כמו הלך במדבר

November 11, 2018

Since coming down from Shen Ramon, I had been walking on the flat surface under an overcast sky. I thought how convenient to have shades in the desert right in the middle of the day, which later proved to have lasted for the whole latter part of the trek – maybe a bit too much. After ascending Pisgat Kir HaMachtesh – a fun rock-climbing-like experience, as I guess the slippery rock surface used to bear a waterfall – it was merely 1pm. But the sky had already grown oppressively dark, and the wind blew as it wished without the sun to reign it in. It was under such conditions that a magical view assembled before my eyes, fusing my favorite motif with some surprising elements.

I had myself zipped up and leaned on a rock, feeling all cozy while admiring the transmission towers lining up the blue “electricity trail” that I had been dying to go – the last part of the day’s plan. That’s one of my favorite desert motifs. No, the towers themselves will not do. It has to be transmission towers traversing a vast desolation – the wasted, wild ones, not the domesticated, Christian ones^\hatip{Gibbon}. Or large antennas, or radio telescopes, set against utter solitude and bleakness. What exactly do I like about it, sometimes I wonder. Certainly it is too much BoC weed but that’s not a satisfactory answer. There are only fragments of reasons I seem to find, something along the line of long neglected last outposts of a once ambitious civilization, a foreign body that implanted itself in the nature that gradually becomes one with the Mother Earth, approaching perfection like grains of sand turning into pearls by the nourishment of mollusk love…? OK, maybe not the pearl part.

Unlike them, we don’t have the iconic Arizonian cacti to let bobcats perch on in our deserts. But these transmission towers look like Saguaro cacti enough, the only difference being that their arms unfortunately grow downwards. So instead of the robust youths of the desert, the transmission towers in the Machtesh look lanky and droopy. See, those are the cacti we have, and I love them the way they are.

As I was admiring the Ramon cacti on the top of the modest peak while leaning on the rock, muted thunders were heard. My gaze was directed toward the west. And there, the dark gray eagle spread its wings beyond the Shen Ramon peak. Or maybe an 1000 year old sea turtle would be more precise, as now I reviewed my photos and decided to abandon the common allusion. Closer to here, the head and the left fore flipper formed a solar prominence through which sharp darts of silver sunlight was hurled onto the plain, creating a bright spot in the brooding darkness. Further beyond, were the cloud pillars!

I think this was the first time I beheld Amud Anan. Back then I had thought that must be where it’s raining. Later I was told this is the famed Amud Anan. I totally see where the story of Moses following the God-sent cloud pillar came from. It was truly proper to call this surreal phenomenon god-sent, an energy transfusion from the heaven to the earth. In its wake was an orange glow painted by the excessive moisture left behind by the venerable sea turtle.

Silver solar prominence, dark heavy clouds, massive cloud pillars, and the watercolor red ambience trailing behind, formed the magical picture of the west. In the east, the sky was still clear light blue typical of a scorching day. The northern-eastern walls of the Ramon Crater was still flaming yellow. And I, stood still on a high point in between the worlds of the temperamental and the calm, of the dark and the light, couldn’t help but be humbled before Nature, who granted me the chance to behold this unworldly sight.

Insensibly, the muted thunders drew near and seemed to sound more frequently. So I finally waved goodbye to the thunders dashing about the great sea turtle and made my way down. Only half way down, I was stopped by a Ramon cactus standing on the trail. Across the now visible Route 40, two peaks distinguished themselves from all others by their unique brown and white stripes. I fondly named them the chocolate vanilla ice cream hills, when I stood below the cactus that buzzed constantly from what I imagined to be burning electricity. And it is this soundtrack that was modulated onto Left Side Drive – I know it. Naturally, I tarried a long while more, so that the lightenings and thunders closed in on me.

When I reached the bottom and finally started the electricity trail, the very belly of the sea turtle – whether it still remained that form I could not tell – was well over my head. And the loud thunder clamored incessantly, without forgetting to add panning, zooming, reverberation and what sound effects not, to make things even more interesting for me. In time, the first raindrop was felt on my cheek.

There were multiple points on the way where I could take a shortcut to Route 40 to get a ride back to town. But when out in the wild, unlike in an urban environment where I diligently keep myself clean, dry, and comfortable, I don’t mind getting wet at all. Besides, all other hikers were probably flocked back to the stable by the thunder storm, so that the solitude was even purer. I put on the hood and stacked my cap on top, and soldiered on. Soon the hail power formed an impenetrable net that enveloped me completely. The bullets became so dense that I could hardly peep out from under the cap to see my cacti proudly standing unaffected. But the sound of pellets pounding into the soil was melodic. And the sight of parched ground accumulating puddles was delightful. I was crazy enough to think I could capture all these details with my phone. But it quickly died on me a brick – what an urban creature.

I was thus having fun being soaked for quite a while, humming to myself, dancing around, feeling with concentration the intensity of coldness. But there was one thing that from time to time crept up like a huge manatee behind the back of my mind. Are you sure it’s ok to hang about transmission towers while the lightenings and thunders – as splendid as they are – constantly menace to knock you out? I had to ask myself. I’m not sure if my cacti especially attract lightenings like the trees do. The unsettling thought did grow on me, as the stream spontaneously formed along the trail became increasingly hard to trespass. Finally I decided I had enough fun. As I crossed half of the crater, there appeared another shortcut to the main road and I took it.

The 4×4 track leads to a new camping site under construction. As I started to contemplate what would be the correct hand sign to ask for a ride once I reach the road – obviously without the aid of google, an earth mover maneuvered parallel to me from the camping site to the exit and waited there for me. There, I was thrilled and thought: don’t tell me I could have a ride back on this heavy monster and rock the highway up roaring! That would be so cool I have never ridden an earth mover before! But the Arab driver disappointed me when I realized he had zero intention to let me hop on. Instead, I was instructed to come around the machine. And shortly, a regular car appeared and another Arab driver would be in charge of getting me out of here. Still, it was very nice of them.

As we drove half way up, the sun peeked from behind the rain clouds to see if it was time to stop the game of hide-and-seek. Without warning, a huge rainbow elegantly presented itself on the right side. I stutter-cried “Keshet! Keshet!” It hadn’t mattered exactly keshet what it is in Hebrew that I forgot – the entire car’s attention was diverted to the soft arc stretching over the desert that was rendered more to the red side by the car window filtering. Many cars already stopped by the roadside to admire the unique scene. The young Arab driver chose to go further up the winding road to a higher point. The rainbow cheerfully followed us, sometimes on the left, sometimes behind, never to lose sight of us. Somehow (perhaps not somehow but more like characteristic of his community) the driver stopped recklessly at the shoulder right before and right under the very sign saying “DANGEROUS CURVE \\ DO NOT STOP ON THIS SHOULDER”. But it hadn’t mattered.* The young guy climbed onto the rail and I snapped a shot of him to remember their special kindness.

Now out in the car, I discovered it was actually a double rainbow. One so strong and vivid, the other flimsy and airy. Double rainbow over the Ramon Crater! The perfect arches of the sky gently descended upon the earth and graced an untamed wilderness, revealing to the fortunate few Nature’s sublime beauty. What a birthday adventure it had been, I thought.

* In fact, later I discovered I forgot my Pens cap – again, a mere two months had elapsed after I lost it on an SBB train and bought an identical one off ebay, and it served me only once which is this trip and saved my ass (I mean my head) in the thunderstorm – in the car, after the driver dropped me off at the visitor center and departed for home further north. However I found the earth mover driver having coffee in one of those shops in the visitor center. He rang the young guy and they decided that the cap was to be left at a gas station in the northern entrance to Mitzpe Ramon. On my way there though, I was surprised by the same car which stopped nonchalantly right inside a roundabout – he told me he changed his mind and had left the cap at the visitor center anyway. I was again extremely grateful for and kind of bewildered by his way of life at the same time – they are so honest and kindhearted down to the essence as human beings, yet they absolutely disregard driving laws.

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