Janine's Yam L' Yam Journey

Janine & Aarran en route Yam L' Yam

If ever I was going to a theme park, I was the ‘coat holder’, or if Aarran was taking the girls on a hike, I’d offer to stay at home and have dinner ready.

But all that changed 15 months ago when I lost my beautiful sister Louise to cancer. I was poleaxed. How can someone who was so vibrant and alive suddenly not be?

So, I have decided to step out of my comfort zone, and now I hardly recognize myself.

Yam L’ Yam was on my ‘bucket list’, but so is flying in a hot air balloon… I haven’t done that either.

Perry has been a friend of ours for a few years. He led Aarran when he climbed Kilimanjaro a few years ago and had said what a great leader he was. When I saw Perry posted a Yam L’ Yam trek on Facebook it raised my interest. Next thing I know – I’m signed up!

I didn’t have a huge amount of time to think about the trek. I just had time to finish packing my bag.

At 4:45am the bus was on time as planned. I was interested to see who I would be sharing the next few days with. We were a mixed group of young and old(er), from 12yrs – 68yrs.

The bus drove north and dropped us off at Ahkziv beach on the Mediterranean as dawn was breaking. Perry explained the significance of walking from one body of water to the next and to pick up a stone from the beach, to carry with us until we could drop it in the waters of the Kineret. I picked one up and wondered at the time ‘will this really reach the Kinneret?’ …. Would I…..????

The first part of the walk was through banana groves, I saw this as a perfect opportunity to acquaint myself with the group. After a couple of hours walking, we stopped at a beautiful fresh water pool for a refreshing dip. ‘This is wonderful’ I thought to myself …….

We arrived at our deluxe camp site, hot and tired with my overriding thought being ‘how am I going to do this again tomorrow?’

We were fortified that evening with a gourmet barbecue cooked by PJS Challenges Assistant Leader Josh F-C. I barely had the energy to lift my fork, how Josh managed to barbecue, I’ll never know (Army training, I guess).

The shower facilities at camp, which had been my biggest fear, were amazing. Plenty of hot water and spotlessly clean, best of all so were the toilets!

We crawled into our tents around 9 pm, Aarran was asleep within 30 seconds.

I was awoken by strange noises – animal or human I wasn’t sure. Perry and Josh had been up before dawn cooking a sumptuous breakfast – eggs beans and veggies. I realised I was going to need the calories so I motored my way through the ‘Full English’ (minus the bacon)

Sandwiches made and water bottles filled, we set off on day 2. Beautiful scenery as we ascended Mt Meron. Whether I was walking with the young or the old(er), my husband or a stranger, it didn’t seem to matter.

The afternoon walk was long …very long and I could see the sun getting lower. Perry was mindful of the time and wanted to get us to camp before darkness for safety reasons, so asked us to ‘step it up’…

‘What?’ We’d been walking for 8 hours – I didn’t want to ‘Step it up’ I wanted a rest and cup of Perry’s cardamom coffee.

With his encouraging words and the emergency M & M’s, Perry had boosted our morale and we made it back to the bus taking us to camp.

A delicious fish barbecue was prepared and I think I managed to eat more calories than I’d burnt off.

Day 3 was a beautiful day with spectacular scenery. When the terrain was hard going, I could always be guaranteed there would be interesting banter from the group to lift my mood.

On our last evening, Perry gave us a talk about the final days route and warned us it would be a little more technical, explaining what to watch out for. That night – sleep eluded me, I started day 4 tired and groggy.

I had been looking forward to getting to know some of the group better during the final day. But sadly, the difficult terrain and lack of sleep had rendered me ‘non-verbal’. I knew I had to conserve my strength to get through the day. Josh F-C was my saviour and literally held my hand every step of the way …. And I’m not just speaking metaphorically

After our lunch I had renewed vigour. And through the beautiful Nahal Amud I was able to chat more to my trekking mates.

Breathtaking views and Perry’s enthusiasm (and coffee) spurred us on to finish our 90km trek. At one point, when the heat of the day was almost unbearable, Perry arrived Gene Kelly style from ’Singin’ in the Rain’ with an umbrella to offer me shade to complete the last few steps.

The last few kilometres of the final long walk were in twilight. Although we could see the Kineret, it was another hour and a half till I could dip my feet in the beautiful cool water and drop in my stone.

I was euphoric – I’d done it!

Yam L’ Yam was an incredible experience. In fact it was a microcosm of our lives. There were ups and downs, highs and lows, breath-taking peaks, followed by some rough ground….. but still, with Aarran by my side and the professionalism of Perry and all at PJS Challenges, it’s one of the best things I have ever done.

Janine Levy

PJS Challenges Yam L' Yam Group October 2018

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