Days 11-13: Break at Zofar/Sapir

Day 11, March 10: Didn't hike - many foot and knee issues for others but I'm lucky not to have any. Just tired and sore. Found a nice park at Sapir but sleeping with trail angel in Zofar. Tomorrow/Saturday staying here but I will probably hike around the area. New contacts.


We found one of our favorite "trail angels" of the trip in a little moshav called Zofar, down in the Arava. To its east was the flat valley floor and then the harsh mountains on the Jordanian side; to the west were beautifully colored low hills and dense scrubland. It was up into these hills that we eventually set off for Makhtesh Ramon.

The trail angel was a guy named Eliyahu, along with his wife and a passel of kids. They dressed in odd white robes and although Orthodox, were extremely relaxed and gave off the vibe of a hippy commune. Another classic Israel moment: we, a bunch of sweaty strangers, arrived at their door, and within minutes had been shown to the comfy little cabins waiting for us, and were sitting around cutting sugarcane with their five-year-old kid Shimshon (Samson - a name which I found hilarious considering his age and size).

The kid at one time cracked us up by pointing at a bit of ember that had fallen out of a fireplace and yelling "Esh bahutz!" (Lit. "Fire outside!"). As I write this I can tell it's not funny unless you were there, but whatever.

They also had a whole menagerie, including a camel and horse, lots of dogs and chickens, a peacock, and a goat which gave birth overnight while we slept there.  


We went to bed the first night at Eliyahu's with a pregnant mama goat in the yard. The next 
morning, fresh goats greeted us


A peacock strutted around the yard impressing everybody, including, presumably,
 the matching peahen.


Day 12, March 11: Day off again. Bad mood due to all conversation in Hebrew. Hiked in desert and got happy. Planned for likely contigency of leaving group. Desert had Nabatean city and beautiful hills and wood/shrublands. Shabbat dinner with nice family, ate sugarcane with kids. Baby goats and full-on peacock. Camp: still Zofar.

The group member(s) who I didn't get along with weren't here for this day, as they were religious and spending the Shabbat at a rabbi's house at nearby moshav Sapir. However, our group met a bunch of other Israelis staying there which shifted the balance of English-speakers to the point where I couldn't participate in any conversation. I remember being grouchy about it, but then going on a really great walk through the hills and wadis outside the town, which redeemed the day. I also found an acacia tree where I could hang my hammock from two of its branches, which was fun.

Nachshon and I began planning for having us and others split into our own sub-group once we left the desert - he was also bothered by the group dynamics, and we both wanted to finish the trail by the end of April, which wouldn't be possible with all the Shabbats and fasting necessitated by the observant lifestyle some of the group members followed.


The area just east of Zofar. I assume the cage structure is there to protect a water pump, which I
assume is bringing up water from an underground spring or aquifer


The colors of the hills were more vivid in my memory...


On our full day of resting in Zofar, I took a hike south along the Israel Trail to make up as much as 
possible of the distance I'd skipped by bus. I found this pleasant little spot...


...and achieved my goal of hanging a hammock from two branches of the same tree.


Day 13, March 12: Shabbat. Dream about flying around in boxers and towel-cape. Also stressful dream about leaving Nazareth for the trail. Nice morning with midrash and hike to Sapir. Maxed in park. More trail angels with bear-like dogs, internet. Pack hurting lower back - experiment with rearranging to hopefully avert this. Thinking about home a lot. Camp: trail angel in Sapir.

Those were some weird dreams. In the morning, Eliyahu explained some midrash (Jewish biblical exegesis/imaginative interpretation) to us - something about stories subtly reflecting how a person was paid back for something wrong they did. Judah and Tamar and his staff and seal were involved somehow, but I forget the details. I remember the feeling, hiking out,  that the whole weekend whole thing had been a really biblical experience. We were wandering through the desert when a robed patriarch took us in, offered us food and a place to stay, and sat around discussing ancient texts with us. During this talk, I asked him a lot of questions, prompting him to go on a spiel about how great it was studying the Torah, and how if I got into it, it would become my whole life. I don't think he realized I wasn't Jewish, but maybe that wouldn't matter.

In the park at Sapir we watched a dog pick a fight with three geese and get schooled. I have action shots of it. It was nuts.

The trail angels in Sapir were nice enough, although it's hard to live up to Eliyahu's place. They were the other end of the trail angel spectrum from where we'd just slept - we crashed on their living room couches and floor. 

The spectrum, as defined off-the-cuff by me, starts at the less comfortable, more intrusive-feeling end with sleeping in someone's living room, then goes up to sleeping in someone's spare bedroom, to a spare building that a town has opened for hikers, and at the high end, to a nice room or cabin that a person or a town has specially built for hikers. These last were always very comfortable and homey, and we savored the heck out of them. 


A short hike up to Sapir on the Sabbath. There we'd meet the rest of our group to continue the 
next day.


The further north we went in the desert, the more (relatively) abundant plant life became.


Photo ops along the hike



We arrived at Sapir and spent a leisurely afternoon in their lovely little park. While lounging, we 
witnessed a throwdown between a dog and three geese. The dog provoked it, starting here...


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...and was quickly beaten back with angry wing-flaps...


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The geese, content that the attack had been repelled, did not notice the dog coming back for more.


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Not looking for trouble, they tried to saunter away


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But the dog persisted and got chased up onto land for his trouble


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The fight would have been more even if the numbers had been equal


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I'm pretty sure the dog eventually just got tired of getting schooled and went off to take a 
nap or something


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