Day 31, INT, 3-27-19, Zero day in Haifa

Our breakfast view.

31 Day, INT, 3-27-19, Zero in Haifa

Spent the day in coffee shops and at beach. Took bus into Haifa. Dinner and place to crash with Korin and her mother Limor. Great time. Lots of laughing. Cleaned Chan Yotom in the morning as they would not take money.

Shabi and Roman after breakfast.

We decided to take a zero day in Haifa today. Roman’s foot could use the rest, and as I haven’t taken a zero in the month of walking, so could I. The people at Chan Yotom, where we’d stayed the night before, would accept no money, so we spent a few hours really cleaning the kitchen and dorms, as they needed it, and it felt good to give back even just this little.

From there it was a short walk to the beach for breakfast and a view.

Walking the streets of Haifa in search of the best bakery.

Then, we took a bus into Haifa and continued on Roman’s daily endeavor, to find the best pastry in town, which of course he did. It gave us something to bring to Korin’s mother, Limor, that evening. She would be our trail angel again, this time with not only dinner, but a place to stay as well. Dinner was wonderful of course, and the evening was punctuated with lots of laughter. Then, sleeping between Roman and Shabi, provided a night of two part harmony snoring. It probably became three part when I conked out, but I can’t be certain of that.

Dinner, Roman, Korin, Limor and Shabi. Too much fun!

Roman decides on a new mode of transport as it may rain tomorrow.

Day 30, INT, 3-26-19. Caves

Roman and me in the flowers and butterflies

30 Day, INT, 3-26-19, 19 miles. Nahal Me’arot caves, Aviel to Chan Yotom

On trail past vineyards and orchards.

And of course, mud.

On her way to work, our trail angel, Nurit, drove, Roman, Shabi and me, to a point where the Shvil crosses a road near her home in Aviel, and we took off into agricultural land, vineyards, olive groves, oranges and Avocados, apricot and almonds. It so reminded me of Northern California. Even the weeds along the trail are mostly the same. Seeds hitchhiked from the Mediterranean to California over the last few hundred years, and found a climate they liked. Mustard, mallow, wild radish, fillary, plantain, wild oats, rye, and barley, and water cress are just a few of the crossovers. But it always feels like home botanically. And the mud of the fields is just like home too. It sticks to your feet and gives you quite a view, and quite a weight on each foot.

Sculpture garden we stumbled into.

The trail rose into the hills and into some pretty gnarly rocky sections, and we were just happy they weren’t wet. One wrong turn took us up a hill, only to be confronted by a school with a locked gate and attendant who would not let us through. So down we went and into another wrong road that brought us to what was obviously an artist’s abode, as the hillside was covered in sculpture and wild works, some of which were quite beautiful. But, down we went again till we found the right road around that hill.

The olives are incredible!

Passing a particularly tall stand of mallow, we encountered thousands of butterflies, just a small part of the estimated billion butterflies in Israel this year. They’re up from Saudi Arabia and Africa, and their numbers are unprecedented. It’s thought that the particularly wet year has caused the superbrood. How’s that for coinage!

This patch of mallow is covered in butterflies, but they don’t show up in the picture.

Further still and we came to the caves of Nahal Me’arot. Carved by dripping water into a fossilized coral reef, that grew when the sea levels were much higher, they show a cross section of life in this area going back over a million years, and including 3 different hominid habitations at different levels. It is the only place in the world inhabited by Neanderthals and modern humans. Its importance to human anthropology is such that it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Tanur Cave, maybe 100 feet in height with the dig exposed.

It was late in the afternoon and I climbed up and into the caves, with no one else around. Antiquity was in the air, and in the quiet of the spot I could almost hear my ancient ancestors working and living in this place. Overlooking a small valley, and nearby hills, it wasn’t just functional, it was a beautiful spot to be. The caves roofs’ were black with the smoke of generations of people sitting around campfires, cooking and talking, and telling stories. It reminded me of the blackened ceilings of huts I’d been to in Madagascar, where a hearth fire burned day and night with no modern flue, an open window providing the only respite from the pervasive smoke.

Cave with campfire blackening.

Back down to my hiking buddies, and we tried to follow the Shvil north, but quickly lost it entirely in an overgrown patch of weeds and rocks. In desperation, we cut cross country and onto an agricultural road that skirted between the weeds and magnificent banana groves. Now that’s something you don’t see in Northern California. Here they grew to height under canopies of white mesh cloth. I’m not sure if that was to keep pests out, or humidity in, but it was a much easier passage than on the Shvil for this section.

Prickly pear and poppies.

Within a few miles, we came upon the trail magic that is Chan Yotom, a place open to all who need shelter, providing dormitory beds, a kitchen, and a large communal space with music, a pub, and classrooms. I’d like to see more pubs in classrooms back home some day. More parents might volunteer for yard duty if they did.

Our bunk room at Chan Yotom

I love the olive trees!

Kitchen and dorm

We met a young Shviler, Gabriel, from Los Altos California, not far at all from home for me, who was hiking from Dan to Jerusalem. He’s a singer, studying music and considering cantorial work. I meet the most interesting people on long trails! I hope to share some miles back home on Mount Diablo or Tamalpais after this hike.

Gabriel

The shower was hot, Chan Yotom beautifully situated in an ancient olive grove, and magically, colorfully, lit at night. I tried to donate, but they wouldn’t accept any money. It was built in memory of Yotom, who was killed in a car accident, and it now has many supporters across the area.

Lights out on another fascinating day.

Lights out!

Day 29, INT, 3-25-19, Caesarea

Amphitheater at Caesarea.

29 Day, INT, 3-25-19, Hadera to Aviel, 13 miles

Shabi and Roman in the light drizzle.

Bridge near the power plant.

The thunder and lightning and rain much of the night made me very happy to be at Trail angel Shabi and his family’s home last night. But we were off early, driving back to the coast. The first stop of course was the fabulous bakery in Shoham for Roman. Gotta have it! From there we drove to the beach near Hadera and left Shabi’s car and started walking north through the dunes and beaches and past a large power plant. It was lightly raining, but Roman and I popped our trusty umbrellas and enjoyed the cover.

Weed your garden, find a column, in S’dot Yam.

A few miles up the beach, we entered the small Kibbutz of S’dot Yam, and resupplied at their grocery store and then made our way circuitously through its streets to the beach. Shabi told us that S’dot Yam is built on the ruins of the Romans and Phoenicians and probably more, and people find so many artifacts just digging in their gardens, that they have a small, but very impressive, museum to display the finds. The streets themselves were lined with sections of marble columns and capitals. Those would be hard on a rototiller blade.

Hippodrome in Caesarea.

Shabi and Roman above the hippodrome.

Shortly after, we came upon the ruins of Caesarea. Built by Herod the Great, the client king of Rome. This was the Roman capital city in Judea for hundreds of years. Jerusalem was full of trouble makers, so how much better to have a capital at a sea side resort, with cooling breezes and fewer Jews.

Far end of hippodrome

Roman bath houses.

Caesarea was Pontius Pilot’s seat of government. He only went to Jerusalem at Passover to show the might of Rome to the rebellious population of the town. You have to imagine the pomp and majesty of Pilot in a golden chariot, with his entourage, a military parade, the Roman eagle carried by the legion’s standard bearer, flags and banners waving, entering Jerusalem by its western gate, while Christ was performing seditious street theater at the eastern gate, parodying the pomp of Rome, entering Jerusalem riding an ass, his beggarly followers waving palm fronds instead of Roman banners. This was rebel street theater at its best, and guaranteed to rouse the ire of any Roman, or Romanized Jew.

Amphitheater

The ruins of Caesarea are amazing, with a complete amphitheater and hippodrome built right against the crashing waves of the Mediterranean. What a setting. I could just imaging Ben Hur in his chariot careening around the turns of this marvelous and terrible race course. As there is no natural port along this coast, Herod had created a full shipping harbor of stone and fill, that is still in use for small boats.

Herod’s harbor at Caesarea.

We had lunch on the grounds and then walked further up the beach to the ruins of the Roman aqueduct that had supplied water to the city. After climbing up the dunes to its water race, we walked as far along its spine as we could.

Roman and Shabi on the aqueduct

The “race” the water channel on top of the aqueduct

The race and original stone cover.

At its end we came to a small Arab fishing village where we stopped to enquire after a fish dinner, but they were not ready to feed these ever hungry long walkers. Here our trail left the sea and turned inland. The next sea we’d be seeing would be the Sea of Galilee, really a large lake, some days from here.

Arab town of Jisr as Zarqa, above the fishing village.

We had an early and wonderful fish meal at a restaurant in Binyamina, and soon after were picked up by another incredible trail angel, Nurit, and taken to her home in Aviel, where we had dinner with a whole batch of little ones, who were all as cute as any little kid has a right to be. Nurit is an environmental community planner in Netanya, and was a fascinating host. What a great day!

Our trail crossing an inland section of the aqueduct.

Trail angels at the end of a wonderful day.

Day 28, INT, 3-24-19, Turtles and Trail Angels

African Soft Shell Turtles, the largest in the world.

28 Day, INT, 3-24-19, Netanya to Hadera. 18 miles.

High rise and no coffee in Netanya

Roman found a turtle!

We got up from our beach cottage and immediately started looking for a coffee shop. Unfortunately, we were walking on the wrong road for that, and passed mile after mile of high rise apartments on the way into Netanya, without even the whisper of a shop on the ground floor. Turning toward the beach we were finally successful and had a nice breakfast and were joined by Korin for a walk down the beach and into dunes and eventually swamps, past the ruin of an Ottoman customs house on a hill above the Alexander River.

Ottoman customs house

The high point of the day was a few hours of lolling on the grass at the soft shell turtle sanctuary on the banks of the Alexander. These are African soft shell turtles, the largest soft shell turtles in the world, and this is near their northern most range historically. They are critically endangered, due to polluted river systems and predation from people. In Israel that’s primarily Thai agricultural workers who happen to like turtle meat. But the largest population in Israel is right here in the Alexander River, where over 50 remain. They’re strange looking and huge, over 150lbs and 3 to 4 feet long, but they hung around the fenced off banks and were wonderful to watch.

Leaving the turtles behind, we walked the last miles of the day to the train station in Hadera, where camping is allowed in a nearby wooded park. But we were met by Shabi and his wonder dog, Kika, who was totally beat and lay on the ground like any dog who’d just walked 18 miles would do. It was forecast to rain and Shabi invited Roman and I to come home with him by commuter train and enjoy one more Trail angel evening with his wife and kids, and dinner of course. Who could refuse, a wet night in a tent at a train station, or a nice night in Shoham.

Roman and Korin

Korin and Kika the wonder dog.

We were off for more Israeli hospitality, which I must say, by far surpasses any I’ve encountered on any other trail I’ve hiked. The Kiwis are the best! The Spanish are the sweetest, and the church groups on the Appalachian Trail and super angels on the PCT and CDT, are beyond wonderful, but the Israelis just keep pouring it on, town after town, Kibbutz after Kibbutz, families and individuals, people go out of their way to help hikers like nowhere else. And oh, my, God! The food!

The thunder and lightening all night made me glad to be at a trail angel’s home.

Day 27, INT, 3-23-19, Hummus and the Beach.

27 Day, INT, 3-23-19, Yael’s place to Poleg Beach just before Netanya, 18 to 19 miles

Moshe, Roman and Maryanne

We walked to the beach this morning and then met up with an old college friend of Roman’s, Moshe, and his wife, Maryanne. We all walked until we came to a good breakfast place and then stopped for shakshuka, to talk and eat.

Great breakfast place with Moshe and Maryanne.

Bluff walk

When we resumed our walk and came to bluffs we needed to climb, we said goodbye to our friends and ascended to a ridge walk over the sea that wound in and out of dunes, beach brush and out onto precipitous cliffs with staggering views of the blue and grey, sea and sky.

Shvil trail marker.

On one turn of the trail inland, we met a young shivller, Korin, who was recently out of the military and hiking the trail. After, “Hello” and “Are you hiking the Shvil” she immediately hit us with “Do you want to get some great humus?” What a question!? Are we hikers? Of course we want some great humus. It turned out she was second in command of an infantry company, and we dutifully marched after her to some of the best humus in days, a delightful afternoon repast. Yup, she still commands respect, at least when hiking and food are in the mix.

German hiker, Roman, me and Korin

Roman and Korin

Roman’s favorite, great hummus! Thanks Korin.

We continued our hike together all afternoon as we planned on the same stoping place and we learned that her mother was bringing dinner from her home in Haifa. More food, can’t miss that!

Our third pitch, behind the lifeguard station.

The ballroom

Dinner with Korin, her mom, Limor, and Shabi

We ended our day at Poleg beach where a small resort allows camping. But after 6 moves of our tents, Roman and I settled into a beach apartment as it was supposed to rain and a roof is nice. The first spot we tried was sheltered from the beach wind by a trailer, but turned out to have asphalt 1 inch below the sand, no good for tent stakes. The second behind some stacked chairs, was just not as good as the third, which was behind a lifeguard station. After pitching our camp and settling in, Korin’s mother Limor was helping by this time, we realized that it was low tide at that point, and high tide at midnight would have us floating away! So we moved onto a bit of bluff behind the restrooms, and then down lower behind a sea wall of sorts, only to hear that the resort would let us stay in their ballroom. One more move and then we learned that this was incorrect. Now we had the final resting place, just outside the bar, but were too tired to pitch our tent for the umteenth time, and rented a room instead. Oy vey! But dinner of chicken burritos and salads in the dark, was wonderful!!! Thank you so much Limor.

Wow, what a fun and crazy day. Got a great nights sleep.

Day 26, INT, 3-22-19, Neighborhoods of Tel Aviv

Roman Mazor Mausoleum.

26 Day, INT, 3-22-19 Shoham to Yarkon

Posing with their Purim costumes in front of the Roman mausoleum.

We slipped out of our trail angel’s house early out her back gate, and joined a trail that circles the town of Shoham, and connects to the Shvil. We found a little coffee pasty shop with wonderfully fresh bread and goodies and had a cup of coffee to get us off right. Then we hiked past large, new industrial food plants for 1/2 mile or so and then out into the fields and hills paralleling the freeway into Tel Aviv.

Roman’s favorite thing anywhere, a great bakery!

An hour or two into the morning, we got a call from our trail angel letting us know that I’d left my pot and cook kit behind. Oh boy! Happily, her husband, Shabi, is just a bit ahead of us on trail today, going in the same direction, and she needed to pick him up that afternoon in Tel Aviv, and could bring the pot at that time. Now, I’ve left my pot somewhere, but I’ve also pretty regularly walked away from my hiking sticks on prior trails, and left my hat at a cafe in New Zealand, so this was par for the course.

Roman in deep wheat.

Tel Aviv here we come.

As both Roman and I have walked most of the Yarkon River in the past, which the Shvil follows through Tel Aviv, we decided to walk across town and take in the neighborhoods on our way to meet up with Shabi, closer to the beach, and get my pot back.

Neighborhood parks are everywhere in Tel Aviv.

The neighborhoods were quite interesting, changing their nature simply by crossing a street. One section through a Chasidic neighborhood might have been a century ago except for the cars and busses.

When we came near Roman’s sister’s home, which is very close to the river near its mouth to the Mediterranean, we lay on the grass and waited for a man with a backpack and a mixed German Sheppard dog. When he came walking down the trail, it was that beautiful dog Kika who tipped us off. I’ve never met such a friendly and loving dog.

Shabi, Kiku and Roman on the banks of the Yarkon.

After a short trail connection, we headed for Yael’s place and a great impromptu dinner there, and Shabi went to meet his family at their beach rendezvous. Purim was still being celebrated, and Yael had a wild costume and she and her husband Moti were off to a party. We were ready for bed, not partying, so it was lights out for Roman and me. Tomorrow we’d have a lot of beach

Day 25, INT, 3-21-19, Parks and Trail Angels.

Olives grow like oaks back home.

25 Day, INT, 3-21-19, Latrun to Shoham 18 miles.

Carob grove with benches. Such a nice respite.

Today was a simple day, an 18 mile walk from the outskirts of Jerusalem, to the outskirts of Tel Aviv. We took a bus from Jerusalem to the little town of Latrun, and then cut through the Avenue of the Chiefs of Staff of Israel. Roman gave me history on most of them as we passed each of the monuments.

Then, connecting with the Shvil, our trail took us through a tour of parks and open spaces that was simply lovely. Pines, eucalyptus, cypress and huge ancient carob trees shaded us for much of the day. In the middle of miles of wheat, there would be a small stand of trees, a few benches, picnic tables and often piped water. This was farm hospitality that was new to me. In some of the more populated parks, people were wearing their Purim costumes and BBQing up a storm. The whole day felt festive.

Roman was able to contact a trail angel for the night in Shoham, a suburb of Tel Aviv. Adina gave us a room, dinner, great conversation, and washed our clothes. Her husband, Shabi, had just started on his own walk of the Shvil, from their house, which is very close to the trail, to its end in Dan, a few weeks away. The whole family has an affinity for the Shvil. After dinner, their youngest son, Nadav, entertained us with science experiments and the hilarious patter, that only a 15 year old boy can put on. We were also joined by their 20 something daughter, Rotem, who was a brilliant young woman and a delight to talk to. They both provided a lovely ending to an easy walk, through a day of parks and forests.

Water catchment for the cistern, or wine press?

A bit of ancient carved stone used in modern rock wall. Antiquity is everywhere.

Tomorrow we enter Tel Aviv, or as its now commonly referred to, “Silicon Wadi” due to its high tech connection to our own Silicon Valley back home.