Day 42

The speaker announcements and generator from the large group made sure we were all up at 5am. It turned out we were camped just 10 metres from a couple of hikers we had met some weeks back – Ayal, Yoni and Gadi. We chatted with them for a bit after putting our tent down but, seeing that they were going to take a lot longer, we headed off alone. I’m certain we will see them at some point again, if not before Eilat.

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My body felt so much better this morning. I felt awake and strong and was enjoying the hike to the top of Mount Saharonim, not to mention the scenery that came with it. We dropped down into the wadi and completed a horseshoe, following the dried up river.

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We talked non stop until we started the next big climb, longer and higher than the one before. I spotted an unusual beetle with long legs on the way up. It’s amazing the amount of wildlife we have seen in the desert. My favourite is still the mountain bunnies (they look like over weight guinea pigs).

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Initially we had only planned to hike 18km today so had arranged to hide water at Gev Holit Night Camp. We reached there by 11.45 though so made the decision to complete another 10km to the next designated camp. The advantage would be that tomorrow would be much shorter and we would get to Spice Route Khan (a Bedouin camp), where we were staying for 2 nights, much earlier. We can never ignore the call of a shower and a warm bed.

Gil followed the point of view video on WhatsApp and we found the water that had been left their for us. Yanir’s system is genius! For the rest of the hike, I would now be carrying 7 litres to make sure I had enough for today and tomorrow – heavy!!

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We took the opportunity to stop for lunch and we had the usual. I mixed water and salt with a bit of sesame paste to make tahini (no lemons to hand!) and we had it with crackers. I was really enjoying it until a gigantic fly head dived straight in the cup of tahini. Gil scooped it out and I squashed it as I couldn’t bare to watch it slowly drown in tahini. What a way to go.

It really put me off the rest of my food.

After lunch I always feel sluggish which is why, on shorter days, I normally wait to eat properly when we get to camp and just snack in the day. Plus, the sun always bothers me the most early afternoon as I’m ready to escape it by then. The first 4km was easy though, following a flat meandering path until we reached a small clutter of acacia trees.

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There was a crazy amount of hitchhiking flies on us today. They take a ride on your bag then, every minute or so, fly in your face so you know they are still there, before settling back on the bag. Ever 50th fly-in-the-face I usually loose my temper and yell at them, do a weird full body swat at the bag before giving up and carrying on.

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Mount Yahav, the last climb of the day. 250 metres and steep. I powered up the first 100 metres then stopped for a rest, grateful to be in the shade. I was tired from a long day walking but ready to get to the top. I carried on and, for the last 50 metres, had to pause for a breather every few steps. I felt great reaching the top.

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I began making my way downhill for the final hour of the day and suddenly had the urge to sing really loud. I started with the Disney classics then moved trough all the Oliver songs and finished with Bob Marley. I don’t know why, but Gil hung back and decided to walk separately for a bit.

The camping area came into view. Empty, quiet and beautiful! The soles of my feet were sore and throbbing. I felt great though. It still amazes me how it can swing from tough, difficult, fun and good in the space of a day. I stripped down to my underwear to put the tent up – it’s the best thing when you are hot and sweaty and just want to get out of your hiking clothes! Thankfully, Gil spotted a couple heading towards us in the distance so I made myself a bit more descent. (It’s the only other female hiker I’ve seen in a month by the way). I was happy to have company and thought we could share a fire and food. When they got near though I could see the woman was not happy though. They put their tent away from us, behind a large boulder, and we heard her shouting at him. Maybe he had told her it was an easy walk?!

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I was in such good spirits I almost didn’t want to go to bed. The cold sorted that out though. As soon as the sun went down, the drop in temperature forced me into my sleeping bag and I just couldn’t keep my eyes open from its snug comfort.

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Day 43

I woke at 1.40am and had to go for a nature wee – it an irritation that happens almost every night (I never have to get up for a wee in the night at home by the way – it’s a camping thing!). Afterwards I felt so awake I couldn’t sleep. It was beautifully peaceful so I sat up for a bit looking at the mountains and listening to the sounds of the insects and birds. The moon was so bright. I wrote for a bit, hid under the sleeping bag so the light wouldn’t disturb Gil, and eventually felt sleepy enough to go back to sleep.

We hadn’t set an alarm but woke naturally at 5.50am. Shortly after, we saw the arguing couple leave and, after snoozing for half an hour longer, we decided to pack down and get going. Normally there are no flies in the morning but they were already swarming our tent.

Our days always seem to start with a steep climb and this one was no different. I thought I was going slow but near the top we had an awkward exchange as we passed the couple, they were both avoiding eye contact with us. They had an hour head start on us so maybe we aren’t going as slow as I thought.

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The trail down was steep but flattened out near the bottom. We followed it, up and over gentle slopes, out of the wadi and into civilisation. A few roads, farms and the town of Sapir appeared in the distance.

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We had planned to get to Spice Route Khan, the Bedouin camp, by midday but were here by 10.30am! 17km in 3 hours. Normally it’s the thought of food driving me but, this time, I just really wanted a shower. I think this was the worst I have ever smelt.

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After a much needed shower, we walked the 20 minutes to the shop in Tzofar, the town, and stocked up on food. A guy offered to drive us back which I was very grateful about as I really couldn’t be bothered with anymore walking. I take my rest time very seriously!

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In the evening Ayal, Yoni and Gadi stopped by as they were passing through. We sat and chatted for a while, joking about our funny hiking habits and the stories we had heard about others on the trail. Apart from passing conversations, it was the first time I’ve spoken properly to people in almost 2 weeks, since Arad. I’m much more used to the solitude now, even craving it, although I was happy with our plans to meet the boys just before Eilat so we could celebrate together.

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We settled into our cosy Bedouin hut. My brain felt wired from spending too long looking at my phone. I went to read my kindle but I found that the screen had broken – that’s a real bummer as I like reading. You can’t do a trip like this and not have something break. With nothing else to do, I just lay in the dark daydreaming. I have no idea how long it took me to fall asleep but it felt like a long time.

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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!