After an early night, the boys were so keen to get started that they decided on their own little impromptu hike to see something of the local wildlife (ibexes exploring a park), before coming back to the hostel to collect my sleepy self and head off for the main event - a hike up the side of Maktesh Ramon and down in the basin. It was one recommended by the guy at the hostel who said it was fairly strenuous, with one pretty steep climb and one other less steep descent.
Getting to the bottom of the trail was a bit touch and go, since it was down a fairly heavily pitted dirt track
with some very pointy rocks. Good thing we're in a rental! The parking lot also doubled as a campground which was filled with a work crew from the Hevraet Hahagana Hateva - Society for the Protection of Nature - responsible for maintaining the trails. They do an excellent job. Not only are the trails very clearly marked, but the colours of the markers also correspond with the colours on the map. Sounds like a small thing, but it is extremely handy and not something that every country does.
Branson & Stephen determining our route
The trail we followed certainly had some very steep parts indeed (as promised), but these were also fairly
short portion of the overall 10 mile hike. The steep sections were definitely worth the scrambling, since the views from the top were stunning. Miles and miles to the horizon over what was truly a "painted" desert. We saw every colour of the rainbow that is possible to be produced in stone and then some. At points we joked that it was as if some giant had spilled their paints all over the crater floor, and it wasn't too far off.
See what I mean about colours?
and it showed up in the oddest places
colours in the rock along the path
On our way up to the top of the mountain, there were sections where the sand was nearly black and the mountains looked scorched, one of which had a lone path winding to the top (not ours) - cue many Mordor jokes.
That's the path up
And looking at the "path" from about mid way up
Top of the path looking across the ridge
the next part of our little journey across the rim of the makhtesh
Spots were a little tight
The route down the backside of the Maktesh was less dramatic colour wise, but had several spectacular ridges rising from the canyon bottom with the trail going across the ridge providing even more amazing views across the desert. Once we actually got down to the bottom, the majority of our path corresponded with the old Spice Route. Very cool indeed!
And the way back down - much less strenuous than up!
The view of the same path from the bottom
Stephen and Branson on the Old Spice Route
looking out across the desert
By the time we got back to the car though our legs were very tired indeed. Stephen nobly got us back down the dirt track (go little Mazda go!) and back to the hostel for a laid back evening. We decided to take the scenic route to the grocery store to pick up supplies for dinner, walking along the north side of the crater at the edge of town. The city council has installed a little sculpture garden along the route until it crosses the highway at which point it runs around a very posh new resort. I think next time we go to Mitspe Ramon, we're definitely staying there. Each room had their own little (heated) infinity pool! A good soak after our hike would have been very welcome indeed. Next time!
By this point we were very hungry indeed; our bellies overrode our original plans to make dinner at the hostel and instead we grabbed our first Israeli schwarma/falafal. Nothing particularly special, but after a long day of hiking they tasted great. Then we picked up breakfast for the next morning, a bottle of wine and dessert to enjoy back at the hostel while talking about the next day's plan.
Not a bad little routine we've gotten ourselves into I must say - tasty breakfast, adventure, tasty dinner, plan the next adventure. I think we could get used to this!