Negev heart, Israel

Nicholas Carman1 3744

Some days in the Negev desert: resupply at kibbutz, riding sandy wadi and rocky trail, sleeping out under a waxing gibbous, a full moon, and not too distant artillery fire.  Thorny acacia trees are the bridge between South Africa and Israel, although shade is far less important in this northern winter.  We love the desert.  Halva, olives, persimmons, wine, pita, cucumbers, onion, hummus, and water.

Nicholas Carman1 3718

Nicholas Carman1 3733

Nicholas Carman1 3736

Nicholas Carman1 3722

Nicholas Carman1 3725

Nicholas Carman1 3735

Nicholas Carman1 3723

Nicholas Carman1 3743

Nicholas Carman1 3726

Nicholas Carman1 3727

Nicholas Carman1 3738

Nicholas Carman1 3739

Nicholas Carman1 3728

Nicholas Carman1 3730

Nicholas Carman1 3717

Nicholas Carman1 3731

Nicholas Carman1 3747

Nicholas Carman1 3719

Advertisements

From Eilat on the IBT and HLC, Israel

Nicholas Carman1 3696

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.

Nicholas Carman1 3676

Hiking and cycling trails, signage not seen since Europe. 

Nicholas Carman1 3677

Nicholas Carman1 3679

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.  

Nicholas Carman1 3678

Nicholas Carman1 3681

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

Nicholas Carman1 3682

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

Nicholas Carman1 3683

The colors of the Israel National Hiking Trail.

Nicholas Carman1 3684

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.  

Nicholas Carman1 3686

Nice trail.

Nicholas Carman1 3688

Nicholas Carman1 3689

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

Nicholas Carman1 3690

Nicholas Carman1 3691

Nicholas Carman1 3692

Eventually connecting to the IBT and the HLC route.

Nicholas Carman1 3694

Nicholas Carman1 3697

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

Nicholas Carman1 3698

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

Nicholas Carman1 3675

Fresh trail.

Nicholas Carman1 3699

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.

Nicholas Carman1 3670

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.

Nicholas Carman1 3671

Switchbacks and countours– modern trailbuilding, durable trail.

Nicholas Carman1 3701

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

Nicholas Carman1 3702

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? 

Nicholas Carman1 3703

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

Nicholas Carman1 3705

More fresh trail.

Nicholas Carman1 3704

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

Nicholas Carman1 3672

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.  

Nicholas Carman1 3669