Showing posts with label things to do in Israel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label things to do in Israel. Show all posts

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Activities in North Central Israel - Sakhne and ATV Trip

Photo of Gan HaShlosha National ParkWe took advantage of the hot summer weather to do a bit of travelling around Israel with some special guests.  While it is quite hot in Israel these days, it is also hot in much of North America.  So the temperature differential is not as great as at other times of the year, especially if the guests happen to be from St. Louis...

We started at Sakhne, also called "Gan Hashlosah" - the park of three.  This is a  huge spring water park.  The park is made up of three  connected pools containing natural spring water that is, apparently, 28C all year round.  There are waterfalls, a wading pool and various facilities.  Since this is natural spring water, the pools are filled with fish of all different sizes.  In fact, there are so many that you can expect to be nibbled on gently by schools of fish in different parts of the park.  But the water is beautiful, reasonably refreshing and fun.  There are shallower parts and some very deep areas.  There are lifeguards in most areas of the park.

All along the pools of water, there are areas to set up picnics, barbecues or to play some games.  As long as it isn't too hot, it would probably be a great place for ultimate frisbee, football or maybe some volleyball.

Since we were there in early July, it was close to 40C and it was quite hot.  We were able to spend most of the time in the water, in reasonably shady areas.  From Ra'anana, the distance to Sakhne is about 110 km on a mixture of highways and slower roads.  It takes about an hour and a half to get there.  The cost of admission is about 40 shekels a person, with other rates for seniors and soldiers.

After a few hours of enjoying the water, we decided to try something different and take a guided ATV ride.  We found a place that was about twenty minutes away from Sakhne called Xtreme B'Emek.  Located near Yokneam, Xtreme features guided rides on RZR ATVs.  They have two different types of vehicles - the slower ones, that can get up to speeds of 40 to 70 km/h and the faster vehicles that can get up to 100-120 km/h.  We went with the slower vehicles.

For about 100 Shekels per person ($25 USD these days), we took a 1 1/2 hour guided ATV drive through a national park.  We passed through a number of fields, some forest type terrain, small hills and some very bumpy roads.  Not very many animals along the way - a handful of cows and a fox or two.  But when we entered open field areas, we stepped on the gas and managed to get up to speeds of about 70 km/h or so, according to the guide.  It wasn't exactly "extreme" but it was quite fun. 

We were all wearing seat belts and sand goggles and travelled in groups of three per vehicle.  Our guide, Osama, was great. He was quite safety conscious and paid attention to the comfort level of the drivers in each vehicle in terms of vehicle speed.  The vehicles are all automatic and you need to provide driver's licence details for each driver - as well as sign an extensive waiver regarding damage to the vehicle and personal injury.

Our guide did not speak any English.  Neither did his guard dogs - a pit bull and a rottweiler.  That was all fine with us.  Our guests were dog lovers and these dogs were quite friendly around the guide.  We handled the communications with Osama which was fine for our guests. 

It sounds like it would be quite a bit of fun to try the faster vehicles but they are more than double the price.

There are hundreds of places that offer ATV trips in Israel.  This was my first trip and it was quite a bit of fun.  It sounds like these types of trips in the Negev or even better as long as the heat isn't too crazy.
We were considering other plans for the day as well but between these two activities, we felt like we had used up our time reasonably.  Overall, both are fun activities that we would recommend for a wide range of age groups.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Olive Oil at Eretz Gshur and Tamar Bakfar

Eretz Gshur Entrance
We had a very special visitor this week so we decided to try and find something to do that was a bit different.  After all, our visitor had been to Israel many times and had seen the most common sites on many occasions. 

We decided to drive up to the north of Israel and visit an olive oil manufacturing plant. Eretz Gshur is an olive oil production facility, located in the southern Golan Heights, in Kibbutz Gshur.  The facility is a bit more than two hours away from Ra'anana but we decided that we would include the plant as part of  an all-day outing.

Olive sorting process
Olive oil production season has just begun so we would be able to see the plant in full operation.  At Eretz Gshur, all of the olives are harvested mechanically.  During October and November, everything is in full swing as it is harvest time.  Truck fulls of freshly picked olives arrive at the facility continuously.

After arriving at the plant, we were invited to watch a short film about olive making and the history of the Eretz Gshur company.  The film is available in a number of different languages (we watched the English version).  There was no admission charge.

We were then invited into the shop/tasting room to taste the full range of olive oils that are produced in this plant.  Eretz Gshur prides itself on using very high quality olives and making every effort to pay attention to the smallest details in the growing, harvesting and production processes.  Our guide explained that they view the production of olive oil as similar to the production of wine.  The higher the quality of the olives, she noted, the better the oil.

We tasted a range of oils from two very light tasting oils to some very full bodied, slightly bitter, spicy oils.  All of the tastes come from the olive varieties rather than from the addition of any other ingredients.  Here is the chart of the different oils.

They were quite delicious.  I personally preferred some of the more "full-bodied" oils but I tried a whole range.  You don't necessarily even think of the notion that olive oils can have a such a variety of tastes.  But when you sit down and sample a range of oils, you can smell, taste and appreciate the differences.  The oils are all sold at the same price - about 50 N.I.S. (Sheqels) for a 750 ml bottle, which is about $15 Cdn.  The gift shop sells a variety of sizes, including some huge jugs.  We bought one of each of a few different types of oil.

Olive Oil Machine
We were then given an additional opportunity to wander around and look at some of the other machines used in olive oil production. Perhaps, not surprisingly, most of the machines were made in Italy. 

There were three or four different processing stations but I am not going to write about the details of olive oil production.  I will say, however, that it seems a lot more complicated than what one might have expected.

Once we were finished our visit, we had to decide what comes next.  We were up in the southeastern part of the Golan Heights.  We were considering a winery - and actually had in mind Ramot Naftali.  But our GPS (Waze) told us that it was about an hour away.  So we decided to drive back to T'veria (Tiberias) and wander around there for a bit.

We first drove over to the Tamar Bakfar store at Kibbutz Kinneret.  This is a wonderful store for foodies.  The store specialty is a wide range of different types of dates, all harvested from the many palm trees in the area.   But the store also features spices, olive oils, wines, jarred date spreads and sauces, as well as many other interesting items.  We picked up a few different boxes of dates, some mixed date sauces (sweet and sour, sweet and spicy...) and some delicious date spreads (date and chocolate, date and Halawa - sesame paste).  We are able to taste about eight different types of fresh dates and ten or twelve different spreads and sauces.  The prices are reasonable and the products are touted as preservative free as well as free of any additional/ artificial flavours and colours.  Most of the products are kosher.  This has always been one of our favourite places to visit when we are in the area.

The Tamar Bakfar shop is located right near the famous Jordan River baptism site.  So busloads of Christian pilgrims and other tourists regularly visit this area.  Most wind up spending their time in the gift shop that abuts the baptism location rather than Tamar Bakfar which is a bit out of the way.  The gift shop sells Christian religious items, art, postcards, and other souvenirs as well as some wine and other Israeli products.  It carries some Jewish religious items as well.  It is a very different type of store than Tamar Bakfar (and quite a bit more expensive).  Tamar Bakfar is more suited to Israelis or to those who are interested in doing some cooking and home-based eating while they are in Israel.  You can certainly travel with dates and wine but Tamar Bakfar is not a tourist shop.

Once loaded up with fresh dates, date spreads, date sauces and a few other items, we took a 10 minute drive to T'veria, parked the car and wandered around for a while in the heart of the city.  It was a quiet day since it was early November and it was a Sunday.  People were at work, kids were in school and it was not really tourist season.  But the weather cooperated and we were able to enjoy the lovely views of the Kinneret as well as a reasonably tasty local Shawarma sandwhich. 

From there, it was about a two hour drive back to Ra'anana.

It was not the most ambitious day of travelling around, but it seemed to suit our special guest just fine.  He might have preferred to stop at a winery along the way back to complete the day but time considerations prevented that. 

I would not say that the prices at the Eretz Gshur site were anything spectacular.  They were probably similar to store prices in Ra'anana for the same products.  There were no great sales, but they offered us a 5% discount.  Nevertheless, it was interesting seeing this type of facility and it is always fun visiting the Golan Heights region, even if it is only the lower parts.