DECEMBER 23, 2020 : It had the promise of a wonderful day. The weather was perfect – a sunny, warm winter day. We had been to Nahal Og many years ago, and knew it was an awesome place. Our eldest grandson, Lavi, once again joined us and that is always a pleasure. Yes, it had the promise of a wonderful day. But promises are not always kept – and a few errors along the way, definitely dampened the experience.
Nahal Og is a loop walk in a desert canyon near Jericho in the Dead Sea area. Twelve years ago, when we were first there, I remember thinking it was one of the nicest walks ever – through a narrow river canyon that includes climbing down several dry waterfalls on ladders fixed into the rocks. This time, I printed out instructions about the trail that suggested doing the path in the opposite direction – climbing up the waterfalls, instead of going down. Error number one.
The start of the Nahal Og walk is near the entrance to Kibbutz Almog. There is a parking lot up on the hill overlooking the wadi and when we arrived, there were at least a dozen cars already there. We would not be alone.
We made our way down a very steep hill into the riverbed. Towards the bottom, we met two couples, younger than us – maybe in their fifties, coming in the opposite direction. They told us they got as far as the first ladder, and decided it was not for them. That should have been a hint of what was to come.
The first part of walk along the green trail, was in the wide river bottom. There was no water, but the earth was damp from recent rains.
Unfortunately, here the problems began. Problem number one. When we hike, we use hiking poles. It is difficult to hold both a camera and a hiking pole in the same hand. Usually, the camera is around my wrist, and it bangs into the pole as I walk. I don’t have a good grip on the pole, because I am also trying to steady the camera. If anyone has a solution for this, I would love to hear. For this walk, I decided to try something different – I brought along the pouch belt I use when I walk the dog to hold my phone. The idea was that I would put my camera there and have it easily available as I walk holding the poles. My error was assuming it would fit – it did fit, but because it is much bigger than the phone, soon the zipper on the pouch broke and there was nothing left to hold the camera. I was back to hanging the camera on my wrist and left wondering how I can take my phone and listen to my podcasts when walking the dog without my pouch. Little error. Bigger error yet to come.
After several hundred meters, the narrow canyon begins.
Here you walk curving through the gorge, with the desert cliffs towering over you on all sides. Gorgeous.
We soon reached the bottom of the first waterfall. Not so high, but not straight up the way I imagined it was going to be. Towards the top a large bolder stuck out, and you need to fold your body around the bolder while climbing up. Not as easy as I had thought. Lavi climbed to the top – no problem.
My turn next – slowly climbing – I reached a shelf to rest halfway up. The earth was spinning – my dizziness was back and my confidence in climbing was disappearing. I felt clammy and sweaty. Continue or turn back? Mark offers to take my backpack to make it easier for me. As I handed it to him, the decision was made for me. Both my water bottles fall out of the backpack and land in the gravel at the base of the waterfall. My Contingo water bottles, shleped to Israel from America, the bottles which I love and use daily are lying at the bottom. Stupid me – next time don’t bring your best bottles to the hike.
In the distance, loud music was approaching. Seemed like a busload of people would soon be upon us. I needed to decide, and I decided to return. This was only the first of four waterfalls, who knows how the others might be. My ego is bruised. I offer Mark and Lavi that they should continue, but they decline and will return to the car with me. I have no trouble going down the waterfall, and interestingly, Mark tells me that for him going down is hard. He is surefooted going up, but loses it going down. Another thing we are opposites at.
Soon a bus load of Haredi girls reaches us at the bottom of the waterfall. They are traveling with a loudspeaker system and music that seems so abrasive and out of place in the usually tranquil setting. I wonder how the girls, all dressed in blue button-down shirts with collars and long pleated black skirts are going to manage the climb. We do not stay to see.
Once out of the narrow canyon, and back to the wide river bottom, we stop for lunch. Lavi and Mark practice flying the drone. Lavi catches on quickly and even manages to fly the drone inside the narrow canyon for some spectacular footage.
Mark then makes his mistake. His big, expensive error. Once, when flying the drone in the fields near our house, he discovered that it comes with several pre-set flying patterns – a circle, a figure-eight, etc. Last time we used the drone, he looked for these pre-sets in the application and did not find them. Yesterday, he saw where they were and set the drone to fly a circle. Unfortunately, once the flight pattern is started, you lose control of flying the drone until it is done. As the drone flew the circle, it flew directly into the canyon wall, crashed, and shattered. Broken beyond repair. No more drone. Big, expensive error.
During lunch, Lavi also discovered that the sandwich he brought was spoiled (could anything else go wrong?) and ate only pretzels for lunch. We had a hungry grandchild on our hands. On the way to the hike, we stopped at a gas station not too far away, and I had noticed there was a kosher bakery open there. We headed back to get Lavi something to eat, only to discover the place was now closed (of course…). Luckily, a falafel stand with a kashrut certificate was open, and they even had schnitzel and chips, finally making one hungry boy very happy.
Not far from the gas station, we had passed signs for The Good Samaritan. The Good Samaritan is a museum of mosaics, collected from Jewish, Christian, and Samaritan sites in the area.
We arrived at the museum to find it deserted. The gates and building were open – but there was nobody there. Even the entrance cashier was empty. It was weird, but that did not stop us. We walked right in and started looking around.
The museum is located at the site of the Good Samaritan Inn. According to legend, a traveler was robbed and beaten by bandits while on the road to Jerusalem. Several pilgrims ignored him as he lay bleeding on the ground. However, one man helped him – he placed the collapsed man on his donkey and took him to the nearby inn and paid for him to stay for a few days to recuperate. This man who helped, was known as the Good Samaritan – someone who helps others and expects nothing in return. The building that houses the museum, is the inn.
Overall, we had a nice day. Not the day we planned, and despite the errors along the way, we were glad to break routine, spend the day together, and return home healthy. Maybe one day we will try Nahal Og again – next time in the opposite direction…