The Grotto

Bracing myself with arms on the railing of a small tunnel and feet on the far side, I watched a massive wave crash through the entrance sloshing water in our direction. I stood petrified as Lyle, also propped up across the tunnel, was engulfed. It was our own fault for crossing the barrier into the closed section due to the massive storm ravaging the Mediterranean.
Eight days ago Lyle and I arrived in Tel Aviv, 23 hours after leaving home to find Yuval, our Israeli friend and African travel buddy, waiting for us with a smile and a car opening his home to us. We spent a few hours catching up and dining on fine Israeli fare Yuval had prepared for us. Then, as it would for the next week, jet lag took over and we both fell into a coma only to rise well before the sun the following morning. Deciding to risk the road we headed into town to pick up our rental car and spent the remainder of the day wondering around Tel Aviv. Amazingly enough we only lost ourselves once thanks to a friend who warned us that all the signs included an English transliteration but the English translation can, and does, change from street sign to street sign and from map to street sign.

After another comatose night at Yuval's we cruised up north to see some sights. First there was Ceaserea, or as the locals say Qasarea, that was entirely closed except for the ancient theater due to the foul weather (the area was wet and we could fall, therefore it was closed). Next one the agenda was Haifa, a large modern sea port town built into the side of Mt. Carmel. We tried to visit the Baha'i Gardens and again were refused entrance due to the wetness (heaven forbid we slip a little). I was actually quite disappointed because, upon arrival, we discovered that the gardens are extremely beautiful. Further down the road was Akko, a major sea port during the Arab domination of Israel complete with secret tunnels and ancient fortress walls. Then the Grotto on the Lebanon boarder, fantastic caves eroded out of the rock by continuous wave action. Again, we ran into the closed off area due to the storm. This area, however, seemed a bit more understandable as the large waves rushing into the caves sent water splashing through the majority of the tunnel system established for viewing. The sense of danger and excitement had a strong grip on us and we stepped under the rope barrier, in time with the waves, and ran further into the tunnel where we found ourselves sandwiched between to caves both allowing large quantities of water to splash up and walls and into the tunnels. They set up the barriers for visitors to be safe and dry. In the end we where safe. . .

After our treck north along the Mediterranean we navigated east to Mt. Hermon for a snowball fight near the summit then south to the Sea of Galilee and Nazareth. We visited several Biblical cites and waded in the Galilee. One of our favorite adventures was a trek through a national park that followed a stream at the bottom of a canyon. Twice we had to strip down to our skivvies, descend a skinny latter, and swim through a cold pool in order to continue our hike.

Nazareth proved to be our favorite city of the North with colorful market shops, ancient bathhouses, a village reenacting Jesus's time, and churches galore atop the holy sites.

We ended our tourer of the North by heading back to Yuval's for a splendid dinner with him and several of his friend from college. We have found that in all our travels the time we spend with people, with locals is the most rewarding and our time with Yuval has not been an exception.