Walk the Masar Ibrahim al Khalil with Leon McCarron

Code: PAL/WTM/LEON/19
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Fixed Departure : October 2019, dates TBC

We invite you to join  writer, adventurer and film-maker Leon McCarron for twelve of the most eye-opening, heart-warming days of walking you may ever experience. Leon has written a book about his 1000-mile walk through Palestine, Israel and also Jordan, returned here many times since and led a very successful expedition for us on the Masar Ibrahim al Khalil in 2017.

This is a rare opportunity to truly experience people’s lives in this part of the world: to stay in their homes, eat their delicious food and hear their often remarkable stories.

Aside from the astounding hospitality, expect rocky mountains, desert gorges, dead seas, surprising oases, the oldest inhabited cities on earth, vibrant local culture and the deep connection to place and people that comes when you walk through a land on your own two feet.

You won’t find this destination in many tour brochures, and that’s just how we like our expeditions to be. The indefatigable Leon McCarron is a well known writer, film maker and adventurer with some fairly hardcore expedition credentials behind him.  We can’t think of a more enthusiastic, knowledgeable and genial host for this trip and we are delighted to be working with Leon once again.

As Leon himself says “of all the expeditions I’ve done, the Masar has been the most instantly inspiring“.

At this stage we are asking for expressions of interest to join the small group in October 2019 – if you’d like to come along please just complete the booking form to your right.

DEPARTURE/RETURN LOCATION Tel Aviv Ben Gurion International Airport, Israel
DEPARTURE TIME Please ensure you arrive in good time for our scheduled departure from Tel Aviv
INCLUDED
  • Airport transfers in Israel.
  • All food and accommodation. Accommodation will range from good hotels in Bethlehem and Jerusalem to homestays and nights in Bedouin encampments.
  • Drinking water.
  • Luggage transfers each day – leaving you with only a day pack to carry.
  • A superb local guide who intimately knows the route and the people who live along it.
  • Leon McCarron!
  • Fresh filtered water + a Water 2 Go water filtration bottle, in order to reduce plastic waste
  • Professional route planning and logistics, backed by risk assessments, emergency procedures, satellite communications (where necessary) and medical support. We don’t take risks lightly and we plan for all eventualities, believing it is better to have prepared and not require a procedure than not to plan at all.
NOT INCLUDED
  • International Flights to/from Tel Aviv – we can organise these for you as part of the package – please advise us if you need this.
  • Your Israeli visa if required (UK/EU citizens do not require a tourist visa. Other nationalities may).
  • Extras such as souvenirs and alcohol.
  • Your personal travel insurance

This is a two-week expedition from the north to south of the West Bank, starting in the village of Rummaneh near Jenin and ending in Jerusalem, one of the oldest cities in the world.

We will be following the ancient Masar Ibrahim al Khalil  – sometimes known as Abraham’s Path – through the beautiful and varied landscapes of this most historic of regions. We’ll stay with local families in their homes, meet Bedouins, partake of generous hospitality and gain a deep understanding of the local culture. You can expect a good walk every day with some stupendous views, potential to see local wildlife and plenty of opportunity to see the layers of ancient – and more recent – history that will surround us.

The wonderful images shown are gratefully credited to Merryn Conaway, Daniel Gerber, Carla Ribeiro and to Frits Meyst of Meystphoto.com

Walk the Masar with Leon McCarron
October 2019 – Dates to Be Confirmed
Minimum number for guaranteed departure 6 persons. Maximum group size 10 persons

Day 1

Arrive Ben Gurion Airport, Israel
Flights from the UK (Easyjet or British Airways direct, many others indirectly) or from your home destination will be met today and you will be transferred to your hotel in Jenin for the night.

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Day 2

Rummaneh – Burqin 17.8 kms, 5-7 hours walking
We are driven to the start point in Rummaneh for our day’s walk to Burqin. This stage extends from the village of Rummaneh, which literally means pomegranates, to the village of Burqin – located in the north of the West Bank, 5 km west of Jenin. On this path you’ll see ancient cisterns, shelters and Canaanite ruins, and pass through steep hills shrouded in olive trees and studded with cacti. We stay overnight with a local family.
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Day 3

Burqin – Arraba 15.1 kms, 3-4 hours walking
After a hearty breakfast at the guesthouse, we start our day’s walk to Arraba.
Expect to see Ottoman antiquities, the buzz of agricultural production – including tobacco and various vegetables – and wide ranging views of mountains, plains and valleys. We stay the night in Arraba with a local family.

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Day 4

Arraba – Sanur 9.5 kms, 3-4 hours walking
Our day starts at a meandering pace as we have only a small distance to cover, but much to see along our route – including Arraba’s ancient stately palaces, old caravanserai, serene olive groves and orchards, Joseph’s (of Technicolour dreamcoat fame!) Well and plenty of hilly terrain before arriving at a local family home in lower Sanur; our accommodation for the evening.

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Day 5

Sanur to Sebastieh 15.6 kms, 5-7 hours walking
The route begins by climbing Mount Hraish which has an elevation of 650 meters and is located near Maythaloon between Sanur and Sebastia.
This landscape shows evidence of 10,000 years of continuous civilisation and there is much to enjoy along our path today. The afternoon includes another climb over Mount Bayzeed before following the terrain around to our evening destination at Sebastia, where we’ll stay in a delightful guesthouse. Sebastia is a beautiful village filled with surprises and we love it here. You’ll be tired after one of our most strenuous days.

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Day 6

Sebastieh to Nablus, 10 kms, 2-3 hours walking
In the village of Sebastia, we have the opportunity to see the remains of the church of St. John the Baptist, built by Crusaders in 1165 on the site of earlier shrines. History sits here like the layers of an onion, and you’ll walk among the pillars of a Roman basilica and see Greek, Roman and Byzantine ruins. Incredible. A short day of walking along this classical route brings us to the city of Nablus and our hotel for the night. In Nablus you’ll have the chance to try the famous Nabulsi Kenafeh, as well as to buy its olive oil soap. The city stands at an elevation of around 550 meters above sea level, in a narrow valley running roughly east-west between two mountains: Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim. It’s a spectacular and evocative location to spend the night. The old bazaar is huge and a fascinating place to explore. You are going to love it.

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Day 7

Nablus to Duma 18.6 kms, 5-6 hours walking
We’ll take a short (8 km) transfer  to the start of today’s stage at Awarta, which has been inhabited since Biblical times. From there, at an altitude of 560 metres, we trek through the picturesque interlocking hills and cultivated areas of the Nablus region. We finish our walk today in Duma, whose residents still mostly rely on irrigated crops, fruit orchards, olive groves and livestock for food. There are four water springs in Duma that provide water for the residents. We stay this evening with a local family.

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Day 8

Duma to Taybeh via Kafr Malek 17 kms, 5-6 hours walking
A lovely start to our day, the route takes us through a landscape of olive groves, wheat fields and limestone villages among beautiful hills. Besides a few small sections on paved road, this segment takes us alongside a rocky valley. A steep ascent leads up to the welcoming hospitality of Kafr Malek village. We’ll either walk on from there to Taybeh or grab a taxi for the short ride. Our hotel in Taybeh is also home to one of Palestine’s only wineries and breweries.

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Day 9

Taybeh – Al Auja 13.5 km 5 hours walking
We transfer via a short vehicle ride to re-join the Masar Ibrahim route to walk along the deep Wadi Auja, part of an ancient spring system linked to Ain Samia, which extends along four kilometers from the remains of a Roman city known as “Aram”. Our stroll through history is rewarded at the day’s end by a stay in the warm hospitality of a Bedouin settlement at Al Auja. We are now below sea level and in the desert. Given clear skies we will hope to be stargazing around the fire tonight.

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Day 10

Al Auja – Jericho 15.6 km, 5 hours walking
After our night in the historical Bedouin settlement of Auja, at 240 metres below sea level, we follow the wadi and a hilly pass for the rest of the walk into Jericho. The city’s successive settlement has been shown to date back some 11,000 years, making this yet another of the world’s oldest inhabited cities. We should be able to take the cable car for a visit to the Mount of Temptation Monastery and get back down to the city in time for a late lunch. Then we’ll head-off to our hotel and its very welcoming swimming pool!

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Day 11

Jericho – Sea Level Encampment 22 kms, 6 hours walking
After a short transfer to the Greek Orthodox St George’s Monastery in Wadi Qelt, we’ll walk up the gorge of Wadi Qelt this morning. Now that we are in the low lands near to the Dead Sea temperatures will tend to rise. Our destination for the day is the ‘Sea Level’ Bedouin settlement, where you’ll spend your final night out in the countryside.

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Day 12

Sea Level Encampment – Bethlehem 21 kms, 5-7 hours walking
This will be our last day of walking and will bring us to Bethlehem. From the Sea Level Encampment, we will take a short transfer Mar Saba. This incredible monastery hidden in a deep desert gorge is straight out of Game of Thrones. It is an incredible sight but sadly only permits men, so women must stay outside the citadel walls. Sorry. Our track then becomes a paved road which we will follow into Beit Sahour and onwards into Bethlehem itself, and we’ll probably take a taxi for the final few kilometres if traffic is heavy. Clearly, Bethlehem is well known for having ‘no room at the inn’. But rest assured, there will be plenty of room at our guesthouse accommodation for tonight. There should also be plenty of time for exploring this historic city for those whose legs still have the energy.

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Day 13

Battir and Jerusalem
Battir has a unique antique system of man-made terraces, controlling irrigation from seven springs through a series of sluice gates, and there is a remaining spring-fed Roman bath in the centre of the village. We’ll begin today by having a brief village tour and savouring the peace and quiet to be found here, before an onward transfer into Jerusalem itself. You’ll have the afternoon and likely the following morning to explore this most alluring of cities, and tonight we’ll organise a final ‘goodbye’ evening meal, to relax and chat in good company.

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Day 14

Jerusalem – Home
 Whatever time you decide to fly out, we will get you to the airport in good time for your flight home today. This trip will almost certainly have given you an entirely new and positive perspective on a part of the world that sadly receives little positive press.

Who is Leon McCarron?

Leon McCarron is a Northern Irish adventurer, filmmaker, writer and motivational speaker. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, an advisor to the Ted Simon Foundation and he specialises in long distance, human-powered expeditions.

In Winter 2011-2012 Leon walked 3000 miles across China, filming for a National Geographic TV show along the way. The journey took him six months; walking a marathon a day for six days a week and carrying a 30kg pack. Two days after returning home, Leon was honoured to carry the Olympic Flame along a section of the Northern Irish coast as part of the London 2012 relay.

Previous to this he rode a bicycle 14,000 miles from New York to Hong Kong, documented in a television show which is currently airing in over 60 countries worldwide. At the end of 2012 he trekked 1000 miles through the Empty Quarter desert in Oman, following in the footsteps of the late British explorer Sir Wilfred Thesiger. A feature length film entitled ‘Into The Empty Quarter’ was premiered at the Royal Geographical Society in London in Autumn 2013. His most recent journeys include following the longest river in Iran from source to sea (documented in ‘Karun’), travelling across Argentina on horseback to investigate the imminent demise of the last free-flowing glacial river in Patagonia, and walking 1000 miles through the heart of the Middle East – www.walkthemasar.com

Leon is a passionate storyteller and a firm believer in the power of an adventurous mindset as a key element of fulfillment and success. He loves this part of the world and knows this route very well indeed.

Where will we be staying?

On this expedition our accommodation will range from good hotels with a room each, to shared rooms in homestays and shared floor space in Bedouin settlements.

What size of group will it be?

Our groups are always small and intimate, and this will have a maximum of ten guests. We like there to be plenty of space around the camp fire each night and for everyone to get to know each other.

What will the weather be like?

This should be a generally warm time of year to travel – around 20-25 degrees during the day. But bare in mind that some sharp showers can be expected, that it will be colder as we gain altitude and that nights will likely be between 8 and 10 degrees in some places.

I’m a solo traveller – is this for me?

Yes. More than 85% of our expedition clients travel alone as part of our group.

Do you charge single supplements – I can’t see them in your information?

Normally no. We don’t believe that solo travellers should be penalised with extra charges.  It goes against our ethos. However, we have taken feedback from previous guests on this expedition and although we offer 3 nights of single accommodation within the price, it is possible to add a further 4 nights of single accommodation for a premium of £300 per person. We have tried to incorporate this but feel that it is better to keep the overall cost as low as possible and offer the chance to extend solo sleeping arrangements where possible, at extra cost.  Some nights are spent all together – e.g. Bedouin settlements, so bare this in mind if you are a light sleeper.

What kit do I need to bring?

We will provide you with an information pack after signing up to this trip, and this will detail any particular equipment we think either necessary or useful. For this walking expedition, comfortable clothes, good boots and a day pack are the key ingredients to a happy time!

Is there a back-up vehicle?

Sometimes our expeditions require a back-up vehicle. For our Masar trip, we don’t use a vehicle because daily distances are small, and proximity to medical care is relatively good. We do however employ the services of local drivers to take luggage from our morning departure point to our evening accommodation. This will mean all you need to carry with you in a day pack is your camera, any extra clothes, waterproofs, snacks and water bottle.

How much are flights?

This is a moving feast! It depends on where you are travelling from and how you want to get there. From London, the cheapest flights to Tel Aviv can be via EasyJet or similar carriers, but as always the lowest price tickets can be pot luck to obtain. Several major carriers fly direct to Tel Aviv from all over the world, or if you are feeling adventurous and have the time, the cheapest flights at the time of writing were via Ukraine on Kayak.com. Expect to pay around £200 from London on average.

What will the food be like?

The food in this part of the world can be spectacularly good – full of flavour, spice, fruit and seasonings. In the main, local people eat a lot of maqluba. This is a dish made of rice, vegetables and often chicken, inverted at the point of serving hence the name, which translates literally as ‘upside-down’. This is often served with yoghurt and salads. Breakfasts are often pitta or other flat breads, served with fruits, cheese and other accompaniments. You’ll eat a lot of tasty hummus, babaganoush and olive oil on this trip.

Will I have to share a room?

Yes, at times. There will be hotels and guest houses where we will have separate rooms, but there will also be times where we are staying at homestays or in Bedouin encampments when there is no option but to share rooms. This is all part of the adventure, and a reason we love to travel here. It makes sense for light sleepers to bring earplugs, in case of snorers or the host family waking early. See notes above for info on supplementary single rooming costs where possible.

How fit do I need to be?

You need to be fit enough to be able to walk on rough and hilly terrain for an average of 12/13 miles per day. If you have any doubts or worries over whether you might not be able, perhaps a trial walk somewhere local to you would be a good idea to gauge your fitness levels before signing up? We have kept daily distances relatively low so as to be able to enjoy the scenery and culture and not feel rushed along.

Do you perform proper risk management on your expeditions?

Yes. We are members of TRIP – the Travel Risk and Incident Prevention Group – and perform detailed country risk assessments prior to departure, in line with the ISO 31000 international standard for risk assessment. We also maintain close contact with the relevant Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice for countries we plan to visit, in addition to making use of the Australian Smart Traveller assessment tool, and the US State Department’s OSAC service. Beyond this, we have a full set of risk management and disaster contingency plans for each expedition and are expedition first aid trained by Crux Medical. For final back up we also use the services of Remote Medical Support that allows us to have a UK expedition doctor on the end of a telephone line wherever we may be. And we always carry a satellite phone if there is any danger of being out of signal in the places we travel through. We really don’t mess around when it comes to safety.

I can’t do your dates but love the sound of your expedition – can you be flexible?

Yes. We offer set group dates for our expeditions, but we can organise and deliver bespoke expeditions to groups and individuals to suit your itinerary and budget. More information is available on our tailor made expeditions page.

Is this for me?

Although this is an extremely enlivening way to spend two weeks of your life, it’s also potentially dangerous.

Walking across rough terrain can be dangerous in your own back yard, so being fit enough to walk an average of twelve miles per day on boulder strewn mountain tracks is a prerequisite of this trip.

Don’t even consider signing up for this adventure if you aren’t fully aware of the risks you are taking.

This is a beautiful, enchanting and ancient place to travel through but in many of the areas we will pass through, tourism is in its infancy. This of course, is what draws us – and hopefully you – to travel there in this experiential way.

There’ll be very little Wi-Fi or mobile reception for most of the hike. Shared rooms, local hospitality and simple amenities will be the norm, so if your idea of heaven is starting each day with a full English breakfast and having a swimming pool and a private suite, then we’d suggest this isn’t for you!

Price:£2,980.00