almost 3pm. We had over 10km left and less than 2 hours of light. We had to go. I was annoyed with myself, but better to leave the sticks behind in the water pit than Gil.
After 800km hiking with sticks, being without them felt like I was learning to walk again. My body hurt. I didn’t know what to do with my arms. Gil settled on holding onto his backpack while I let mine hang by my side. They felt awkward.
We arrived at the camp area, Tzihor, just as it was getting dark. We got the tent, roll mats and sleeping bags up and ready in no time and I cooked a quick dinner. This was the latest we had ever arrived at a campsite. I was tired and ready for bed.
I set off first today, fancying a bit of time alone. Sometimes it’s nice being on your own in nature listening to nothing but the sound of your own walking feet. I had 28km ahead of me and all on 1 dirt road, the whole way. It’s a boring segment that a lot of hikers skip, although I didn’t see a problem with having a ‘switch off’ day.
The path was mostly long and straight with lots of mounds in the way. When I felt like a change, I put my music on. I sung as loud as I could, as if no one was listening and danced as if no one was watching, because, no one was.
A couple of hours in and the monotonous scenery started to grate. I daydreamed and made some lists in my head to pass the time.
Things I am most looking forward to when I get home:
– Having a cuddle with my little nephew (he was only 3 days old when we left) and taking my niece out for a walk
– Having a full English breakfast fry up
– Soaking in a hot bath
– Sleeping in my bed
– Spending time with family and laughing with friends
– Listening to Christmas songs
– Eating my mums cooking
– Eating (proper) chocolate and cheese
– Seeing London lit up with festivities
– Not walking
Things I will miss about the hike:
– Being in nature, especially the mind blowing scenery of the Negev desert
– Waking up and going to bed when I want
– The simplicity
– Being close to my in-laws
– Seeing all the animals (even arrogant foxes that try to steal food from your tent in the night!)
– Feeling good from working my body each day
– Warm pitta, hummus and falafel
– Properly appreciating every single mouthful of food
I passed an army base where huge tanks were tearing back and forth, heading off into the distance where they began practice firing.
It was 10am and I only had 6km left, so I sat and took a break. I’d been power walking, enjoying the feeling of making my legs move and my heart pump. About an hour passed before Gil appeared on the horizon.
We arrived at Neot Smadar Inn restaurant where I tucked into an organic ice cream made in the kibbutz. Yesterday, Gil had put a message in a hiking group that we had left our sticks and to let us know if anyone passes them and is confident enough to get them out. Amazingly, we were sent a picture that they were in safe hands and on their way to us!!!!
3 boys had got them out so we arranged for them to leave the sticks at the restaurant (for us to collect tomorrow) and we left a tab behind the bar for them to have a drink and ice cream on us. So happy!!!
We hitched a lift from someone at the restaurant to the kibbutz, where we were staying for 2 nights. I was looking forward to this visit, although was a bit nervous about what to expect. Neot Smadar is one of the few remaining kibbutz that are still functioning as a modern commune, unlike the others where we had stayed which have been privatised. The concept is a strange one to me and also facsinating.
We were welcome to eat, shown our room and given some time to rest. Tomorrow we would be volunteering to help where it is needed, so we got on with getting our hiker chores finished and I updated my blog. It’s still too early for me to pass judgement, but one thing’s for sure, tomorrow will be an experience.
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!