Wednesday, October 28, 2009

As Promised, about the Tiyul Noded

The most important thing I had with me was my 55L (45+10) Deuter hiking pack. It's so comfortable that even with the 4.5L of water and sleeping bag and camping matress (foam) and the cloathes and other things I had to bring with me, I hardly felt it at all. I had no back pain, no tight muscles, no bruised hip-bones (an especially excellent occurence, given that both other "real" hiking trips I've ever done--as a Mosh camper and a Mosh counselor--the packs I used were significantly too big on me and were quite painful to carry).

Our tiyul was definitely a tiyul of firsts. For example, when we (after an excellent nap on the bus ride there) arrived at our starting point, I saw a camel in person (in animal?) for the first time. Like any tourist, I took some pictures. We had a short tidruch--I'm having some trouble finding words in English, you'll have to excuse me--about the Bedouins in the area and about the Judean Desert in general. After a surprisingly short "hike" (it was actually basically just walking) we got to where we would sleep for the night. There were mountains all around us, and we were there just in time for sunset which is really a beautiful sight in the middle of the desert where there's nothing but sand all around. I got to play around with my camera a bit taking silhouette pictures (this is Galya) and such.

We attempted to take a picture standing in the formation of י"ג (we're the 13th year of Mechinat Nachshon) but according to the picture I found on my camera, it wound up an epic failure. Dan planned a simply superb activity for us. If you haven't ever been to the desert at night, I highly suggest you go; it's an experience worth having. The silence, the vast openness, the blanket of stars extending to infinity. The activity started with each person saying a word that they associate with the desert. We then turned so our backs were facing into the circle, and walked 120 steps in the direction we were facing out into the Nothing. And then we listened. Just listened to the sounds, the silence, the nature, the never-ending _____ (I'll think of a word). I lay on the slope of a mountain--we didn't know how long it was--and looked at the sky, looked around, let my thoughts float away so I'd have a completely blank slate on my mind. Shortly before Dan called us back I simply felt free, exhilaration is the best word I can find.

Chulyat Kvutza also planned an activity for that night; one that was particularly successful. At camp we call it "warm-fuzzies". Basically everyone sits with their eyes closed and four people are chosen each "round". Then, a statement is read (ie: You made me laugh today. You have characteristics of a leader. You helped me on the hike today. etc) and the four chosen people walk around the circle and tap on the shoulder each person who, for them, fits the statement. Simply to be tapped on the shoulder is an excellent feeling, warms your heart, and kept the calm, pleasant mood of Dan's activity around.

The next day began the real hiking. By the end of a day of mostly-inclines (and mostly walking in front of the pack, because, although the sooner you fall behind the more time you have to catch up, it's also significantly harder to hike at the back of a pack of 62 people), of swimming in a pool we found, of physically draining climbing--oh, and did I mention inclines? Very very very very big inclines?--we arrived at our camp for the night. Where we ate a delicious dinner. And then went to sleep (relatively) early, because on tiyulim in the desert one wakes up at 4:30 am so that we can be on the path before the sun comes out to burn our skin.

On the third day we woke up, packed up, and saw a beautiful beautiful sunrise (see picture of Bar breathing fire... to appear soon) as we continued. I looked towards the north-west and saw a nenormous mountain, and silently thanked Chulyat Tiyulim that we would not be attempting to climb it. An hour/hour and a half later, I found my quads telling me quite the opposite: not only had we attempted to climb it, but we succeeded. It really is a giant mountain, with excellent echo-ing abilities (and when I have a computer with a faster internet connection, I'll upload a picture of it). There were a few more (smaller) inclines, but mostly after that the rest was all downhill (down-mountain).

For a while we were literally climbing down a cliff. Again, the kind of thing that you drive by on your way to Pittsburgh and go "Man, how could people ever climb down that, it's nearly vertical!" And yet, somehow, we started at the top of a canyon/crater and ended up at the bottom where we were supposed to be. It was like rock-climbing minus the harnesses and ropes. Essentially, hard-core rappelling--without the safety? The whole time we were only a few kilometers from the Dead Sea (to which I have still not gone) and especially from the mountaintops we had a beautiful view. However, I was always under the impression that the Dead Sea was a tiny little thing, a small lake, (because we only ever see small touristy parts of it), but it's actually quite large (I don't know the actual measurements).

The final part was a little incline, a little decline, but mostly just walking on flat ground until we reached our final destination: the buses! (And eventually a shower? After three days of the same clothes and hot sun, I'd say that was in order.)

{And then spent the weekend at Shani's in Jerusalem. Where I ran into multiple people I know.}
Also there was a MASA-sponsored (ie: free) Idan Raichel Concert in Jerusalem on Sunday night. It was incredible. Pictures here and on Facebook shortly. Maybe. be continued....

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