There are few things more fabulous than a ROAD TRIP. Doesn’t even matter where you are going, getting there is half the fun. Engine hum, good music, crunchy snacks, pleasurable company and sun-warmed beer (not for the driver, of course) alternate with comfortable silence; dreamless dozing.
Israeli road trips are exciting because they are so convenient. The country is so small, drive two and a half hours and you’ve reached the end of it. A day trip. And so when Lianne called and offered me a spot in the car I said yes, and to hell with the classes I’d miss that day. We were going to the Galilee to see migrating birds.
Migratory birds are a big deal in Israel. Because it is situated at the crossroads of three continents, over 500 million birds are estimated to fly over Israel twice a year in the course of their migrations. A few million of those take a moment to rest and refuel in the Holy Land before continuing on their journey. This was going to be An Experience; class would be a Waste Of Time.
Arriving at HaHula park, we were faced with three options: Ride a bike through the 10 km of paths (favored by young, energetic couples with children or old, energetic couples with stamina), take a park tour on a kind of bleacher contraption on wheels pulled by a tractor (favored by the sociable elderly) or rent a golf cart (favored by the anti-social elderly). Because we were lazy twenty-somethings in the prime of life, we opted for a golf cart. We filled out a form and got our keys, no I.D. or proof of driving ability (or sobriety, for that matter) required. Entering the parking lot we were faced with a sea of white golf-cart drones.
How could we find our ride? It turned out to be easy, as we had received the only fire-engine red golf cart in the entire park. Number Easy 69.
We called her The Red Mamba.
The next four hours were spent driving The Red Mamba at full speed (about 6 mph), overtaking small kids on bicycles and elderly walkers and other “athletic” people too stupid to rent a golf cart. Golf carting is so liberating because it is like driving without consequences; In other words, you have to try really hard to be injured or cause injury on a golf cart. Even one as badass as Red Mamba.
The birds were beautiful. We saw many kinds, but mainly we saw cranes. Thousands of them in the wetlands; Foraging, croaking, flapping, with more and more gliding in from above. It was a golden, sun-drenched day, the brown mountains of the galilee shading the green, green grass that cushioned our shadows. To the chorus of the avian cacophony and the Red Mamba’s whine, we sang loud songs and pretended to chase slow-moving bicyclists while belting out the theme music from Mission: Impossible. Late afternoon and the park closed. We said good bye to the birds, and more regretfully, to Red Mamba; the glory of the day still flowing through our veins, the ride home dark and peaceful.
A man had a serious telescope set up in this look-out hut. He let us look through it at the cranes a couple hundred feet away. He also let me take a photo of the cranes through the telescope, the only close-up bird record of the whole day.