I follow a winding stream through the canyon known as Wadi Hamam. The water offers focus; it splashes across gravel, slowing only occasionally to waller in mudholes. Dense vegetation crowds the water’s edge. It is a narrow passage of brush and boulder, soft willow and thorny jujube, one that Dorsey calls “virtually impassable today” (1991:96). I can see why.
The Arabic term wadi or wady refers to a valley or watercourse. In this part of the word, wadis often flow seasonally. This one flows to the Sea of Galilee.
I slosh indifferently through grass, water and mud. My body is sun dried and sore. Mud spatters accent the brine lines on my shirt. My solo hike on the Jesus Trail has gone off course more than once. I have slept on Galilee’s ground, talked with its residents, eaten its food, witnessed its history, tried to tell its story. It is good earthy travel. But I am ready to be done.
The canyon walls grow increasingly steep on either side. Above the stream, more poorly positioned shrubs and grasses wither to tinder. The air is still. I don’t need to check my map, I am well below sea level.
High on my right, the corner of old Africa swings into view. Deep beneath my feet are forces capable of wrenching whole continents asunder. This action is complex and ongoing. It has produced a series of connected valleys that hopscotch from the Black Sea in the north to dark Madagascar in the south. The Wadi Hamam represents a secondary fault of this Great Rift. Arabia twists away from Africa’s bosom and the brittle crust between them fractures at right angles.
I round one more corner and the canyon begins to open up. Before me is a cement installation with a pipe. It is a spring (‘ein) connected with the name Hamam (of late, renamed Arbel). Just beyond the spring is the replanted Bedouin community of Wadi Hamam. Roman-Late Roman period excavations are taking place just above the spring. I vow to return to these on another day. The spring, coupled with the strategic position at the mouth of the wadi, makes the site’s location understandable.
Just beyond the spring, the dirt trail hits blacktop. After a morning of solo travel, I rejoin the community of the living. My welcome comes by way of a snarling dog from the village. He stands stiffly at the end of a dirt road. I cross to the other side and scoot on, watching him warily out the corner of my eye. Years of experiences in Jordan have taught me to give Bedouin dogs a wide berth.
The Wadi Hamam debouches into the Genesseret plain. I debouch with it.
Before me sparkles a lake. It is the Sea of Galilee.