Tiberias, the largest town on the Sea of Galilee, is one of Israel’s most popular tourist destinations, and it’s a common thing for visitors to try cycling around the 55km circumference in a day.
Around the area you can find the place where Jesus walked on water, the place where Jesus delivered some of his most famous sermons, and Jesus, Jesus, Jesus fucking Christ. You can rent bikes and cycle a little way around the sea, visit all the religious sites and then turn round to have an afternoon siesta or a quiet drink in a waterside bar. Or you can continue cycling onwards and navigate around the whole 55km circumference of the Galilee like we did. Unfortunately, and what we didn’t realise at the time, is that unless you’re professional cyclists, that kind of distance in that kind of heat with those kind of roads is cycling on a biblical scale. (See what I did there?)
Thankfully I wasn’t alone. It was me, the friend I was travelling with, and a guy from Singapore we met at the hostel. Yes, hostel. Couchsurfing didn’t work out in Tiberias, but hostelling can sometimes be just as good (although never as cheap!), and that’s what happened in Tiberias. Not only did we meet the guy from Singapore, we also met a hilarious racist Jew from New Jersey called Wayne.
Wayne was this: hanging-out gut, stained white shirt with braces and white chest hair hanging over the top, beige trousers, scraggly hair, laughably stereotypical nasal New Jersey accent, the ending of every sentence with “and that’s all,” ignorantly Jewish, anti-Muslim, pro-America, stubborn, a dedication to complaining, vegetarian, full of far-fetched stories of Egyptian rape and trans-continental travel. Oh, and really hairy ears. He wasn’t doing much to dispel the image of the travelling American as ignorant and closed-minded.
Wayne said he came to Israel every spring. When we spoke to him he was complaining about the heat because he hadn’t wanted to leave it so late before coming here to Israel. He didn’t like to walk around (bad heels, bad knees). He didn’t like to sit down (bad back). He didn’t like to go outside (too hot). He didn’t like to stay indoors (airconditioning was broken). If you ask him why he bothers coming here, he says, “This is my country and that’s all.” He was hilarious. He wasn’t married; I can’t imagine why. I wish I had a picture of him for you.
To be fair to Wayne, he did also complain about Shabbat, the Jewish day of laziness, equivalent to Sundays for Christian-dominated countries. Shabbat meant that nothing was open, including bus routes, so everything came to pretty much a standstill. Partly for our own enjoyment and partly because the thought of spending a day in Wayne’s company struck fear into our hearts, the three of us forced to share a room with the guy decided we’d rent bikes from the hostel and go for a nice bike ride in the sun.
Being from far and away the greatest cycling nation in the world (as proven by the 2012 Olympics), I found it easier going than my companions, particularly on the hills, which were steep and often. Despite that, after several hours the riding became a chore and we’d exhausted all the religious sites, each of which was more a “fuck, dude, let’s stop here a while” than an “ohmygod this is where Jesus did a sermon!” From then on, we were out on the roads (deathly quiet for Shabbat) with little to no shade and bland scenery. The seats on these unfamiliar bikes became more and more painful and the last part of the ride, the last half hour or so, it was almost impossible to sit down.
It was a Marmite ride for me. I’m something of a masochist when it comes to those kind of things, so the pain inspired me and I refused to give up, especially on the hills which frequently got the better of my companions. That said, it was very painful. I’m sure being gang raped in an Eastern European jail isn’t as sore on the arse as that ride was.
We got back to the hostel about six in the evening, barely able to stand or sit down or string a sentence together, and there was Wayne, watching Fox News on the TV, browsing some anti-Islam forums on his laptop (probably). He saw us in our exhausted states and said, “I rode from Norway to Egypt in a week and that’s all.”
I left for the Golan Heights first thing in the morning.
Anyone else got any cool cycling routes around the world they want to share? I’m always up for a new challenge!