Wadi Hava to Mitzpe Ramon
Section 36, January 2016
27km or 24km if you miss a turn like we did
Thankfully, we did not shiver in our tents at night, although the wind had picked up viciously, sending our fly flapping and snapping. Fearing the fly would literally soar into a desert canyon, I crawled out to repeg it, banging the tent peg into unyielding rock. Wind whipped sand into my eyes and grit into my mouth as I took a rock and tried to insert the peg. I felt like I was in The Martian movie, alone in a desolate, windswept place.
When I finally crawled back into the tent, we decided to use earplugs secured by a woolen hat to reduce the terrifying sounds of the sandstorm outside.
Our water bladders refilled with fresh water, off we went, following the shvil marker southbound. I expected an immediate ascent but the road continued along a black blaze, forcing us up steeply and then down sharply just like the day before.
Hilary stopped, waving her map. “I have good news and bad news; we’re off the shvil and missed 3 kms including a steep ascent. We’ll reconnect soon and with 3 km less to walk.”
But no. The path then snaked for miles yet again and again. And again. The wind pummeled. The temperature dropped. Our heavy bags weighed heavy and our feet raw from blisters.
We turned inward to gather strength and walked desperately alone in single file until we finished at a small picnic area. It was just beside the luxurious Bereisheet Hotel where guests were probably lounging cozily in terry robes, dipping delicate toes into Jacuzzi tubs. As for us, we looked like homeless, downtrodden, hobbling sand monsters and all I wanted was to be inside four walls, protected from the wheezing wind.
Danny described the hike as demoralizing. I called it a nightmare but Amir took great offense to this as if I were saying Lashon Hara against the sacred shvil. All paths have their own character, challenges and beauty. Today was no exception.
Previous Day - Section 35 - Avdat to Wadi Hava
Next Day - Section 37
By morning, the wind had died down a bit and as the sun rose, it refused to offer warmth. We returned to our water search, kicking at sand and turning over rocks in the area that Chaim instructed. He had given us a photo of the spot with his truck parked in the background. This image could have been one million spots in the desert; it was like putting together a jigsaw where every piece is the color of sand.
Finally, Hilary shouted out, “Found it!” And lo and behold, there was a 6-pack of water under the sand. From then on, we insisted on calling her ‘Sir Edmund Hilary.’
Water caching is not foolproof. The water that was supposed to be in the bushes at ‘hiding place A’ was gone and the water in ‘hiding place B’ was difficult to find. We were lucky on several counts. Firstly, we had a few litres between us left over from the first day. Secondly, the people who were at the night camp before us left two bottle in the open. And thirdly, we had cell phone coverage and were able to be directed to a second cache source. This is not always the case. The solution? Carry in more water and then sip in controlled portions, just like Matt Damon did with his food stash.
By now the wind had picked up significantly. Battered by the wind and cold seeping into my bones, I found this to be uplifting news. Danny, our fellow hiker, was actually looking forward to the steep climb. No one, however, suggested we retrace our steps – we did not have enough daylight hours for the many miles ahead of us. Instead, we trodded on, following the black marker along a 4x4 track all day.
The 65-kilimetre an hour winds bashed us every second. Driving from the southwest, it had the uncanny ability to slap our faces non-stop for the entire seven-hour hike. It did not matter whether the path took us close up to a sheltered mountainside or whether the road dipped down; the gale caught on and pursued us relentlessly. It was so strong, I had to use my poles to prevent the wind from pulling me right off the path.
Our pants flapped, our hoods blew off our heads. My nose dripped like a leaky faucet. The wind bashed grit against our faces and chafed exposed skin. It was so loud, we could hardly hear each other speaking. So our day became one on one with the wind, a surly opponent.
The gravel path then came to the edge of the Ramon crater, an expansive moonlike pit. Because of the sand storm, the crater was hazy. I feared being blown inside so quickly peered over the dizzying ledge then trudged on.
The path hugged the crater’s edge then veered a little inland across an uphill rocky expanse that exposed a winding path for miles on end. Head and shoulders bowed over to protect my face from the pummeling wind, I barely looked up, but when I did, I could see our path snaking for miles ahead then disappearing around a corner. Those corners produced encouragement that maybe, maybe we would see Mitzpe Ramon, our end point around the turn.
Water - None.
Link to Wikiloc Map
Vertical 430m up, 230m down (we cut corners)