There is a game which I played as a young kid: Two players would place their fingers at a neutral position between each other and a judge (or it could be the players alternatively as well) would start saying “Tota udd, kao udd, cycle udd” (parrot fly, crow fly, cycle fly). The idea was that you are supposed to lift your finger high if the object, bird or animal did fly but not otherwise. I hate that game.
With the lack of my previous roommate (Sharing is caring) I have been having a fairly pleasant stay in Israel. Each weekend has been an absolute treat but still I have been itching for a challenge in the beautiful outdoors. In came Finjan!
Finjan is an excellent hiking group in Israel. Mmm! Sorry, sorry, sorry! It is originally just a pan used for preparing coffee by (spoilt) Israelis while they hike but the group appropriately appropriated the brand. Hiking here is not easy as it was in Vancouver. In Vancouver you could take buses to many wonderful hiking spots very easily. Here, especially if you want to go out during the holidays, buses do not ply due to shabbat and you need a good friend or some complicated sherut and hitchhiking maneuvers. Finjan goes to some fantastic places and lets you come along if you are quick enough with the booking; this I was for a wonderful trip this weekend.
But wait Nishant! Weren’t you supposed to finish your Europe trip writing and what about that short story? Well well! They are much bigger projects. Let me distract myself momentarily.
So this was essentially my first hike in Israel. I arrived early in the morning with half-open eyes to bus stop and was welcomed by the smell of Israeli Finjan coffee and minuscule cookies; I had been taught quite correctly, “The cake is a lie!” After a brief breakfast stop we made our way to the Golan! The Golan, a region captured from Syria in the 6 day war of 1967 is rich in water (a rather important commodity in Israel) and greenery. Now it forms an important strategic territory for Israel. As the bus journey extended longer into the morning I started missing a book to read or a piece of paper to write on; suddenly the lady in front of me started discussing India. It turned out that she was from the German embassy who had spent quite some time in Mumbai. There wasn’t another boring moment in the bus journey. Slowly the harsh desert environment slowly transformed into (essentially) lush greenery around the Sea of Galilee; the fishes multiplied, the loaves multiplied and souls walked on the water (Miracles). At least one of them did happen but let us get back to that in a minute.
We started with a short walk to Umm el Kanatir or the Mother of the Arches; it is an archaelogical site dating back to the sixth to the eighth century.
Whatever I say or write here will fall flat before this magical piece: Rebuilding Jewish History. Supposedly devastated by a great earthquake from the 741 AD and yet it stands again today in parts; is it short of a miracle?
Yeshua Dray, an interior designer by day and a magician by the night with some intelligent use of technology rebuilt the structure from its ruins. It is complicated to explain why this is so important for Israel; I leave it for another another day.
After reflecting on long broken temples back in India, I trudged back to the bus; it was time for my dose of “rush”.
“This is a water hike, everything will get wet!” thundered the kind Ariel. Well, of course! Doesn’t everyone already know that? Sadly I had left my change of clothes and towel back at home. Meekly borrowing a friend’s towel I changed into my swimming trunks which I wore with my hole ridden running shoes and a dirty white t-shirt; I am quite a fashion riot, ain’t I? Comfortable nevertheless we entered the eerily muddy Zaki stream, not very far from the ISIS controlled Syria. Slip, splash, boom! This was a sequence we heard through out the trip. Many bruises and pricks! The floor was lined by slippery stones and the sides were with thorny bushes. By the way such hikes are a perfectly romantic date in my opinion; connections made while the curses run wild and the bruises are tended to are probably the strongest possible bind. Sadly I don’t really curse.
It was very interesting company and the water went very well with the heat. Suddenly I lost track of the ground beneath my feet and realised that the only way to cross the stream was to swim, that to with my shoes and my backpack on. It wasn’t that bad, at least that is what I thought; looking at the concern on my co-hikers faces for me I realised that may be it wasn’t that smooth. Well I survived. The water had made my bag very heavy. So I decided to have a look and maybe have a bite of my dry fruits. To my horror they were wet. I think I had left my bag-chain open and water had streamed into my bag as I swam. My brownie stash was now floating into the water and I could see that the fish were extremely excited. As Ariel (friend, organiser and guide) was purportedly looking the other way a few of us decided to jump from a rope hanging above. I decided to capture some excellent shots.
This is when I realised that I had left the ziplock bag guarding my camera open as well. Instead of taking out the battery I switched it on to capture:
The fellow landed right in front of me and my camera braved the moist onslaught, sadly, for the last time. I kept on trying to switch it on and now the camera is fried. Stupidity and greed are expensive, aren’t they? Possibly, I might have been smarter if we had also played the swimming game along with the flying one as a kid!
I cleared the water out of my bag, rested my grief for later and focussed on the hike which still remained fun. A lot of slipping, splashing and swimming in the cool, softly flowing waters. It was as if I was learning how to walk again; I am not very hopeful of swimming though.
The hike ended on dry land with a distance to walk. I wanted to throw out every soggy bit from my bag in the garbage and so I reached out for my sandwiches! Surprisingly they were completely dry. If only it had switched places with my camera, I would have been so much happier. “So is life”, quipped a co-hiker.
We ate and drank as I waited for my t-shirt to dry and I got to flaunt my well-chiseled body; I might be heading to the gym this morning just so that you know. The long ride back was enlivened by some wonderful conversations and newly gained knowledge of Iraqi and Yemenite mothers serving delicacies and Gat (Gat) on Friday afternoons in the Carmel Market; something that I have to try soon. There on, I went home for some massive cleaning and mourning.
I leave you with the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoYBvPeQiFQ
I haven’t watched the video and I suggest that you do not either.