Ramallah Baby went on another beautiful hike today - this one is definitely the hardest but most rewarding hike I've done here so far.
We took advantage of the cooler weather to go for a hike along what is believed to be the Valley of the Shadow of Death, referenced in the bible and popularised by prominent rappers such as Coolio, 2Pac and Kanye West (remember the opening sentence of Gangsta's Paradise?).
The valley, "Wadi Qelt", runs between Jerusalem and Jericho for about 30km. We walked the last 14km, based on a walk in the excellent Walking Palestine book.
This photo does have something biblical about it, with a natural spring on the left flowing gently towards Jericho and the Dead Sea.
A great thing about the hike was that everything around the spring was very green - while otherwise the surroundings are all desert. There are a number of springs along the valley, as well as quite a large one in Jericho, which is a main reason for human activity there going back 11,000 years! In fact, Jericho claims (along with 4 other cities) to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world.
We were pretty much the only ones on this track, which was quite special. In 7 hours we bumped into one lone hiker (not recommended) going the other way (not recommended either), who was so concerned about his car being stolen that he was reluctant to talk to us.
Luckily the path was signposted very well, and some assistance given at one point (see photo above). The fist part was definitely the most difficult with multiple stream crossings, and we eventually gave up on trying to cross without getting wet.
The inspiration for the below photo did not come from our creative selves... but from the Walking in Palestine book - this is exactly the same photo as on the book's cover.
The valley is home to a very long aqueduct, parts of which date back to Roman times, but it is still in use today. The aqueduct was unmissable, as small cracks make it look like it is leaking green paint onto the otherwise barren desert landscape.
We followed the aqueduct almost the entire way.
We also came across a team of Beduins who had just returned from a trip to repair part of the aqueduct. They were all very friendly and happy to chat with us.
The Wadi is in a protected nature reserve, so full of intersting flaura and fauna - and surprisingly little rubbish! The animal on the right below reminded me of the Palestinian version of the Quokka... it is a rock badger. And at some points there were so many little frogs we had to be careful not to step on them.
Half-way through the hike we came across an oasis - having never seen one before I was actually quite surprised that they actually exist - palm trees and all!!! I'm such a city girl this is terrible! The trucks in the background were from a French/Israeli film crew here to make a film about the area (located in Area C, which is part of the West Bank but under the control of Israel).
We also came across a Palestinian Little Bo Peep (an english nursery rhyme)... a young man on a horse who asked us if we saw 3 of his goats! They had gone missing and he was on a mission to find them. His dog was helping him - and I have never seen a dog walk past us with such determination, he didn't even look at us.
Near the end of the walk we reached a monastery from the 6th century (though the current structures are only just over 100 years old). The monastery lies some 70 metres below sea level. We missed the opening hours but I would not have been allowed in anyway, as women need to wear a long dress. However I do hear that there are some impressive mosaics inside.
The caves around the area are known to be inhabited by hermits.
By now we were getting pretty tired, so were happy to spot Jericho through the hills... Jericho is the flattest city in Palestine and so a popular cycling spot as well. We were too tired to discover some of the things that Jericho had to offer, but it is only a one hour (£3) shared taxi ride from Ramallah so no doubt we will be back.