Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Upper Galilee

Hula Valley and the Golan Heights
Friday 26 October: Taking the train to Haifa's Lev Hamifratz station I walk south, through a shopping mall, to the bus station where all the timetables are in Hebrew, but eventually I work it out. It's Friday and I'm struck by the sheer number of young automatic-weapon totting soldiers going home for the weekend. Many of the girls look barely old enough give a decent blow-job, let alone taste the horrors of war, yet they are all trained to kill. Conscription here is compulsory for almost all (three years for boys, two for girls) so the whole population is a standing army ready to take up arms. Most people smoke heavily. This is a country living on it's nerves. Eventually I board a 501 bus to Kiryat Shemona and I'm joined by a well proportioned but skinny young blond girl who falls asleep next to me. As the bus bounces along slowly her shoulder-strap slides down her honey-skinned arm and the black muzzle of her assault-rifle, in places worn through to the shiny-metal beneath, comes to rest on my lap. This seems commonplace, I do hope the safety catch is on. 
When we arrive at Kiryat Shemona all the local buses have stopped running so I walk two miles up the hill to the IYHA guest house in Tel-Hai where I've booked myself a place in a three-bed dorm for two nights B&B. Imagine my delight when I'm given a spacious en-suite room with twin-bathroom, tea & coffee, fridge and TV for just 100NIS per night (about £16). I'd made this reservation via the Hosteling International (HI) website, the usual price is $75 per person, I must bear this in mind. The guest house has an intriguing feature that I've not seen in any hotel previously - a missile shelter. I don't remember seeing that in the brochure.
Saturday 27: Dan Kibbutz to Tel-Hai - 8 miles (12km). There are no buses today so I walk eight-miles by road to Dan Kibbutz, the trailhead of the INT, and then walk the same back along the trail to Tel-Hai. Once the obligatory photo is taken, it's a pleasant enough walk alongside orange groves with views north to Mt Hermon.
Sunday 28: Tel-Hai to Ramnot Naftali - 13 miles (20km). The route climbs up the east side of the Hula Valley, the northern extension of the Great Rift Valley, a deep trench running from Mozambique in the south, north to northern Syria. There are fine views from the craggy limestone hillside across the valley to the West Bank and the Golan heights. Clambering down, then up a wadi, or dry river bed, I reach Ramnot Naftali just before dusk. Here I meet Uri Agmon, a trail angel, who offers me one of 16 mattresses in his hiking hut, a converted detached school classroom. Later three Israeli hikers arrive, all pretty worn out. There's a shower, kitchen and it's free, though I do leave a courtesy gratuity (20NIS, about £3) when I leave.
Monday 29: Ramnot Naftali to Sasa Kibbutz - 19 miles (21km). Much of today is scrambling up the loose rounded boulders of Nahal Dishon wadi, slow going with a high risk of injury. When I stop for lunch a group of furry little creatures slowly appear on the nearby boulder-beds. Staying low and quiet I creep forward to take a picture. They are a family of Rock Hyrax basking in the sun, wonderful. I arrive at Mt Meron Field School Centre only to find that it's locked, so backtracking to Sasa Kibbutz I call a trail angel, Yoni Tzorzan, who shows me to a 6-bedded 'granny' flat attached to his large house. It's free with tea and coffee included and I have it all to myself. Again, the next morning, I leave a small gratuity.
Tuesday 30: Sasa Kibbutz to Safed - 13 miles (20km). Slowly the trail ascends Mt Neria, drops down slightly, then ascends again to the summit of Mt Meron, at 3,963 feet (1208m) it's Israel's highest peak, but it's hazy and the views are poor. From here it's down to the Nahal Amud river bed which gradually becomes wetter and more stream-like towards Sechevi Pools near Sefat. The town of Safat sits on top of the third highest mountain in Israel and it's a difficult climb up two steep gullys before a steep road walk up to the old citadel and city centre. I've reserved a room for two nights but there's really not that much to see, just scores of ultra-Orthodox Jews with hair-braids dangling from wide-brimmed black hats, wearing black suits and rushing to escape the heat.
Here I receive an automated Skype call on my laptop (surprising as few people know my number) telling me my computer is working slowly and that I should link to a website were all will be repaired. Quickly I run a virus scan and as it starts my screen turns bright blue, letters cascade down the screen like a rain drops, and everything goes blank. It's like something out of a science fiction movie. Fortunately the Safed Inn has free internet, giving me a temporary solution.
Slideshow of Upper Galilee: INT from Dan Kibbutz to Safed.

No comments:

Post a Comment