August 6th – Mountain Eco Lodge and Adventures in the Golan Heights

Wowza. Today has been one crazy day.
I woke up this morning in the Hostel and decided that rather eat the cold flakes of cereal and bread with cottage cheese that they offer us for breakfast…I’d walk a few blocks to eat at one of the amazing bakeries of Jerusalem! I looked at my watch and saw that I only had 45 minutes to eat and get back. Alright Aaron. Hurry up. I found a great little bakery. Grabbed 3 different delicious looking pastries. Then I decided to get coffee. Due to the lack of time I decided to go with Aroma (Israeli Starbucks imitation). The pastries were good. The cappuccino I bought, I couldn’t drink (what coffee place doesn’t have coolers/frappuccinos? lol). I was still chipper. I got back to the Hostel and we all left and headed to the station (they didn’t wait for me before leaving, but I caught up with them). Then we started buying our tickets and we had to run to various ticket machines because they kept on running out change and wouldn’t give us our tickets. More excitement.
Then our leader put me in charge of bringing the two fellow volunteer people who will be on the program with me to the correct gate. I had told him that I knew the Jerusalem bus station well, which was true. However, it’s easier when you only have to deal with yourself. With me was a very sweet 55 year old Russian woman (working on her English) and a boy from Canada. So the first difficulty was we walked into the station and the Russian lady, let’s call her Sarah, tells me that she needs to get money for the bus. I told her that theres a bank right over there and I can wait for her and keep her luggage safe. She goes. Runs back and tells me it’s in Hebrew and she can’t get money from the machines (you can change the language). I found out that she only had $60 in cash. No seriously. That’s it. No credit card. No debit card. I asked her, “what if you get stranded and all you have is 80 American dollars?” She told me she didn’t understand and asked “Why would I get stranded?” I told her slowly, “if you have to borrow Sheqalim from me, it will not be a problem.” Whew. Then we start going upstairs and we have to keep on calling back to the Canadian boy who seems to be incapable of following us. I tell them to stay put by the ticket desk. Find out the platform number and brought them to the platform. Told them when to get on the bus and when to get off. 4 hours of music and sleep later we are at a new station.
I tell them to follow me and I find the next bus stop where we’ll have to get on bus 58. Through all of this I’ve been able to keep my cool. I may be a little sweaty, tired, hungry and feel like an unpaid babysitter…but I’m still happy. We get on the right bus and I called the organizer (we were instructed to call him) who told us to get off on the stop after Neve Ativ.  He also told us that we make sure not to get off at Nimrod Fortress but rather Nimrod Junction. Great, but there are no signs and the bus driver doesn’t say what stop it is before he pulls over. Thanks to Google Maps I was able to figure out when and where to get off. Whew.
We got picked up and taken through the mountains, seeing so many incredible views, and eventually to the beautiful Nimrod GoEco Lodge.
Here’s some of the landscape.
Both Sarah and I are really excited to climb the mountains (Canada not so much) which is great because we are the only 3 (Brit is leaving monday) who are volunteering here. So I have  a hiking partner! Yay! I don’t have to go out and hike the dangerous mountains alone. She seems like an experience mountain climber which is even better. When she told me that the mountains are god’s greatest creation I knew I had found the perfect hiking partner. Sweet!
Here’s the view from Nimrod EcoLodge.
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Anyway, we dropped our things off in the cabin where we would be staying and it looked very cute and cozy. It certainly looked like a bunch of guys had been living there but more on that later.
IMG_1054The British guy who picked us up and will be volunteering with us this week (his last week) took us on a tour of the place. One of the first things he said on the tour is that we will hear gunfire and artillery explosions relatively consistently throughout the day because it is near the end of Ramadan. I don’t understand the rationale…but maybe I don’t want to know. It’s scary. I won’t bullshit. It sounds like thunder in the middle of the day, but it’s totally safe. We have the IDF very nearby (sometimes with helicopters flying over us) and the Nimrod Fortress is an ancient Muslim ruin. There’s a beautiful pool and all of the homes here have been built (with some help) and design by our boss, Guy. He has some kickass dreads and hands tougher than leather. Seems like a chill dude.
We headed back to the cabin where I realized…it was filthy. First step, clean the bathroom. The sink was gross. The soap was coated in filth. Alright done. What’s next.
Let’s open the fridge….The BOG OF ETERNAL STENCH!!!
Everything in the fridge was rotten. Almost every fruit and vegetable was inedible. I threw out everything gross. Already began to feel better. Then I cleaned every dish and every surface. Threw out the empty containers of food and reorganized the shelves. I always thought I was messy (that’s what I’ve always been told), but this was unbearable. Finally I finished. Proud of my work I stood back and took a picture. Now. I could breathe. I laid back on my bed and let them cook dinner in what I could now call a kitchen.
Of course nobody bothered to search for food but me. I actually had fun doing it though. There was a larger main kitchen where I found sugar, salt, vinegar etc. That place stank as well but I don’t live near that kitchen so it’s ok. I made the salad dressing which they all liked but I thought severely lacked the proper ingredients. The British guy made chicken with curry powder. I spiced mine up a little more when he wasn’t looking. It was great. However, I knew that there was no way that I could go another day without certain foods. I knew that I would have to take…the treacherous long walk to the grocery store. Of course I had no idea where it was, but that didn’t stop me. I had my iPhone, my superpower. I found the city it was in and took off down the road with only my iPhone, 200 shekels and my debit card. After having walked for a long time and seeing that it was not only late, but getting dark quick I decided to see if there was any place more nearby. My iPhone told me that the city it was in was another 37 minutes away. It was 9:00 pm. Dark and there was no sidewalk. Yeah I know what I did was stupid in hindsight. Anyway I found a mall and ran into it. Looking for a grocery store. No luck. Then I saw a gas station and ran to it. I came in and asked the lady at the front desk if there was a grocery store nearby. She said there was one and called it something that sounded like “Chief Majors.” I asked her where it was and she said (in Hebrew) up and to the right. So I go out and start running there. After another 2 kilometers I find another gas station where I ask where the nearest grocery store is and where “Chief Majors” is. He tells me the same thing she did which is up and to the right. They both said it was very close. Bullshit. I looked down that road and it was nothing for miles. I looked up and saw a wall that scared the shit out of me. It wasn’t the Syrian border, but I knew that wearing Maccabiah Games short and a T-shirt was a stupid idea. I decided to try and go up find an opening. There was an opening to something reminiscent of a city but after hiking a few more kilometers I realized that this was dangerous. I went back to the road and decided that I’d buy something at the first gas station so I didn’t come back empty handed. I bought some crap and once I had already bought it, she told me that there may be a grocery store in the mall. I yelled out, “Seriously!?” and ran down the street and into the same mall. This time I asked a store clerk if there was any grocery store nearby (all of these times I’m asking in Hebrew btw). She said no, but there might have been one in the previous mall since this one is still being renovated. I was pissed. I hung my head in shame and slowly walked down the street until I by coincidence turned my head back at the mall and noticed that on the right side of the building there was a stray shopping cart. And another. And another. I’m too tired to do a victory jig. I start sprinting towards what is either a grocery store or possibly a mirage from desperation. It’s REAL!! I’m overjoyed! I grab what I needed since I already have an endless supply of fruits, veggies and bread: Cereal, Pancake Mix (Canada boy brought Maple Syrup), Nutella and Honey. I didn’t have time to get spaghetti sauce or cheese which would have been perfect . A series of easy meals, but that’s ok. I had gotten food! I could hold my head high (:
I walked back proud and a little worried that I might be hit by a car but I made sure to shine my iPhone flashlight in whatever direction the cars were coming at. They would always slow down (that flashlight is bright) and I was totally safe.
I arrived back at the lodge. Showered of the various things I brushed up against in the woods and started to write.
Oh and I just found out a moment ago that the British guy next to me talks in his sleep…but it’s not in English or in another language. It’s a mix of English and gibberish. I’m gonna try and engage him in conversation so that when he yells out “don’t do it” I’ll say “he just did it!” See what happens from there 🙂
Now you have heard my crazy day. I’m exhausted. I hope tomorrow has a little bit more fun with less excitement.
Good night.