Not part of the course, this one, but such a wonderful day out that I think it is worth writing about. A friend recently popped over to Israel for a few days and I said that we should go on a trip. I asked him for his interests and they were as follows: food, hiking and history. After a bit of research, I decided on an itinerary, and off we went.
We headed North from Tel Aviv, our destination for the beginning of our hike the small village of Mitzpe Hila, recently made famous as it is the hometown of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who last year returned home after being held a prisoner by Hamas for several years. Our business was just outside the entrance of the village, however, the trail head down to Nachal Kziv, the longest stream in the Galilee.
First however, there was an important stop – a small turn off from route 70 took us into the village of Kfar Yasif, famous as the home of the hummus restaurant of Abu Adham. This small hummus place became so famous in Israel that it has spawned a franchise with a few Abu Adhams now appearing in Tel Aviv. However, in my opinion, nothing beats the original, whether in terms of simplicity of menu, price, or (most importantly) taste [with thanks to hummus101.com for the picture].
Our bellies mightily full, we headed to the beginning of our hike. We went gradually down the bank of the stream, thankfully covered in thick woodland which shaded us from the afternoon sun. Every now and again there would be a break in the trees and a glimpse of a beautiful view over the Galil, such as the one below.
After quite a steep climb down, pausing to let a local goat herder pass with his flock, we arrived at Ein Tamir, a small spring that contributes to the Kziv stream. This was a great place to cool off and have a quick paddle while doing our best not to disturb the fish swimming around our feet, a quite pleasant sensation. A nice reward after such a steep descent.
We continued down the river, criss-crossing via stepping stones when every now and again we ran out of river bank (the trail helpfully pointed us in the right direction when we needed to do so). It would probably have been more practical to have done this as a water hike and just walked through the stream; unfortunately neither of us had brought appropriate shoes on this occasion. However, it was quite fun to jump along the stones, trying to identify the best route, avoid wobbles, and a good feeling of achievement on safely reaching the other bank.
After a while we arrived at what appeared to be a mini canyon; erosion having taken its toll on the surrounding rock. It was really rather beautiful.
Eventually we exited the shade, fortunately the heat of the day was already abating and it was very pleasant to be in the sunshine. We continued along the stream, continuing to cross over every now and again, and passed the ruins of an old flour mill, testifying to the impact of mankind on the area. The ruins were somewhat forlorn, although aesthetically pleasing in a rustic way; it felt a bit of a shame though to encounter this evidence of human construction as part of the beauty of this trail was the fact that we were almost alone; for the city dweller this isolation gives a certain sense of freedom and connection with nature; the mill reminded us that we were not so far from civilisation as we imagined.
Eventually it was time to begin our climb back up the river bank, and we could already spy our prize. Outlined against the setting sun was the Montfort crusader fortress. The ascent was steep and unkind on our tired legs but we pushed on and my, was it worth it. We had the stunning ruins of Montfort to ourselves, the remains of an 800 year old defence against the Mamluks. The remoteness of the castle, the fact that we were the only ones there, really gave us a sense of adventure, a sense of exploration. I can’t really explain how, but the castle retained a sense of majesty and might that could still inspire awe.
As if this was not enough, the backdrop was a spectacular panorama over the Galilee. In most directions the scenery remains woodland, I suppose that it is much the same as it was 800 years ago. Standing on the viewing platform, I tried to imagine the crusader knights rushing around the castle, looking out over the same hills below that I was looking over now.
We concluded our hike with a bit of a scramble over some rocks back up to where we had left the car, arriving just before darkness set in, and just in time to enjoy the colours of the sunset. The hike took about four hours in total, going at a leisurely pace and allowing for a nice splash in the spring and a good wander around the castle. We returned to Tel Aviv, happy with an excellent day out.
For anyone interested, details of the trail can be found here on the Tiyuli website.