Day 32: Mata to Tzuba
Day 32, March 31: Can't believe I'm 24. Long hard hot day from Mata to near Tzuba. But I had to hitchike last 3k cause tired and was getting dark. All uphill except to get into a valley to climb out of. HOT. Heat was brutal like last summer. If it starts getting like that all the time I don't know if I can finish the trail. Now in Tzuba in another nice room. Easy days ahead! Only Mt. Carmel will be really hard until Meron.
On waking up, I remember listening to some rap songs while lounging in the hammock - I believe it was "Life's a Bitch" and "99 Problems" by Nas and Jay-Z respectively. The day was a long push for the town of Tzuba just outside Jerusalem, where I was to meet Joyce and Idan. They had both been taking still more days off to rest their knees/feet, which continued to act up.
The hiking up toward Jerusalem was very hard - I was now in the higher parts of the Judean mountains, which although really just large hills by any American standard, are still very rugged and spectacular, and of course include some steep grades and make for a generally unforgiving climb.
The heat really was getting bad. Lugging a big huge pack is one thing when the temperature is nice, but another experience entirely when there's humid air and hot sun blazing down on you. And middle eastern sun is a whole different level of mean than anything I've encountered in the US, except maybe in the desert of southern Idaho in early July.
Once I got to the town, we found it had a very nice hikers' room. It was actually a whole bungalow, was easily of motel-quality and even had laundry machines! A real upgrade from the usual dingy trailer or shack. Joyce had very kindly gone to the supermarket and gotten some cake for my birthday, so we got to break up the usual diet of camp food, and rolled out the beds (real mattresses and sheets!) for a night's sleep.
My prediction of what would be hard for me was actually pessimistic. Mts. Carmel, Tabor, and Meron were certainly hard relative to average hiking, but by the time I reached them I was in such good shape that none of them posed much of a physical challenge, not even the race against sunset up Meron. On the other hand, the Negev featured multiple brutal climbs a day much of the time, and what with a heavier pack and less physical conditioning, it easily surpassed the rest of the trail in difficulty.
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