Overnight Bikepacking in the North of Israel - Part 1
A quick overnight trip into the northern Golan Heights in Israel. This was a spontaneous trip that would take in the highest point in Israel, the Hermon Mountain.... or so we thought. It seems there were a few "hills" on the way that would slow us down a bit.
It seems that on most trip's I have been starting lately there have been tire issues and this one was no different. We had hardly left the parking lot and I heard the hissing with accompanying white sealant spraying around on each turn of the wheel. Well I can say that I have learnt my lesson so had a spare bottle of sealant but seeing as we had just started I popped in a worm to close that sucker up and we were on our merry way.
There was cool little park filled with sculptures just north of Wasset which is where we had stopped to make the repairs. Luckily there was shade before we headed into the sun. Although the cool wind blowing us along kept things in check regarding any heat. We we buffeted along most of the day and I can say I was happy to have put on the long top under my shirt.
Talking of clothing I decided for the first time in years to head out super casual on the ride. I didn't wear a bib but opted for some free riding shorts which were great the whole trip. I then had a long top under my shirt which was also a polyester, quick dry hiking shirt that worked a treat as I was able to open it up when we were climbing and the collar protected my neck. Win win.
With that little fashion update out of the way lets get onto the ride. Cycling north out of Wasset we were met with this dazzling village on the horizon. Turns out its a training ground that the army can do drills on. Needless to say I was quite happy that none were actually on going but reminds you that these are things you should check before heading out into nowhere here in Israel.
I really felt I was on vacation bikepacking Europe somewhere and not in Israel. The view was great. The Hermon had a dusting of snow still and the fields all around us dotted with violet, blue, white and red flowers. Nature came out to meet us in full swing too. Storks circled above us and we even managed to spot some skittish antelope dash across the road. We really did have some luck landing slap bang in the middle of spring.
It seemed that on each corner we turned there was another view. This made the constant climbing quite enjoyable for the most part as we were taking in the vista, shooting as many rolls of images our phones would allow and just enjoying the silence offered up in this corner of Israel. The route we took was mostly dirt packed white gravel or semi paved asphalt making our progress really smooth.
I had also opted for my frankenbike which is not quite gravel and not totally mountain bike. Its a hybrid with some gravel tires. They would only really work up here in the north of Israel as the rocks chew them up and spit out the holey remains with utter ease. I know this from experience so I would really not suggest trying it out. Although here in the north the tracks make it much easier to push along. I was also holding fingers well crossed since I had barely started out before running into tire issues. Luckily those were long lost memories as we zipped along.
Soon we were into the forest around Odem which has a little cycling single track going around it. We popped on and off of it as we slowly made our way north. We were though confused because that big rock in the distance didn't seem to be getting any closer. Head's were being scratched but we zigzagged across the landscape drinking in the beauty with every twist and turn.
We eventually made it to Majdal Shaams by mid afternoon and were quite please as we thought we had timed the climb perfectly. An hour and a half to climb up to the top, twenty minutes down and then into one of the restaurants to fill our bellies before finding a spot under a tree to put our heads down. Things unfortunately didn't work out that way and this is a tip for anyone wanting to tackle the climb, remember that this is an military area. Gates closed at 16:00 and we had to be on the climb by 15:00. You can call ahead apparently to make arrangements without any issues so you just have to call before the time.
We still decided that it was time to get some food in our bellies before kicking on. That way we could get further south. There are more forests and much less of the built up are around Majdal Shaams. So we whipped out the phones and started looking where to aim for and what we could change. There is a track called the Golan Trail that is partly rideable so we decided to follow along with that until El Rom where there was a camping ground it worked out.
Our way down took us within meters of the border which seems to be rather well guarded although we didn't stick around too long to find out how well. You wouldn't believe that on the other side of that fence there is a crazy war going on.
Our initial plan was to sleep next to Lake Ram (El Mes'ade) although with the climb no longer there we pushed on. It worked out great because there wasn't really anywhere great to sleep next to the lake and the noise from passing cars and youngsters driving up and down really didn't make for a good location. I'd really recommend to anyone just to push on a bit further and you get back into the Odem forest or even the forest around El Rom if you don't want to camp inside.
The setting sun set us up for a beautiful end to the day although I was reaching for a jacket as the wind really started to bite. The ride south was pretty much a lumpy one, we found ourselves either going up or down. The trail was great though so no worries there and we enjoyed the light just giving everything a magical glint.
Our last hill overlooked the forest of El Rom and it was smooth sailing until Liran's wheel decided to give up on two of its spokes. We were in good spirits and only a kilometer from the kibbutz so push along. No bikepacking trip could be without a bit of hike a bike so this was taken on the chin.
El Rom in turned out had a camping site so we lucked out there. Wood was provided. Beers were drunk and we were really happy with the full day of riding behind us. I was smiling ear to ear from the amazing views we had enjoyed practically along the whole route. This really was a super little trip just to end the riding season before the real heat kicks in during summer.