An Israel Classic on demand
Going on tour in your home country Israel is always a treat for us, so naturally when Carlos my pal called to say he wanted to do a pre-tour run I was more than happy to accommodate him. Carlos only has 4 days for us to do a 9-day Israel Classic tour but a he agrees, we will cram things in. So, we set a course that will take in most of the major attractions knowing we may need to leave some out on the way, but for sure will have some very long days.
Carlos came through the southern border crossing between Aqaba and Eilat. This is the southernmost tip of Israel, so I had to get down there to meet him with 2 bikes. The TAMARBIKES Logistics took care of the new 2018 Matt Black Super Tenere XT1200ZE for Carlos and it was trucked down to Eilat. I decided to ride down on my 2017 Grey and Blue Super Tenere XT1200ZE. Zikhron Yaakov, my home, is a small village on mount Carmel, a 413 KM ride to Eilat. I set out Tuesday afternoon for the ride. The ST did this with relative ease and comfort even with a full load of luggage for the week ahead. I rolled in to Eilat just before 19:00. Met a friend for dinner and packed it in early to get ready for the long couple of days ahead.Getting ready to leave
Day 1 – Eilat – To Jerusalem 500km
There is a big desert north of Eilat – The Negev. Its an amazing beautiful and full of ‘surprises’ if you know where you are going. Geology, archaeology, culture and great riding are all part of its characteristics. Carlos came across the border (the first) from Jordan a little after 09:00 and after a short briefing, packing the bikes and getting our first hydration for the day we headed south and west up into the Eilat granite mountains running up right next to Egyptian Border (The second). These granite rocks are the backdrop to Eilat creating a dramatic effect of a town nestled between mountain and sea, in this case the turquoise Red Sea.
It’s a climb from sea level to the Ovda plateau at 500 meters elevation. Roads roll from side to side and you are sure that the middle of the tire is getting very little use. Once on the Plateau things level out and roads straightened out and become longer yet a little cooler (only 36 degrees!). Once past the 75km marker, we are heading back down into the Syria -Africa rift and temperatures sore to 42 when we stop for our fist break at 101 km station.Rider over looking the Sinai desert.
The second stage of the day is about the great crater (aka Yeruham crater) and the Scorpions Ascent. The Ascent is part of the old abandoned road from Tel Aviv to Eilat and was opened in the fifties by the engineer’s corps. We arrived to find it partially washed away by the recent flash floods, but no real challenge for the Super Teneres. Up on the pegs and off we went. This series of switchbacks overlooking breath-taking views is only the first course before entering a small canyon and finding yourself on the floor of the Great Crater. This is an erosion crater which makes it unique to this part of the world and ‘jam packed’ with geological phenomena. But it’s the road and outlook at the top that set the tone for the day and wrap up the ride through this amazing desert.
Lunch in Arad’s famous Muza bikers stop restaurant with its great burgers and cold lemonade, and we have more than half behind us and its only 14:00. After lunch we are pushing north. Scenery changes dramatically as we head to inner plains with their green crops and low hills. Temperatures are cooler, and bikes are running on great deserted tarmac at high speeds. Carlos and I are getting to learn each other’s riding style and feeling more confident. He is a well-seasoned adventure rider so there is nothing I can throw at him that he can’t easily take.riding the twisties up to Jerusalem
Last leg of the day is the climb up the Judean hills into Jerusalem. I choose the back roads that will take us in from what I know to be some of the best riding roads. These are, and we end the day with a wide grin on our faces inside the helmets as we approach the most fascinating city on earth.
After the mandatory shower we venture out to the Mahane Yehuda market for the famous authentic Jerusalem Mixed Grill. At 22:00 we are in bed and fast asleep after a very challenging day.
Day 2 – Jerusalem – Kibutz Senir – 320km
We spend the first part of the day walking the Old City of Jerusalem. For me it is a first experience every time and I lose myself between the people, the alleys, the markets and the holy sites. Getting a first-time visitor to grasp the intensity of this epicenter of religion and history is always a fascinating challenge and with Carlos its no exception. It’s a spiritual as well as a sensual experience even to non-religious person. One finally gets it – This is where it all begun.
We explore Mt. Zion, home to the room of the Last Supper, King David’s tomb, the Western Wall. Then we go to the The Temple Mount with the Mosque of Omar and El Aqsa on it, and then through the Via Dolorosa right up to the Holy Sepulchre. These mega sites all get crammed in to a 4-hour walk. Truth be said this really needs 3 days to get it right, but as we say ‘sunlight is diminishing’ and we still have a small country to cross.
So, we head back to the hotel checkout and head out. We’re taking the central toll road #6 highway going north. Within an hour we are north taking a sandwich at the service station. Then the amazing Gilboa view road with its birds-eye view of the Jezreel Valley, down the twisty 6666 to Beit Shean and from there up onto the Golan hs to the Peace look out, one of the most amazing spots overlooking the Sea of Galilee. We get some great footage on these twisties and continue north to the a volcanic (non-active) mountain Bental overlooking the Syrian Border (our 3rd). The view is spectacular, it is evening and sun is in the west, the view east over Syria and the photography are exceptional.
We get back on the bikes for our final run through Magdal Shams an Alpine Druze village on mount Hermon, and down to Kibutz Senir to our boutique bungalow. Dinner is great burgers and beer (It is cowboy land here after all) and we hit the sack deeply gratified.
Day 3 – Senir to Haifa – 240km
Kibbutz life is laid back. Breakfast is at 08:00 and our first stop the Banias nature reserve opening at 09:00 is only 5 minutes away so we take this morning easy. After a short hike into the gorge and the magnificent water fall, we are back on the bikes and skimming the Lebanese border (our 4th) which will be the main part of our day as we cut west on the “Northern Road”. This is a real treat of ‘rollercoaster’, outstanding tarmac rolling between lush vegetation and ever-changing inclines and descents. It’s an hour and we are climbing to our final set of switchbacks to the Keshet Cave. The view, the air, the arch are all as they should be, and Carlos is smiling too. We stop at a road side stand for the mandatory Pita and Labane (bread with a sour goat cheese) a local Druze dish, on our way to Rosh Hanikra.
We descend in the ‘steepest cable car on earth’ to these natural lime grottos. It’s a wonderful photo-op as well as house some of Israel history. We cool off in the mandatory movie and finish with coffee and cake at the restaurant overlooking the bay. This is also an official border crossing between Israel and Lebanon so a picture with the sign 120km to Beirut (240km to Jerusalem) and we are ready for a quick run to our Haifa digs. Dinner is at the Libira Microbrewery in the bustling port area and were turn in for the night.
Day 4 – Haifa – Tel Aviv – 200km
If you look at google maps Haifa Tel Aviv is only 100km but we are taking the long way around. The day starts with a walking tour through Acre. A World Heritage city with Crusaders, Templers, Saladin, and Napoleon all featuring from every wall. The displays are world class and the market and little fisherman’s port are all great to walk about and taste Arab Jewish culture mixed together. After the mandatory Humus and Falafel we mount our bikes and climb onto the Carmel mountain for a last look out over the Jezreel valley from the Carmelite monastery atop. We take an off-road ride through the forest just for fun and land in Caesarea. The famous preserved old city and port from the Roman times.
Caesarea was in roman times the most important city in Israel and it was grand beyond the size of the place as a result of Herod’s fetish for large projects. It is also named after Julius Caesar the emperor of Rome at the time. We finish off with a walk-through palace, the Hippodrome, The theater, and the ramparts all as the sun is setting over the Mediterranean Sea.
Dinner in the Jaffa port in Tel Aviv and we run back to the hotel to watch Real Madrid (with the help of Liverpool’s goal keeper Karius) take the Champions league finals.Tel Aviv
Day 5 – goodbyes
Breakfast in the Rothschild Boulevard, return the bike, and hugs and goodbyes. Its been a trying week for me as I’m sure it was for Carlos. Israel is challenging destination. You can spend a lifetime exploring it and still not get enough, bur understanding the interrelations of Religions, Politics, Cultures, Heritage and the people are all fascinating as they can be mind boggling.
All of this is set in some magnificent and diverse scenery, with state of the art infrastructure. Be it hotels, roads, communications, guides, museums or restaurants Israel offers some of the best of each so just take your pick.
Israel has become one of the hottest destinations in the Near East with tourism soaring to an all-time high. More and more airlines making it a direct destination. Flights from China, India, Australia and South America are all on the way adding to the hundreds of flights from Europe and North America already established, many of which are low cost. A new Ramon airport is about to open in the Arava this year increasing the possibilities even more.
TAMARBIKES is ready to accommodate the riders and touring companies wanting to explore this unique destination, and I thank Carlos for being a pioneer in coming and taking the time to prepare his.