Day 8: Be'er Milhan to Shaharut

Day 8, March 7: Short easy day again. First day after Sabbath pack felt heavy but better now. Not memorable. Group drama - girls unexpectedly want to stay at some kibbutz for 2 days. Rest of group going to split off. Headache. Dust gets all over everything - unreal. WIND. Wish I had a Shaharut.

You may notice that the weight of my pack features heavily in the log entries. That thing weighed a ton and was very influential on my current drive to have an ultralight backpacking setup. At times the pack began to seem like a malevolent force, intentionally working against me, a sensation to which dehydration and hot desert sun may have contributed.

The headache referred to here is metaphorical. Two of the girls turned out to be pretty pushy and, in stereotypical Israeli fashion, to get ideas and be really bullheaded about them, everyone else be damned. This was the first big problem - they wanted to stop hiking for two days to volunteer at kibbutz Neot Smadar; everyone else wanted to move on.

But the group had to stay together because of logistics: we had water caches at various night camps and not everyone knew their exact location, so somebody who did had to be with each sub-group if we were to split up for a time. In the desert, camping is allowed only in designated night camps (just flattish sections of ground with a sign saying what they are), and those were where we had stashed our water - so getting to the next camp was a necessity each day.

At this point we also began to realize that some of us had a very different idea of how fast to hike the trail than others, and that, in the desert (where a full day's hiking from dawn till dark was required to make it from one supply point to the next) the religious people would have to skip two days a week - Friday and Saturday. Saturday because of the Sabbath, and Friday because they couldn't hike after sundown, and we often pulled into camp after dark had officially fallen (and thus the Sabbath had begun).

So the first rumblings about the group splitting up began, and I was already fairly certain I'd have to set out on my own once we were out of the desert. But in the desert, I had to stay with the group - I didn't know where water was stashed, and besides, it's not safe to hike alone in the Negev where help is nowhere to be found if you run out of water, get lost, or are injured.

The village of Shaharut. My comment when I saw it, "Whoa, civilization."

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