My friend and I have succeeded in seeing a lot of Israel’s south (Eilat, Mitzep Ramon, Dimona)) by bus and now we’re up for seeing the North. the country shuts down for Shabbat which makes it difficult but it’s workable. It takes a bit of planning and the completely Hebrew schedules make it difficult but we did it. You can too! We’ve found Israeli people on average very kind and helpful. Before this exploration of Nazareth to Capurnaum we visited Haifa and surrounding area. Find that post here.
Sunday, February 10. We packed at leisure and tarried over breakfast before heading in the rain for the stop to catch the bus to Nazareth. I watched for distance to our hostel on my favourite app maps.me and hoped we’d get closer but the driver told us we had to get off as it was the last stop. Oh well. 1.7 km isn’t a bad walk. That’s why we travel light. So, we put the back pack straps on and carry on.
The Fauzi Azar hostel is in the Abraham hostel group and a really interesting building. It was once a 19th century Ottoman mansion owned by, you guessed it, Fauzi Azar. Google it. It’s really nice!
We were too early to check in so we dropped our bags, had a coffee then headed out to explore. The narrow streets in old Nazareth are more like alleys that twist and turn with no apparent planning so of course we immediately got lost.
Sunday is the day everything closes in Nazareth so it was like a ghost town. The kind care taker let us in to the Greek Orthodox church, even though it was just after 1 pm when he closed. The church contains the spring at which Mary was said to have heard the Angel Gabriel tell her she was to give birth to the Saviour.
After checking in and relaxing for a bit we set out to find dinner. It was pouring and the streets get slippery when it rains. The place we wanted was closed so we went back and asked for recommendations. Street food it is! A falafel on a pita is the best thing ever around here.
We met Yefete who gave us details on what to expect when hiking the Jesus Trail, our objective for the next 4 days. After breakfast we followed the purple dots to the Nazareth village where a tour had been booked for us. We learned a lot about Jesus. The site contains excavated terraces that once grew grapes and olives and an area where grapes were pressed. The tour was interesting but the request for money to fund their project at the end kind of annoying.
We spent the rest of the day wandering and getting lost. We tried to see the holy caves but it’s only open from 11-1 pm. Despite the fact that we arrived at 12:50 pm, it was closed.
We did manage to see Mary’s well, the Basilica of the Annunciation which is built over the cave Mary, Jesus mother lived with her family. This place is where the Catholics believe Mary was told about her pregnancy. There’s a museum there that’s interesting as well. We saw the synagogue church and the white mosque and wandered about the Souq for a while.
By this time we were hungry so we found this place called Abu Ashraf as it’s owner is a local character and the place is filled wit antiques. We asked about katayef. He said “no. You eat first. That is sweet. For later”. Okay then. He brought us Arab salad, Koba and freekeh. All yummy!!! Sorry, no pictures of the place as he has signs everywhere “NO PHOTO!”
Monday, February 12
Day one of the Jesus trail.
Getting out of Nazareth involves over 400 steps up so we were heated up and stripping layers in no time. The trail eventually goes through a field which is the first place we got lost. The “well-marked” trail isn’t so well marked as we couldn’t find the next one. We met a young man who was having the same trouble so it wasn’t just us. Thankfully I had installed the app recommended by Theresa from Abraham Tours. Trailze pointed us in the right direction which meant we climbed a steep hill over rocks and thorn bushes but eventually found the trail back.
We met the German fellow again and he’d gone about a half hour out of his way before finding it back again.
That happened a couple more times but now I paid closer attention to the app, which sounds an alarm when you veer too far from the trail. At one point the trail came to a fence and the gate had been wired shut so there was no way out. We met the German fellow there too. We decided to follow the fence in the direction of the trail and ended up getting in the back way of Zippori National park. By then we decided it was too late to do the park justice so I sat, changed my socks and we carried on.
We’d walked through a lot of mud so our shoes were caked and my socks got wet at one point. I HATE walking in wet socks!
The trail is either surrounded by garbage or beautiful flowers. The forest walk after Zippori is gorgeous. Little yellow and purple flowers spread like a carpet. Poppies and cyclamen growing everywhere, as if someone planted them. There were lots of tulips too but they’re not blooming yet
At the end of the forest was a steady grade up and into the next village. Then came the down and the streets are STEEP. It’s so hard on your knees and toes!
Coming into Cana we went down a garbage strewn path, through a lovely olive orchard then back up to the town. It was bustling! Huge tour buses everywhere. This is definitely a tourist town!
We checked into the Cana Wedding guest house and changed into sandals then went to explore. The church built on top of the original wedding chapel where Jesus turned water into wine was interesting. They even have the original jugs.
By then we were thoroughly exhausted so headed back for a shower and to chill until dinner.
Our hostess put on an amazing spread! Even though we were REALLY hungry we couldn’t finish it all.
February 13, 2019
We took our time as today was supposed to be an easy day. It started off pretty good and we made good time for a while. Walking through the woods is beautiful and the flowers again amazed me. All the trash along the way is really awful though. It looks like people drive in there and dispose of appliances, furniture and today we even saw a broken toilet.
The omelet sandwich at the military base was really good as was the Israeli cardamom coffee.
Then it got really interesting. The hike wasn’t terribly difficult but there were confusing areas. Crossing the major high way meant climbing down into a drainage ditch, up the other side and over the guard rail. Interesting.
After the ice cream stop at McDonalds (we do this in every country) we had to walk through a cow field and over a Roman road. Sounds nice, right? Wrong. The Roman road is a bunch of rocks strewn everywhere over the cow pasture which was wet from recent rains which meant a good portion of it we were ankle deep in cow shit. Gross!
After that we followed a path for while that met an electric fence. We walked up and down trying to find our way across. Nope.
Finally we asked a man looking after his cows. We asked about Kibbutz Lavi. He pointed. I tried to mime getting an electric shock. He laughed and said “no, okay” and mimed us going UNDER it
Okay, the fence wasn’t humming but I was taking no chances and crawled under it.
The rest of the hike was reasonably uneventful with just a bit more muck. I had changed to sandals which are washable but Sue’s hiking shoes were a mess.
Upon checkin at the Lavi Kibbutz hotel, we asked the girl if there was a place outside we could wash our shoes. I told her we’d rather not get cow manure in her nice hotel. Apparently there’s nothing so….I washed my sandals in the hotel bathtub. I managed to get all the poop out of the tub though 😀
Dinner. Wow. I’d come back to Kibbutz Lavi just for the food! I know food tastes better when you’re really hungry but this was amazing. The salads were all different and very tasty. The assortment of roasted vegetables including peppers, eggplant and sweet potato were delicious. Even dessert was awesome.
We waddled up two flights of stairs then took the elevator the rest of the way.
Happy Valentines Day!
We awoke to pouring rain and then came the thunderstorms. Breakfast at Kibbutz Lavi was almost as good as dinner so we dawdled and postponed the inevitable. We had to decide how to get to Arbel. Bus? Walk the Jesus trail? Walk another trail? The road?
At checkout the woman said “you’re not really going to WALK today, are you?” Yes. We may be nuts but we’re not quitters. The Jesus trail was out as, having studied the map, there were too many cow pastures. With this rain they’d be a SEA of poop. No thanks. There were other trails of varying lengths and then there was the road. 15 km. Boring, but do-able.
After walking along a highway as busy as our #401, I got tired of it and tried the trail running beside it. It seemed good with nice gravel base and not too much water. Then came the MUD. So much MUD! I have never seen mud like this before. It was worse than the cow poop. It cakes on your shoes and doesn’t come off. You just collect more with every step. Walk 10 metres and your shoes each weigh 10 lbs. This trail was NOT a good choice so as soon as we could, we were back on the highway.
As we approached the interchange to Arbel, the sun came out and we stopped at a gas station for a toilet and coffee. There we peeled off the poncho, put away the umbrella and I changed to sandals.
The last 5 or 6 km to the Arbel Holiday homes was quite pleasant. Orange groves called us to pick a couple but again….MUD. Olive groves were flooded too. It’s good for Israel as they’ve suffered a drought for a few years. The Jordan River is now higher than it’s ever been. Maybe all this rain with help the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea.
The nice surprise at our accommodations was an indoor, heated POOL! We’d intended on finding Arbel National park but the rain came back and the pool was inviting. A swim was definitely in order and just what the doctor ordered for tired feet and a sore back.
Carmel, our hostess, served us a delicious dinner in her lovely home and we chatted about the area. She kindly called Chikki, who transports our luggage, and asked him to bring us to Magdala since it’s not safe to climb down Arbel in the wet conditions. That was a wonderful help as we were trying to figure out how to do it.
Friday, February 15
Carmel made us a delicious breakfast and noted that we don’t eat much. What?! Even Sue has been eating more than usual with all the hiking we’re doing.
Chikki picked us up and dropped us off at Magdalena where we investigated the ruins of a first century church, discovered and excavated in 2009. It’s amazing how well preserved some of it is.
Today we didn’t even ATTEMPT the trails as the mud on the side of the roads is bad enough. It sticks to your boots and acts like cement blocks.
We wandered and got lost in the Kibbutz Ginosar. There’s a boat there that was found in the Sea of Galilee that Jesus may have used. It’s a pretty community with nice walking paths and a huge dairy farm.
There were several other stops along the way of historical importance so we didn’t reach Capurnaum until after 2 pm. It was easy to waste a couple of hours there exploring the ruins as well. We were blessed with good weather considering the rainy forecast!
Chikki picked us up and dropped us off at the hostel in Tiberias, tired, sore and ready for a shower.
Tiberias Hostel staff put on a Shabbat dinner complete with Kubush. They explained how a Jewish family would celebrate, including the ceremony, blessing of the wine and challah bread and the candles.