Last week, in attempts to ensure I take at least one bloggable trip a week, I turned to my own backyard – Nachal Kziv. While this is my third post (after I and II) about this beautiful stream that snakes across the Western Galilee, the focus of this trip wasn’t really the stream itself but rather the sites on the flanking mountains and cliffs above. And so, I set out in the late morning from the Zeitim neighbourhood of Ma’alot, walking the winding paved road down to the stream.
I had an optimistic feeling that I’d see some interesting animals – ideally the Persian fallow deer, which I’ve only seen once before. I reached the water at Ein Ziv and passed the Crusader mill, walking along the stream. After crossing the stream once, I spotted somethings dark and foreboding up ahead on the trail. They spotted me just moments after I had spotted them, and the wild boars stepped out to size me up.
If perhaps to set the dangerous scene properly – man vs nature – an unseen wolf began to howl nearby. Knowing that I was doomed if I were to continue as is, I backed up out of eye-line and found a hefty stick to wield, just in case.
When I returned to where the wild boars were, I found that they had disappeared into the woods. Phew! I had avoided a frightening confrontation… Now, just to clarify, wild boars are the absolute worst animal to run into while hiking in Israel. While not inclined to attack you, the wild boar is certainly self-assured that it could put a mere human in his place – and at a maximum weight of some 300 kilo (660 lbs), their opinion is justified. The ones I came across, including those pictured above, are relatively medium-sized females. Some more frightening facts about the wild boar is that they can upturn rocks weighing 45 kilo (100 lbs), they can run 40 km/h (25 mp/h) and they can just jump to the height of 140-150 cm (4.5-5 feet) in the air – plus they have large canine teeth, which grow into wicked tusks on the males. The wild boars in Israel have no real natural predators, other than the wolf, which could probably only take down a juvenile boar. While most wild animals in Israel run away when they see humans, these wild boar first stood their ground and then issued a threatening rumble which sounded exactly like any subsonic noise portrayed by a troll in the movies.
Slightly on-edge, I continued on with my hike on the easy gravel trail until I reached the sign marking the black trail to Abirim Fort and turned to climb the mountain. A far more rugged trail, I was occupied with my progress when suddenly I heard a very loud rumble/snort of a wild boar (or many wild boars) very close by, far too close for comfort. I immediately dashed for a tall rock where I would stand my ground in relative safety. I could hear the boar(s) and I was sure they could hear me (and my panicking heart) but I could not see them. I strained my eyes, looking through the underbrush and among the large rocks – nothing. After a few minutes had passed, I inched over to a tree and climbed it before announcing my presence. With no bone-chilling swine calls echoing my own shouts, I felt reassured that I was back to being alone and continued up the mountain, tightly gripping my hefty stick.
It wasn’t for another twenty minutes or so of uphill hiking that I had my next wild boar encounter. At this point I was getting rather tired of being scared and when I spotted these wild boars I took some quick photos before running off to hide once detected, including this one of little piglets nursing beyond the foliage:
I tripped over some random wire in the grass as I found my new high ground and waited for these wild boars to either attack me or disappear. Thankfully, they vanished and I was able to continue on to the clearing where the blue trail for the Temple Cave started. Feeling a sense of déjà vu as I hiked back downhill, just on the adjacent slope, I marveled at the familiar sight of Ma’alot over the canopy of mountain green.
I then came upon a fork in the trail, and correctly took the left path after checking with my phone’s GPS. As I walked the precarious trail overlooking the Nachal Kziv path down below, I noted that I had not seen a single person on my entire hike thus far – and then the sloped field of the cave came into view.
I found the explanatory sign and looked up at what I came to see – a life-size carving of a Roman soldier on the cliff wall.
Only rediscovered in 1985, this “Man on the Wall” is believed to be over 2,000 years old and mystery shrouds its origins. Beside this fascinating find is the multi-chambered Temple Cave, which I entered to find a burnt ceiling and a powder floor.
There was also a lone bat, which disappeared, but I found no history or backstory of the cave, nor the origin of its name. After a quick little picnic next to the cave I began the return trip to the clearing, spotting wild boars – yet again – on the trail far below.
I reached the clearing without incident and then continued back on the black trail towards Abirim Fort. Having been going downhill, then uphill, then downhill, then uphill over and over, it was a relief to be on a relatively flat trail. At last I reached a sign for Abirim Fort and somehow missed the side trail to the ruins, continuing on towards the end of the trail. Turning back, I located the white trail and entered a thicket of small trees, shrubs and large rocks in search for the ruins. I got lost remarkably quickly and it took a very long time for me to find Abirim Fort. When I did finally spot the large light grey ashlars, I climbed up and enjoyed my achievement.
Long thought to simply be a fortified Crusader farm, the structure is now believed to have originally been a Roman mausoleum – due to its huge stones and small door.
Attempting to leave the fort, I got lost once again in the impossible thicket. I fell back on survival instincts and battled the endless branches and thorns – forcibly tunneling my way out through the relentless vegetation. At last I emerged on the black trail and reached the road with ease, where I waited for my parents to retrieve me – thanks parents!