After losing the Jesus Trail a second time, I trudge back up the hill to the center of Mashhad. I peer across the valley, stymied. The irregular outline of Kafr Canna rises in the distance. It is almost one of those “you can’t get there from here” situations. But I know I can.
I can walk straight off of Mashhad’s hill to the highway. Assuming I don’t get splattered by some honking berserker on wheels, I can simply follow the asphalt to my goal. (Nazareth was once the boyhood home of Christ. Now it is simply a magnet for inept drivers!)
Still, I am hung up on the principle of the thing. I am trying to cross the region known as al-Jalīl, ha-Galil, or “Galilee,” by foot. The more natural the route, the better. I have the map in hand that shows how its done. The trail has just eluded me temporarily. Maybe it is the fault the sun? Is my brain dehydrated? Maybe I’m not looking at the right angle for the blazes, painted here and there on posts, walls, and rocks? It gets so zig-zaggy in town!
A small grocery sits down the street. I walk in and discover a more achievable goal: the cooler against the wall. Behind frosted glass are drinks of all kinds, sizes, and colors. Bottles of brown pop, white pop, orange pop, milk, juice, and water line the shelves. It is a liquid party. I open the door and stop. Part of my hesitation is over the choice of drink. But the other part of my hesitation is a revelation: gusts of icy air blow across my skin. It is delicious. I stand in my sweat, pack suctioned to my back. I embrace the cold.
A middle-aged woman is watching me fridgerate. She wears a stern face under a head scarf.
I regain my senses, grab a Coke Zero, and close the door. I drop the required shekels into her hand, careful not to touch it. She nods.
“Shukran,” I mumble in thanks. I go back out into the sun, prize in hand.
A short distance away is an olive grove. I find a comfortable tree, lean back against the trunk, and chug the entire bottle. It is good. Real good. I sit for a while and collect my wits.
Revived, I make my way back to the center of Jonah-town for a fresh attempt on the mystery of the disappearing trail.
This time I find it. It is an elusive right turn. I must have been sun-stupid.
The trail switchbacks down from Mashhad into a low slung valley. There, the trail returns to more comfortable dirt. I walk through open fields and cultivated trees. Olives and mangos dangle. Kafr Canna rises before me.
I dig out my phone and call Hani.
Hani is a resident of Kafr Canna and a dear friend. He and his family live on the second floor of a building dedicated to local ministry. I cannot pass by without a Salaam!
Hani answers the phone. After the usual chain of greetings he asks, “Where are you?”
“In olive trees, under the town,” I reply in really bad Arabic.
There is a laugh. Hani knew I was coming. But he didn’t believe that I would arrive on foot.
“Come up,” he says. “I’ll meet you on the road!”