From Eilat on the IBT and HLC, Israel

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No culture shock, except two-thirds of every road sign is illegible, and one-third is in English.  And, for the first day we don’t know the exchange rate from shekels to dollars, so Monopoly rules apply (try not to spend, but it is not real money so who cares).  The other two languages are Hebrew and Arabic, with Hebrew on top.  

Leaving Egypt, border agents rigorously inspect a few chosen items, ignoring most of the rest.  They seem most curious to fondle the sack of flatbread in my framebag, ignoring the conspicuous 2L steel bottle on the underside of my down tube.  Israeli border agents are far more professional, interviewing each of us separately to determine how we manage to travel with so little luggage, for so long.  “Don’t you stop to see the sights?”  Lael informs her that we are always seeing sights, all the time.  Our bikes are loaded onto the conveyor and sent through the x-ray machine.  

Public bathrooms with sit-down toilets and paper and hot water, and they don’t cost two rand.  Free sugar packets from every roadhouse.  But cane juice is gone and the bread isn’t as good as Egypt, and everything seems really expensive except it’s really just like America.  Local kibbutz communities do produce organic dates, olives, goat yogurt, and wines; although expensive, they are worth the money.  The biggest homecoming to the first world?  Some schmuck who asks too many questions he already knows the answer to, while I am eating.  Don’t interrupt my meal to be a schmuck.  I’m far too familiar with this practice.  Americans do it well.

We connect signed dirt trails straight out of Eilat, linking to the Holyland MTB Challenge race route and the Israel Bicycle Trail the next morning.  The Holyland MTB Challenge took place for the first time last April, connecting the southern border at the Red Sea to the Golan Heights in the north, near Syria.  The Israel Bike Trail will also connect the country north to south, and is currently complete from Eilat to Mitzpe Ramon, included miles and miles of freshly signed and graded singletrack through the mountainous desert.  Thus far, in two days of riding, the two routes coincide for much of their distance.  Thus far, the riding and camping is Israel is great.   

Leaving Eilat and the Red Sea.

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Hiking and cycling trails, signage not seen since Europe. 

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Designated camping areas minimize impact on the land.  Often provided for free, they do not have water, but offer space and fire pits.  So far, I’ve seen only drive-in sites on dirt roads.  

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Technical riding on rocky sandy footpaths, trying to find our own way through the mountains.

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Easy cycling routes, mostly on dirt roads.  Camels on wheels are cool.

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The colors of the Israel National Hiking Trail.

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Which provides a shortcut up a mountain.  We choose to hike our bikes to avoid a $12 per person park fee, required by way of the main dirt road and the HLC/IBT route.  

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Nice trail.

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Which opens up to a rideable plateau up top and a playground of trails.

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Eventually connecting to the IBT and the HLC route.

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Israel Defense Forces (IDF) property and nature reserves cover much of Israel, I’ve been told.

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Incidentally, IBT signage only routes from north to south– no signs coming from the south.  Hopefully the northbound signage is forthcoming.

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Fresh trail.

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And an unofficial wild camp on an east facing ridge.  A campground listed on my GPS turned out to be a commercial quarry.  Instead, we take the opportunity to camp up high, overlooking the Aravah Valley and Jordan.

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Haven’t found alcohol for our stove yet, so a fresh cup of singletrack will have to do.  The imprint of the trail-building machines can still be seen.  Jordan in the distance.

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Switchbacks and countours– modern trailbuilding, durable trail.

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Old trail, and new bike-specific trail, both apparently in use.

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Some sand, not too much, but just enough soft stuff to think that now would be a good time for 29+.  Are those Surly Dirt Wizards available yet? 

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Fresh goat yogurt at our only resupply point for the day, the cafe at kibbutz Neot Semadar.

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More fresh trail.

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Arroyos, called wadi, which is Arabic for valley, usually a dry desert valley.

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We plan to ride a few more days of the HLC/IBT before turning west to meet a group of riders over the weekend, which will lead us back south toward Eilat.  Thereafter, we shoot north to meet our friend Christina in Tel Aviv, who is flying from Alaska for ten days of sun and sand in the desert.  Cool nights, warm days; dry, not too hot, fresh trail– nothing not to like.  

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11 thoughts on “From Eilat on the IBT and HLC, Israel

  1. I just wanted to share the scope of who your blog reaches. I’m a Southeast D.C. native ( the real southeast (the real southeast: Anacostia, southern ave, mlk, Alabama ave) and have been following your blogs since 2012. It’s not until I read your Christmas post that wanted to respond. I thank you for the real post and not being so candid. Many tales focus on the grander of adventure. You shell it out as matter of fact it’s not. This is just another living. It’s the “I’m as comfortable as you are on the couch” attitude. I read and enjoy every word. I have been cycling the USA in this same fashion since late 2011, keeping each of these United states separate as countries continually. It never gets old eating the same mundane madness that my money can buy. It never gets old being “the black man riding alone, aren’t you afraid” – the reference back of reading “give me the sweets” is what sparked this long winded out of direction thank you note. I’ve logged over 87,000 since October 2011 and still gaining many many more stands of the web we weave. I know how far a good pat on the back goes…. so with out more delay I type: BRAVO FOR LIGHTING YOUR TOUCH AND SETTING OUT YOUNG MAN AND WOMAN !

    DMV stand up!
    Wilson “Good Saint”
    …..have you heard any gogo music in a long while?

    • Great to have your support. Writing what we see and experience isn’t always the easiest path, as tales of grandeur are universally agreeable, if eventually boring and incomplete. Keep up the riding and writing. The new blog looks great!

  2. Hi,

    We run mountain biking skills coaching and touring in Israel, just saw your post and its a great read.
    Please let us know if you’re heading to the center \ north and we can provide any assistance along the way.
    We also run both Hebrew and English blogs, would love to feature a guest post by you if you’d like that.

    Can e-mail me at


  3. Hello, to the Les Trois Mousquetaires how you doing?.
    we meet on the edge of Ramon creator (Arnon with the Kona Unzo).
    if you heading north you more the welcome at my home. Just on the IBT planed location (which has been built not yet here). grate place for ride, in between Mt’ Carmel to Nazareth.

    you can contact if you need +972-544-881021

    • Arnon! We are headed north. Not sure when we will be in your area, but our planned route takes us right near your house. It would be awesome to meet and ride. I’ll let you know when we are on our way, surely in the next week or two.

    • There is bone dry wood everywhere, camels don’t shit much. Alcohol is expensive and hard to find in Israel, but 1kg tubs of hummus are easy to come up with so cooking isn’t much missed.

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