I joined the morning meditation before we headed off. Knowing what to expect made it a lot less weird and I enjoyed the silent start to the day (and the jam and bread!). We said our goodbyes before heading out, happily reunited with our beloved sticks.
Our food supplies were running low. We were hoping to stock up in Neot Smadar but all we were able to scrape together were some dates and cereal bars. We had enough for 2 small pasta dinners and a handful of snacks. We wouldn’t starve, but we would be hungry. With only 4 more days until we reached Eilat, I didn’t care so much. I would make up for the lost calories with ice cream when we arrived.
Most of the morning was spent on the flat, following an empty road. We cut back into the desert and started a rocky ascent. Towards the top, sand started to appear in between the rocks and, when we reached the top, we suddenly found ourselves on a dune, Kasui Sand Dune. The sand was so soft and fine, it was like flour.
We passed a prehistoric archeological site, a place where animal sacrifices used to take place. There were some stone images of leopards. I couldn’t get my head around the fact that they were 6,000 years old!
I sat down, feeling tired. I suddenly had the urge to cry, so I did. I’m not sure what I was crying about, maybe just a combination of things. The fatigue of a long adventure was catching up on me. My hips were sore and my back and arms achy from yesterday’s work. Being so close to the end has made me realise how much I want a break from walking. Although, I’m not entirely ready for it to end. I’m also missing home. Mostly though, I just really wanted a slice of chocolate cake, with cream. I haven’t had a proper piece of chocolate for over 2 months.
I pulled myself together, threw on my pack and set off on my merry way.
When we passed a building site, we stopped to fill up our water. We went around Shaharut, a tiny village, far from civilisation. Some of the houses had amazing little outdoor spaces that backed onto the vast desert.
We stopped for a while to admire the fantastic view of the Jordan mountains. I was going to miss the desert.
As we were hiking through the rocky Tzukei Shayrot Nature Reserve, we saw 2 day hikers heading towards us. We literally never pass hikers on weekdays so it was strange to see them. They were father and son, Elad and Harel. Like so many others before, they asked if we had enough food and water and, when we told them our food situation, left us with their snacks – rolls, honey and Doritos. This massively helped our situation and I literally wanted to hug them when I saw the honey. I’d been going on for a week to Gil how I was craving honey. What were the chances?!
We keep using the phrase ‘the trail provides’. If you want or need something on the trail, it just kind of happens. Like that time we were down to our last square of toilet paper (seriously critical!), 2 days away from a shop and Gil found gold, right there in the middle of the trail floor. I’m talking a brand new pack of triple layer, luxury soft.
Or when I stupidly dropped our sticks down a canyon and, just 1 message and 2 days later, we were reunited.
Everything finds a way of sorting itself out in the end. Although, unfortunately, I think chocolate cake and cream might be stretching the abilities of the trail.
There were some really cool large rocks dotted about the reserve, I’ve never seen anything like them before. They looked like mini UFOs that had fallen from the sky.
We weren’t far off sunset so, as soon as we were outside the boundaries of the reserve, we found a flat spot to put up our tent. We had done a long 32km day and, although the morning had been tough, it had generally been a good one. The thought of a honey sandwich for dinner probably had something to do with it.
I was in a good mood when I began walking in the morning. I felt less tired and more enthused than I had the day before. We had an ambitious plan for the day to hike all the way to the end of Timna Park. It would be a 34km day but would mean we would catch up with Gadi, Ayal, Yoni and Dan. It’d be nice to have company and to celebrate nearing the end together. I wasn’t worried about completing the day physically, my body was in really good shape. It was chasing the daylight that was the problem.
We went up and over a short climb, then followed the path across a flat section. We stopped briefly to talk to 2 men. They were leaving messages under rocks for a group of children that were doing navigation practice. We said goodbye and carried on. Like so much of the terrain in the desert, the path was rocky and uneven. About 20 minutes later, the group of children came into view.
I stepped sideways to let them go first, returning their chirpy ‘hellos’. When the last one had passed, I stepped back onto the path and carried on. My left foot caught the tip of a large rock and I stumbled forwards. Tripping over rocks is a daily occurrence on the walk. My reactions have become fast and usually I can quickly catch myself with my sticks or regain my footing with a quick step. On this occasion, I was holding both my sticks in one hand as I had been putting something away in my pocket and, when I went to rebalance with my other foot, it just happened to get caught on another rock. There was nothing I could do. I flew forward, head first. The rocks below me went flying towards my face at speed. This was going to hurt.
My left knee caught the impact first. The momentum of my heavy bag flung me forward. Caught under the sticks, I wasn’t able to stop the fall with my hands, meaning the second part to take the impact was my head. The impact pushed my head back and I instantly felt a searing pain in my neck. I don’t remember if it was Gil or myself who managed to get me into a seated position, but, instinctively, the first thing I did was bring my hand to my head. When I pulled my hand away there was blood on it.
I reassessed the rest of my body. My left knee looked badly grazed and was really sore. There were a few other grazes and bad bruises on my legs and arms. The most pain was coming from my neck though, and my head which was now throbbing. Gil checked my head and said there was a bump and a graze on my forehead and a small cut on the top of my head, thankfully not big enough to need stitches. This could have easily been the end of my trip.
The first thing I thought of was that we are planning to stop at the Dead Sea on the way to Gils hometown in a week and, with cuts, I won’t be able to swim in the salty sea. It’s completely irrational, but it really upset me and it was all that I could think about, not that I might have seriously hurt myself. It was probably just the shock. My hands were shaking and I was starting to get cold. Gil cleaned my wounds, covering the scrape on the knee, and I stood up. More than anything, I wanted to be back in a familiar place. I felt like a small child wanting the comfort of home. I couldn’t have it though. I still had a long day of hiking ahead of me. I was sore, but OK to walk and carry the pack. I started walking slowly and very carefully.
We had a slow ascent up a mountain and a steep climb down, followed by a short 4km flat walk to the entrance of Timna park. I could feel the swelling on my head causing pressure. My neck had also stiffened and I couldn’t turn my head anymore without pain. Gil took some of the load from my bag which helped.
Mount Timna was a 300 metre climb up with lots of scrambling and a particularly steep cliff at the top, the green terrain indicating areas of copper. The descent was tough on my bruised body.
At the bottom, we stopped for a welcome break at the parks cafe. I ordered a pizza, chips and ice cream. I went to the bathroom to check my injuries properly and clean them.
Gil asked me if I was ok, he said I was being quiet. I was fine. My injuries weren’t anything serious. Taking a fall though isn’t nice, especially such a big one. It made me feel very vulnerable.
We had 9km left to the camp area where the boys were and less than 2 hours before it got dark. I was feeling super full from the food so I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. There was no way we weren’t doing it though. It was a relief being back in the quiet nature after the bustle of the cafe. I don’t know how I will cope being back in civilisation full time. We walked through a colourful disused quarry and into a wadi. The Jordanian mountains were looking especial beautiful as the sun began dropping on the horizon.
With 2km left, we got out our torches, as it was now too dark to see the path ahead of us. Then, the best sight, flashing torches in the distance, directing us to the camp area. It was good to see the boys again and, in true Israeli style, they were cooking up a feast. We sat sharing stories and the boys took great humour in sharing recordings from a WhatsApp group they are in called ‘farts only’ – I’ll let you fill in the gaps.
I miss female company.
It had been a really tough day and I was still feeling sensitive from my fall earlier. It wasn’t a nice experience. I’m also pretty pleased with myself though. Despite being hurt, I picked myself up and got on with the walk. 32km, over tough terrain with a big fall. Not too shabby, eh?!
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!