Monday, January 31, 2011

Caution! Bicycles Ahead!

Yoav and I biked from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, around 75 kilometers with some pretty decent climbs throughout the day. I think the city sits at 2500 feet, and we biked from sea level. We thought it would be easy, it totally wasn't. I was certainly regretting knobby tires and a full set of media stuff. Starting my journey into the West Bank off with a tour, though, was an absolutely excellent idea and got me into the right state of mind for this teaching experience. Heading out of town was fairly complicated, as mapless directions go, but eventually we got it with only one getting-lost experience. I was pretty proud of my navigation, and was sure of what caused us to lose our way before it happened, so my intuition was right-on. That portion was the great kind of city riding that only the Middle East can offer, fast-paced and traffic-dodgy with attentive, flowy drivers that don't mind if you weave through them (I love it, my description of traffic sounds like stoner skiers' description of snow. Sentient snow). The sub-cities were all similar and unremarkable, some, like Rehovik, were pleasant enough. We got into the countryside and started humming along, in grassy-but-arid terrain with farming 'experiences' all around.

The first half of the country was pretty unremarkable, but soon we were in pine-style dryish forests and, as the road got thinner and curvier, full on lush greenery. It was absolutely beautiful. For lunch we stopped and had a kind of Arab crepe, Lafah with Labane, yogurt inside it, and my left-over experimental cooking (crap).

My dear MTB (named either "Negev Crusher" or "ITS Refusnik" depending on who you ask) was humming along with minimal idiosyncrasies and I thought how my former self, on my bike trip at 19, would have thought the current me rather posh: sporting a tent, a route, a sleeping bag, a semi-working bike and real panniers. Takes some of the adventure out of it, surely, but it's equally fun to feel capable.

Meeting Yoav has been great. He's easy to travel with but into interesting stuff. He involves his friends in the things we do together (which can be rocky with couchsurfing and the whole second-language thing), every time I thought the day was over we wound get up to something new and interesting, an art opening or having company over. On the summit of the hill to Jerusalem we met an Arab fruit seller, he asked if I spoke Arabic and the words came spilling out. I loved talking again, if only in my stock phrases, but I'm very excited. I think biking gets me into a similarly fortuitous state to learn and speak as slight drunkenness does. I learned "Akol Sababah," Hebrew for "It's all good," and a secular response to "Kefaheilk," or "How are you?" In Arabic.

We arrived in Jerusalem at Yoav's friend Natalie's house, where she lives with her boyfriend, Neil. They are great, they just cook and garden and live with an astonishing view out of the front of their house.

Both teachers. Pretty but removed, pretty removed in this hillside house. Casual and content. We had cauliflower soup, which was great, had a spice in it called baharat, and was food-proccessered up so it was nice and thick. A final night in Israel, watching the sun set from an impossibly beautiful vantage point. One part lush mountain town, one part cusp of an ancient nexus of culture.

An excellent, mind-blowing day, made even more so by what's to come. Stay posted for the other side of this coin.

1 comment:

max5480 said...

awesome post! looks fun and glad to see you got to do some riding!