Middle East

My Middle East Adventure – Part 5

3 days of mountainbiking.

I just returned from my amazing trip to the dead sea and was back in Jerusalem the evening of September 30. It just popped up in my head I actually had to decide what to take on the cycling trip to Tel Aviv and what to leave in the car so Hezi could take it back. After all I didn’t want to carry my 10 kgs on the mountainbike all the time.

I met up with Avihai and we tested our mountainbikes (first time in my life to touch a proper one). Good start. We went up and down some hills and honestly, I was freaking out. I was afraid of going down three steps or going up a minor curb. What the hell did I think doing the 2-4 days trip without any clue? And actually planning to do so by myself. And a voice came up in my head and said “Hahaha nice one!”. And then we laughed and laughed and took a nap.

Luckily I had someone encouraging me (it was just three days after that he admitted he was actually more worried than me). Basically, I had no idea what was ahead of us.

We got groceries – bread, date spread, apples, muesli bars, cookies, we took rice & quinoa, and 4 or 5 liters of water each. To comfort ourselves we shared a whole bucket of Ben & Jerry’s and went to sleep, to get up at 5am the next morning. Super strong energizing Popeye green smoothie and off we went. After pumping up our wheels we cycled through the morning Jerusalem, calm, still at dawn.

Beginning of the track was the biblical zoo, and finally I realized I‘m actually doing this. I knew I had to put myself through this challenge, although most of my friends and family – as well as a tiny part of myself – begged me not to. After this whole summer of immobility this was my thing. Basically this was the whole reason I was in Israel. And somehow I knew it was going to be fine.

The first kilometers were already dominated by a lot of uphill tracks, damnit. It was still very cool since it was early in the morning, the sun slowly rose between the mountains outside of Jerusalem. All this cheesiness was soon abandoned when more and more funny people came our way, there was some kind of run going on, with marching bands participating – it was the middle of nature, no civilization around, but these whiteblue dressed people with drums singing what Avihai told me where versions of Hebrew popsongs. It was too early for us to hallucinate so I’m pretty sure that happened.

mountainbiking adventure through the middle east

Best were, of course, the downhill parts. Luckily, Jerusalem is 700m above sea level, while Tel Aviv, naturally, is at 0m. Thus there was a lot of downhill which I, after I overcame my initial fear, enjoyed immensely. Admittedly, there where numerous situations I was afraid of falling and actually pretty close, with all those lose stones beneath my wheels, but somehow, neither of us had any kind of accident, the whole trip. Well, except for when we had our first major break, while I pushed my bike next to a bench, of course I tripped and suddenly had the bike on top of me. Yay.

Most of the time we managed to find the ways using the provided signs. We were cycling through forests and between mountains and next to dry rivers. We saw deer, Avihai said to have seen a snake but I’m not sure whether that was just supposed to scare me, we had to push the bikes on severe uphills, and through some rarely used singletrack bushes that left scars all over our legs.

When we arrived at our first stop and had a 3 hours break (the heat got too intense at that time of the day) I was so incredibly happy and proud that I think some of my synapses burned through. Well, I had fun. We used the time to make plans about stealing the beer of the group sitting next to us, but eventually ended up asking around for some water.

mountainbiking adventure through the middle east

When continuing, the weather was just perfect. It was cloudy and a bit windy, making the next few hours far more comfortable. We picked grapes from a farm we actually had to cycle through, we ate some weird plant that tasted a bit like cocoa, we stopped at an Arab place in the middle of nowhere to have a completely overpriced beer that seemed to have come from heaven, and then there was this crazy as paved downhill road that speeded us up to 60 km/h, freedom :)))

Our goal for that day was Neve Shalom. Somehow we missed that though. And made it up to Bko’a, maybe 10km further. Bought some heavenly sweet lemonade, some vegetables for dinner later, and were able to refill our complete water supplies from a very nice man who saw us passing his house. He was incredibly friendly, let us sit at his porch and went inside to not disturb us.

After having thanked him properly and regained some energy, we kept going for just another kilometer and put our mats down in a nearby forest. Dinner was cooked, mats were prepared, and soon we went to a sleep not disturbed at all by ants and needles from the trees around and stuff like that. However… it was so dark and so calm, it was magical. But too warm. And the view was limited by the trees. So we had way higher expectations for our next accommodation to be honest.

It was rather difficult to get up the next morning, and when we finally left I realized we should have gone earlier since it got hot very soon. After our butts got tired of complaining about the hard saddles, we enjoyed spectacular views over centre Israel landscapes. “From Tragedy To Hope” was one of the viewpoints called.

By now we met a lot of other mountainbikers. However I noticed that all the way and despite our very very very improvised gear and not suitable clothes I was the only woman the whole time. Hey girl, if you ever decide doing something crazy man-dominated, go for it 🙂 It was fun, of course caused us a lot of stares, but if you enjoy yourself that’s totally worth it.

Our next break was heaven again. Self-brewed beer, some really sweet Turkish dessert, then we placed ourselves beneath a tree and actually slept a bit and cleaned ourselves (meaning putting a bottle of water over our heads).

We kept going and took wrong turns a coupld of times (I won’t state who’s fault that was now – not mine). In doing so we experienced a rather challenging singletrack for about a kilometer before we realized we went completely wrong and had to go all the way back.

mountainbiking adventure through the middle east

Around Shoham in an industrial area, we discovered that the track was cut since they where building… stuff. So we had two options – climb the walls somehow or cycle all around the site until finding a way up. So… we climbed. We attached ropes to the bikes, one pushing them up, the other one pulling them up the 3 meters wall we had to overcome. It for sure looked hilarious and my foot complained a lot and I was picturing my mum killing me or him for doing stupid things but we had fun and eventually we were up. A while later, we reached our new 1000 stars hotel: a small plateau with a wide view all the way to Tel Aviv where the sun was just about to set. We had our simple dinner again and soon went to sleep under an amazing starry sky. At night, Avihai woke up talking of something that sounded like “fox” but I was too tired to realize anything. When he told me that animal hat nibbled his knee I wasn’t sure whether he just dreamt it.

We left early, and it was just a while later when we had our first stop to have proper breakfast, we realized our whole loaf of bread was gone. Since we doublechecked the whole area where we camped to not leave anything behind – yeah, that stupid fox stole our bread. And we had nothing but cookies left. Happy stuff 🙂 Anyway I noticed I needed way less food and way more water than normal.

On the further track we had to cross the second river of the trip. Meaning, taking shoes and socks off, and somehow walk with the bike through the quickly flowing water without tripping. It was fun though and our feet definitely were happy to see some water. Since I knew we were gonna arrive that day, I actually had a lot of energy. We were cycling along a river most of the time, through reed forests, picking pommegranates and grapefruits from fields, walking through very very muddy mud that got stuck everywhere, we looked like we mud-wrestled, exhausted, but excited.

By now we had mostly stopped washing hands to not waste our few water, just wiped them at our tshirts, sat anywhere on the floor, anything, it just didn’t matter. Everything became routine, changing gears, knowing what to do on a sandy uphill and a rocky downhill track, easy-peasy. I felt a lot of energy thinking about the sea. And finally, we reached the outskirts of Tel Aviv. We were actually cycling on paved roads. Oh my God. I was going about 40 km/h simply because I wanted to arrive quicklier, wanted to see the sea, couldn’t believe I really had done this shit, really cycled from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, without anything serious happening, without any experience. It still took longer than expected, and we actually missed the sign marking the end of the track. When going back (of course!) and seeing it, that honestly was one of the happiest silliest lightest moments I had experienced in a very long time. I can’t really describe how I felt, it was just… laughing and giggling and jumping and smiling and freaking out 🙂

mountainbiking adventure through the middle east

We made our way to the beach and this swim was one of the best ever. We did it. We really did it. Insane. With all the wrong turns it was about 150km, 2,5 days. You can do anything if you just want to!

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