I woke up (the morning after my last post) to clear skies. I packed up and said goodbye to the warmhearted students and walked out the hostel gate feeling like I was pushing my way out of the womb into an uncharted world. I had become accustomed to the comfort and security. But it was time to cut the cord. I stood on a bluff overlooking the Mediterranean, took a deep breath and let my jitters be carried away with the wind. And boy was it windy!
It felt nice and familiar to be back on the trail. I plodded across rolling sand dune’s along the coast without a specific destination in mind; my plan was to go until my ankle said stop. Three or four hours later as I approached the ruins of ancient Caesaria, I knew that was far enough.
The pay booth was closed but the gate was open and the old city was all but deserted. I wandered around looking at the extensive remains of the magnificent coastal port that was once a cultural and commercial powerhouse. The innovative architecture was rebuilt by Herod in the first century in honour of Augustus Caesar.
Storm clouds had been blowing in from the east and by early evening the rain hit with a vengeance. I was sitting under a three sided makeshift archaeological structure covered with vapour barrier within the ruins pondering what to do for the night. As it continued raining, the twilight deepening, an idea was taking shape. Hmmm…do I dare? It would be pretty exciting. I had a look around and found a mound of black landscape fabric behind a shed under the enclosure. There wasn’t room to put up my tent but I would have shelter and be off the ground. I didn’t want to draw attention by lighting my stove so there would be no supper or tea but it was an opportunity that was simply not to be missed.
Later, In the dark, snug and comfortable on the landscape fabric, wind and rain tearing ferociously at the vapour barrier, waves crashing against the Byzantine break wall, the intoxication of actually sleeping within the famous ruins made my skin tingle. I fantasized that I had crossed some Narnia like portal and would wake up to the sounds of the Roman marketplace. Instead I woke up to the sounds of workman’s voices. I stayed quiet as a mouse and didn’t move. But I was discovered anyway. When the two workers saw me, they put their hands over their heart and brought me water and cookies and told me to be careful; soon the snakes would be coming out from under the black fabric to sun themselves on the rocks, then headed off with their wheelbarrows and shovels. I packed up pretty quick.
The shvil left ancient Caesaria following a Roman road along the coast, abundant with ruins, and every so often you could see intact mosaics and small pieces of broken pottery. I was in my glory stuffing the pottery into my pack (reminding me of when Sabrina and I backpack through Greece and carried slabs of marble that we found). Eventually though, I decided that it was foolish for me to carry the extra weight, so I regrettably left my treasures behind and consoled myself inhaling handfuls of the wild Rosemary that grows everywhere here.
In the days since, I have been back in my tent (sometimes cozy, sometimes cold and wet) and continued north with judicious baby steps. The trail turned inland at the Arabic fishing village of Zorba. I crossed Mount Caramel and dropped down into the gardens at Zihron Ya’ akov. But that is a story for another post.