Adventure | Riding Israel: Lost in the Holy Land – Part 1
Trials star David Cachon goes on an adventure through one of the world’s most incredible places. Israel offer unparalleled history and culture and a surprising amount of unique biking terrain. Below is the first 3 days of his week long trip to Israel captured with the amazing photography skills of Ismael Ibánez, enjoy!
This is Part 1 of 3
Israel is a country which completely tore up any preconceptions I had about it before I visited. It showed me that the people there have a real love and feel for mountain biking. From the north of the country to the south, we found vibrant local bike shops stocked full of the latest kit. The government had recently closed a lot of mountain trails, making them mountain bike only with the country’s best riders behind the project from the outset. It’s an incredibly historic place and Jerusalem is one of the most captivating places I’ve ever visited. There was an incredible mix of religions, cultures, flavours and smells, the like of which I’d never experienced before.
The alarm clock interrupted a dream that I doubt will recur again easily. Opening my eyes with all my soul, I begin to stumble around the room trying to fit my legs in my pants. Fortunately last night I left everything ready so even a “Walking Dead” zombie could get dressed easily. I take part of my luggage, the rest is already waiting in the car and I leave at full speed to Madrid where I will meet up with Ismael, my closest friend and photographer. I try to put some hardcore on the radio as the clock strikes 5:45 am, this is going to be a hard trip.
I reach the capital, and I hit a traffic jam, I have to pick up Ismael, I park the car and we get on a taxi… the driver freaks out when he sees the huge box that says Rose and is full of stickers like Ion, Poc, SrSuntour, El Gallo, FiveTen, Wallride and La Casa de la Bicicleta … also comes with us.
Once at the airport the guys from the Ministry of Tourism of Israel welcome us and the airline starts its security protocol with a long list of questions focusing basically on who you are and why do you want to travel to Israel. Once on the plane, I took a five hour nap, and I only opened my eye once to check on my colleague, who was reading a photography book, and another time to snack some food that the friendly air hostesses offered to passengers.
Upon landing we go through a new control. We collect our luggage, bicycle included. A friendly representative of the Ministry of Tourism is waiting for us and we walk to the transfer company that would take us from Tel Aviv to Nahariya. Two hours in a comfortable Mercedes with leather seats, blue neons, wifi and, as expected, the AC on, very high.
Once at the hotel we learn that the dinner is over, it is 9: 30 pm, apparently in Israel dinner is early… Did they forget that we are Spaniards? The fruits of a gift basket become my dinner while Ismael works on getting ready the photo equipment. Meanwhile I start to assemble my new Uncle Jimbo that came with some exotic improvements like new products from El Gallo Components and a new SR Suntour fork and shock. After a shower I realize that we have a jacuzzi on the terrace, I think our trip to Israel is beginning to get some color.
The day starts early again. At 6:00 am the alarm on my phone rings…it is time to get up. Our guide, Ran Ganor of Ganor Bikes, is already down and ready to go, so we rush our breakfast buffet at our hotel. By the way, I forgot to mention that in Nahariya we stayed at the Carlton Hotel at one of the main streets in the city. At the hotel buffet we found everything we needed, but most things contained a high dose of spice.
After breakfast we decide to leave for Birya, a semi mountainous area located within an hour’s drive from Nahariya. We find one of the most fun single-track in the country, some technical descent but most of the tour was nice and fun. The ground is a bit dry and dusty, but nevertheless the grip is quite good and the trail is in perfect condition. Later we decide to visit a nearby area called Birya fortress, a fortress in the past that now serves as school for infants. Some picnic tables and an old war bunker entertains our imagination for a while.
In the afternoon we travel to Akko, a coastal city located on the Mediterranean Sea and near Haifa Bay. It is one of the oldest cities in the world, located at the northern end of the Bay of Acre or Akko, name by which the city was known biblically. It is believed to have been founded around 1500 A.C.
The truth is that riding through the streets, up and down the narrow streets with its winding stairs, briefly transported us to those old years when the city shined in the world. After mingling with its people and learning about their traditions, we decide to have coffee at the Turkish Bazaar, a narrow tunnel full of shops and small places where a you can have tea or coffee, and taste of the local specialties. It reminded us of the souks of Morocco. One tip, before buying anything ask for the price first… otherwise it could be quite expensive.
At night, it gets dark at 5: 00 PM, we go to Uri Buri, a restaurant that was recommended to us. This place is run by a charismatic chef, that in this area must represent what Berasategui represents in our country. His books are all over the counters at the entrance and while we taste his seafood specialties he comes and greets us. No doubt he is a person who could tell a lot about the history of Akko.
With a full stomach it is time to return to Nahariya, this is the last night we will spend at the Carlton hotel, it is time to move our camp to another area of Israel.
Today it’s time to leave the hotel and the area where we are, but before doing so we must to visit the Zippori area, which is named after the river that irrigates their land. To start the day we go to Zippori Forest. Right from the door of a curious bike shop, located in the middle of a forest, start some of the best bike trails in the area. Twisty single-track that snakes between rocks and trees. The fun is tremendous… speed, curves and some improvised jumps into the rocks of the circuits we pumping enough adrenaline to spend the morning. Or maybe not ?
Before lunch we decide to visit the ruins of Zippori, the old Zipporah. It is an archaeological complex located west of the Sea of Galilee, near the city of Nazareth, on top of a hill surrounded by fertile farmland. I feel very fortunate as they allowed me to delve with my Uncle Jimbo within the ruins themselves. I am able to ride up and down the terraces of the Roman theater, and roll down some of the old houses, or what ever is left of them after all this time. They have incredible mosaics that still exist over time. I am also able get in to the fortress and the remains of a synagogue from the Byzantine era in the seventh century BC.
A huge city with a fairly high traffic welcomes us with open arms, the same way that welcomes all religions that cohabit in it. After taking a shower and resting for a while, it is time to bike again, but this time it is not to explore new paths but to discover a magical and historical city filled with History, History of mankind. We could not find anyone better than the guys of Bike Jerusalem. They took us through the winding streets of the old town, entering by endless passages. We get the willies just thinking about what happened thousands of years ago in those streets. It is time to eat so we decide to have a drink at one of the restaurants in the old town, a few salads, kebabs, lemonade and artisan cupcakes are enough to recover from such an intense route under the city lights. I must admit that it is a very special feeling to walk the streets at night.
Text & riding: David Cachon Photos: Ismael Ibánez