Sandstorm out of the Dead Sea on the HLC, Israel

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At 1200ft below sea level, there is nowhere to go but up.  Into a stiff west wind, we depart from the gas station at Newe Zohar, at the south Dead Sea.  The ascent out of this big hole, the Jordan Valley, comes in three distinct parts.  The first thousand feet are a steep hike up a signed footpath.  The second thousand feet are gained slowly up a wadi along a signed cycling route, which often rides above the drainage on a series of camel trails.  Finally, a dirt road leads up to elevation and to the city of Arad.

Leaving in the afternoon from the sea, we top out by the end of the day.  The wind clouds the sky with earthly particulates, concealing the sun.  The wind slows us to a stubborn crawl.  By the end of the day, we camp by the side of a dirt road, sheltered by a barren hillside near a Bedouin community.

Through Arad the next day, the wind intensifies.  We consider out options and consider the forecast for rain and wind next week, when Christina arrives from Alaska.  

We press on through slowly greening hills, past cherry trees, grasses, grazing sheep.  Riding and pushing another couple hundred feet upwards, we reach the Yatir Forest and the border of Palestine.  Israelis refer to is at the West Bank.  Across that fence is Area C, which is described as being under “full Israeli civil and security control”.  There are no trees on the other side of the fence, only rocky hills and grasses and two communities, each centered around the towering minaret of a mosque.

This is a dusty beautiful place.

A group of seniors are walking the entire INT, one day per week.  They offer to take our bikes on their bus and to house us for the evening.  We can restart in the morning.  Aside from severe wind, I remind Lael that everything else is just fine.  It isn’t raining, it isn’t cold.  She glares at me.  We continue.

A moment later large rain drops begin got fall.  Pushing across a grassy field towards a number of unfinished structures, a pair of eyes and hand emerge from behind a tarp.  A Bedouin shepherd invites us into his camp.  We sit, and have lunch, offering an orange, which he accepts.  He refuses our bread and hummus.  He makes mint tea with sugar.  Lael pulls our her sleeping bag and rests until the rain passes.  We continue.

We camp in the Yatir Forest near a large tent which serves young IDF recruits who are staying for the week to utilize the nearby weapons range.  They sit around the fire on the morning of their departure.  We make coffee on their fire, they make coffee on a gas burner.  They offer cigarettes and a kilo of apples.  Several speak English; the feeling is much like being with a group of young men anywhere.  It reminds me of the night spent in Egypt by the highway, mothered by a group of 22 your old boys.  Other than Lael, there is one other girl around the fire.  

The morning air is clear and the technicolor kaleidoscope of Israel presents itself, an exciting change after two weeks in the desert.  Going to Jerusalem.

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9 thoughts on “Sandstorm out of the Dead Sea on the HLC, Israel

  1. Ugh sandstorm! It looks extremely challenging. How do you make joint decisions to continue or stop when you are confronted with unexpected weather events like a sandstorm? Love the first pic after you write “Going to Jerusalem”

    • We communicate well, but the actual decision making process is usually clouded by guessing what the other person really wants, which probably means we could communicate better. Isn’t that how it works for most people? I think we’d both admit that I exert special executive powers in tough situations, although I swear to have the best interest of my constituents in mind.

  2. Dear Nick and Leal; Lovely to read about your travels! We cycled in Israel in 1998! Guess what? I received a parcel in the post today: Your rim! I presume it would not be worth it to post it internationally. Shall I keep it in the garage for when you come to Cape Town again?😉 Lots of love from all of us.

  3. Hola Nick,
    what great adventures you guys getting into. What a great long ride!…
    hey, I was wandering about your current camera, If I remember right you said at some point that you changed your Olympus for a Fuji? Which Fuji? My Olympus is starting to complain and I’am looking into Fuji options. The new XA-2 in particular. Are you finding yours “bikepacking” proof?… the photos look sharp and great colors… any advice?
    By the way, I set up the Pugsley ghetto tubeless, same on the Krampus, both are holding up really well on our andean terrain. No problema!

    • Great to hear about the tubeless conversions. I run over thorns all day in Israel, happily riding along.

      I’m loving the X100T. I seriously considered the XT-1, but wanted to move away from big cameras, tilting screens, multiple lenses. The X100T produces much more powerful images than my Olympus, better colors, more realistic photographic details, a more inspiring user experience…

      I consider the Fujifilm EVF to be a key function of my experience with the camera. Also, it might be worth looking at the models with the X-Trans sensors, such as the XM-1, it may be worth the money. But then if you want the hybrid EVF on the body it is a slippery slope to an expensive and very nice (and weathersealed!) XT-1.

      I can’t say if the X100T is bikepacking proof. I know I spent a lot of money on it and am doing well to take care of it, much better than the cheap Olympus bodies I was using. For me, the easier it is to pack and protect the camera, or wear it in a safe shoulder pack the more likely I won’t break it. For a super packable and powerful bikepacking camera, check out the Nikon Coolpix A. It has a APS-C sensor in a tiny body with a nice screen and a nice fixed lens. Not really an option if you require a zoom, but it should produce powerful images similar to the X100T. The Nikon A should be on sale in the US for about $500. The Ricoh GR also falls in this category. I almost bought the Nikon in South Africa, but is was much more expensive than in the USA. Packable equals “bikepacking proof” for me, perhaps even more than a weathersealed body. Now, a sealed X100T would be great.

      • Thanks for sharing…
        I think I can still squeeze some juice from the XZ2, its a nice point and shoot, simple, small and Ok image quality, it has some temper and sometimes the lens gets stuck or freezes but I forgive her. Now with Koru jumping aboard his Chariot, our family expeditions provide plenty of time to stop and play. All of a sudden I’am kind of enthusiastic about a more complex camera. Yep, Fuji XM-1 and XE-2 are between the options, the Sony a6000 is also on the list. Lets see what comes my way… Suerte compañero

    • Thanks Jean, We liken ourselves to sailors in that we chart our path and choose our days based upon the winds. But when your right up against a body of water on the Jordanian border at the lowest point on earth, you have to go uphill and upwind at the same time.

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