I am back! Welcome to part 6 of my solo female Middle Eastern road trip. This week, we resume the run down memory lane. Where to?! My hitchhiking Israel adventures took me Couchsurfing at Kibbutz Dafna, located 12 km northeast of Kiryat Shemona. Additionally, I visited Caesarea Philippi and the Banyas reserve. Gorgeous, relaxing area by the northern Israeli border. Indeed, a great time was had with fellow travelers and couchsurfers. Read on!
How did this crazy solo female Middle Eastern road trip started!?
Part 1: Cairo to Jerusalem
Part 2: Solo female in Northern Israel
Part 3: Kibbutz Couchsurfing and hitchhiking: Sea of Galilee
Part 4: Hitchhiking Israel solo: Trespassing onto Mt of Beatitudes
Part 5: Scoring a Beit She’an free tour: Hitchhiking Israel solo continues
Even more hitchhiking — onwards!
You know what they say: When in Rome, do as Romans do. As you already know, I’m no stranger to hitchhiking solo, particularly in Israel. And so when I received the following message from my Couchsurfing host Ido, I was actually excited. I’m always thirsty for another epic adventure!
I live at kibbutz Dafna, it’s 12 km northeast of Kiryat Shemona and an hour drive from Tiberias. To Kiryat Shemona you can get by bus from Haifa easily. And from Kiryat Shemona you need to hitchhike until the kibbutz. Hitchhiking is very easy here
The jaunt there was great, as I expected it to be and so I stepped outside kibbutz Ashdot Ya’akov Ihud, hitchhiked to the bus station, got to Kiryat Shemona, and extended my hand once again in order to reach Dafna.
Kibbutz Dafna, Banyas, and Caesarea Philippi
At Kibbutz Dafna, I had an eerily familiar experience. Just as in Kibbutz Ashdot Ya’akov Ihud, I met many Israelis who had been to India and Nepal for their gap year. On this side of the world, youngsters graduate from high school and go straight into military service for a few years. Then, instead of going to college, many opt to travel the world, particularly central Asia. And so, once again, Israelis explained to me the difference between tourist price, Israeli price, and local price in Nepal and India. I also met another Nepali-Israeli couple. They rolled some joints and offered me to relax. I politely declined, but chose another trip instead:
Swimming at the Banyas reserve! How refreshing. They found a secret spot where we could jump off rocks and swim against the current. I felt like a kid again. It is weird that I had not done this in so many years…
After a refreshing dip, we decided to visit the ruins (Caesarea Philippi!). My favorite spot was the Grotto of Pan. In antiquity, an impressive spring splashed out of this place, flowing down the valley and Jordan River. It was dedicated to this ”goat-footed Greek god of victory in battle and desolate places” (Wikipedia, Caesarea Philippi article).
Back in the day, the Grotto of Pan was not only impressive for natural reasons, but also for architectural reasons. The Seleucid Greeks of Coele-Syria, led by Antiochus III, built a pagan temple around the spring here around 198 BC after winning the Battle of Panium.
What I found most interesting, though, is that the city’s last “formal” rule was under the Umar Caliphate. Also known as Paneas, it remained an important military post due to its strategic position (bordering Palestine, then called Filistin). It was “conquered” in 630 AD, after the Muslim army invaded and Heraclius’ army surrendered. The old shine of the city and traditional markets disappeared quickly, along with most of its population (Wikipedia).
In short, my day trip to Banyas Reserve and Caesarea Philippi was a great mix of adventure, history, relaxation, and conversation with Israelis and Nepalis. Couldn’t have asked for more!