Day 3: Shkhoret Night Camp to Nahal Raham

Day 3, March 2: Another easy one. 18k this time. Some cool mountaintops and a really beautiful, wide wadi at the end. Saw ibexes crossing the ridge on the cliffs above. Camp: Wadi Rehem [sic].


Sighting the ibexes was great. I don't think anybody else noticed them until I pointed them out, though it helped that I was staring off into the cliffs instead of listening raptly to a talk given in Hebrew. Six of them - the Middle East's relative of the mountain goat - were walking single file across a cliff above us at dusk; it was a beautiful sight.

I often hiked alone just taking in the sights and thinking. The rest of the time I located other group members with whom I could communicate, like a few Anglo transplants or part-time residents, a couple members of my group of 8, and the only one of the dozen or so cute Orthodox girls who spoke any English.

This day had a lot of vistas of tri-colored rugged mountains. The youngest parts were yellow; older parts were a more jagged red color (the yellow had since been eroded) and the dark brown parts were the very oldest. I though these looked like the bones of mountains where the "flesh" had rotted away. 

I later learned in more detail that the geography of this great rift valley region is somewhat simple - the top layers, the beige-yellow limestone, are the youngest, deposited by a great shallow sea that once overlaid this land. The red-brown (sometimes vividly purple) sandstone, also sedimentary, lies underneath that. Below it is a much older layer of dark granite, far harder and still rough and jagged. There is a tilt to these layers; imagine them lying on an axis from north to south, and the northern end sinking lower while the southern end rises. This means that the further south you go, the more of the sandstone and eventually granite layers are exposed, making for a far more rugged landscape. That trend continues down into the intense landscapes of the southern Sinai peninsula (among which I've hiked a good deal) and the Hejaz mountains of Saudi Arabia (which are certainly on my bucket list).

A bit of Hebrew trivia: Hebrew uses an "abjad," a subtype of alphabet, very similar to that of Arabic. In this system, each consonant and certain vowels are written, but most vowels are not; you have to know the word to know exactly how it's supposed to be pronounced. However, certain abjad texts - like the Bible, Quran, and books for children and language learners - have the vowels written as special marks appearing above and below the letters. Older editions of the Israeli topographical trail maps include these marks, but for some reason the newer versions have dropped them, which, speaking as a foreigner trying to learn a new geography, I found really irritating. At any rate, I think my mistake in calling this wadi "Rehem" rather than "Raham" resulted from a mistake in reading those vowel marks. 

Also, it's really pronounced "Rakham" or "Racham" (and "Nachal" for that matter) with a guttural fricative sound - the same one in "Shkhoret." Since I'm being sloppy with transliteration here, I've sometimes represented the guttural H as a regular H. If you think Hebrew is bad, try Arabic; it's got not only those two H sounds, but also a breathy, deep, but less guttural one, and a voiced version of the guttural H sound (often written "gh", like Baghdad), to say nothing of a posse of other difficult sounds, some of which appear in no other language on earth,.


Yellow, red and black in the Negev


Acacia trees, which look like the kind of trees I've always pictured on African savannas, were 
the only large flora in the southern Negev. Incidentally, I believe this place would make rock 
climbers drool, but I've never had any inclination in that direction


I didn't get a complete picture of the "Amudei Amram" (Amram's Pillars) but these two together give
you a bit of the idea. 

These looked like the kind of place where you might find buried treasure, or possibly the Lost Ark. Previously on this site, I labelled this photo "Amudei Merav," having somehow come under the impression that that's what they were called. As far as I know, there is no geological feature called that. Who knows what happened? Many geological features down here are named after biblical royalty; Merav was one of the daughters of King Saul. The names were given to them by Israeli mapmakers soon after the establishment of the state, and the old Bedouin names are hard to find now - though the renamers did record them for posterity, somewhere.



Down into Nahal Raham, where we camped.


The same wadi, Raham. This evening we had a guy from a nearby town come and tell us about how 
some developer had wanted to put a hotel or similar godawful thing in the middle of all the nature, 
and the locals had risen up as one to oppose it, successfully in the end. During this story, snippets
 of which were translated for me, I spotted the ibexes, which I regrettably couldn't photograph.



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