Total distance since Tel Dan: 1077km (667 miles)
I’m getting so close to the finish I can taste it. After these two days I’m now down to two days on the trail to reach the finish at Coral Beach near the border with Egypt.
Wednesday evening (Nov 5) I was studying Torah at the monastery at Emmaus. I decided I’d drive most of the way after the class finished at 9 and sleep in the car. About 1130 I got to Gevanim, where I knew there was a nice spot off the road and set up “camp.” By 6am I was on the road again. I stopped by the side of the road near Neot Smadar and made breakfast. By 0730 I was parked at the trailhead at Shaharut and was on my way.
Day 49: Thursday, November 6, 2014
Today’s journey was 29 km, net downhill – 648m of climbing, 910m going down. Keep in mind on a rugged trail, down is NOT necessarily easier than up! Getting down Timna Cliffs was a good workout.
The trail starts near the small village of Shaharut, climbing a wadi on the west side of the village. It’s a gentle climb; after about 4km the trail turns south, and there’s a beautiful view to the east, across the Arava to Jordan. That view was there much of the day.
Unlike the last few days on the trail, I did see some other hikers today, one group of three and not far from them another couple. As I was zipping past them – I jogged much of the day – I tripped and landed flat on my face. Why is it whenever you do something embarrassing like that it’s when you have an audience? 🙂 On the other hand, if you’re going to fall, better to do it where there’s help nearby if you need it! Fortunately no damage was done other than to my ego.
The day started with a long stretch, nearly 22km, that was nice enough but not particularly memorable, just going along ridgetops or across plains, mostly with a pleasant view. The weather was nice, warm but not too hot. At 22km is where things got a little more interesting – the top of Timna Cliffs.
Timna Valley is a fascinating place. I’m sort of surprised I never explored it before, but I’ll definitely be exploring it some more in the future. It has interesting scenery, geology, and history. As described on the Israel Foreign Ministry website (link above):
Ever since man discovered, in the 6th millennium BCE, how to turn a piece of rock into malleable metal, copper has been mined and smelted in the Timna Valley even in modern times, by the Israeli Timna Mining Company, which is no longer in production
The trail descends rugged cliffs on the north side of the valley, 350m below. Not much jogging on this section, the trail was far too steep and rugged, although there were some easy stretches in between the tougher stretches. The trail takes about 2km to drop the 350m, coming out in Nahal Mangan (Manganese).
From Nahal Mangan it’s another 5 relatively flat and easy kilometers to the Timna Visitor Center.
I managed to hitch a ride from the visitor center to the main road, 90, where I caught a bus to Kibbutz Lotan. Had dinner with friends there, who then drove me back to my car at Shaharut. From there I drove down to Eilat, where I stayed in an inexpensive place I found on AirBnB. Was only $41 for a room in an apartment. The hostess, Biba, was great. Was a little hard to find – I needed help “navigating in,” despite having GPS. Had a nice talk with Biba, a woman about my age who used to run the Steimatzky book store in Eilat until it closed. Shares my political views.
Day 50, Friday November 7, 2014
I slept until after 6, a little later than I would have liked considering I needed to get back to Jerusalem before Shabbat started and it’s a long drive. Had breakfast at Biba’s and was back at Timna at 715.
In a way today was the flip side of yesterday: yesterday started relatively easy and was more challenging at the finish; today was a challenging start and then it got easier.
The “warmup” – and best part of the day – was right at the start, climbing Mount Timna. The trail starts out fairly flat, going through a wadi near the visitor center. The wadi is annotated with sign, in Hebrew and English, describing the geological features and how they were formed. Educational as well as scenic. After a fairly flat kilometer, the trail begins a gentle climb for another 1.5km, and then it’s a very rugged and very steep kilometer to the top of Mt Timna, 1200 feet above the visitor center. I made it to the top about 845am. An hour and a half to go 4 km is a lot slower than my usual pace, but I made up for it later.
The view from the top of Mt Timna was incredible. It’s a large plateau. I did a circumnavigation of the plateau and took a break admiring the view of the Arava, and then continued on the trail, down the other side. The descent was if anything a little steeper than the ascent – dropping over 700 feet in one kilometer (.6 mile). Also not fast going. Once at the bottom of the hill, the trail follows a dirt road for a while – an easy few kilometers to Timna Lake, a tourist attraction in the park. It’s an artificial lake with a beach, paddle boats, etc. Nearby is a replica of the mishkan, the tabernacle or “portable temple” that the ancient Israelites carried with them in the desert. Of more interest to me was the fact that they had a very nice coffee shop with comfy sofa type seats and large pictures windows with a great view of the lake and the desert. I got there at 10am, perfect time for a coffee break. I really like the sections of the trail where I can stop for lunch or coffee. Very civilized. I had a latte and snacked on one of my energy bars.
Since I was a little concerned about time, I skipped the detour to Solomon’s Pillars; something to do on a future visit with the family. I stuck to the trail, aiming for my destination of Be’er Ora.
From Timna Lake it was an easy, flat, fast 8km out to Be’er Ora. Not a lot to see. The trail goes past a couple of relatively new looking mines. More of what I’ve come to characterize as “just another wadi” terrain. It was nearly noon by the time I got to Be’er Ora. Considering that Shabbat starts at 4pm, and it’s a 3 ½ hour drive home, I decided to just take a cab back to my car, it was NIS 80 well spent. I didn’t have to worry about the bus schedule, and I didn’t have to worry about getting the 2km from the bus stop to the visitor center where my car was parked.
I managed to make it home literally five minutes before the start of Shabbat, including a stop at the Aroma along highway 90 for my “traditional” post hike Iced Aroma and a sandwich for a late lunch.
“Shaharut to Be’er Ora
Shaharut to Timna: http://www.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=8198471
Timna to Be’er Ora: http://www.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=8202147”
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(Israel Trail Days 49 and 50; 87 photos)