Yesterday evening Jodi and I went for a walk through the neighborhood around our hotel. Since Yom Kippur started at sundown, and nobody drives on Yom Kippur, the streets were taken over by kids on bikes and skateboards and just running and playing in the street. It was really awesome to see, and amazing how quiet the city is without traffic.

This morning, after a mediocre breakfast (scrambled eggs fresh from the refrigerator), we set out early knowing we had a hard day ahead of us. Our goal was Shlomi, just a few kilometers from Rosh HaNikra, the northernmost point of Israel on the Mediterranean. To get there we would have to climb out of the basin Yam Kinneret is located in, up to the Hare Meron (Meron Forest) and finally descend down towards sea level. Our maps doesn’t give any elevation detail so we didn’t know exactly how much climbing we had to do, or exactly where we would stop climbing and start descending again, but looking at the mountains surrounding us we knew we were in for some work. Being Yom Kippur we knew we wouldn’t have to contend with much traffic, so we decided to use the main roads figuring they would take the easiest route through the hills and have the gentlest grades.

We left Tiberias heading north on 90, soon passing Karei Desche where we stayed the night before last, completing our circumnavigation of the Sea of Galilee. This time instead of turning east at the north end of the lake, we continued north on 90 and immediately started climbing. It was wickedly hot grinding up switchback after switchback in our lowest gear, with the sun beating down on us. The temperature was already 29C in the shade (of which there was none), and in the low 30s out on the road in the sun. We stopped once for snacks in the shade of a bus stop shelter, then pressed on. Eventually we made it to the junction with Hwy 89, turned west, and continued to climb.

Around noon we reached the town of Zefat. At the bottom of the road that entered Zefat from 89 there was a police checkpoint, and we asked them if there was someplace we could get some water. They conferred for a minute and suggested the hospital, “500 or 600 meters up the road.” It certainly was up and we climbed and climbed until finally reaching the hospital, where we filled our water bottles and bought a coke from a vending machine. I’m not sure but this might be the most expensive Coke I’ve ever bought. The machine too credit cards, and not being able to read Hebrew I’m not sure I did the transaction right. I suspect this Coke cost be 10 shekels.

By now we were high enough that the temperature dropped a bit, and some intermittent cloud cover came in that also helped relieve the heat. We kept thinking we must be at the point where we stop climbing and start descending more than ascending, but it was not to be. We just kept climbing and climbing. Somewhere along here we pulled off the road under some trees for another snack break. We didn’t realize it until we were back on the road, but we rolled our bikes through a thorn patch. We were soon pulling thorns out of our tires and hoping we wouldn’t have any punctures. Alas, we were not so lucky. A bit short of the town of Jish my rear tire went soft and we stopped at another bus shelter to change the tube and dig the offending thorn out of the tire.

Eventually we reached the Druze town of Hurfeish where shops were open and we stopped at a gas station/convenience store and bought another coke and some candy bars.When we left here we had a nice downhill, but then the road turned upwards yet again. Luckily, not too long after this the road turned much more down than up for us, and we started making decent time. We were thinking we might make it to Shlomi by 4:30 or so, and in fact we were within a few minutes of that guess. We had a little bit of trouble finding the Hostel / Guest House but after stopping twice to ask directions of random passers by we found it.

When we pulled up to the gate we weren’t surprised to find it locked, as security is serious business in Israel, but the parking lot was empty and the hostel was dark. Uh oh! We rang the bell at the gate but got no response. We thought/hoped there was a chance they would be opening after Yom Kippur ended at sunset, which was only a few minutes away, so we decided to wait until 5pm. At 5 we tried the buzzer again, and this time the security guard appeared and told us the hostel was closed. We told him we had a reservation, and after a few minutes of discussion he let us into the compound while he made some phone calls to try to figure out the situation. Eventually it was decided to let us stay, and he opened a room for us and turned the power on. We had the whole hostel to ourselves! Unfortunately there was no food, and won’t be any breakfast in the morning. We haven’t had anything but junk food to eat since breakfast so we will be going to be hungry, but we have a shower, a bed, and AC for a comfortable night’s sleep.

A tough day, but it feels good to have made it.

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