Well, I survived the desert. So now I have done about 2/3 of the trail- everything south of Tel Aviv. Tomorrow I will bus to the northern tip of the trail, and will hike south to Tel Aviv to finish my trip here.
The last few days have been absolutely gorgeous. I went through two more craters- Makhtesh Gadol (large) and Makhtesh Katan (small). A lot of the hiking was steep but the views made it very worthwhile. The large crater had some of the most amazing views I have ever seen, and the small crater wowed me with its perfect shape.
I had a great time in the town of Yeruham, where I stayed with a trail angel. I ended up taking two days off there because of heavy rain and flash flooding in the desert. In fact, several hikers were rescued that night from Hava night camp, where I had just been a few days before the floods. One was the Israeli I had been hiking with before. I’m glad all of the hikers were safe- nature is great until it tries to drown you in a flash flood, I suppose.
Of the many awesome people I met in Yeruham, a few happened to work at a virtual reality tech company, and I got a chance to come to their office and try Oculus Rift, which was great. I did several different scenarios, including horror scenes of a haunted house and carnival, a chicken survival game, and my favorite, a game where you are a cartoon elephant walking around and you move your head (in real life) to swing your trunk around and hit things. The horror ones had plenty of creepy things jumping out at you, and some pretty dark stuff like a zombie horse casually munching on a human arm in the haunted carnival. Overall it was amazing to get an opportunity to try out such new and powerful technology.
Some other notable occurrences have included waking up because a fox kept trying to rip my trash away from where I had tied it to my tent cord, my bag being opened and rifled through during the night (that was a human, fortunately I keep valuables in my tent and nothing was taken), and walking just a few kilometers away from the Negev Nuclear Research Center, where Israel allegedly develops nuclear weapons. Speaking of the nuclear site, for about two weeks I have been seeing a stationary white thing in the sky, and I finally got close enough to see it. It’s a sort of blimp, which an Israeli told me has a camera and stays above the nuclear research center to monitor it. I also think I saw it on the ground (for repairs?) at one point. It appears in a few of the pictures below.
I am very proud to have finished the desert, and also really looking forward to the north. Let’s hope I can get back to Tel Aviv on time for my flight home!