These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

On the road again – Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway

Posted on December 10, 2013 by The Director of Digital Media

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From my blog:

With Chanukkah break quickly approaching, I searched for the perfect thing to do. Combine a limited budget with a week to fill and I arrived at hiking in the North – the Yam L’Yam trail to be more specific. In Hebrew, yam means sea and, thus, the hike goes from the Mediterranean Sea to the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). After acquiring two trusty trail mates, we set out to plan the trip. However, we were met with some resistance when the internet provided us with little to no information. The trail is quite popular, how is it that nobody had created an all inclusive guide thus far? This blog is being created in the hope that it will inform shvilisties, or hikers, with adequate information while also informing my friends and family about my hofesh, break.

zz01Since our starting point was Jerusalem, we took the 480 Egged bus from The Central Bus Station to the Arlozorov Station in Tel Aviv, which took about an hour. From there, we took the train to Neharyia, add another 2 hours. Finally, we took a 20 minute bus ride from Naharyia to Achziv Beach. Unlike some other cities in Israel, it is permissible to sleep anywhere on the beach! We decided that it would be best to take the 4 hour journey the day before we planned to hike so that we could sleep on the beach and get up bright and early to hit the trail – definitely recommended! First task on the list? Go swimming in the Mediterranean — it’s not Yam L’yam unless you go in the yam, right? Even in December, the water was chilly, but tolerable and the beach was covered in wood that we used to make a fire. We cooked a hearty dinner, dried our clothes by the fire and relaxed under the stars – beyond excited to start the journey. 

Day 1 | 16 km: “The mountains are calling, and I must go.”

zz02The trail begins in Nahal Kziv, or the Kziv River, which passes from the beach and under the highway. Right next to the nahal are two places to fill up on water. One is a sort of picnic area and the other is a camp grounds with very nice and friendly staff. We woke up early, filled up on water, packed up the site and hit the road. Like I said, we were hiking in December, which meant rain. Have no fear, we were not discouraged. Equipped with garbage bags to cover our backpacks, we marched onwards. We followed the Nahal a little bit, which is pretty much at level altitude, until we saw that there was a road to the right of the nahal which would be much easier to traverse. We exited the nahal and continued on the road, alongside banana orchards, for 5 km.

After the 5 km, we arrived at a highway, which we crossed and continued onward. My comrades decided to take a safe path down and I decided to slide down the cement barrier to get back into the nahal – I think that I had more fun. The river became a little steeper and the orchards ended. Again, we chose to walk on the path next to the nahal because ground is always easier to walk on than many stones. We walked through a large field, filled with poop which was covered in small red bugs. I feel that it’s necessary to mention the poop because I am fascinated by poop, as many of you know. Beyond the field, we reached a fence which bordered a highway. At this point, we got used to climbing over fences, under fences, around fences and through fences. Once over fence, we walked along a highway for a little while.

You know when you’re driving along the road, in a place far away from town, and you see three people walking single file along the road with gigantic backpacks and you wonder to yourself, “Where could those people possibly be going and why are they walking on the highway in the rain?” I can finally answer that question because I became one of those people. A little bewildered as to why such a popular trail would cause us to walk along the highway, we continued onward and were met with such excitement when we found the green trail! Please see the excitement on Eli’s face. From this point, we continued along the green trail and it was smooth sailing from there. The trail zig zags back and forth across a river which required balance that I simply did not possess, especially with 50 lbs on my back. After about 5 crossings, I was knee deep in the river. Mah la’asot? 

After passing Ein Tamir, a big spring, we knew that we were getting close to our resting point for the night, Ein Ziv. At this point, the mist and rain were coming down a little harder than we had anticipated and the sun was beginning to set. When we saw a sign that said Ein Ziv in the distance, we breathed a sigh of relief. The sign turned out to be the sign for a water processing plant and Ein Ziv turned out to be a disappointing excuse for a campsite. We set up camp in a dry spot that we found on the side of the road and began to prepare dinner. Tonight, the theme of dinner was eat as much food as possible that was contained in cans so that our backpacks would get lighter — great plan of action. After taking turns putting icy hot all over each other, we prepared for sleep.

zz03Settled in the dark tent, the noises of the night engulfed us in fear. We had heard that the trail ran through areas filled with wild boars and we were not let down. A friend of mine told me that when wild boars trip over rocks, they turn around and walk away. So, naturally, we surrounded the tent with large stones, a porcupine spike, our shoes and anything else that we could find to ward off the pudgy porkers.

Day 2 | 16 km: “Stand strong like a mountain and let rivers flow through you.”

We survived the night. After planning close to nothing for our trip, my mindset was that if we lived, I would be pleased and anything beyond living would be a great success. So, to start the day alive, I was happy. Running low on water, we decided to hike out of the nahal into the nearby town of Ma’alot to fill up. The road was completely paved, but at a very steep incline – I guess they don’t call it Ma’alot for nothing. [As it comes from the word la’alot, meaning “to go up.”] We had barely entered the town when we saw a woman sitting serenely in her backyard sipping her morning coffee. It was as if she saw what was coming when we approached her because she responded with a cheerful, “Betach! Of course!” In Israel, people who live along trails are called Trail Angels because of their welcoming spirit and incredible hospitality — our experience was nothing short of this.

Although we politely declined her many offers for something hot to drink, insisting that we were fine with water and we would just be on our way, she said that she was going to start the kettle anyway. We settled in with our coffee and tea as her oldest son entertained us by playing with a neighborhood cat set to the backdrop of an expansive mountain range covered in flourishing wildlife — not a bad start to the day. We consulted the map and determined that we should continue through Ma’alot, to the main highway, where we could either walk or hitch a ride for 5 km to the trailhead. We settled on a 40 shekel cab ride and continued along the green train in the Kziv River for a pretty uneventful rest of the morning.

zz04We stopped for lunch to plan out the rest of the day and not too much time had passed when we heard bells ringing and the deep voices of men yelling in Arabic. Unsure of what was going on, we continued to slice cucumber and eggs and place them on crackers and inside of pitot. Slowly, the noises got louder and it occurred to us that the yelling was the voice of some type of shepherd leading his flock directly towards us, sitting in the middle of the road. We grabbed everything and shifted it to the side of the road just in time for about 200 goats to come our way. Frozen and unsure exactly what to do, we did what anyone who had just hiked 8 km would do, protected the food. Only in Israel would the shepherd following the flock be chain smoking and wearing a pink Hello Kitty backpack. After he passed, we played a fun game of “Guess What’s in the Backpack.”

We continued through Nahal Meron, making great time and arrived at the nature hostel called “Mount Meron Bet Sefer Sade” at around 2pm. We knew that the next day would be long and include hiking Mount Meron, so we figured we would stop in to ask for advice and keep moving. We stripped our packs and, like spies getting around lasers, snuck underneath the fence. After using the bathroom, I stumbled upon Meir, the nicest man ever, who runs the hostel. I asked what he reccomended that we do at this point in our journey – should we continue on? Where’s the next place to sleep? How would he suggest that we go? After little to no discussion, he had convinced me that we stay at the hostel, take hot showers, use the facilities and stay in from the impending thunder storm. It was an offer that we couldn’t refuse.

zz05Equipped with two mattresses each, outlets to charge things, electric light, a roof, and running water, we were really roughing it. Although we had set out to be dedicated campers, immersed in the shetach, field, and covered in dirt, we were comforted by our decision to make the cop out move when sheets of rain and thunder woke us up late into the night and continued into the morning.

Equipped with two mattresses each, outlets to charge things, electric light, a roof, and running water, we were really roughing it. Although we had set out to be dedicated campers, immersed in the shetach, field, and covered in dirt, we were comforted by our decision to make the cop out move when sheets of rain and thunder woke us up late into the night and continued into the morning.

I think that this point may be long enough to stop at this point, so I will do just that. I hope that it leaves you on your seat, begging to hear the rest of the journey.

Helpful Things to Know Up to this Point:

  • Acquire the Israel Number 2 map at any camping store or from a friend
  • Bring along a wrench to open water sites that are closed
  • Bring something waterproof that will cover and seal your entire backpack if traveling during the rainy season
  • Bring more plastic bags than you think you need. You will use them.
  • Helpful Website: Sea to Sea Trail