Last Friday, Gabi organised a ride down South and here is his report:
On Friday March 8th, 6 of us braved the very early morning hours and set off for Zeelim. Having arrived in Reim within 1 hour, we left one car there, piled into the other two and continued to Zeelim, where the ride began.
Right at the start we missed the regular entrance to the path, and fell on top of a long section of difficult, winding and in some places quite dangerous single track. Later we found out it was the "etgari" section, and there exists also a regular one paralleling it. Having survived it, some riding and some by walking part of the sections, we arrived at the famous "Ropes Bridge" - "Gesher Hachavalim" where we walked across and back, just for the fun of it. From there the path was very clearly marked all the way to the destination, some 34 kms from the beginning.
In spite of a quite dramatic and acrobatic fall which one of the riders took, and which transformed his appearance to resemble a battle-injured pirate, we continued relentlessly onward and all 6 made it in one piece to Reim. From there 3 drivers took the left-behind car, drove to Zeelim and returned with all 3 cars to Reim. Logistically speaking, it was a bit of an operation. But well worth it...
As to the track: it is every lunapark-lover's wet dream. The path runs more or less alongside the Bsor river, and is a narrow single-track in 95% of its length. Although there exists a more conventional 4x4 path running more or less in parallel. There is an endless sequence of downs and ups, twists and turns, and all of it is flowing, no rocks or sandy sections to interrupt the continuous motion. We could not hope for anything better. The Negev is still lush with vegetation, including patches of poppies (kalaniot) although they are obviously tired already. The path is hard and not sandy, the landscape is vintage Negev, and every turn is beautifully marked by directional arrows pointing the way.
All in all, it was a remarkable ride, although it was definitely not easy and also quite tiring. I would rate it medium in physical difficulty and medium technically. Not something resembling our customary Saturday morning rides. But for lovers of the adventure, it is a magical route. I plan to do it again in two weeks.
The route was one that we have done many times so I wont bore you with a description save to say that we had great weather and that the Black Irises are now in bloom and if you visit the Sharon Coast Nature reserve within the next week or so you will have an opportunity of seeing this very rare flower. The area of the nature reserve is one of the few places in the world that this flower grows.
The photos of the ride show the flowers and you can also get an idea of the scenery in the area of our ride.
All who participated had a great time and the company and the breakfast stop was great.
The weather forecast for the ride was "Rain and strong winds". At 5.55am I looked out the window and there was no rain or wind although the sky did look threatening and 5 minutes before I left, the rain started. Five minutes later, however, it stopped and I rode to the meeting point in perfect cycling weather where I met eleven other stalwarts and off we went on a route that we had traveled many times before. There were a few new views on this oft traveled route, namely some little and some bigger lakes that had not been there a few weeks ago. (see the photos). On a few occasions we had to backtrack due to pools and mud that not even I was prepared to try and cross. On our return trip, a strong headwind came up making the last few kilometres of the ride a lot more difficult than the first three quarters. Eventually we ended back at "Central Café" at the Ra'anana Park. Good food and good service brought another +/-34 kilometre ride to a happy end.
Another of those delightful Cyclenix rides on Saturday 9 February
Drove in convoy along the coastal road, passed Ashdod, turning before Kiryat Malachi into Arugot (garden beds), an agricultural settlement established in 1949 by immigrants from Poland and Romania, containing an ancient Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age settlement Tel et Turmus.
Our 12 riders ride headed eastwards, seeing evidence of the recent saturating rains. We rode though peach groves in full pink and also in white blossom, the rich half-meter high wheat fields, alfalfa, humus and grape vines. The hilly area included olive trees reminding us of pastural Tuscany here our own Israel.
Through a muddy tunnel under the railway line to Be'er Sheva and highway #6 to a hill, the highest in the area, commanding a superb view of the coastal towns of Ashkelon, Ashdod, including Rehovot, Kiryat Malachi, Be'er Tuvia and Kiryat Gat. Also we could observe the kibbutzim/moshavim/kibbutzim of Kfar Menachem (Ussishkin) Gal-on, Yinon, Beit Nir, Luzit, Nahalah, Kedma and Timorim.
The ride was not for the timid, as most of the first 11 kilometers was uphill to the observation hill near Tel Zafit, then a enjoyable downhill sweep back to Arugot, totaling 30 kilometers. Our two relatively new female members were real contestants, never complaining and completing the ride - well done ladies.
The ride ended at the home of Tami and Eyal, daughter and son-in-law of Ted and Dina Silverman, who prepared coffee, tea, light drinks, and various cakes for all of us. Thank you very much for the hospitality, and to Eyal for his superb steermanship during the ride.
The History of this immediate region - Biblical
The ancient overland trade route from the Mediterranean to Mesopotamia passes through this area (not parallel and close to the sea as it is too sandy and swampy). The modern highway #6 follows this route.
The Philistine town of Gat "The Philistines assembled their camps for war...(they) were standing on the mountain on one side and Israel was standing on the other side, and the valley was between them. Goliath of Gat, his height six cubits and one span. He had a copper helmet on his head, and was wearing armor of mail; the weight of the armor was five thousand shekels. He had a copper shield on his legs and a copper neck-guard between his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver beam and the blade of his spear weigh six hundred iron shekels." (I Samuel 17:1-7).
Tel Zafit (Blanchegarde), a Crusader administrative center is constructed in 1142 by King Fulk to control the road from Ashkelon to Ramle. The fortress is captured by Salah a-Din in 1187, recaptured by the Crusaders in 1192, to be captured again and destroyed by the Mamluks in 1244 who also capture Ashkelon in 1247.
War of Independence.
The Egyptian Army is unhindered by the British before they leave Palestine in 1948, invades Israel from Gaza heading along the coast . The Egyptians are defeated at Asdor (Ashdod- Ad-Halom) and at Jerusalem where they were stopped at Ramat Rachel. The Egyptian Army withdraws to the Faluga Salient in the modern Kiryat Gat-Ashkelon area.
In 'Operation Death to the Invader' the Negev Brigade cuts through Egyptian lines, surround Majdal (Ashkelon), creating a corridor, isolating the Faluga Salient and Beit Guvrin from the sea.
At Gal-on the IDF uses one of the two tanks in its possession, stolen from the British. The tank moves forwards towards the Egyptian lines, breaking down after only about 100 meters. The brigade was called armored for moral reasons, although in reality it only had a single tank company (later in the war, two companies), and a single APC company (these companies became the brigade's armored battalion), and an assault battalion composed of jeeps.
Before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 this area was barren scrub, with very limited developed agriculture as the annual rainfall is only about 200mm a year. New Development towns are established at Kiryat Malachi and Kiryat Gat (steel, HiTech-Intel, etc), together with many kibbutzim and moshavim.
The construction of Highway #6 has encouraged regional economic development and subsequent resident construction in this area. Be'er Tuvia, a 1st Immigration village from 1887, attacked during the Arab riots in 1929, abandoned, reestablished in 1930, together with all the villages in this area has grown enormously in the passed decade, boasting many industrial zones creating job opportunities.
Not quite Singin' in the rain....
Twelve stalwarts gathered to set off under what looked like threatening black clouds. Luckily for us, they dissipated and it turned out to be a great cycling day. Lots of cyclists were out and about, all trying to avoid too much water and mud. We were led along with a few muddy dead ends - can't fault us for trying....
We whizzed through Gan Rachel to the Herzelia park and on to the Herzeliya beachfront. From there we headed back through Ramat Hasharon. On the way we saw the blue sea and some wild waves and the best, a car half submerged in water. Now how do you explain that to your wife/husband/mother/father??
We stopped off at a cafe in Ramat Hashron where we fueled our tanks - very good coffee and accompaniments. We headed off home having cycled some 34 km in good company, as always.
What a glorious feelin'
I'm happy again
I'm laughing at clouds
So dark up above
(from Singin in the Rain)
There was an expression used in England "Join the army and see the world".
In our case "Join Cyclenix and see Israel". Cycling is faster than walking.
The Cyclenix home trials are always fun as the vegetation changes with the season as our expert tracker David Lewis can always find a new trail. The 'Away Rides' take us around the country to smell the soil, breath fresh air, bounce along sandy or rocky trails and above all have fun, with the happy, cheerful, friendly and helpful riders.
Saturday 26 January was one of those wonderful winter days. Bright blue sky, with little wind combing a perfect cycling temperature of around 20 degrees. The heavy rains from the previous fortnight left a few puddles just awaiting one of Cyclenix technically experienced rider's to explore with alacrity its depth and muddy floor.
We began at Ein Carmel, a kibbutz founded in 1947 which to today has banana plantations, hot houses growing peppers, B+B facilities and developed a residential area for young families to acquire a smallish house and garden at a reasonable price. We rode passed an ancient reservoir carved into a sand-stone mound, able to provide water for the fields in the Carmel Plain from the coast to the Carmel mountains.
Moshav Habonim, founded in 1948 by South African members of the Habonim Youth Movement boasts a Crusader Fortress constructed over Arab ruins to defend the norther approach to the port at Dor and perhaps the coastal road. Ruins of the walls and towers are easily seen both from the #2 highway and of course by us the cyclists entering the settlement.
Here too, a residential area had been constructed affording a magnificent view of the fields and Mediterranean Sea. Just think of siting like King Herod did 2000 years ago in his royal place at Caesarea drinking wine as the sun sets over the Mediterranean Sea!!! (obviously after a cycle ride and not as a intermediary pit-stop).
Our route then passed many fish ponds where Israel farms fresh water fish, and incidentally in this area also sea-water fish in cages out in the sea.
We approached Nachsholim from the north-east, suddenly entering the crescent-shaped beach, one of the finest in the country. There are four small-rocky islands off-shore forming a lagoon. Nachsholim is founded in 1948 on the abandoned village of Tantura. The kibbutz has clean B+B facilities looking over the beach, agricultural land (bananas), a factory producing plastic netting and rope.
This area previous is the site of Baron de Rothschild's glass factory, managed by Meir Dizengoff, the future first mayor of Tel Aviv. The purpose of the glass factory was to produce glass wine bottles of the infant winery in Zichron Ya'akov. Unfortunately the color of the local sand is not suitable to market wine and the facility closed after a few years. The kibbutz also houses a Nautical Museum, displaying the items found from nautical archaeology. It is here that Napoleon's army fled after their defeat in Acre, and disease at Stella Maris (Haifa), to French naval vessels off the coast. Many of these unfortunate soldiers dropped their weapons in the sea as they feared the extra weigh would cause then to drown - just waiting for the modern day scuba diver to have an exciting find, recovering stone anchors, cannons, rifles, daggers, and swords.
Dor is mentioned in ancient Egyptian papyrus and later during the Biblical Period. Joshua conquers "the districts of Dor in the west " (Joshua 11:2). Over the cliff on the norther side is the site of the ancient Phoenician port of Dor or Dora, a Greek port, later to be conquered by the Hashmonean king, Alexander Yannai. "The whole sea-board from Dora to Joppa, midway between which the city lies was without a harbor, so that vessels bound for Egypt... had to ride at anchor in the open when menaced by the south-west wind." (Josephus Flavius).
We could see evidence of the jetty and part of the town that has been excavated under the auspices of the Israel Antiquities Authority. Remains include the ancient port and jetty, burial caves, Hellenic temple, Purple Dye making complex (from the local murex sea snail), Roman theater (northern bay), Byzantine church with paved mosaics, a Crusader fortress, city wall and a mosque. Today it is a Nature Reserve.
Our return journey was ever so pleasant riding along the beach, astride rich green wheat fields with many poppies waving as we rode passed. It was very worthwhile for all the 17 participants.
Just wait, its Be'eri famous for the expanse of natural poppies in the north-west Negev in a few weeks time.
So what took us so long to finish a "routine" home patch ride? In my previous life as an executive I was required to analyze occasionally how I spent my time in an average day so I conducted a time analyses on what were the extras on this particular ride
Six of us gathered to cycle in the welcome sunshine after all the wild weather we have been experiencing. The NINNIES stayed at home and missed a water- and mud-filled day! Some of the excuses: sick (naaah!), swollen fingers and visiting son in the army (come ON! ) and the best, lock on the shed jammed and couldn't get the bike out (yea - and the dog ate my homework!!).
The first evidence of the devastation the heavy rain caused was a huge donga (ditch for those not from the southern hemisphere) as we started our ride. We had to make a muddy detour in the pardesim - see the results of the glue-like mud on our bikes and shoes. We trundled along, spraying mud as we went. It made me think of the chorus of the Flanders and Swann Hippopotamus song:
Mud, mud, glorious mud
Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood
So follow me follow, down to the hollow
And there let me wallow in glorious mud
We did resist and tried to avoid more mud by going on the road. Rafi was disappointed as he just came to play in the mud puddles... We turned back onto the gravel, only to discover that there was a river to cross. John thought we should all become Mudskippers and bounce along the mud and water. They are rather like walking fish, but we managed to resist that too.
We made our way, mostly by road, to the gas station where Ted, having arisen from his sick bed came to join us. His vintage car attracted a lot of attention. I tried to drape myself over the car but no offers came my way (or his), so I guess the next Tel Aviv car show is not waiting for me to help sell!
We rode about 25 km in perfect weather with good company as usual.
As the weatherman had predicted, it was raining when I woke up, but I promised myself (and others) that I would ride so, up I got and all dressed up in my cycling gear (including my rain suit) off I set to the meeting point where I was met by Megan we were joined by Ilan. Yvette, Rafi and Frederic. That was it. All the other regulars had chickened out or were away or had other "plans".
The route we did was one that we have done many times. There is no doubt about it that the scenery in winter is far prettier than in the hotter seasons. We came across numerous "temporary" lakes and pools that had attracted various species of water birds. We had our fair share of rain and mud. On the trip home Rafi and I separated from the other four who, when they were near |Ra'anana had to cross a "river" and then found themselves "fenced off" but with the help of Frederic the bikes were lifted over the fence and they then scaled the fence ( see the photos) and met up with me and Rafi and we all headed for home having covered 34+ kilometres. Another really enjoyable ride with great company was under our belts!
"Everything has its season, and there is a time for everything under the heaven. A time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot the planted." (Ecclesiastes 3:1,2).
In Canada there is an expression "There are two reasons NOT to live in Canada, one is December and the other January and sometimes February and March too.
In Israel it is the exact opposite. Our winters are superb. Not too cold with rainy and sometime stormy days inter-spursed with days of brilliant, blue skies. Just look at the photos of the blue sky, the healthy fields, green natural grass, the winter leaves. Compare these photographs of Cyclenix summer rides in the same area north of Ra'anana towards Udim, when the countryside is brown, golden, sandy and dusty.
This year Israel has received so far, well over average rainfall to compensate for the 7-years of drought. The rivers are flowing and the Kinneret rising daily. The previous two Saturday rides were canceled/poorly attended due to the rain and mud.
"When you come to the land you shall plant any food tree." (Leviticus 19:23).
The 13 Cyclenix riders set out in the early morning mist. The temperature gauge on my bicycle showed 11 degrees. From Ra'anana we rode northwards through agricultural lands producing citrus and field crops. The sun rose higher, warming to over 20 degrees as we all removed our outer jackets. This area of the Sharon Plain continuing through Emek Hefer is one of the most fertile region's of the country (which are very few). The rich brown soil has been cultivated for winter wheat and potatoes, which are beginning to sprout. All looking very healthy.
This ride has been taken by Cyclenix many times, nevertheless the winter beauty gave the impression of 'new brush' has painted the landscape a different color.
For those who did not participate and were worried about the puddles, lakes and mud. Well, David choose a route which was definitely ridable and required very little dodging the muddy trail.
As usual, all the participants are pleasant, happy people and it is a pleasure to ride with Cyclenix.
Over time was involved in a variety of sports :
The Cyclenix Group
My Away-Away biking history:
My bikes history:
My Happy hobby:
If you have any questions or want to get in touch for any reason, feel free to get in touch with David or John: