I took today off, in part because of heavy rain in the area. I stayed last night with a trail angel and am staying again tonight before hiking tomorrow. There is another thru hiker here, the first one I have met, and he took the day off as well. He is from Switzerland, and unfortunately is going the opposite direction, so we can’t hike together.
Last night we had a huge dinner, including the best avocado I have ever had. The trail angel said the avocados were from her father’s tree. I also had the best raisins of my life. Obviously I am quite happy at this trail angel’s home! It is part of a moshav, which is slightly different than a kibbutz but is also a sort of communal settlement. I am no expert; I am only learning about this now, so I won’t try to explain. Google has all the information you want if you so desire.
Today we have not been too active (our legs could use a break) but after an amazing brunch including shakshouka, we went on a quick trip to a nearby grocery store. It turned out there was a microbrewery right next door, so the other hiker and I got some samples to taste and bought some to go with dinner.
While it has been great to finally meet another hiker and talk about the trail, he also was carrying some bad news. He has not passed any southbound hikers for weeks. I had also left a note on the trail three days ago, and have not received any phone calls, so this means there is nobody close to me going the same direction. Since my original partner quit, I had hoped to meet another southbound hiker before getting to Arad, where the Negev Desert begins. My only lead is that I have been in contact with a young German couple who wants to start south from Arad in mid February. They hiked most of the trail last year and now want to finish it. They also plan on doing a water caching trip before starting, which I would join them on and split the cost. However, I should be in Arad in 4-5 days and they want to start in three weeks, so I have some decisions to make.
Option 1: get to Arad and bus to the northern tip of the trail, and hike south to Tel Aviv. This would take about two weeks, although the guidebook author thinks I could do it in 10 if I hustle. Then once I get to Tel Aviv, I would bus to Arad and join this couple and complete the trail. However, the north is still pretty cold and rainy, and I wouldn’t be there for the springtime bloom like I would if I continued alone and did the north at the end.
Option 2: get to Arad and continue alone. I am really considering it, and the author thinks I would do fine, but I have my doubts. A lot can go wrong in the desert- flash floods, lack of water, twisting an ankle, lack of cell service, reptiles, etc. My concern is if a combination of some of these hazards kicked in at once, I would be pretty screwed.
I will mull it over for the next few days and figure out what I want to do.