Day 5: Timna to Rt. 90/Yotvata
Day 5, March 4: Short day but still woke up before light. Big climb onto a really cool dolomite plateau. Amazing view. Long descent down into a fantastic red stone wadi. Then headed to camp for Shabbat. Had to serve dinner but the food ruled. Got to be hinted at that I should turn a stove off. Camp: Yotvata.
The large group had plenty of observant people, so we had to be in a place we could rest by Friday nightfall. The place was a large campground run by Kibbutz Yotvata (named after the biblical city which is called "Jothbatha" in English translations, if I remember right). It was right by the Jordanian border, and to the east, the mountains of Edom loomed - an enormous, jagged, vertical wall of what looked like absolute deathly wasteland. And yet, ancient civilizations lived there (and skirmished with the Israelites now and then).
Everyone in the large group was supposed to pitch in to help in some way, and since my group would be leaving soon, we'd volunteered to serve Shabbat dinner. I had to navigate the difficulties of not screwing up the Kosher-ness by putting the wrong utensil in a pot, or using the wrong dish scrubber. This is because meat- and dairy-based foods are supposed to kept separate, to the point that different utensils and dishes have to used for them. In some cases, separate sinks or even dishwashers would be used! Almost any inanimate object that comes into contact with one is to be kept separate from anything which might touch the other category of food. Needless to say, this is quite a minefield for someone with no practice in keeping cookware ritually pure.
My favorite part came when I was out washing dishes. Somebody came up to me saying something like "Your services are required" with a big grin on her face. I came back into a kitchen full of people wiping their brows and saying how hot it was. After a bit of head-inclining in a certain direction, I realized I'd been summoned to be the "Shabbos goy" and turn off the stove, since lighting or extinguishing a flame violates the Sabbath and it would be sinful for the observant Jews to even let the secular ones do it. It's fine for a non-Jew to do this (or switch the lights on and off, or whatever) but nobody can explicitly ask them to, hence all the brow-wiping and hinting.
Incidentally, this was the only night on the trail that I paid for a place to stay - and paid a lot more than it was worth, I should say. I basically had no other choice, as everyone else was doing it. The food was good, but we really only got a meal and a half, and the accommodations consisted of a large, horrifically stuffy tent (I slept outside in my hammock anyway). The price was more shekels than I care to convert into USD.
If my dream of an Israel Mountain Bike Trail is ever realized, it will not be along the same route
as the INT, if for no other reason than that the terrain does not permit it. There are places no bike
can go; this is one. Some of the most spectacular points on the trail, such as Nahal Barak, are
Timna is a national park, but not a heavily visited one, from what I could see of the traffic below.
This is probably due to its remoteness, since as I hope these pictures demonstrate, it can easily hold
its own against America's national parks
We scrambled and hiked up onto this dolomite plateau in the middle of the Timna valley. It looked
like the surface had been shattered and splintered, with shards of rock littered all over it
Elsewhere on the trail, the scenery was beautiful or pastoral, but rarely spectacular.
Down here in the desert, spectacle was expected on a daily basis
Down from the plateau into a narrow gorge...
Flowers, a rare sight
Every desert wadi beckons you to explore, but there's more trail to cover, not to mention a group to
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