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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

We Made It!

Ancient synagogue excavations.
Gorgeous blue sky greeted us on the last day of our hike. Arbel Guesthouse outdid itself with breakfast: fresh grapefruits and avocados from their own garden, olives, cucumber, tomatoes. Fresh yogurt. Homemade tea. Bread, granola and baked eggs. This was by far the best gourmet place we stayed at in Israel.
We hoisted our day packs onto our backs and set off - immediately down a green valley of wildflowers and past ancient ruins of a synagogue. We descended along narrow cow trails into a steep valley, rock cliffs rising on both sides. We met several herds of cows with new calves.
The valley below Moshav Arbel

At the bottom of the valley we skirted the Bedouin village of Wadi Haman, walking through orchard after orchard of grapefruits, olives, oranges and bananas.
Bedouin village of Wadi Haman.
And then we saw it up close: the Sea of Galilee! I touched the water and marveled at the idea that we were now at 200 meters below sea level! The Sea of Galilee is Israel's largest lake. Directly across from the sleepy villages is the Golan Heights, and then Syria. We don't hear or see much of any violence. The only military presence we have seen, so far, is the odd soldier, a helicopter now and then, and two huge tanks in the middle of a forest. When we got closer we realized that we completely inflatable! Decoy tanks?

It is interesting to note that all Israeli Jewish men and women (except the ultra orthodox) serve in the army swell as the Druze. The Arab Israelis are exempt from military service.

The only place to have lunch in the shade was in a viaduct!
As we walked along the sea of Galilee to our final destination, we saw the Church where fishes and bread were multiplied, according to the gospel. We saw the place where Mary came from, Mount Beatitudes where the sermon on the mount was delivered, and finally ended by in Capernaum (interestingly pronounced Kafh Na Ghoom), the village where Jesus reportedly lived, picked the disciples and more. Ancient ruins are being preserved and busloads of Christians from around the world visit the site.

Sea of Galilee!
65 KM!
My toes are sore but we did it.
If you are interested in hiking AND in visiting Israel, we highly recommend this experience.
You can hike the entire trail on your own by following the orange symbols. It is a good idea to buy the book and map of the Jesus Trail. We booked through the organization that has developed the trail:
When you book with them, they advertise this as a 6 day hike. In reality it is only 4 days in which you walk 65 KM. Day 1 is the day you arrive, on your own, in Nazareth and stay at the Fauzi Azar Inn. Day 2 is meant for exploring Nazareth. The Inn offers a free tour. That was the only part we did not like. True, we are not good tour people, but 45 minutes into the 'tour' we were still standing in the same spot and had only heard about the guide herself and about the Inn's owner. It felt a bit like one of those time share promo talks. We actually left the group and explored on our own, having a wonderful time.
The organized hike is not cheap but when I prized out different hotels along the route to look at making all of our own bookings, it seemed to be about the same price. The organized hike includes all breakfasts and all dinners while on the trail. And, best of all, it includes having your luggage moved for you. This worked like a charm. Our luggage was always waiting for us. On the last day, the taxi driver who had our luggage, picked us up at the end and brought us to a hotel we had booked in the city of Tiberias.
On our very first day, a volunteer (in our case a lovely American girl) accompanied us. This made us feel comfortable and helped them make sure that we could find the trail on our own.

So, now we are resting our feet (Kees is having a cold beer!) and tomorrow we take public busses through the entire length of Israel, via Jericho, the Dead Sea and the Negev Desert, to Eilat - the southern most town in Israel.

From there we will cross the border into Jordan. Next time: Petra!
The end of the trail!

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