Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons’ Magazine:
Imagine the deep valley with a beautiful life giving stream penetrating the green surroundings. The sounds of migrating birds that we do not hear in the city. The never ending horizon folded into the rolling hills. One’s eye captures a few moments with the wild animals. These scenes are impossible to reach on conventional transportation.
A group of Palestinians are taking over the outdoors of Palestine. They have called themselves “Palestinian Bike Lovers- Explore your country on two wheels”. They embarked on this adventure on a modest budget and lack of suitable bikes but they have managed to exceed their expectations. Their passion for the outdoors has driven them to the journey and given Horizons the pleasure of speaking to them:
When the group started and what is the purpose?
It was established in 2012 to give the opportunity for cyclists to explore the whole extent of Palestine
Why did you choose cycling especially since it is not a popular sport in Palestine?
The group made the decision because it is their favorite hobby. We want to encourage cycling in Palestine. It is a flexible means to discover the geography and topography of Palestine.
How many people are there in the group? How do you organize your schedules for your trips?
We are between 30-40 members from the West Bank, ’48 Palestine and especially up north. We schedule our trips once a week through social media. We have groups on “Facebook” and “What’s App”. Where we plan logistics and support for the trip out.
Are there women members?
We do have a small amount of women. Our trips are on difficult and dangerous terrain it can be a danger for women. We have only had two female members. We are hoping for future female members to join and outdo us!
The impossible is done by Palestinian bikers
Were you able to tour different areas in Palestine? Are you able to travel inside the green line? Please describe your feelings when you enter areas that need an entry permit, areas off limits to you?
In my opinion, there is no forbidden areas. Let us take for example Area C and the areas that stretch from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea. The areas inside the West Bank all are easily accessible. We do not have a culture that encourages exploration. We are trying to go out and discover the land that has no boundaries.
When we arrive at the green line, there are moments when we encounter the occupation’s border patrol. They are taken aback. They do not think we are Palestinians and they think we are foreigners. The guards let us through. Our good luck has allowed us to travel to Yafa, Haifa, Akka and the Lebanese borders. For example, our trip to Haifa we embarked on one day was on a whim. We travelled 160 km from Ramallah to Haifa on our bikes. We left at six in the morning and arrived in Haifa at 6 in the evening. The trip lasted 12 hours because it was fascinating. The next day we decided to continue the trip to Ras Alnaqura on the way home from there we passed through Haifa. We broke all the exploration rules on that day.
What do you feel when you are riding the hills?
It is a great feeling! You forget the trip while you are in a car. When you are on a bike, there is no way to forget especially with all the obstacles. On a bike you can smell and hear your surroundings, you are connected
While you are riding through the different landscapes and terrains what impresses you?
What impresses me is the splendor of the landscape and the great climate. The atmosphere the trees and animals are pristine. We learn through experience: While we were on a trip near Kharoubiya, near Shifa 'Amr, we saw a huge black snake crossing the trail. It got caught in the tires of one the bikes ( we did not have a camera for the moment) We found out later what it was on the internet- The Black Adder.
On another day on a trail near Ramallah we saw an injured bird fighting with a snake. Within seconds the bird cut it in two and flew away with the top half. Again, we forgot the camera!But we managed to get a shot of the part of the snake left behind. We later found out it was a spotted hawk an introduced bird to Palestine.
Where is the most beautiful place you have visited?
The most beautiful are Wadi Al Qelt and Ain Fawar. They have an abundance of trees, plants and springs. In the winter, there is an abundance of life that is beautiful; the foothills reveal a grand view of the Dead Sea
What concerns you in these trips?
I am concerned with the neglect to the environment. I see trash everywhere leftover from picnics and barbeque. I see trash on the trails and archaeological sites. There is evidence of fire damage and graffiti on the walls
In your opinion, how does cycling benefit the body and the environment?
Without a doubt, cycling is the best exercise it has many benefits for the environment and the body. It helps cut down on pollution and traffic, if it was to a mode of transportation.
Do you have a particular diet you follow?
We do not have a rigid diet that we follow while cycling. We do have basic rules we follow: lots of water and consume fruits like bananas, dates and nuts. for energy
Do you cycle in the winter?
Yes, the mechanics of the bikes are different according to the seasons and weather. In the winter, the cyclist should learn how to ride through mud. They must be conscious of the brakes and equilibrium while riding. The cyclist takes into account the high winds and debris. The cyclist’s body must become one with the bike. These challenges only make the ride better
What are the future prospects of the group? How much of your objectives have you accomplished?
We hope to spread the love of keeping fit and mountain bikes. We are in the process of setting and accomplishing more challenges everyday
What would you like to say to everyone?
Anyone can join our group. It costs nothing. All you need is a mountain bike
Translated by: Kefah Abukhdeir