Just two weeks ago, a camping and hiking expedition was announced at my church in Jerusalem, and I naturally lept at the chance to visit the Golan Heights. Previously I got to visit a different part of the Golans about six years with my father and his US friends, close to Mount Herman which serves as the little known ski result which operates the few right times of the year, there also military outposts as well as probably the most isolated coffee shop in the world which is atop of a steep hill with rusting artistic dinosaurs made of out of metal scrap adorning the path up.
This more unusual corner of Israel is something of extreme beauty being part of the Jordan river, and staggered top right corner of the Jewish state close to the borders of Lebanon and Syria. This is a hotly argued over piece of real estate as it was got after 1967 6 day and there are voiced attempts to make ‘peace’ deals from Syria. It is a beautiful place with those in pursuit of a challenging hike up waterfalls and seeing different breeds of animals should be well satisfied here. There are also farms nearby with a wide variety of different types of vegetables.
The first night was a chance to gather some firewood (only from some trees already cut down by someone) then have dinner and sing some worship songs by the fire. Sleeping was either in a tent (a limited number) or just plan outside. I took the opportunity do something new and slept outside, it was great as the temperature in my sleeping bag was just about right. There were a few strange noises like groaning from the woods. I was told that this could be from some Coyotes who live around this neck of the country, I also heard some Woodpeckers. (there are some near my flat I can hear too)
Only I neglected to bring necessary equipment as this wasn’t your typical church walk out. Swimming gear was necessary as bits of the trip are impassable because of a waterfall and river with no obvious alternative routes around.
For people who know me well, I don’t swim. At all. A combination of a fear of drowning as a small child, not being able to assume the means to breathe inside water and having the most unpleasant swimming teacher at school made me dread swimming. Some people have kindly offered to teach me, but this has not been successful so far.
The brilliant plan hatched by the leadership of King of Kings young people’s group, the Hilsden brothers (the Canadian-Israeli chaps from the church worship team, three of them) Jeremy our Aussie ex-lifeguard and Nico from Germany was to put our belongings in bin bags to keep the dry, the experienced swimmers simply dived off the waterfall and waited on the other side of the river for the rest of us not quite so confident with water antics. That meant climbing down a 20 metre steel ladder with bin bags of peoples belongings (and a dog!)
So the next plan was then to ferry people and bags and a dog on an inflatable mattress about 10 metres to the other side, I learned the trick was by Jeremy was to sit astride this thing as if it was a horse, after this it was quite simple, once we were on the other side part two was to then go across some stepping stones over the river with all our gear back to the path. To do this I went across and found with careful observation some of the stones that were wider apart have some hidden stones in between, after testing this by means of a sort of scout party of a few of us in front, we could go back in direct the rest of the people where to put your feet. For some reason this turned out to be a very funny and peculiar experience, you see the small (1-3″ long) fishes that were active in the water like to come up and nibble your feet and it tickles! Found out later they quite like pita bread so, bit of our sandwiches were tossed into the water only to make them a couple of dozen of them frantic fight over the bits. But they don’t seem to be interested in banana peel though.
Some differences here between Jerusalem and its surroundings, and places like the Dead Sea or the Negev desert was the presence of these strange porous rocks, they have lot of different size holes in. Might be because there was a volcano by Mount Herman not so far away.
The varied wildlife and the spectacular views were a real treat though. Got to see groups of different coloured neon Dragonflies, butterflies, unusual birds, an unfortunate torn up corpse of a goat or ibex probably a meal for the packs of Coyotes that I heard the day before that were around.
Got to know plenty of new people at this brief but enjoyable two day event. I am really happy that I have seen so many different Christians (from all five continents) here exploring and seeking adventure in God’s land.