Shifra, 64, and Benny, 66, spend the last five years backpacking around the world, visiting 35 countries.
They spent time with primitive tribes in Papua Indonesia, the Zulu in Africa and the Hmong in Vietnam and China. They trekked in many parts of the world such as Nepal, Myanmar and New Zealand. They camped in the Everest Base Camp and in Patagonia. They attended the Dali Lama teaching and helped built a school in Ghana.
A siddur and a Chumash were packed in their backpack and they tried to find a Jewish Community wherever they went. They celebrated Shabbat and the Jewish Holidays in many parts of the world, including Iquitos in the jungles of Peru, and Luang Prabang in Laos.
They emailed a weekly “Travel Journal” to their family and friends, and we will publish selected journals.
Travel Journal #1 September 2005
Benny said, “Let’s take a trip around the world.”
“What do you mean,” I said, “what about the kids, work, family and how could we afford it and what about taking care of our retirement?”
And Benny said, “If there is a will, we will find a way. The way we travel, it will be cheaper for us to travel than to live in Santa Monica.”
“You mean stop working and have no home? Are we going to become homeless? What are we going to do with all our stuff? And what about the kids and grandkids, who is going to help Karen with babysitting? And I am going to miss Dean’s and Owen’s birthdays and all the family celebrations and the holidays…”
And Benny replied,” I am not going to wait for my knees to fail and my back to hurt, I want to do it while we can.”
Our possessions were reduced to two backpacks. There was a long process of elimination: What do we really need? Two pants, two T-shirts, three underwear, three socks, light jacket, heavy jacket, hiking shoes, hat, swimming suit, sun-glasses, water purifier, “Lonely Planet” for Turkey, books to read, small Humash and Siddur, journal to write, pen, almonds and dry fruit, first-aid kit, electric fork, finjan, 2 stainless steel bowls, 2 forks, one spoon, small knife, flashlight, good camera and charger, tooth-brush, hair brush, razor, scissor, tweezers, Vaseline, toilet paper, address books, credit card and money. Anything else we will get along the way.
Story continues after the jump.
Map courtesy: www.artishok.co.il
We decided to start our journey at the North-East corner of Turkey and enjoy the Kachkar Mountains before it gets too cold.
We flew from Istanbul to Erzurum.
At Istanbul Airport we stood behind a young couple that was also going to Erzurum.
They look so fit in their hiking shoes, backpacks, and shorts… I felt awkward for a moment, asking myself, “What am I doing here? Don’t I look ridiculous with my oversized backpack? Are not we too old for that?”
But there was no going back. We are going to do it! Five years? We will see…
Our destination was the small village of Barhal, which is located on the Kachkar Mountains.
The road was beautiful, we drove along the river, cliffs, mountains, rice fields, orchards, meadows, small villages along the way, hanging on the mountains.
Two Turkish passengers got off the dolmush (mini-van); they were unloading a washing machine from the roof of the car. I did not see any houses around, where were they going? How were they going to carry it? There was barely a road.
The driver said “Barhal”. Where is Barhal? Is that it? I saw a few houses??? Where do we go? Then I saw a sign on the road “Karahan Pension Mehmet… 1 KM.”
I told the driver “Mehmet” and he said OK, OK.
He continued driving up, up, up and all we saw was a narrow road and rushing rivers and big trees. The driver started honking and honking. He stopped the car and said “OK.”Backpacks were taken off the van roof and we saw a small sign pointing up the hill: Karahan Pension 50 meter.
“Great”, I thought, “we found the place”. It started to rain and with our heavy backpacks we started climbing. Steep climb, water running down the hill, mud, rocks and we went up and up and did not see anything. “Are we lost?” I was thinking.
Further up we saw a construction. Benny climbed up and knocked on the door. He walked around the building and we waited and waited and waited and nobody came. I could barely balance myself. I was standing on two rocks water was running down the hill.
Suddenly a young boy appeared from nowhere and gestured us to follow him. We climbed up to a higher construction. The boy opened a door and said ‘your room.’
Nice clean room with attached bathroom. We loved our new room. It was rainy outside but it was cozy and warm in our room. When the rain finally stopped we go out and our young host asked: tea?
Yes, of course, and we went up to the balcony to have our tea.
Tomorrow we will climb to Karagol Lake.