The road to Nazareth was extremely steep. The temperature was taking no prisoners and I could not summon the effort to stay on my bike; I had to walk. My mind flashed back to an ex-colleague called John Clary. He was a top cyclist and very committed to training. We went jogging one time and I was feeling the pace. Did he care?
“Come on!” was the least of the insults.
He entered the Tour de France one year. One student told me, “Mr Clary got the Lantern Rogue.”
“Where’s the red light on a bike?”
“At the back.”
“Exactly. That’s where he finished.”
As John pointed out he did finish; half the field dropped out.
Another colleague of ours, Jean Bell, was discussing with me how different our bikes were. After some interchanges I finished with, “And my bike doesn’t have a bell on it either. I thinking of entering it for the Nobel peace prize.”
As I pushed my bike up the hill I saw some carpenters, not the pop group, workers. What a job to include one one’s CV, if one is applying for a miracle worker that is. I was too tired to look around and headed towards Galilee, somewhat spoiled by jet skis.
I saw some fishermen who were not having much luck. “Try casting your nets over there.” I suggested. They caught loads of fish and asked me how I knew. “I read it in a book.” was my smug reply.
I had slept rough, and drank the water, in every country I had been in and this was to be no exception. I checked my watch and did not realise that it got darker much earlier here. I hurriedly found a spot which looked over Jordan, the river that is. The golden grass was lit by a pink sunset and the fantastic colours were anything but European.
In the morning a military vehicle stopped and shoved a rifle up my nostrils, which worked far better than any ex-lax. He wanted to know what I was doing and I told him the truth.
“Next time don’t choose a war zone.”
Good advice is sometimes taken and with the wisdom of Solomon, I cycled off. However, my state of enlightenment was short lived as I climbed on my bike with the intention to cycle through the infamous West Bank. I did not fancy getting stoned in that way.
A slow puncture forced me into the nearest town and, with discretion being the better part of valour, I decided to wait for the Jerusalem bus which left late afternoon.
As I sat under a tree I was joined by a couple of cyclists who were frightfully nice. Both were at Cambridge and had won half blues for fencing. Apparently, you only get a full blue if you compete against Oxford.
“My friend was at Cambridge.”
“Yes, changing trains. He didn’t take any exams or anything.”
My attempts at humour fell on stony ground and we were all too hot and bothered to worry. The pair decided to visit a Roman ruin. I tried but the tyre flattened and there was no water for miles.
I was joined by a young local student. He told me his name was Gabriel and he was an Arab. We chatted away the hours.
He took a stone. I was worried. He threw it into the branches of a date palm. I was relieved. The dates fell noisily to the ground breaking the silence. He offered me some. They tasted very sweet.