We woke up well before light in our little cave after a wonderful, warm sleep. We choked down some barely moistened oatmeal (water and fuel were low) and were on the trail by dawn. Jen’s knee was causing her a lot of pain. But with no option except to walk out of the boulder strewn wadi, she got it through it with grit and chutzpah and emerged victorious on the up side. She has not had much experience hiking, making what she has accomplished that much more impressive. The strenuous desert terrain was far more challenging than either of us anticipated. When one thinks of deser, they don’t think of mountains.
When we reached Arad, we flagged down a young couple to ask directions and they drove us to the “Desert Bird” guesthouse. It’s a lovely home with an equally lovely host, named Michaela. Among other acts of generosity, she drove Jen to the clinic to see about her knee. The diagnosis – acute tendinitis. Doctors recommendation – rest for a week to 10 days. Jennifer is totally bummed about it, but she can barely walk, let alone carry a pack. After two nights at the guesthouse I left yesterday, with conflicting emotions, to continue north. Hopefully, by Jerusalem, we can be trekking together again.
On my way to Har Amasa, a couple stopped and said it was dangerous to hike up the steep remainder of the trail due to the amount of rain fall and that higher up it might be snow. Mount Amasa is 850 m high and the weather is unpredictable. Arad is the dividing line with the dry desert on one side and the Yatir Forest on the other. The couple said that they were headed to Amasa if I wanted a lift. I excepted their offer and we soon arrived at the little kibbutz. I was promptly shown to a grimy little room reserved for Shvil hikers. That grimy little room was much appreciated as, by then, a bone chilling rain was slamming the green mountainside.
Later that night I was invited for dinner to the home of a humanitarian couple, both with PhD’s in philosophy. Their perspective was that the Bedouins had been treated badly by the is Israelis. This is a complicated multi-dimensioned society with many different points of view. Like everywhere, I suppose. It was a lovely evening and I slept well in their “safe room”. In Israel it is required by law that every house built have a “safe room” – a concrete room with reinforced windows and door in case of bombing.
I left in the quiet, early morning fog before they were any stirrings of life. Once on the , realizing I couldn’t see 10 feet in front of me, I turned around. I didn’t know where the little dirt road went (it was marked as a red trail) but wherever it was going, it would be better than sliding into a flooded gully or getting lost because I couldn’t see the trail markers.
I wondered how Jen was doing. I felt like I was missing a limb. About half an hour later, I realized that I actually was; I didn’t have my hiking poles! I hurried back, crept into the silent house, got my poles, accidentally woke up the dog, who then tried to follow me. (How do you say go home in Hebrew?)
The little dirt road did go to Meitar, which was my next planned stop, but it took the long way around. Apparently, the scenery was stunning and the ruins noteworthy, none of which I could see. The fog didn’t let up for several hours and it also poured rain until evening. Eventually, A police car stopped beside me, asked where I was going and if I needed anything. I’m sure I looked a sight. I had a bag of oranges tied to my waist (while trying to dig out my raincoat from the bottom of my pack, they fell out and rolled down the road. I couldn’t fit them back in the pack in my haste to batten down). My broken water bottle was jammed in my waist belt and I was drenched. They looked dubious when I said I was fine. They moved the AK 47’s, opened the door and said they would take me the few remaining kilometres to Meitar. I hesitated for only a second before the lure of even momentary warmth won out. Once in Meitar I got a few groceries and decided to press on to a little shelter house for shvil hikers in the small 16 family community of Sansanna.