דף הבית > Alone i did it
Alone i did it
הוצאה: צורי קינג הוצאה עצמית
תאריך הוצאה: 2020
קטגוריה: פנאי טיולים ומסעות
מספר עמודים: 284

Alone i did it

         
תקציר

WARNING: It will infect you with a serious wander lust that might send you traveling all over the world"

ALONE I DID IT is a fascinating adventure story embedded with exciting sub stories of the author's travels through the world's most breathtaking landscapes from the Himalayas, where he experienced a character-changing encounter with local orphans, to the majestic landscapes of Italy, France, and Switzerland.

The writer's journey was unique, a once-in-a-lifetime event, and is presented in a way that makes the reader share his astonishment, thrill, and suffering, and will maybe even drive readers to mount their bikes and embark on a similar journey. Little did he know what effect that journey would have and the transformation it would bring about. During those seemingly endless hours of riding, he encountered the most unique and fascinating aspects of his country".

פרק ראשון


DAY 1
"No one has ever become poor by giving."

Anne Frank

March 27, 2016

Starting point: Ashkelon

Destination: Kibbutz Kramim

Distance: 70 kilometers

Many things have changed since the morning I embarked on my journey. Issues such as love, happiness, and family life took on a new meaning that intensified as I rode on.

Somehow, I happened to decide to take to the road precisely at the turn of the season, when the trees were changing their colors and the earth was changing its smell. I knew this journey would change me, both inwardly and outwardly, and I had been looking forward to that feeling for a long time.

It was nearly 06:00 when sunbeams started to peep through the shutters, drawing a golden stripe all over the window. I rose and acted

mechanically, taking a shower, brushing my teeth, and putting on my cycling outfit – cozy, cushioned pants to help my butt survive the long ride, and a white, DriFIT T-shirt imprinted with the trip logo on the front, and the slogan on the back: “When was the last time you helped a fellow human being?" which I wanted everybody driving by to notice.

I was all set, ready, and excited to go, my only wish being to get started, leaving my doorstep for the wide world. All the gear I had been toiling to acquire for long weeks was packed beside my bed. Peeping outside the window to check on the weather I was about to face, I smiled. I saw wet roads and blue, scarcely-clouded skies, which promised a clear morning following a rainy night.

My experience from similar trips had taught me that first steps are very significant. All's well that starts well, while bad starts are more challenging and do not always lead to the planned ending, but always require exceptional mental strength. I remember very well that attempt when I, due to spontaneous stupidity, decided to jog with a backpack all the way from the beach at Ashkelon to the beaches of Tel Aviv. That idea enchanted me back then, yet it took me no longer than a thirty-minute run near Nitzanim beach to realize how shitty it was going to be. It was the hottest day of the year, with the humidity of a Costa Rican rainforest. By the time I approached Palmachim beach, I had run out of water, twisted my ankle, and had to beg rides with my tail between my legs after running 50km in sweltering heat. It made me as frustrated as Sisyphus.

Since that debacle, I had become more experienced and learned my lessons. Hurriedly packing the last missing items – a cell phone, toilet paper, and some energy snacks – I texted my best friend, Eitan, who had asked to join me on my first day: "I'm off. See you at the southern gateway of Ashkelon."

Then I sipped my hot, black coffee and devoured my porridge oats and yogurt that I had stored the day before in the fridge.

Excitedly, I gave the street a farewell glance. I live on the third floor of an apartment building in the Barnea Quarter, one of Ashkelon's oldest districts, on a hilltop overlooking the Mediterranean to the west and the Judean Mountains to the east, views that have always filled me with tranquility.

I went through the door to the landing, which was still dark due to the early hour, to tackle the stairs carrying my bike. With it weighing no less than forty-five kilograms, I had to struggle with each and every step. Many minutes later I found myself in the street, as ready and thrilled as a boy before his Bar Mitzvah.

Just as expected, the weather was perfect, the air soaked with the familiar smell of wet soil and the forecast promising a clear day. It was still cold, so I put on several glowing layers of cyclists' winter clothing.

My excitement was so overwhelming that even the pigeons perching on the rooftops of Har Knaan Street who cooed me “Good morning!” seemed to be observing me as if they knew that I was on the verge of a great adventure. Closing my eyes, I let the earbuds deep in my ears pound my head with the sounds of Infected Mushroom, one of my favorite Israeli bands. Inhaling two lungfuls of fresh air, I mounted my heavy bike with a somewhat eager heart, and then – I charged on!

Since it was still very early, most of the streets were still deserted. Riding along, I passed by the packs of newspapers and water bottles waiting in front of the local grocery store, and the still-closed post office. It already felt that the Sunday morning frenzy was about to begin. How lucky I would be to skip it all, I thought to myself.

My bike felt heavy but kept steady on the road, feeding me with familiar wanderlust, that addictive desire to ride into the unknown. Suddenly, I started recalling moments from my previous trips, making me wonder why I didn’t go on such trips more frequently. Apparently, the answer was that, if I did, such a journey would have felt less enchanting, and therefore not have thrilled me so strongly. Actually, I cannot tell exactly which way is better.

Ten minutes later, I was out of Ashkelon, riding south on Route 4. The road was perfectly clear, as if somebody had carefully cleared it for Day One of my journey. At about 07:30, I met Eitan at the city's southern entrance.

He was a kibbutznik, a Yemenite with dark, curly hair, and though he was my classmate, he hadn’t changed much since we went to the same religious high school in Kibbutz Yavneh. We had shared some dreams, such as traveling around the world the way we did sixteen years ago, flying to Australia and New Zealand, where we had some unforgettable experiences. Another dream we shared was about opening a hostel on some alpine crest. Since our high school days, we had always ridiculed the way vital issues such as money, love or sex were so minimally addressed by those who educated us – that is, our teachers and parents alike. In this respect, too, we offered each other a sympathetic ear.

"Morning, buddy! What's up? Been waiting long?" I asked Eitan while dismounting.

"It’s all good!" he replied. "I only got here a couple of minutes ago. You know the way it works in a kibbutz when you need a ride: it took ages to find the keys in the secretary's cabinet. But never mind, we sailed through. What about you? All set? Did you see how lucky we are to skip the rain?"

"Yeah, very lucky!" I agreed, suggesting we should take a selfie on the foggy roadside.

A professional photographer, Eitan accepted immediately, taking his camera out and shooting a series of pictures. Then we rode on to Sderot, a town where we expected my parents to be waiting for us with a small breakfast.

Eitan rode an ordinary city bike, unfit for a fast road ride, so we traveled at a convenient speed of fifteen to 20kph on average.

We were still on Route 4, on the outskirts of Sderot when my cellphone rang. It was my mother, eager to know my whereabouts and when I expected to arrive at the meeting point.

At first, I had wanted to just forget about my mom and dad, since on this trip I was on my own and my parents had nothing to do with it. Yet I hesitated to do that, knowing that my parents – my mother in particular – would respond overdramatically, which I wanted to avoid.

After a twenty-kilometer ride, we reached the agreed meeting point, and my parents were already looming on the horizon. They were difficult to miss, especially my mother, whose highly emotional character drove her to cry out loud.

"Tzuri! Tzuri, we're here! Can you see us? Well done!" she cried, waving her hands.

They were standing at the bus stop where they had already set the makeshift breakfast table. I remember laughing endlessly at that surreal scene: two brown, wooden trays bearing rows of ten identical triangular sandwiches, each of different flavor, wrapped in plastic bags, alongside one yeast cake, sesame cookies, bananas, apples, two four-packs of yogurt, a pile of at least twenty of my favorite British snacks, namely Mars bars and Kit-Kats, and finally, a silver thermos filled with coffee, ready for pouring.

"Please, Mommy, don't be so over-dramatic," I begged her, telling my parents that Eitan and I only planned to spend a few minutes with them, though I thanked them carefully for the abundance of food they had brought us.

"Didn't you go a little overboard with the food?” I had to ask, noticing the incredible feast.

"Well, grab as much as you can, I don't want you to run out of food on the road," my mother replied, concerned.

After spending a couple of minutes on the consumption of carbs in the form of sandwiches, cakes, and cookies, Eitan and I somehow managed to force all the chocolate my parents had brought into our saddlebags and, just when we were about to ride off, my parents wanted me to give them a few minutes more.

"Well, Eitan, are we off?" I asked my companion.

"I'm ready when you are," he replied, putting his helmet on.

After some hugging and kissing with my parents, we rode off, entering the town of Sderot.

We kept riding south toward Kibbutz Ruhamah. Upon leaving the town, Eitan asked me a question.

"Do you remember the song we used to play whenever we wanted to feel like we were abroad for a while?"

"Sure, it was that hit of the Balagan band… what was its name?" I struggled.

"It was ‘Abroad’ sung by Dana Berger," Eitan replied, starting to hum the familiar tune. Riding alongside me on the curb, Eitan found that song on his cell phone to play us all the way through the Western Negev hills.

A few minutes later, we rode by Ariel Sharon's ranch, Kibbutz Dorot, and Kibbutz Ruhamah, approaching the crossroads before Beit Kama junction. All the while we had been yelling out loud the refrain, "You probably won't come, but this is unimportant; imagine it's abroad, and that's okay."

Traveling on the southern roads during the first few hours of our trip reminded me somewhat of my six-month journey across Europe several years earlier. Yet this journey had an entirely different purpose from any journey I had made since then. In those journeys, I was completely absorbed in the trip itself, detaching myself almost completely from the outer world. I had decided to do this trip on my own, with no escort car. Despite being a great help and providing confidence, an escort car also makes you seriously dependent on external factors and forces you to worry about many more things, such as finding the driver's food and accommodation, as well as fueling the car, which significantly increases the trip's logistical problems and expenses.

This time, my purpose was to generate an altruistic discourse – to make people think about when they had done anything for their fellow man recently. I appropriately named this trip the Heart to Heart Journey and, as I put it in the fund-raising leaflets that I planned to hand out along my route:

When was the last time you did anything for your fellow man? When was the last time you paused your daily business to give your fellow man a thought? I am neither preaching to you nor criticizing you. Rather, I am motivated by a genuine wish to make our society more open-hearted and generous.

The leaflet went on, declaring, Giving, helping, and contributing to the community is an amazing source of satisfaction.

This trip stood for all the values that are the focus of my daily life: protecting the natural environment, a healthy way of life, and social solidarity.

This would be the very first time a cyclist had ridden around Israel over the course of several weeks. I was starting from Ashkelon, riding south to Mitzpe Ramon, and would go all the way to Eilat.

From there, I planned to turn north toward Jerusalem, Katzrin, Nahariya, and Haifa, then turn back to Ashkelon, covering a total distance of about 1200km. During the trip, I hoped to raise as much money as possible in aid of needy families and homeless people.

How would it work?

Everyone who wanted to donate could make a money transfer to a special bank account or pay me in cash on meeting me during the journey. You could also donate through a PayBox application, available on any smartphone. The donations would be transferred to a special account on the app, allowing me to buy necessary items for the needy.

The trip itself: I would ride on the peripheral highways of the country carrying all my food with me, plus clothing and camping equipment, and sleeping outdoors except on days when I would pay my family or friends a visit. This was in order to minimize the costs so that the bulk of the donations would reach those unfortunate families and homeless people who could use any possible help.

That day's schedule was to reach Kramim, an unusual kibbutz where orthodox and secular Jews lived together, realizing ideals such as conservation, tolerance, and orthodox-secular cooperation. My plan was to spend the night with my good friends, Shlomi and Daniela, starting off the following morning for a long, challenging ride to Mitzpe Ramon, 100km away.

I was riding with Eitan, to the sound of Metallica's “Nothing Else Matters” on Eitan's cell phone, a song we loved and found calming. Then I realized it was a grave mistake to have scheduled a lecture for that night. I couldn't have imagined how much energy this riding would take and that, on reaching my destination, my top priority would not be speaking to a crowd, but rather to eat and get some sleep. However, since I had already scheduled the lecture, I had no choice.

At 12:30, we made it to Beit Kama Junction.

"Buddy, I do appreciate you coming along. It was too short! Too bad you can't ride on with me," I told Eitan.

"Too damn bad. It was great fun, though this ride’s made my butt sore as hell. I can’t figure out how you’ll keep going like this for another three weeks," he replied, massaging his behind.

"Why don't you join me again later on?" I suggested.

"I doubt it. You know – work, wife, kids, and all that… actually, you don't," he replied with his usual sarcasm. "But I'll try my best, and if I can, I'll let you know."

I waited with him for his bus to arrive. When it did, we shook hands like two businessmen striking a deal, a gesture I always found odd among friends, and concluded our farewell with a warm hug.

It felt as if we had been riding together for an entire week, rather than five hours.

Once his bus had gone out of sight, I crossed Route 6, heading east toward Sansana Forest on the slopes of the Judean Mountains. Here, I planned to rest and eat a little but, since it was a transitional season, the weather was rather whimsical. That afternoon was hotter than usual, so I had to let my body adjust itself to the effort, avoiding overstrains right from the start. Therefore, my planned schedule guaranteed a gradual increase in strain. Experience of many years had taught me that it takes careful planning and addressing the whimsical forces of nature – namely the weather – to survive such a journey.

Against it, one is powerless. Thus, I had prepared and spared neither money nor effort in obtaining high-quality equipment and scheduling start-offs when the weather was as friendly as possible.

Route 3252, leading to Kibbutz Kramim, is a scenic road. Starting in a small valley surrounded by green wheat fields that make the road look wild, it ends with a steady, steep climb toward the community of Sansana, located on the ridgeline and surrounded almost entirely with Aleppo pines.

While I was slowly pedaling uphill, my mind started running through ways of gathering all my energy for my first lecture of this trip, and of convincing my friends to make donations to enable me to complete it. I had no idea what I’d plunged myself into or how my audience would respond to the presentation I had worked so hard to make. The idea of speaking to a crowd of strangers felt awkward and challenging, and I became overwhelmed with anxiety. I remember wanting nothing but to get that lecture over with so that I could focus on riding to Eilat. It felt like a pain in the neck that I wished to get over as soon as possible.

I arrived at Kramim 70km later, toward 16:00,.

I have known Shlomi and Daniela since we went to the same elementary school. A couple of years before, they had left Kadesh Barnea, a community located on the Egyptian border, with their children, to start a new life in Kramim. I could always communicate with them and, whenever we met, whether on a trip or a desert weekend, we bonded strongly. They always kept an open house, always amazing me with manifestations of their generosity. I was so happy to have friends like them, already familiar with my numerous eccentricities, so it warmed my heart to know I was about to see them. Arriving at their home, I rested my bike against their wall and knocked on the door. Answering the door, Daniela couldn't believe I’d made it with all the equipment I was carrying.

She immediately started helping me with the sound system for my lecture. Meanwhile, the smell of her vegan dinner provoked my already mounting appetite.

At 21:00, I set off for the local club, hoping to see some real crowds there, since it was important for me to drive home the purpose of this trip to people. Despite my great excitement, my weariness started to take its toll on me, and my thoughts were split between the lecture and next day's uphill ride, during which I was about climb all the way to Mitzpe Ramon, braving the wintry weather, as I was about to find out the hard way.

The lecture was successful, collecting several hundreds dollars, in cheques and money transfers despite technical mishaps such as power outages, screen failures, and software bugs throughout the lecture – as usual. Somewhat dispirited by these annoyances, I realized that there was nothing I could do except learn from my experience and hope to avoid them next time.

After the lecture, I spent some time with Shlomi, my old friend since I was seven years of age, laughing our way down memory lane, but also talking of plans for the distant future. The lighthearted atmosphere was only enhanced by the hot tea and Daniela's quite addictive homemade cookies. We went on dreaming together about motorbiking through northern India, a dream we will probably realize someday. Just before retiring to my bedroom, I presented to Shlomi my next day's route, as well as the challenging weather I expected to deal with. Next thing I remember, I was getting up in the dead of night to pee. Then I was back in the cozy bed, where fatigue combined with the silence to knock me out, with the light – and my shoes – still on.

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