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.
Tuesday, September 6 - Karagol Lake with Shani and Danie
Karahan Pension, Barhal. We woke up at 4:00AM. It was dark. What am I doing here? Five years? Just the two of us?
What if I cannot keep up with him, what if I am not able to climb the high mountains? Carry this heavy backpack? Don’t I look ridiculous carrying my life, my home on my back?
And Benny said,” Why do you always worry about what other people think?”
I looked at Benny. I love him so much. I am traveling with my best friend, my soul-mate. Life gave me a second chance.
The famous Kachkar Mountains. Young Israelis who completed their military service were here to climb the mountains. We were advised to take a taxi to the start of the trail, a place called Nazara.
The dirt road was very bumpy as the taxi drove over rocks and running water.
We finally stopped and the driver pointed up the mountain and said ‘Nazara’. We saw a few wooden structures. Was that Nazara? Where do we go? And the driver pointed up and left. There were no signs. No clear paths. Nobody around.
I was following Benny and Benny was following the marks that the mules left.
That must be the path. Whenever I saw a pile of manure I was excited! We were on the right path.
Magnificent views, jugged mountain picks above, water rushing down. Purple and yellow flowers, delicious raspberries and blackberries. The climb was very steep and strenuous. The ground was muddy and we had to maneuver our way from rock to rock. We noticed some stone-wooden structures that were built into the mountains. They are called Yaylas. The yayla is a ‘summer home’ where the villagers
stay for the summer, tend their cows and sheep and grow the crops.
The Yaylas are built from whatever material is available in the mountains: stones, logs, mud. The stairs are made from a tree trunk; the steps were carved into the wood.
As I am huffing and puffing up the mountains, we were passed by an older woman, a boy and a girl, three cows and six sheep that were going up the mountain. They did not have hiking shoes and they did not seem to mind the rocks or the mud, they just kept walking in a very fast pace. Later we saw them cutting grass to feed their animals.
Further up the mountains we encountered two women who were watching the cows while knitting. Knitting in the Katchkar Mountains. What a sight! An old man with a very large basket on his back went into a Yayla. We smelled cooking and heard a crying baby. It is cold and isolated on these mountains. Yet people make their home up here.
The hike was long and difficult. From far we saw Rafi and Shani from Israel, who took the wrong turn. They walked toward us and we continued to the top together. Eating more raspberries. We stopped to catch our breath and marveled at the view. Water falls, snow on top of the mountains. Benny and Rafi were walking fast, Shani and I trailed behind.
Which way was up? Shani said to go straight up, Rafi said to go around. We were the only people on this enormous mountain. We were looking for the road signs that previous travelers left. They are called cairn or Rujum in Hebrew-Arabic? It is a pile of rocks to mark the way. I could barely walk when I heard Benny shouts “its here”. We still had quite a way to go and my legs did not want to go, my fingers froze.
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At the top, we were at 2800 meter, looking at the famous Karagol Lake, surrounded by snow. Around the lake, jugged picks called “The Six Fingers”. We sat for lunch. Shani and Rafi had a “gazia” and they cooked delicious coffee.
Time to go back, the taxi was coming at 3:30pm to pick us up. Shani and Rafi would walk to Barhal and they stayed behind to make more Rujum to help future travelers. The way back was difficult, I slipped on small rocks as we crossed rivers and mud. My knees were trembling. Where was the path? We lost the path, we were in the middle of turnip field, ‘be careful not to fall into an irrigation ditch’, Benny advised. I wanted to sit and rest but Benny was rushing me because the driver was probably waiting for us. We still had a long way to get down. Benny spotted the taxi down below. Benny put two fingers to his mouth and whistle to the driver. How would I make it all the way down? We were 45 minutes late.
Back at Karahal Pension. Hot tea. We were safe at home.
Shani and Rafi arrived after 7:30, they were very tired and said that walking back from Nazara was too much. At dinner time the place was full of new guests. An organized tour from England, most people were from New Zealand. Stuffed pepper for dinner. Ahmed brought a second serving for everyone. I was retiring to the room, Benny stayed with Rafi, Shani, Debbie, Mendi, Daniel and his girlfriend and enjoyed the conversation with the young crowd.
I will start a journal, send stories home.