Trip Start Nov 01, 2007
Trip End Mar 01, 2008

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Thursday, December 6, 2007

I took an early bus to Tiberias, where I had planned to meet back up with Aike, my friend from Petra. After I arrived, I had just enough time to get some falafel before Aike got there, which I thoroughly enjoyed considering how long it had been since I'd had a purchased meal (the hostel dinners in Jerusalem were adequate, but not legitimate meals).

Aike arrived, and we went to the Lonely Planet recommended hostel, which was the nicest place I had stayed in for a while. The dorm was empty, and even had a TV and a porch! They also rented out bikes, so we decided to get a jump start on the north and rent them for the sunny afternoon. It was 1 pm, and we wanted to bike around the Sea of Galilee. The guy said it would take 6 hours, we figured 4 (the sun sets at 5) and set off. It ended up taking just less than 4 for 60 km on mountain bikes...alright I suppose.

The ride was spectacular. Warm, sunny, and green. We rode by Biblical sites...the loaves and fishes church...crossed the Jordan...etc... The Sea (aka Lake Kinneret) was the site of the original Israel-Syria border, and is now somewhat part of the Golan Heights. There were old tanks and abandoned (but still active) minefields, demarcated by warnings. Farms and banana fields surrounded the lake, and Kibbutzes took advantage of the good beaches. Everywhere was a magnificent viewpoint. The bikes were rough (esp. because I am used to the speed of a road bike) and we had to stop for sustenance at a gas station. We made it back to the hostel just as the real dark was setting in (and I only went over the handle bars once, landing on my feet after slamming on the front break by accident).

That evening, Aike and I both decided that we needed a big, good, meal with beer, so we went to this recommended Lebanese restaurant. It's the low season and the place was empty. Delicious food! I had lamb in this tomato and pine nut sauce. Quite expensive, and we had just less than the bill in cash between us, not including service. When he realized our problem, the waiter smiled, said it was OK, and took what we had. We made sure he knew how much we enjoyed the meal, and that we would have tipped generously if we'd had money.

Woke up the next day and had a big amazing breakfast (not a hostel freebie, unfortunately). There was this rather large Spanish family that did a pretty good job of cleaning out the buffet, but I still enjoyed eggs, toast, cheese, and coffee.

We made a late decision to rent a car to drive through the Golan Heights, and after a few minutes at Avis, Aike and I were on our way. It was foggy and rainy in the Golan, and as we drove along the border with Syria, we saw lots of UN patrol vehicles moving through the fog. Scattered across the pastoral countryside were rusting tanks, old jeeps, antitank/antiaircraft guns, tank traps, minefields, bombed out villages and mosques, and bunkers. We stopped at one set of bunkers and trenches built into a hillside, and saw the weapons, spotting scopes, and defensive shelters. Everything was still functional, and it was surreal to glance over into Syria. There was an Israeli guy there who said he'd been posted in this particular bunker in the 70's, and that everything looked exactly as it had when they left, including the tank perched on the side next to the entrance.

We drove throughout the afternoon, and headed toward the Israel-Lebanon-Syria triple border, where supposedly you can watch as separated family members yell through megaphones to one another across the borders. The weather got worse, and we ended up lost at this Israeli ski resort on a mountain whose peak belonged to Syria. Just gives you an idea of how close we were to everything. We wanted to go along the Lebanese border, but we couldn't find the small road that appeared on the map. We had given up and were heading back down the mountain when some soldiers approached us, knocked on the door, and asked where we were going. We thought we were in trouble, but it turned out they just needed a lift back to the Tiberias area...they had missed one of the infrequent buses. So we headed down the mountain with two 18 year old, M-16 decked out, paratroopers in the back seat of our Geo Metro-esque Hyundai.

Got back to Tiberias, and jumped in a sheyrut (shared taxi) for the trip to Haifa to see Miles, Laurie, Daniel and Adam!
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