A great, challenging 30 km. ride.
The kickstand version
This routes takes you over barren hilltops and through typical Arava stream beds. You’ll have the chance to watch rock and cliff formations drift by, and to scan the whole panorama of the Northern Arava from atop one of the high ridges.
The whole derailleur
The route as described is circular, beginning and ending at the Ein Hatzeva road stop.
The trail begins right across the road from the gas station, passing to the left of the Bedouin camp and heading west and slightly south along Wadi Mashak. After about four kilometers you come to the “Springs Route” trail. (A large concrete block marks the entrance to an army firing zone, so this route is to be used only on weekends and holidays.) You’ll cross the “Springs Route” road and continue west, on a less travelled path. Another kilometer or so will bring you to “Chameleon Rock” (my name). You’ll know it when you see it… Just past this rock the trail enters the narrower part of Wadi Mashak, and soon you’ll reach a fork. Taking the right hand branch, brings you to one of the springs, Ein Mashak, on the “Springs Route”.
Now don’t expect an oasis flowing with clear water. This “spring” and all the others were once artesian, constantly bubbling up salty water, with dense reeds and some palm trees growing in the mud. But they all have been dry for some decades, leaving only the browned remains of the foliage that once grew there.
Looking ahead and slightly to the left you’ll be able to make out the continuation of the road heading uphill. (Another trail also continues to the right, past the dried spring and short-cuts back to the Springs Route, in case you’re having second thoughts). This first strenuous climb (by foot, for me) will take you to an altitude of +60 meters. The road stop at Ein Hatzeva is at -145 meters (145 m. below sea level), so do the math… When you get to the top, while catching your breath, be sure to turn around and take in the scenery. On clear days, you can see as far north as the Dead Sea, and south beyond Sapir.
Now after climbing back into the saddle, you’ll glide downhill for a kilometer or so, cross an un-named wadi, and then take a left turn at the jeep road to begin the second ascent of this route. Alas, no rest for the weary. You’ll climb, and climb, some by foot, and some peddling up to +160 m. Once reaching the ridge, at about 13 kilometers from the start of the trip, you’ll find no trees or bushes at all, only rusted remains of some vehicles, apparently left by the army for training. From this ridge, you’ll be able to view to the west the mountain range that borders the western side of Nahal Zin with it’s distinctive geological formations. And the canyon just below and to the west is Wadi Hatzeva.
The road along the ridge bends to the south. Follow downhill for a short way, and keep your eye out on the right hand side for a sparsely traveled path which drops down a gully to the west. This path is almost a “single-track”. At the bottom, turning to the right, you’ll be in Wadi Hatzeva. A short ride along the wadi will bring you past one of the “Oron” phosphate quarries.
Wadi Hatzeva meanders northward then to the east, between sandstone cliffs for a pleasant downhill ride. Acacia trees along the way offer a bit of shade for a rest and snack. After 5-6 kilometers, the wadi merges with another smaller, dry riverbed from the right. At this point the trail climbs (just a bit), and carries on for about 2 kilometers till you reach another impressive vantage point, just before a short, steep drop. Taking in the view you’ll clearly see the communication towers at the Ein Hatzeva road stop, and the greenhouses beyond. After riding down the steep descent, you’ll be at a second spring, Ein Tamid. From here it’s 15-20 minutes clear sailing back to the main road.