I drafted this 13 months ago at the end of the last adventure but for some reason it didn’t get published, so here it is …..and apologies for it being so very, very lengthy.

I’m now in the plane on the way home and wanted to take some time to reflect on the trip / tour / challenge / holiday.

I’ve had a few nice days in Eilat, dong not much at all. Sleeping, walking around, eating a bit but much less than last week. Except for breakfasts which for the last two days have been late and ended up as a very early lunch also. What is it about buffet style food that entices me to sample as much as possible?

Having time to relax, I went to the Thai foot massage place next to my hotel but why its called “Thai”, I have no idea. The colour scheme was red and black, does that count? Anyway I thanked my feet for pedalling so well with a pedicure and foot massage. I don’t remember having a pedicure before and whilst it was nice, wasn’t all that memorable. Thankfully I didn’t have to choose a nail  varnish colour! The foot massage was nice. Lights turned down, candle lit, relaxing music on. Lovely. Except it was accompanied by cold air flooding onto my feet from the noisiest air conditioning unit known to man!

This morning I woke early and after packing went for a walk along the beach and round the marina at 8 am. A beach hut sign said it was 29 degrees! It was very hot for that time of day, but we had cycled in a lot hotter. How crazy is that? In the marina I saw a boat named “Lorraine D”. Whilst I love my wife dearly, she doesn’t like boats that much and for me it had the wrong colour hull and I don’t like the round portholes, so declined to make them an offer!

At the end

On the way to the airport the taxi driver said it was hot today. Too hot he said. He was moaning they were waiting for the “nice winter weather” to arrive and cool down but this was just too hot. The grass is always greener….!

I had an internal connecting flight from Eilat to Tel Aviv. When waiting at the gate after checking in, I heard an announcement for ” Family Driver to go to the information desk”. I guess that was me and wondered what I had done. After looking at my passport he asked me if my case was locked, which it was and he wanted the combination to open it, which I gave him. I had visions of them opening the case and messing it up looking for something that wasn’t there. Thankfully I had packed tidily but I didn’t relish the thought of someone going through my bag, however that’s security for you. On arrival in Tel Aviv, I had a look inside and it seemed as I had packed it. So I’m not sure what all that was about. I didn’t lock it again for the international flight, just in case. When I got home and unpacked. I saw a printed note from the security people explaining they had searched my bag, videoed it and replaced everything where it was. Perhaps it was because I had my bike pedals and other equipment in there that caught their attention, Ill never know.

So back to my thoughts for the trip as a whole. In no particular order they are

  • It was such a great time, better than I could have hoped for.
  • The scenery was just so incredible and special.
  • I loved the desert and Ramon crater day the best.
  • Learning more about Israel’s history was great and fills a few of the many gaps in my knowledge
  • Assaf was a brilliant guide. His people skills, tour guide skills and cycle mechanic skills were all spot on.
  • Most of the country we went through was quite empty of villages, cars and people. I hadn’t appreciated how much of the population in Israel is concentrated in a few areas. Having said that, the elements are so hostile here, it’s not surprising it’s uninhabited in vast areas. It’s not like England where you can build almost anywhere, a huge amount of  the county is desert.
  • It was wonderful to see how the country was settled in the 1940’s and 50’s and some of the kibbutzim we visited. They have made the desert bloom, but having now understood more about the land and heat they had to battle with, it makes their achievements even more remarkable.
  • My body held up really well, better that I expected. Hardly an aching knee or back. A sore / bruised backside at times was the worst thing to contend with but I had one of my favourite bits of kit to help (see below). Legs hurt at times but that’s normal. My back hardly complained at all.
  • Some of the cycling was very hard, harder than expected. This was no easy ride.
  • The heat played a big role in making it harder. It took me two days to work out how to deal with it, which included squirting water on my head, shoulders, back and front as I cycled to cool me down.
  • The bikes we hired were totally up to the job. Brakes could have been a bit sharper but it didn’t bother me too much.
I’m ready for the last leg!

My favourite bits of kit that helped me through were:

  • The phone holder Stephanie and Jason bought me that mounts on the handle bars which was brilliant as I could use the “map my ride” app as the speedo. That zapped the battery a bit, especially with music blaring, so …
  • using the high speed charger I borrowed from Lorraine was important. It was brilliant and put in about 50 % charge in 30 to 40 minutes.
  • My extra cycle pad to put in my shorts, doubling the backside padding was so very much needed. It’s hoped the effect is to make the saddle into a comfy arm chair. Actually it feels like it converts a hard wooden stool into a hard wooden stool with a worn out flat piece of material that used to be a cushion on it. Still it’s better than nothing and just takes the edge off any discomfort to make it bearable.
  • My water bottles, that deliver such huge quantities of water with ease. The insulated one successfully managed to keep the water cooler.
A very fast ride to start with

Its now a few hours into the flight and I’m getting tired. Someone’s annoying me by chatting away in the aisle with a voice that just grates on me, I’m going to try and nap now.

Its now the next weekend and I’ve been home for nearly a week. These trips are a real buzz when we are doing them but they certainly take a bit of recovering from. I’ve slept very well this week and had a few weary moments at the end of days back at work. But the memories are always there, backed up with the photos and blog. Its all so very much worth it.

When we plan and agree to doing these trips, it’s not an easy thing to pull it all together. I’ve said it before but Richard P does a fantastic job for us all and can’t be thanked enough. I was happy to give some input and help with details for this trip, but we couldn’t do it without him, so well done and thanks RP.

As a group of middle aged men (it hurts to say that but its undeniable), we are a mixture of personalities and abilities. But it all seems to hang together somehow, through all the prior training ( for most of us!) and the intensity of the trip. I think we know each other well enough by now to know what to expect. We do put ourselves through a  lot of physical and mental pressure on these trips and as a result there is always the possibility of niggles and clash of opinions happening when we are at our lowest ebb.   I’m happy to say that whilst sometimes some of us can get a bit under the skin of others, it doesn’t come to anything major, us blokes just carry on and deal with it with humour, or let whoever has an issue, sort it out themselves.  I don’t know what made me think of this little subject because nothing really happens and it’s a bit of a non-issue, but that in itself makes it noteworthy.

Assaf wore orange too

I suppose I should mention my fundraising for Prostate Cancer UK. So far I have raised £3,400 and once again thank you so much to everyone who has been so generous and donated.  It was my chosen charity because I am recovering from being diagnosed with prostate cancer at the end of last year and the charity was really good to me when I needed their support. It’s still difficult for me to say I had cancer but I’m so grateful to be able to include the “had” word as after my operation I have been given the all clear.

This ride has been a key element in my recovery. The physical side is easier to understand as all the training rides since the spring have helped to build my strength and stamina, as long as I don’t over do it! Mentally its also been important. I find that time spent out on the bike, away from everything else is a great way to relax and switch off. The mental challenge of doing longer rides and pushing myself again is also great as it helps to keep a feeling of achievement, but somehow it is different post illness. At the moment I am reluctant to push to such an extreme as before and feel I need to keep something back. It may just be a notion I have  about this and although we have achieved a lot on this ride, when it came to the extreme challenge at Scorpions Ascent, I was less willing than in the past to give it the 110% I would have to dig deep and go through the pain in order to see if I could make it. Am I disappointed in myself? Well yes I am, as its not how I have been in the past, but times and circumstances change as do people so I am equally content that for me this time, I gave all I was prepared to. On the upside I was concerned about my recovery from the extreme days and the day after scorpion’s I wasn’t nearly as tired and heavy legged as some of the others and so my strategy to not empty the energy larder completely probably paid off.

I think in the previous blog I was going to talk about my favourite part of the ride. As you might expect there were many, including

  • Visiting the Western Wall.  Always an emotional and special moment
  • Starting the ride, all that preparation and eventually we were off. So exciting
  • The view of Lake Tiberius  when coming down from the Golan Heights on Day 1
  • Sunrise at Tiberius on Day 2. Cool temperature, birds singing in the quiet, wonderful views
  • The scale of the Bet She’an roman city ruins (having such a laugh in the roman public toilet area)
  • Relaxing in the pools at Sachne (but not having my feet nibbled at by the fish)
  • Sometime on day 2 feeling so alive and happy to be doing the ride.
  • Managing to cycle as a group for practically all of day 3
  • Massada, always one of my favourite places with such a strong feeling of the fight we have had to be Jewish.
  • Seeing David float in the dead sea (he is a non swimmer)
  • All the desert scenery – and there was a lot of that!
  • The change of scenery just after scorpion’s ascent on day 5. It was like just turning a corner and it all changed to a completely different landscape.
  • David Ben Gurion’s House on day 6
  • Peering into the Ramon crater at night and seeing a dark void with stars up above.  It seemed like the world was upside-down
  • Cycling down into, through and out of the Ramon Crater
  • The ascents and descents on day 7, such a perfect days cycling
  • The long, flat, empty road feeling slightly downhill and with a tailwind on the last day

As for my least favourite bits they were very few;

  • Missing Lorraine and my family
  • The heat
  • Cycling through the baking hot roadwork’s on day 2
  • Realising that all hotels we stayed at were at the end of an uphill road
  • Alan missing the scorpions day due to illness – he deserved to do it
  • Me not cycling up scorpions ascent
  • Finding time to do the blog, which to tell the truth is a huge pain in the proverbial
  • The end of the ride

So this is it, the end of another epic adventure. Its been amazing and worth all the effort.

Thank you again to Lorraine for everything.  Your love, understanding and support is never ending. I can’t ever thank or repay you enough.

Signing off until the next time….

Neil X

P.S. The ‘next time’ starts this weekend.  Watch this space!

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