A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: arick

Acco (Acre)

sunny 35 °C

The breakfast we had in the cabin was outstanding. It doesn't get much better than having breakfast delivered to our cabin with such a variety of foods including salads, cheeses, granola, yogourt, an omlette and pastries. We are really going to miss this when we come back home. Maybe we need to rethink our breakfasts at home.

Today we went to Acco (Acre) another city that is many thousands of years old with a history of being conquered and reconquered many times.

A new city has grown around the old city. Although most of the Arab live in the old city and the Jews in the new area, there is a real harmony between the two groups.

The kids there enjoy riding ponys .
Who looks more frightened, the boy or the pony?

As is normal for ancient cities , it is surrounded by a wall, and there are heavy steel (not working) gates. Once inside, you find a maze of long, narrow winding streets.

There are houses, and a large outdoor market. Outside the wall is a bustling port.

Even the local cats enjoy the market!
There are specific historic places – a large citadel, a Templar tunnel under the city, Turkish baths, a working synagogue and mosque.
The citadel is a large structure built over many years by the rulers of the time. Some of the rulers would even go as far as filling in the rooms of the previous inhabitants, to provide a base for the new structures they wanted to build. It must have been fascinating for the archeologists to uncoverer the layers of buildings!

The Templar tunnel is a long tunnel below the city. The height varied from only 4 feet high to over 6 feet.accotemp1.jpg

To see more about Acco look here:

Posted by arick 07:50 Comments (1)

From Caesaria to Tzimmer

Lost in Northern Israel

sunny 35 °C


We had only three days left in Israel and we wanted to experience as much as we could. So the next morning we began our last big adventure in Israel exploring some of the areas in Northern Israel we hadn't seen. We first drove to Caesarea and walked through the well-perserved ruins of this ancient city. As we walked through we were awed by the architecture and the extensive remains of the city. Our enthusiasm waned a bit due to the extreme heat and our total exhaustion from the bike trip.

Caesaria was built by Herod to honour Augustas Caesar, but the area had been a porty for a long time under different rulers

There is also a large roman theater. It is still in use and the seats you see in the picture are set up for a concert "The Best of Queen"
It's not too hard to imagine gladiators fighting it out here.

Here is some of Herod's castle. The floors were inlaid with complex ceramic patterns. He even had a swimming pool.

But after our lunch on an outdoor patio by the sea we were ready to continue our journey. We stopped at a town called El Had that is built on the side of a mountain and populated by artists who open up their houses to visitors. Unfortunately since it was Friday afternoon most of the artists homes were closed but we still enjoyed the experience of walking through this town. There was some sculpture i around the town. Here is a sample.

Gail had booked us for dinner at a family run business in an Arab village called El Hud (same name as the previous village but Arabic spelling). Trying to get to this village was a challenge because at one point the road seemed to disappear. After trying numerous other roads and contacting Gail and David and then the restaurant we realized this truly was the way to El Hud. We slowly made our way up and down the steep roads on the mountain and after about 30 minutes we arrived at El Hud. This village seemed so remote we couldn't believe that anyone would go there for dinner. But the restaurant was very busy and the view spectacular as we watched the sun set from our perch at the top of the mountain.

The restaurant was owned by a Druz family who provided enough food for the two of us to feed at least triple the number of people. We started out with about 20 appetizers followed by another 8 meat and chicken courses and then of course dessert. After we had stuffed ourselves they really seemed concerned that we had enough to eat. The variety and quality of food was outstanding but enough was enough.

A common way of serving meals in Israel is to put out a lot of appetizers - hummus, tahinni, corn, and various salads. When you finish one of the items they refill the dish as often as you want. Of course there is a charge for this, but this could be your entire meal. Usually, at this point you would order from a menu, probably a kabob or something like that. In this case though, it was a set many course meal of different types of meats - lamb, chicken etc. Also, this being the month of Rammadan, Moslims, who haven't eaten all day will go out to a restaurant with their families, so there were a lot of little children here.

Being at the top of a mountain, provided a bnother beatiful sunset.

The last challenge of the day was to find our accomodation at our tzimmers (a tzimmer is a cabin that is often in the mountains that provides a full Israeli breakfast and snacks to the renters). Our cabin was located about 10 km. from a town called Karmiel. Unfortunately I had misheard the name of the town and thought it was Carmel and both of us were very tired. After driving in circles around Haifi and phoning the owner Yoni multiple times we finally found our way to the cabin. Although we were provided with a bottle of wine and some snacks upon arrival we barely managed to take in our luggage before we fell asleep. The wine would have to wait for another day.

The cabins were much the same as you ould find in Muskoka. As everyhere, there were cats here too
Actually, the owner had a picture in her wall taken a couple of years ago in winter, when they had several inches of snow

One of the things that is much different in Israel than in Muskoka is the view from the cabin and the pommigranite trees.

A tzimmer, is not like a kibbutz (collective farm, or other enterprise) it is more like a trailer park. Here is one of the homes

Posted by arick 10:27 Comments (0)

Maggido to Jerusalem

sunny 37 °C

Maggido to Jerusalem

Our last day of riding! And there was definitely anticipation about riding into Jerusalem. We knew that there were going to be significant climbs but experiencing some challenges in arriving in Jerusalem seemed apt.

The morning began with an outstanding breakfast at our hotel, the Tel Aviv Dan. This was the kind of breakfast that we would have enjoyed lingering over for hours but there was only about fifteen minutes allocated for breakfast. Although we could not lounge over breakfast all of us took significantly more time than allocated. This meant that we boarded the bus 45 minutes later than scheduled to begin our ride at Latrun. Latrun was chosen as the started point rather than Tel Aviv to avoid the heavy traffic around Tel Aviv.

Given that we were starting later than planned the 108 km route was altered to reduce the distance to 70 km. This met with our approval given that we had already ridden for 4 days over many mountains in extreme heat.

When we arrive at Latrun, I began looking for Edov and our tandem but I could find neither. When I questioned Nimrod, the manager of Bike Israel, I was told that they forgot the tandem in Tel Aviv and I would have to ride my own bike if I wished to ride. I couldn’t believe this had happened, I had ridden this far and there was no way I was not going to do the last part of the ride into Jerusalem. But how was I going to be able to do this considering there were significant hills and I would need to use my left hand to brake on the downhills. There needed to be a resolution to this problem!

We finally agreed that I would ride my bike up the hills and mountains and if there was a significant downhill I would ride the bus. And they would try to get a tandem for me as we approached Jerusalem so I could ride down the hill into Jerusalem. Although this was not what I had expected or hoped for it was a plan I could live with. When Edov arrived I think he was more upset than I was but I reassured him that this was doable for me.

Actually it felt great to be on my own bike and have control of the speed and the cadence. I was doing fine on the climbs and did jump in the bus at the first significant downhill. It seemed rather ironic to me that I was riding the bus in the part that would be considered easy for most people.

Before a very long and difficult climb we stopped at the HaElah junction. The significance of this spot is it is referred to in the bible as the exact site of the battle between David and Goliath. So we began our climb where a hero overcame seemingly insurmountable odds.

After climbing for over an hour we reached the lunch stop that was to be followed by a long and steep downhill. I had already prepared myself psychologically to jump in the bus down to the bottom of the mountain. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that they had acquired a tandem that I could ride to Jerusalem. I was a bit disappointed that I could not ride with Edov but I was told that I could ride with a strong rider named Alon.

[Rick] The hill was long and difficult , my guess is around 12%, and seemed to go on forever. Around every turn there was a new peak that had to be climbed. At one point there were a number of riders stopped for a drink, but there was an extra steep section (probably around 15% grade) just beyond. I decided to push through without stopping. I was glad when the that steep section was done, and soon that climb was over.

I had spoken to Alon previously and in conversation he told me that he had done a number of Ironman Triathlons. So I knew that he was a strong rider. I begged him to that the downhill slowly since I found it terrifying being in the back of the tandem with no control. He promised that he would not go too fast. Famous last words! We flew down that mountain passing all other riders but surprisingly I felt that he really had control. On the climbs he attacked with strength that forced me to push myself to my limits. The climb up the Hadasseh way into Jerusalem was challenging and of a significant grade. But with him as captain we arrived at the top of the mountain significantly before most other riders.

[Rick] The last climb of the ride took us to Jerusalem. This might have been the steepest climb, or we just might have been tireed from all the hills we'd done. At the top of this hill was the Hadassa hospital, so at least we had something to aim for. However, once we got there, there was another kilometer to go. It was the hardest distance, not because it was steep, but because we had relaxed a bit thinking we had finished the ride.

At the top we met the hand bike riders and eventually assembled for our final descent to Beit Halochem. It was quite a site to see the procession of riders led by the handbikers descend the hill to end our ride. We were greeted by a cheering committee followed by a reception as we ended our very significant journey.

Posted by arick 07:31 Comments (0)

From Kibbutz HaON to Megiddo

sunny 38 °C

From Kibbutz HaON to Megiddo

I woke up uncertain of whether I would have the opportunity to ride. Edov was committed to ride with a disabled rider who had come the previous evening from Jerusalem specifically to participate in the ride. And there were no additional tandems or captains for the tandems available. Arris had spent the previous evening trying to find some way that would allow me to ride for at least part of the day. Luckily a compromise solution was reached to everyone’s satisfaction. Edov was going to ride with the disabled rider for the first part of the ride and I was going to ride the rest of the ride including the climb up Mount Gilboa.

I had a different perspective of the ride from the back seat of the lead cari I was impressed by the speed the riders rode during the initial 30 km. They seemed to be flying up the hills at speeds between 30 – 50 km./hr. I was enjoying watching them but feeling anxious to get back on the bike.

[Rick] The ride from the start was very quick. Even though we were going uphill, there must have been a significant breeze on our backs, because we were able to keep the speed over 30 km/hr

After the stop at 30 km., the disabled rider agreed that I could begin my ride to enable me to get warmed up for the big climb up Mount Gilboa. I was so pleased to be riding with Edov again. I felt that I was partnered up with a teacher, mentor and a friend. Although the climb up Gilboa was steep, long and difficult and the temperature was soaring to over 40 degrees, Edov was optimistic that together we would succeed in completing the climb. He made sure that if there was an opportunity to stop and get sprayed with water to cool down our body temperatures, we stopped. He watched his heart rate carefully and when it began to climb too high, he slowed down the pace. His continuing commentary about the biblical significance of Mount Gilboa and the political realities of the area distracted me from the difficulty of the climb. He told me that commentary in the bible said that King Saul was losing a battle on Mount Gilboa and eventually killed himself by falling on his sword. Apparently as a result there was a curse on the mountain. I wondered if the curse was on cyclist trying to make this climb. But obviously the curse did not work because we made it!

The view as we climbed up Mount Gilboa of the Beit sh’an Valley was spectacular and got even better at the top. The road at the top took us through the Gilboa Reserve, another forest and then we began the descent. The descent was very steep with many switchbacks and even though Edov was cautious and kept the speeds down I still felt anxious during the downhill. But we came down without incident. Edov and I felt a real sense of accomplishment as we rode into our lunch spot.

[Rick] I made it down very quickly, actually, I'm starting to get the feel of the switchbacks, and only braked a little into most of them. There were some sharp ones though that I still almost came to a stop before entering .
Once at the bottom, with the stiff headwind and a flat road on a busy highway to look forward to, I decided that, that was the end of my day, and boarded the bus to the end of the ride.

The last part of the ride was relatively flat with a strong headwind. Rick probably made the right choice to forego this portion of the ride and rest in the bus. But since Edov felt that we should complete what we started so we finished the ride.

We then all boarded the bus at Megiddo in order to avoid the traffic into Tel Aviv.
When we arrived in Tel Aviv we found out we were staying at the Dan Tel Aviv, a beautiful hotel on the beach. Our room was absolutely beautiful complete with a painting on the ceiling and our own personal robes in the closest. We might have enjoyed spending some time in this lovely surroundings but the beach was calling to me. After swimming and sunning we had a great fish dinner at a restaurant on the beach. The planned evening activity was a performance to celebrate Israel’s 60th birthday in support of Beit Halochem. I felt obligated to go but Rick chose not to. Unfortunately I found the performance less than satisfactory and wished ir would end quickly – which it didn’t. But I still felt that it was important to attend to show support.

[Rick] In the evening, I decided to work on the blog - the day 2 entry. I was doing ok, until the lights went out and I couldn't see what I was doing, so I ended the entry for thaqt day. (Though as soon as I turned off the computer, the power went back on) I figured this was going to be my last day in Tel Aviv for a long time, so I walked over to Diesengoff St, to get a last look at the nightlife there.

Posted by arick 12:55 Comments (0)

Tour day 3 from Hagoshrim to Sea of Gallilee

sunny 40 °C

Tour day 3 from Hagoshrim to Sea of Gallilee

Today all the riders were cycling together for the first 20 km. that included the hand bikes. It is amazing to ride beside the hand bike riders and watch them climb the hills using their arms. This slowed down the our Canadian group driven by their testosterone. Our riders slowed down to talk to the vets. It was a magical morning for everyone.

Everything was arranged for me to ride on the back of a tandem thanks to Arris, the organizer from Beit Halochem. He really went that extra mile to ensure that all the participants were happy. Through his intervention a bicycle ride that could have ended for me became a memorable experience.

I was so pleased that I was able to ride. The captain of my bike was Edov. Riding with him gave me a very different riding experience. By being on the tandem I could talk to him throughout the ride. I learn about the history of the area we rode through. So much of the area had been Syrian territory for many years and we were still very close to the Syrian border.

On one stretch of the road it was very shaded. Edov explained to me that the Syrians had planted the trees so the could hide in the forest and attack the Israelis. It is amazing that this forest was planted with evil intensions has become such a welcome relief for cycling in the heat.
It took me a short time to get used to riding on the back of the tandem particularly because Edov is such a strong, capable rider.

We rode 90 km. with some difficult hills but certainly not as challenging as the previous days. The extreme heat in the afternoon certainly added to the challenge of the day.

That night we stayed at a kibbutz at Lake Kinneret (Sea of Gallilee). As we rode down toward the lake, the temperature started climbing, and was close to 40 degrees, at lake level Since our luggage hadn't arrived we decided to go for a swim. Walking to the beach without shoes proved to be very difficult. The sand on the beach was so hot it felt like our feet were burning. The walk to the water was very long because the water in the lake had receded over 2 meters in the past few years. There was some discussion that the Syrians were taking water from the soureces it controlled and not letting it go to the lake. This is frightening because the lake is Israel's main source of fresh water.

The water was almost as warm as the ait, though there were some relatively cool spots, and the bottom was very muddy . It didn't proviide us with the relief we were looking for.

And then the long walk back on the hot sand!

Dinner was a BBQ on the beach

Posted by arick 10:23 Comments (0)

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