The bus hadn’t come. Maybe it never would. My mom had already decided to forge her own path and leave the bus stand, instead of wait for the unknown. I could see her head, bobbing beneath the scorching Israeli sun, already far ahead with my sister trodding along behind.
We were up in the northernmost region of Israel, in a town called Majdal Shams, which bordered both Syria and Lebanon. Our three day stay was up and it was time to move on.
I hadn’t resolved to follow quite yet. I lingered at my spot and deliberated.
My mom’s idea had been to head down the mountain to the next bus stop. Thing was, I wasn’t convinced there would be another bus stop and couldn’t see the problem with waiting where we were. “Anything is better than waiting in this heat,” my mom had reasoned. Nothing is worse than walking with this beastly backpack on, I had thought to myself. But standing around with it weighing on my shoulders wasn’t much better.
If I didn’t follow, I’d likely end up on a different route (on the bus probably) and in a different destination than my mother, who so often chose adventure over anything as mundane as waiting too long for a bus.
So, slowly, begrudgingly, I schlepped down the mountain behind them, hoping we’d find another bus stand close by.
Less than fifteen minutes later we found it: the next bus stand. I was so relieved. What could have been a never-ending, nightmare of a hike, thankfully, mercifully, ended quickly.
This bus stand was nothing more than a sign stuck to a pole, light beams glinting off the corners from an insistent sun. We stood there beside the sign for a while, sweating. Soon enough the lack of shade convinced us to move along until we could either find a bus stand with shade or a town from which to get other transportation.
I guess I could use the exercise of a hike anyway… I could pretend that the weight of the backpack was part of some workout boot camp. No doubt I’d be super fit after an hour trudging down a mountain with it.
An hour came and went. There weren’t any more bus stops within a short distance, or at least none of them provided any shade, so we just kept going, and going, down the mountain for hours.
I gave up complaining as my shoulders simply went numb and the landscape around us gave way to beautiful farms and fields. Even if we would have seen it from the window of a bus, it wouldn’t have held the same wonder and impact as slowly walking past.
It was the end of June, the height of Israel’s heat and the height of the Golan’s cherry season. Cherries just so happen to be one of my mom’s all time favorite things, ever. As if we were in a fairytale created just for her, we soon enough found ourselves walking by a massive cherry grove; the trees bright and bursting with fruit.
“HEELLOOOO! IS ANYONE IN THERE?” my mom yelled into the field. She scanned the grove for signs of human life. And she found two. We went over to met them, and ask to pick cherries.
The humans turned out to be an Arab couple who didn’t speak English. They said hello and we said merhaba, then we all laughed as we worked to communicate further.
Somehow, as it often happens, we were able to converse without language. My mom and the wife talked about how many children they each had and whether they were boys or girls.
They welcomed us to pick cherries and gathered a bunch of the best ones for us themselves. At their insistence, we tried cherries of several varieties, the husband pointing out the differences in color and shape.
We filled a container full of cherries. Without the Arabic vocabulary to ask “how much?” my mom spread out her shekels on her hand and extended it to the man. He picked out 13 shekels worth, the exact going rate for a container of cherries in a local market.
We all shook hands and hugged each other goodbye. Down the mountain we continued again.
Not much further down, we found a spot of shade under a big tree. We dumped off our backpacks (ah, sweet relief) and took a break to eat our cherries.
Across from our shade-spot was a side-road business selling.. something, I can’t remember what. Funnily enough, there was a big couch placed next to the little road stand. An elderly Arabic lady saw us standing there eating and gestured to us to go sit down on her couch. We crossed the road and did so, telling her “shokran” (thank you), as she didn’t speak English either.
It was a heavenly break to sit in the shade and feel the breeze. The lady came over to us carrying a bowl with a mixture of seeds. She motioned for us to eat them. Again, we smiled and said thank you. A few minutes later, the woman’s husband came by and gave such a confused look to see us sitting there eating seeds and cherries. It was hilarious.
The afternoon was winding down and we still hadn’t found a village from which to get transportation, so we said goodbye to our new friend and kept going.
Another hour later we entered what looked to be a village. Glory, hallelujah. As we passed the first few houses, about five horses came stampeding down the main road, right towards us. No one was doing anything about these strange horses, so my mom, using her lofty equestrian skills, directed them to the field beside the road. We had never seen anything like that before. Weird.
It was around 5pm. Friendly locals pointed us to the bus stand for that town. We went to it, waited, and a bus actually came. After jumping on, the bus drove all the way up the mountain, back over every inch we had just taken all day to walk down. It even drove all the way to our original bus stand in Madjal Shams.
So, we could have waited at our original bus stop, but catching a ride from the town at the foot of the mountain worked out too. While life can be lived in a whole lot of ways, it sure seems to me that many more adventures are had when we decide to move! (: