Motorcycle Explorer Issue 17 - Page 14

Travel Story: achinoam harel - israel

For me, riding a motorcycle symbolises freedom. In everyday life, as a self-declared nerd (and no one who knows me would argue), I respect laws. I will wait on the sidewalk until the light switches to green and only then cross the street, even if no cars are on the road. If there is a sign reading "No Littering", I will run kilometres after a plastic bag that flew away. And for all of us really, there is a mass of state rules and social codes that influence and try to control our behaviour. Even laws that aren't laws – like; Finish your plate. Don't put your elbows on the table. Wait three days after a date until you call back. Don't wear plaid and stripes together.

But on the motorcycle, for a moment, laws do not apply. White and yellow lines on the road cannot decide for me where I will drive. If the light takes too long to change, I can use the sidewalk. If there's a gate I can slip through it. If there's a red light I can cut to the front of the line. There is an element of creativity, in riding on and off-road, in determining your line. There is a huge sense of freedom when you stuff a shirt, pants, and a toothbrush into a backpack, tie it to your motorcycle and just ride off into the desert. Letting curiosity lead you off the main road into unmarked river-beds and unknown paths. I managed to steal away and do just this – four days in the Israeli desert. The next trip just might be 40 years in the desert. Here's the story for now:

I set off from my village in the countryside of the Jezreel Valley in Northern Israel on Tuesday morning around brunchtime, driving south through Tel Aviv. Dear Urbanites, please explain to me, how do you have traffic jams at 11:30 in the morning? By the time you get to work you probably have to turn around and go right home! I rode on depressingly banal highways for two and a half hours, anxious to get to the Arava desert. Finally, I passed the square of the town, Arad, and began to descend towards the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth at 430 meters below sea level.

The desert opened up beneath my eyes - a breathtaking view of marlstone cliffs around me, below white mounds of salt dotting the blue lake (it isn't really a sea after all) and on the horizon the purple-pink mountains of Jordan. With a huge smile, I reached the shores of the Dead Sea, called Ein Bokek. Brakes screeching, I flew into the parking lot, starting to strip off my clothes before the leg stand was even down, and jumped into the water. Even though I've been to the Dead Sea several times I am still surprised every time by the strange floating sensation. Because of the density of the water, you bob up and down in the turquoise water like a rubber duck, a very strange, amusing sensation.

After my swim, I watched the sun begin to set sitting on a bench and eating the apple I had brought with me. My riding boots were filled with sand, my pants were wet and everything was sticky from the salt water for the rest of my trip. Totally worth it!