We had to camp close to Sapir - a gated Kibbutz in the desert. It rained all night and the dry soil turned into a quagmire in the morning. But even in the drizzle the desert looked incredibly beautiful and we were more delighted when we found extra water bottles and two cans of tuna in the next night camp along the way: sort of an unexpected Christmas present!
Actually this day turned out to be my most favourite day on the INT because it rewarded us with the best view: From the top of this plateau you look down into a wide wadi and you can see so clearly how time has shaped this canyon. And this is also the predominant feeling I had on the INT: How endless time is and how short your own life time! This great day ended with a great camp site just at the bottom of the plateau.
The INT's next surprise was the "Ramon crater" which has nothing to do with volcanic activity. The crater is caused by erosion of the soft soil and it took the wind and the rain 25 million years to create this brilliant view. Ramon is an expression for the Romans who used to cross the desert here in ancient times when Palestine belonged to the Roman Empire.
We were both tired now from strenous hiking and decided to have some sort of a "nearo" day. Therefore we hitched into the town of Mitzpe Ramon and did our resupply in the local super market where several people offered us help in decipering Hebrew cooking instructions on packaged food. We took the bus to Advat, an ancient town that was a famous stop on the "Incense Road" from Petra in Jordan to Gaza at the Mediterranean Coast and continued on by bus to Ben Gurion, the burial place of the politician of the same name.
Next day was not under a lucky star: First my hiking partner spilled two litres of water and had to go back to the last night camp to refill his water supplies from a huge school group that had plenty of water in their school bus. Then one of my Platypus bottles broke and we had to repair it with tape which did not work very well. Then it started to rain ... just as we arrived at the foot of the Karbolet mountains, supposedly the best view on the entire INT. Unfortunately I never saw it. The climb up the mountain is so technical and so steep that I gave up. The rain had made the rock so slippery that my feet would not find grip. After trying to scramble up an almost vertical cliff for an hour I was so scared and near hypothermic that I decided that it was not safe enough for me to go on especially since there is a dirt road route around it. We camped at the foot of the mountain and took the easy detour in the morning.
Our next water stop was Oron quarry where there is a night camp with a water tap right next to the quarry entrance. Several school buses were parked there. This was Hanuka holidays and everybody and their mother was out hiking this day. From Oron the INT takes you up the Karbolet mountains a very last time and half of Israel seemed to be here to enjoy this view:
As beautiful as this view is I almost hated that day: People were everywhere screaming and clogging up the steep and difficult ascents and descents. It took us two hours to hike 3 km and again we were way behind schedule. Although the climbing was not really that technical it all was too much for me that day: You constantly had to watch every single step - and you were watched by dozens of seveneen year old teenagers. Although we camped without another soul in an canyon that night the "hunt" continued in the morning when one school class was chasing us until we ran into another teenager group.
Still, our last day of hiking ended with a fantastic view of the "Small crater". And once we had passed the last school group around noon we had the entire crater to ourselves and even camped in a completely deserted night camp on our own:
Now we only had to make it back to the highway before Shabbat started and the buses stopped running ... A steep ascent made us run late again but when we finally arrived at the highway we only had to what half an hour before a bus brought us back to Jerusalem. We spent our last two nights in Israel in a Christian guest house in Jerusalem. New Year's eve is not celebrated in Israel on December 31st so therefore no fireworks for me this year. Instead we had a delicious seafood meal in an Arab restaurant before we flew back to Berlin on January 1st.