October - November 2017
  • Day27

    Israel (Last Day)

    November 2, 2017 in Singapore ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    Well our time in Israel came to an end today & we began our journey back to Australia.
    We have had a wonderful time & will definitely be back to spend more time exploring this part of the world.
    Leaving Beersheba we visited the brand new ANZAC Museum, located just behind the Beersheba War Cemetery before stopping at the Park of the Australian Soldier where we viewed the wonderful statue of Digger James that the Pratt Family generously donated. Both sites were brilliant, informative & made us so proud to be Aussies.
    We had a quick lunch at Tel Be'er Sheva with the whole group, as a farewell, before we boarded our bus to Tel Aviv for the long journey back to Australia.
    Reflecting at Singapore's Changi Airport during our 8 hour transit break; it was another great adventure that has drawn to a conclusion for us. Our love of travel has only increased & we can't wait until the next journey begins...
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  • Day25

    Israel (Beersheba Day)

    October 31, 2017 in Israel ⋅ 🌙 18 °C

    Well the big day has finally arrived & we started early. We were on the bus at 6.00am & heading to the local stadium where security checks were undertaken & wrist straps issued. Once cleared, we were moved to the next security checkpoint located near the Beersheba Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery. Here we all underwent individual security checks & were issued our lanyards & goodie bag to commemorate the day before being ushered into reserved seating inside the cemetery in preparation for all of the formalities. The ceremony went off without a hitch & we even got our faces on live TV courtesy of the ABC!
    Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanyahu spoke, as did our PM, Malcolm Turnbull & numerous other dignitaries. It was a moving & powerful ceremony.
    We moved from this location to the street parade where our riders & their horses took pride of place.
    Next we were bused to a local park at Beit Eshel, where we caught up with the riders for lunch before being moved to the area where the charge was going to be re-enacted. After a bit of waiting around, the dignitaries finally arrived and the charge could begin.
    There were thousands of people in attendance & security was tight with snipers set up in strategic positions as well as Mossad Agents, Secret Service & all sorts of other agencies being represented. Unfortunately, all of this security & their staff didn't allow for the greatest of views of the charge, however a lovely Israeli Policewoman took my camera & ensured I had plenty of shots from the frontline.
    The day concluded with a BBQ dinner for everyone in a local park. We opted out, as we'd had enough excitement for one day & were hanging out for a good sleep before our journey home the next day.
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  • Day24


    October 30, 2017 in Israel ⋅ 🌙 18 °C

    Today the riders finished there three night trek in the desert by performing the last leg of their ride on a stretch of land near Tel El Saba - a significant location that the Kiwi's captured in 1917 allowing the Aussies to charge in & take the wells. The media pack was thick on the plain, all vying for the best photo opportunity. The troops did us proud & our band performed brilliantly (as usual) for the large contingent of Kiwis & local school children that joined us for the commemoration.
    Our next stop was lunch at a local road house before a quick visit to the riders who were unwinding at Beit Eshel nearby. After a quick "hello" we were on our way again to the Israeli Air Force Museum where we had an incredibly informative afternoon being shown around the airbase by a young Israeli Air Force Cadet. We even had a chat with the founder of the Museum who was also a former pilot & Mayor of Beersheba - very accomplished!
    Dinner with the riders back at the hotel rounded out another great day exploring our location. We were off to bed early in preparation for the early start tomorrow - when the official commemorations begin!
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  • Day23


    October 29, 2017 in Israel ⋅ 🌙 18 °C

    Today we decided to not go with the planned itinerary & instead chose to explore Beersheba. A group of us went into town via taxi and visited Abraham's Well; Allenby Park; Beersheba War Cemetery & the Turkish Railway.
    We had lunch at a Canyon Shopping Mall before the boys headed back to the hotel & us girls continued to hunt around for souvenirs...to no avail 😕.
    All in all it was a good day & we were grateful for the slower pace.
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  • Day22


    October 28, 2017 in Israel ⋅ 🌙 21 °C

    With less than half of the tour group now with us (riders have started their journey), today we started later & explored the Negev Desert & Rift Valley surrounding Beersheba. Our first stop was to visit the final home of Israel's first Prime Minister & essentially the State's Founding Father - David Ben-Gurion. He was a true visionary & leader. He stepped down from office in 1963 & retired from political life in 1970. He then moved to where we visited - Sde Boker, a Kibbutz in the Negev Desert, where he lived until his death. He moved here as he passionately believed that in order for a people to follow a dream they must first see their dreamer (leader) live the reality of it. Posthumously, Ben-Gurion was named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Important People of the 20th century. Here are just some of his incredible quotes:
    • Courage is a special kind of knowledge: the knowledge of how to fear what ought to be feared and how not to fear what ought not to be feared.
    • Without moral and intellectual independence, there is no anchor for national independence.
    • Anyone who doesn't believe in miracles is not a realist.
    • If an expert says it can't be done, get another expert.
    In his last Will he instructed that his desert home be preserved as is & left open to the public. It was fascinating to walk through his home; his library, in particular, gave incredible insight to the great man that he was.
    Our next stop was a local winery (yep, in the middle of the desert) where we got to sample a few drops & hear about the history of this unusual wine growing region & the techniques used to help it florish.
    On the bus again & our next stop was the beautiful En Avdat National Park in the central Negev Desert region. We walked a canyon that the Israelites would likely have wandered through in their 40 years of roaming the desert. Moses' sister Miriam was buried in this region. It was absolutely breathtaking to view & the Nubian Ibex were wandering freely on the cliffs beside us - they are so agile!
    A short stop for a Macca's lunch at an ancient Nebatean ruins site at Avdat had us refuelled & ready to take in the final resting place of David Ben-Gurion, at a beautiful oasis park in the desert overlooking the incredible Rift Valley. Ibex were again roaming free & available for plenty of photos. It was a spectacular way to round out another day exploring this beautifully diverse nation.
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  • Day21


    October 27, 2017 in Israel ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    Today was all about farewelling the riders & getting them set up for the beginning of their three night trek 'In the Footsteps of the Light Horse'.
    Our first stop was to Chauvel's Hill, on the outskirts of town, where we got group photos of all of the tour. We then headed to the Turkish trenches to see where the Turks opposed British Forces in 1917.
    Our final stop was at Park Eshkol for a picnic lunch. This was where the riders set up their tents for the night & were introduced to their horses for the first time. Someone got the word out & the media started arriving in droves; it was good to see so many Aussie crews there, including the ABC.
    Later this evening a concert was held in the park for visitors & locals alike - it was apparantly well received with the Mayoress giving a resounding welcome speech to the Australian Light Horse (we opted not to attend as we were beat from the big day).
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  • Day20


    October 26, 2017 in Israel ⋅ ☀️ 18 °C

    Today we left Jerusalem & headed south to Beersheba with a stop at Masada & a swim in the Dead Sea along the way. However, before beginning our journey, we held a wreath laying service at Mt Scopus cemetary (Jerusalem) where our band played a beautiful tribute & our group were able to reflect on the sacrifices made by New Zealanders & Australians in WWI. Mt Scopus is to the Middle East what Lone Pine is to Gallipoli & Villers-Bretonneux is to France & Belgium. It was a very moving, beautiful service.
    After battling the morning traffic in Jerusalem, we were on our way heading along the coastline (& boy was it beautiful) of the Dead Sea towards Masada Fortress - the most visited site in Israel (outside of Jerusalem)! Our guide, Zel, told us about how much the water level has receded over the years & the problem that has been created with sinkholes occuring due to underground freshwater springs. Approximately 40 minutes later we could see the mountain that held the ancient fortress, separated from the mountainous ridgeline surrounding it. We caught a cable car up to the top as the heat in this arid, desert-like area was already at about 34°C & made it too hot for most of the group to contemplate walking up, via the zigzagged path that lead to the top.
    The view from the top; it was phenomenal! You could see for miles in every direction. The ruins were amazing and spread from one side to the other of the diamond shaped plateau - they really were completely self sufficient & very civilised on the mountaintop, thousands of years ago. There was remanents of grain store houses, mosaic baths & even a three tiered palace built into the side of one end!
    We had enough of the hot, dry heat up there after about an hour or so & made our way back down to the bottom (via cable car again) for a refreshing lunch before heading off to cool down in the Dead Sea.
    The Dead Sea - what an incredible experience! Even walking in the water was a struggle. Your legs are so buoyant due to the salt content. It was difficult even to right yourself after floating on your back. Those who cannot swim would have no problem here as it is impossible to sink 😁. We felt fantastic afterwards!
    Another hour down the road, & after driving up out of the valley back to above sea level, we reached our final destination - Beersheba; where Australian & New Zealand flags are displayed with Israeli flags on every light post along the main roads.
    Our bed at the Leonardo Hotel was welcome relief tonight!
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  • Day19


    October 25, 2017 in Palestine ⋅ 🌙 17 °C

    Today we were back in the Old City & started out by exploring Hezekiah's Tunnel (Siloam Tunnel); an incredible feat of engineering from the 8th Cenury BC! The tunnel leads from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam. The curving tunnel is 533 m long, and by using the 30 cm altitude difference between its two ends, which corresponds to a 0.06 percent gradient, the engineers managed to convey the water from the spring to the pool. Absolutely incredible! The water was cold & crystal clear in the tunnel with the deepest part about mid-thigh height. The tunnel was very narrow & low in parts &, without the aid of our torches, pitch black - definitely not for the claustrophobic. We came out the other end unscathed & with another great memory.
    Back on the bus again & we were heading to the other side of the city to visit Yad Vashem - the World Holocaust Rememberance Centre; what a sombre & sobering experience. A must do for anyone visiting the city. You cannot help but be moved; both of us were welling up at the atrocities that occurred during this awful period in history. The Centre is meticulously maintained & presented, acting as a very fitting tribute to the memories of the millions that lost their lives (including 1.5 million children).
    Paul & I took a taxi from the museum back to the Old City where we spent the afternoon exploring & shopping in the Jewish & Armenian Quarters. The Jewish Quarter was our favourite; it was so peaceful watching families go about their business in the laneways. The silversmiths & scribes were fascinating to watch, perfecting their craft. It was a wonderful way to round out the day.
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  • Day18


    October 24, 2017 in Palestine ⋅ 🌙 17 °C

    Today we left the beautiful northern region of Israel & headed south to Jerusalem! A journey that took approximately 2 hours because we stopped along the way, to lay a wreath in honor of the fallen, just outside of Jericho.
    It was an interesting view from our window along the way, as the border with Jordan was visible in many places, just on the edge of the road. We saw many warning signs of landmines beyond the barbed wire fence 🤤! Unfortunately, we had to bypass the city of Jericho altogether, as it is a Palestinian controlled territory & our guide, Zel, being Jewish, would have had to have sought special permission to show us around. The history of fighting, wars & land control is fascinating & far more complex than we realised. Zel filled us in as best he could; his maps made it alot easier to understand, as we could visually see how frequently the borders have shifted in the past 100 years.
    Our first stop in Jerusalem was the beautiful Mount of Olives, with its incredible views over the city. A few photos were taken here before we were back on the bus & winding our way down to the Old City - a 0.9sq km walled area within the modern city of Jerusalem.
    We pulled up near the famed Southern Steps & headed in via the Dung Gate. Our first stop was the famous Western/Wailing Wall, where we all spent some time reflecting - it was pretty awesome to be right there in the midst of it all. Next, we wove our way through the ancient streets & alley ways, taking in the history of bygone eras at every twist & turn. In amongst the maze that it is, we ended up at the Christian Quarter where we steadily made our way through the throngs of people shopping in the marketplace. At the top of an alley we arrived out into the plaza containing the Tower of David. The history at every turn was incredible. We enjoyed a beautiful lunch at Christ Church, a refreshing oasis hidden behind tall gates - the break was a welcome relief in order to absorb the massive amount of history we has just absorbed in walking the 500m or so.
    After a quick half an hour of exploring, we made our way out through the Jaffa Gate & back on to our bus, bound for the hotel - Dan Jerusalem. We had an hour to settle in & change before we headed back out to the Tower of David for a special concert by our band, followed by an incredible special showing of a sound & light show. It was spectacular!
    It is now 9.50pm & our eyes are barely staying open. It is off to bed for us in preparedness for our next adventure tomorrow...
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