Israel National Trail
Israel National Trail - According to National Geographic one of the 20 best "epic hiking trails" in the world. It is also first such path plotted on Google maps as "Google Street View". The trail stretches from Kibbutz Dan, near the Israel-Lebanon border, to Eilat on the Gulf of Aqaba. 400 of about 1100 km go across Israeli deserts - mostly via Negev. More specific information can be found on websites: https://www.israeltrail.net/ and http://lukaszsupergan.com/
I started my hiking from Eilat on 13 February 2019 and walked over 140 km for 7 days. Pebbly and mountainy character of the desert in combination with 17 kg backpack dictates slower pace. February/March is a good time to start from the South direction. At this time an average daily temperature is 20°C. Nights on the desert are cool and temperature falls to few degrees. Wintry months - until February - bring rain over Negev. Even canyons change over rushing streams. On many occasions I saw last of substantial rainy seasons this year.
Eilat Mountains section of the trail is supposedly the most difficult. First day is often spent on climbing colourful rocks. On occasion ladders and handles are installed. I was passed by huge Israeli scholastic youth groups. They learn about their country and sense of direction in this way. Most of INT hikers are Israelis, and most were walking in opposite direction. I reached Timna Park after few days. The area was famous fot its copper deposits as far back as antiquity. The Park is of geological-archaeological nature. It covers vast honeycombed areas. The copper-smelting mines are remnants ofthe 2nd millennium BC and subsequent tribes. It is believed that King Solomon's wealth originated here.
Kibbutzim and small settlements often lie close to the trail. They are an oportunity for a meal, and to replenish stocks of water and food. You can rest there. Sometimes trail angels live in such places. They are people who offer accommodation for free. I was carrying with me a two-three day stock of water and food. Another option is a water deposit. In such case the stock is waiting for us in some agreed place. The delivering person is for example a taxi driver from the nearest settlement.
Campsites are designated and marked. Usually they do not differ from surrounding environment except from leftovers from previous people. Camping is popular among Israeli people. They arrive before night, setting up their equipment, light fires. It is accompanied by music. Negev Desert is a home for many animal species. Among them are: Nubian ibex, hyrax, fox, wolf, onager, hedgehog, viper, dorcas gazelle, snake, scorpion, camel. Some are active at night. Thus it is important to camp only in designated places and not anywhere. During my hiking I met only Nubian ibex apart from some birds and insects. I was sleeping in a tent. Sometimes Israelis sleep only in sleeping bags.
The desert part I was walking through was marked very well. The INT symbol is tricolour vertical strips. From left to right - orange, blue, white - this sequence indicates hiking to the North, to the snow-capped top of the Mount Hermon. The opposite sequence - white, blue, orange - indicates hiking to the desert. Sometimes INT bears the same path for other trails. So it is normal to see different colours.
Landscapes of the Negev Desert impressed me a lot. Diversity of rock formation and their colours astonished me every day. It is also a place, in a certain sense, lively. Israelis are open-minded, hospitable and of mixed nationalities. They are curious about foreigners. Sometimes, during conversation, it turned out that they were connected with Poland. Their roots are of Polish origin. I think that like every journey, this journey has engraved a deep mark in me by opening myself to other people.