Thursday, 15 November 2012

Sea of Galilee

Ancient shores, Sea of Galilee
Thursday 1 November: Safad to Tiberias - 15 miles (24km). It's all downhill today to the old Roman town named after the emperor of the day, Tiberias. It's a small but lively lakeside resort and I've decided to base myself here for a few days to explore the area. There's not much left of old Tiberias, just the remains of the ancient wall, a few old buildings and a short promenade built by the British, as a flood defence, following a devastating storm in May 1934. Evening entertainment is a nightly sound & light show of colourful ever-changing water fountains, complete with inflatable palm trees, accompanied by a musical narration which tells the story of the town.
Friday 2: Catching a bus north, part-ways around the lake, I get off at Capernaum, the latter-day home of Jesus of Nazareth. Again, there's not much to see of the original lakeside village or the house, or later church, of St Peter. The nearby Greek Orthodox church remains in working order.
Walking back, along the 'gospel route' towards Tiberias, I stop for lunch at Tabgha. It's buzzing with tour-bus groups but surprisingly there's little food, just a small stall selling snacks: chocolate, nuts and ice-cream mostly. This is especially surprising as this is where Jesus is fabled to have fed the multitude with five loaves and two fishes. I suspect that in reality most folk brought their own food (wish I had!) and were persuaded to share it with those who had none. The alter of the monastery sits above a stone, marked with a mosaic, which is said to have held the meagre portions that fed hungry mob. I'm starving, and buses in Israel stop running mid-afternoon on Fridays, so I head back to Tiberias for a late lunch - falafel (deep-fried balls of ground chickpeas served with humus and salad in a pita envelope). 'St Peter's fish & chips' are expensive hereabouts.
Monday 5: Tiberias to Poriya - 7 miles (11km). It's a steep road walk up and out of Tiberias but I'm glad to be above sea-level again with the Sea of Galilee and the river Jordan 700 or so feet (212m) below. It's a short morning but there are great vistas over the lake and back to Tiberias, shame it's so hazy. I'm staying in the IYHA guest house in Poriya which I booked via the HI website and, once again, I get a comfortable en-suite room with all the trimmings, TV, balcony with lake views and breakfast, all for the price of three-bed dorm (about US$30), ideal. As an added bonus is that access to their missile shelter is included in the price, bargain.
Tuesday 6: Poriya to Kfar Kish - 21 miles (33km). Great walk above the lake, then down to Kinneret where I briefly pop into Yardenit, the baptismal site on the river Jordan, where white-gowned fools immerse themselves in the murky waters. It's a tourist trap with prices quoted only in US dollars (rather than New Israeli Shekels), a small bottle of water is $2.5 and it's $3 to spend a penny. Barely a shallow stream, I follow the litter-strewn Jordan to Rob Roy Canoes, a trail angel corner offering free water, tea and coffee to hikers. I top-up my supplies, I'll need all of my three litres of water, it will be a long hot day.
From the Jordan it's up along various gullys then up, up, up over coarse limestone crags to Eilot Observation Point and the military listening post beyond, scanning the Jordan valley for danger. No sooner does the Sea of Galilee disappear to the east when the unmistakable hump of Mt Tabor appears to the west, it's on the horizon and a long way off. When I arrive at Kfar Kish at the foot of the mountain it's dark. Clearly knackered, Sarah at Tabor Land guesthouse kindly cooks me an omelet and I'm asleep by 9:30pm.
Slideshow around the Sea of Galilee: INT from Safad to Kfar Kish.

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