Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Baboo and Chewbaca on the Israel National Trail

We met two extraordinary individuals at the 'neto this week: Baboo and Chewbaca (their trail names) who were hiking the Israel National Trail. Baboo, who was given the Swahili name Baboo Simba (Grandfather Lion) by his native porters while on safari in Kenya, has been hiking the world for the past five years. He began when his wife died tragically of cancer, and he has since hiked throughout the world. In his past life he lived on Guam, Hawaii, and in Los Angeles, where he was a commercial kitchen designer. Little vestige of his past life remains when you talk to him. He is through and through a hiker of the world.

Baboo Simba, hiker of the world, aka Jerry Hill

When not hiking the world, Baboo spends much of his time hiking the Appalachian Trail where he met Chewbaca. Chewbaca got his trail name because, well, he looks like Chewbaca: strong, tough, direct and hirsute, with Jewish dreadlocks covering his top. Chewbaca made Aliyah to Israel from the US, served in the IDF, and then began his own hiking journey, as many Israelis do, through India, Tibet, Southeast Asia and the United States, where he met Baboo on the Appalachian Trail. They agreed to meet up in Israel to hike the Israel National Trail, a relatively little known trail that snakes 600 miles through the length of the country from Eilat in the south to Kiryat Shimona in the north.

Chewbaca, aka Danny ben Dovid

The desert part of the trail is brutal, requiring 6-9 liters of water to be carried per day, together with all the rest of one's camping gear. I could barely lift Chewbaca's pack, never mind haul it on my back the 10-15 kilometers they travel per day.

The trail passes through Mitzpe Ramon, where they took a couple of rest days, which is how, through Divine Providence, we came to meet and become good friends. While they were here Chewbaca's girlfirend and soon to be fiance (I think) came down to meet them from Tel Aviv. She is not a hiker so only has her regular name, Elisheva. She, too, made Aliyah relatively recently. I don't remember how she and Chewey met.

Baboo, Elisheva, and Chewbaca outside the CafeNeto in Mitzpe Ramon

Today Baboo and Chewbaca resumed their hike. It was not the best of conditions. A Chamsin was blowing, a hot southerly wind from the desert, that was strong and kicked up alot of dust. It was humid and the sky was an overcast, ugly brown. It will be a quartering wind as the trail heads northeast out of Mitzpe Ramon.

 Path of the Israel National Trail

I have agreed to  be their "trail angel", bringing them water and supplies at predetermined points along the trail that are car accessible to lighten their load. Baboo calls such fortuitous events "hiking magic". Wonderful and amazing things that befall hikers along the way. It was certainly magic for us to meet them, and I am sure this is the start of a beautiful relationship.

Israel National Trail Guide Book

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