Geha Junction it was raining, in Kiryat Gat the first rips began to appear in
the clouds, and in Nahal Zin we were already greeted with smiling, completely
were heading for the eastern slopes of the Hatira Ridge, the ones with a view of
the southern edge of the Large Makhtesh. For this purpose, we planned to hike up
the riverbed of Nahal Mador to the top of the wall of the makhtesh, pause at Mt.
Karbolet, and make our way down Nahal Afran.
past, the guides leading hikes on this route would get a little worried at a
certain point. The dirt road to Nahal Mador, the one marked in black on the
Hiking and Trail Map (Central Negev, No. 15), passes through the grounds of the
Oron phosphate works. Though the guides arranged entry to the area in advance,
and usually it all worked out, they could never be sure that the guard at the
gate would really open the barricade.
in this regard I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that the plant has
blocked the black road with piles of earth and the road can no longer be used.
The good news is that a road bypassing the Oron plant is currently being
prepared. We actually had the honor of trying it out. In order to drive on it,
you have to turn right (west) about 500 meters before the gate of the Oron
plant. Afterward, you drive to the foot of the hill with the antenna and
complete the bypass of the phosphate works from the north. Then the road crosses
the railroad tracks and continues parallel to the tracks for approximately 6
kilometers, until you reenter the black road, which you follow for about 2 more
kilometers to the channel of Nahal Mador.
even the new road is not that wonderful. It is quite difficult for a bus to
negotiate. It is passable for a 4x4 and a high tender, but not for a private
car. In our opinion, even a stubborn טיולית of the old variety, will manage to
pass through the road. In short, pay attention to the map in this article in
order to understand what is happening. “By the time the article is published,”
promised Dany Gaspar, coordinator of the Israel Trails Committee, “we will have
marked the bypass road in red. ERETZ readers will not go astray.”
road to Nahal Mador offers beautiful views. The eastern layers of the Hatira
Ridge, which conceal the Large Makhtesh, dive down toward the Zin Plain. Only a
yellowish hill is attached to them in a strange way (geologists call it an
“incongruity”). The Hebrew name of the hill, Givat Mador, preserves the sound of
the Beduin name al-Madriyya. This is a residual hill typical of the Negev, that
is, a leftover from strata of rock that once covered the Zin Plain and even the
Hatira Ridge. The slopes of the hill are composed of soft, yellowish marl and
chalk of the Arev Formation, which contains the phosphates. The top of the hill
is made of harder chalk, which gives it the shape of a table. As Nahal Zin dug
its way through, the rocks of the Arev Formation were swept from the mountainous
areas and the remnants were left in the syncline of Nahal Zin.
parked the car east of Mador Hill, at a meeting point of a blue trail and a red
trail. We would be hiking up Nahal Mador (blue trail 15230) to the top of the
wall of the makhtesh. We would walk southwest and descend in Nahal Afran (red
trail 15230). From there we would walk back to the car. Our hike would cover a
total of about 17 kilometers.
To the Wall of the Makhtesh
hike began with a wade through the broad channel of Nahal Mador. The desert
tranquility was disturbed only by a few shallow trenches that had been dug by a
tractor, apparently with the aim of reaching the underground water table. In the
first days of January, water could not be seen in the water holes, but they were
covered with green vegetation and a few tamarisk trees were growing in them.
Tamarisks “sniff out” every drop of water in the desert. Their lightweight seeds
are scattered over large expanses, and when they fall on damp ground, they
sprout and take root.
were just beginning to appear, but their presence was a good sign of what would
take place in the area in February and March. The orange heads of the field
marigolds already dotted the channel. This plant grows almost everywhere in
Israel, except for the most remote recesses of the desert. There were many
leaves of desert Roman squill, but most of their bell-shaped blue flowers were
we had walked for 45 minutes, the route of the trail changed. We reached the
slopes of the Hatira Ridge. The riverbed digs into them, makes its way down
several small falls, and wisely circumvents a larger fall. The falls accentuate
the sharp slope of the layers of the Hatira Ridge on its eastern side. Sometimes
they seem almost vertical. This is a beautiful segment of the trail. It does not
climb on the slope of the mountain, but also digs into its strata.
an hour and a half of walking, we came upon the Israel Trail. The trail passes
along a huge wall with fossils of oysters of the genus Exogyra. These fossils
are not rare, but the concentration here is impressive. Exogyra is a type of
oyster that is known by a twisting to the left of one of its shells. The
opposite shell is like a flat cover. The Exogyra oysters inhabited a shallow
marine area and they were very common in the Lower Cretaceous epoch (140-100
million years ago).
on the shaded slopes, in the fissures of the rock, grow the round leaves of the
common pennywort, a thoroughly Mediterranean plant. Shaded rock fissures are a
Negev highlands habitat that sometimes provides shelter to plants that are not
native to the desert. This phenomenon is due mainly to the fact that the pocket
of ground in the fissure of the rock receives relatively large quantities of
water, since the rainwater flows into it from the surrounding rock.
elevation point 682, the trail’s marking changes its color to red. We were at
the top of Mt. Karbolet, Hebrew for Coxcomb. Such a name is not given to just
any mountain, and indeed, the view was incredible. On one side we could see all
of the Large Makhtesh. On the other side we could can see the sloped layers of
the wall of the makhtesh. We were in the middle, walking on the “razor” that
alternately descends and ascends, justifying the name given to it. Far away from
us in the south rose Mt. Rechev on the Hatzera Ridge, the home of the Small
Makhtesh. Even further away we could see the Mahmal Ridge, which contains
were greeted by a deep riverbed. The trail cuts across it and rises to the slope
behind it, traversing a huge rock surface that is composed entirely of an
immense concentration of Exogyra fossils. Then the trail leads down to Nahal
Afran was the highlight of the hike. This strange name derives from the Beduin
name of the riverbed, Wadi Afran (the Riverbed on the Soil). It begins with a
series of five rock cavities, which were full of water. The slope with the
cavities descends to a clear geological fault line. The inclined layers of this
slope are simply swallowed up under a steep wall.
layers of rock create quite a commotion here. They twist and turn in all kinds
of whimsical ways. The whole descent is a real experience. The trail runs
steeply along the slanted layers, in narrow crevices. You have to walk slowly
and carefully. Walking fast can easily end in a sprained ankle. Thus you pass
from “crust” to “crust” of the makhtesh wall until you reach the large
waterfall. Here, too, the trail “breaks,” circumventing the waterfall from the
left with the aid of hand rungs.
the end of the crevice, the trail leaves the channel to avoid a group of
boulders, ascends steeply and leads back down to it in a very steep descent.
Afterward, you somehow pass between and under large boulders.
last “crust” of the Hatira Ridge, to the right of the trail and adjacent to it,
is a lovely group of packed fossils of tower snails. They are of the genus
Cerithium, whose representatives inhabited shallow seawater in the distant past.
They are up to 7 centimeters long and their whorls are very prominent.
came out of the belly of the mountain to the open landscape of the syncline that
separates the Hatira and Hatzera anticlines. Nahal Afran digs through the
sediments of the syncline on its way to its meeting with Nahal Mador. We had
another 6 kilometers to go before we reached the spot where we had left the car.
It seemed to us a reasonable price to pay for the scenery we had beheld.
went down. Now we couldn’t see anything. From time to time, we discerned rocks
marked with two white stripes and a red stripe in the center, a sign that we
were going the right way.
sophisticated hikers would have arranged to have the car brought close to the
exit of Nahal Efran and save a walk of an hour and a half. We were not so
The Method to its Madness
Israel Trail runs along the top of Mt. Karbolet, which is the southern wall of
the Large Makhtesh. At a certain point, the trail descends in the direction of
the gate of the Oron phosphate works and then leads back up to the mountain.
Why? A campsite is planned near the gate of the phosphate works. From there the
trail leads back up to the Coxcomb. A second campsite will be established on the
slope of Nahal Afran. The campsites serve the important function of replenishing
the hikers’ water supply. If you don’t want to descend from the Coxcomb you can
follow a blue trail. The 2003 edition of the Central Negev Trail Map (15)
includes the changes that have already been marked in the field.