“You’re a hard guy to hate, Chirpy,” my friend said to me an hour into our two-day road trip around the Golan Heights in Northern Israel. As far as compliments go, it wasn’t great (although not as bad as “you look good with hair” which I received recently). But I knew what he meant, and I was thankful.
My friend, let’s call him Barnaby because I once had a teddy bear called that, took driving duties. The roads around the Golan Heights in Northern Israel were quiet and smooth so he loved the driving. I could’ve shared the burden but it had been almost five years since I last drove and that was back in the UK where we drive on the proper side of the road. So I didn’t fancy my chances of not crashing into a throng of scowling Jews here in Israel. Instead I became chief navigator and in charge of the two maps AVIS had provided us with.
We left Tiberias about 10:30am and headed north into the Golan Heights. We’d been led to believe the Golan was the most beautiful part of Israel, but was virtually impossible to get to without your own transport. It was also dotted only with tiny towns that had no hostels and precious few couchsurfing opportunities. Those two factors, combined with what we perceived as the cheap two-day $80 rental price, meant a road-trip was our only option, especially as we decided sleeping in the car “wouldn’t be too bad.”
Indeed, the first night’s sleep wasn’t too bad. Coming after a day touring some sights – Mas’ada, Nimrod Fortress, Banias Nature Reserve; as seen in the photos – we were pretty tired anyway. And by the time we’d found our usual hummus and pita bread supermarket dinner in a retail park in Kiryat Shmona it was getting pretty late.
Barnaby shifted on the concrete bench, turned to me, pushed the remainder of the of tub of hummus over, and said, “Metula?”
We’d decided earlier that our best bet for the night was probably to pay another visit to Metula. Now, Metula is not, despite appearances, the name of a kindly middle-aged woman living in a cottage. It is, in fact, a town at the very north of Israel, just a few kilometres from the Lebanese border (not that you can cross). It is also the place where old Israelis come to die. Okay, I made that last bit up but Metula feels like a retirement town. It’s very pleasant, with its quaint white houses, purple and yellow flowers, and semi-hostile gazes from harmless old men sitting in their gardens.
We drove up a hill and found a lookout point where we parked the car, our reliable little Nissan Micra. A bigger car would have been nicer for sleeping in, but we forced back the seats as far they’d go and we got comfortable.
I woke up to my first ever sunrise. Barnaby was already awake, sitting on a bench at the overlook.
“I love you, man.”
“I love you too.”
With that the two of us, in our unwashed states, still in the same clothes we left Tiberias in yesterday morning, sweat-stained and mucky, had a real bromantic hug overlooking some Lebanese fields with the glow of dawn all around us.
The second night was awful. We had driven to Haifa, ready to hand over the little Nissan to AVIS in the morning, but we hadn’t found couchsurfing so we were stuck sleeping in the car again. In itself that would have been perfectly fine, but we didn’t find somewhere (or someone) like Metula. We parked up in a field on the outskirts of an industrial site. It was very hot so we had to have the windows open. There were bugs. Lots of bugs. Until I decided I should keep my socks on after all, my feet suffered from the little flying biting bastards. This was the result: