Shizafon to Shacharut
Section 40, March 2016
Doing the shvil in small parts has its challenges, especially if one lives in central Israel and wants to hike in the far north of deep south.
We live in Ra’anana and the sections just north of Timna (close to Eilat) were on our to-do list. What to do? If one wants to arrive at the starting point early in the day, one sacrifices sleep. We set our alarms for 2 am and were in our car by 2:30 am with steaming coffees and Waze set for the village of Shacharut.
We arrived by 6am and were told by native Shacharut resident and Trail Angel Amir to park in the main square of Shacharut and to wait at the bus stop for a ride to our starting point, Neot Smadar. We found a thatched hut and stood obediently, waiting for the bus. Several school kids with heavy backpacks, half asleep, dragged their feet to the bus shelter. We actually thought we were waiting for a public bus and jumped on the first bus that arrived, which was a school bus. School buses in Israel do not look like school buses in North America; they are simply regular buses that have been chartered out to a school line.
On the school bus, we exited the tiny two-donkey town (literally) of Shacharut and then made a left turn at the end of the road, entering Ovda to pick up a few children and then continued on highway 12. We had driven these roads in the dark and now realized that we were in complete isolation surrounded by sand and rock and more sand and rock.
The driver let us off at the corner of Highways 12 and 40, in front of a cute organic restaurant operated by Kibbutz Neot Smadar. We were eager for a cappuccino but as it was so early, their machine was still heating up so we made our own strong coffees with the gazzia then packed up and headed out.
Amir, the Trail Angel from Shacharut, advised us to walk along the bike trail and not take the regular shvil as the latter was very flat and boring, following a road for many kilometers. As we had driven so far and wanted to be surrounded by nature, we took the longer bike path (27 km as opposed to 24 km).
The bike trail was impressively marked and maintained and took us straight from the road into the desert where we were astonished to see so many colourful blooming flowers. The desert was blooming in yellow, red, white and purple with such profusion, parts looked like a meadow. Amir told me later
I had money in hand, ready to pay but saw that this was not a paying kind of bus. We sat behind the driver and started to talk to him. He was very friendly and told us he often picks up shvilistim as there are no regular bus lines in this part of Israel. “You are not in Ra’anana,” he reminded us and we all laughed.
We figured out that the logistics of having one car and trying to hike to Timna and get back to our car via public transportation were next to impossible (unless we caught the 3pm school bus from Kibbutz Yotvata). There were no cabs to be found, so we had to be creative for this one.
that due to the ‘abundant’ rainfall this winter, the flowers are exceptionally abundant. trail looked as if it were engineered in some parts, being supported by thick rocks along hillsides and carved flat in some places. A class act, it made the walking shvil look like the lower-class Holiday Inn of trails. We did not have any bikers racing along that day, save for two lone cyclists who zipped past us at the end of the day.
Link to Wikiloc Map
27km, 260m descent, 210m ascent
Water at the beginning and at the end
The trail was relatively flat yet beautiful. At one point we passed the white sand mountains by the Kisuy campgrounds where we saw three school buses parked. Teenagers were on a school trip, climbing up to the top of the huge sand dunes, then rolling, jumping, running, somersaulting and twirling down the warm, soft sands. Who ever said school in Israel was not fun?
The trail then took us out to Highway 12 where we walked a long the Shvil Israel for a bit, and then headed back into the silent desert. Our path wound up and around mountains until we saw the construction of the Hahn Shacharut, with the small village in the distance.
There was an option to stay in a Bedouin tent with some other hikers right outside Shacharut, but we decided to set up camp back at Kisuy where we had the white sandy mountain to ourselves, complete with a black starry sky twinkling above our tent.