Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Avocado harvest and the Hula Valley

Avocados at Kibbutz Dafna.

After leaving the springs, I was off to visit some recommended kibbutzes. Most kibbutzes were founded as a utopian/socialist collective community that supported themselves through farming or another industry. Over the years, many have broken. One that I visited has basically become student housing for the university next door. One of those students was nice enough to show me the avocado and orange orchards at the back of kibbutz. I have learned to love avocado in the past few years. I had no idea it grew on a tree and I certainly have never had any as fresh as the ones I picked directly from those trees. Yum! When I left my gear was substantially heavier. I had enough to last into Egypt!

Avocado picking for B-Nelson.

Almost ripe oranges at Kibbutz Dafna.

I had hoped to spend the night soaking up good music at a venue in one of those kibbutzes, but I got there on the wrong day. I could wait another day and lose a day of biking or be a slave to my schedule. I chose the slave route. In Syria, I had gotten back on a workable schedule, but losing three days in Amman had put me on the brink again. I set out for the Hula valley where I would be in time for the bird migration.

Hula Valley morning fog.

Hula Valley first movement.

At the meeting point of three continents, Israel is an ideal location migrations. Five hundred million birds migrate through Israeli air space twice a year. The quantity is so large that the Israel had to come up with solutions to reduce the number of bird to plane collisions. The Hula Valley is a major stop for some of the birds and it happened that I was there at the right time to see them. Each day, 20,000 birds pass through. The trick was that the birds are the most active at sunrise, 6am, and the park did not open until 9am.

Hula Valley land critters.

When I arrived at the park as they were closing, I asked about getting in early. One ranger trying to help me out suggested that the birds migration was like my own from Austria to Cairo. The supervisor was not buying it even though she acknowledged the birds are more active then. I asked about going in with the morning farmers that a ranger had mentioned earlier. She gave the open answer that, the park does open until 9am and they could not let me in until then. The ranger who was trying to help me out gave me the key piece of information that I needed. He said that the farmers started showing up at 5am.

Farm equipment silhouetted at sunrise.

I camped less than a kilometer from the site. In the morning, I was up early as always and ready to go. I packed up quickly and headed for the gated site. As I arrived, a truck was passing through, but I was too slow to talk to him or follow him through. I waited about twenty minutes before another truck came. I waited out of sight on the far end of the parking lot. When I saw the truck start to go through and the 7m gate started to close, I sprinted for it. I only had to go 60m, but it seemed a lot farther. I got there with a 2m to spare. The gate detected me and opened back up which worried me because the truck wasn't out of sight yet. He kept driving.

Two more of the unnamed mammals at Hula Valley.

A canal at the Hula Valley.

I was in! It was dark. It was foggy. I had been told to just follow the road around, but I couldn't see anything in the fields. Eventually, I saw a couple cars which made me nervous. I didn't know if they were also in there without permission or if they would toss me out. I didn't want to test the waters, but there didn't seem to be anywhere else to go. There seemed to just be one main road. Eventually, I found a tourist golf cart trail which took me closer to the birds and away from the other visitors.

Morning in the Hula Valley during the bird migration.

Shrouded in the fog, I waited for sunrise. There was never any single major lift off of all the birds. As I rode around, I watched as one small group after another took to the skies. It was amazing. It was incredibly noisy. Noisier that you would ever think birds could be. It reminded me of the noise at the Cape Royds penguin colony. It was not any where near as bad as the honking cars in Damascus.

Birds in the Hula Valley.

As I wandered, the sun came up. The fog burned off. Then, I saw something weird. I saw a couple other bikers cruising through the park. They were there for a morning ride. I am not sure if they snuck in or were allowed to be there. They just cruised by and waved. As the sun got higher, it was time to go. The ranger who had helped me just told me to make sure to be gone by 9am. The trick was that the rangers started showing up at 7:30am and I needed a truck to open the gate for me on the way out again. Neither one was an issue. A truck rolled up just as I got back to the gate and I followed him right out to the main road over the mountains and down to the coast.

Great scenery on my bike ride to the coast.

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