The 850km Israel Bike Trail runs from north to south from Mount Hermon to Almog Beach, Eilat. It is generally based on the Israel National Trail. The trail winds its way through the countryside, passing areas of great natural beauty and sites sacred to the great religions. The INT serves as the backbone for many of other marked trails, an integrated nation-wide network, designed to foster nature conservation and to preserve the special character of each geographical region.
The last section of the IBT is 45km from Sede Boqer To Ein Beerot/Mitspe Ramon. This almighty section of the Israel Bike Trail terminates with two options depending on the type of overnight acccommodation required. If the authentic desert experience is the objective ,theres nothing better than to aim for the camping site at Beerot in Machtesh Ramon, and lie out in the Beduin tent or the straw shelters under the stars. If a higher level (literally!) of comfort is your style head for Mitspeh Ramon where a variety of accommodation (with hot shower!) is available. In any event, the mountain bike ride will be a challenge and will repay all the sweat and toil with a bonus of stupendous views after having navigated some of the major features of the Negev Desert.
Leaving Sde Boker Field School, by way of the surrounding plateau, you are obliged to mountain bike ride like a king, as you will find yourself on the ancient Caravanserai route called Darb A-Sultana, the Kings Road, that once connected the Arava with the Mediterrnean Sea near Gaza. This leads to the first monumental descent and vista of the day, Maale Zin, which delivers you into Nahal Zin, one of the great dry river beds of the Negev. Turn right here and you head for the canyon of Ein Akev . This is a recommended route for a day mountain bike ride if staying another night at Sde Boker. We, however, head off south into the Wilderness of Zin following the old oil pipeline road. There is not much to catch the eye in this vast flattened plain except a lone signpost marking the junction of trails, which should not be missed !
Eventually we enter a small valley and a most wondrous sight greets us in the distance, a green patch in the wilderness; this is the oasis and spring of Ein Zik. Water flows here in the winter, and the trail dips in and out of a muddy stream, not what one might expect for a mountain bike ride in the desert. The oasis itself is ideal for a break under the poplars and to ingest an energy bar in preparation for the next stage.
The next stage is the killer climb of Maale Zik, which looks awesome from the distance, and is no different close up ! This track was built over the oil pipeline and just rises up the steep mountain , straight as a die. It is impossible for any human to mountain bike ride it in its entirety, so we push the bikes up, which takes a toiling hour, and hope there is a good view at e top, which there is.
The rest of the trail follows the pipeline road on a gradually rising plateau which undulates over dried river beds, making it a roller coster of a mountain bike ride, to the most spectacular spot of all; the edge of Machtesh Ramon at Maale Machmal, part of the ancient Spice Route.
Machtesh Ramon is the largest crater of the Negev, a unique geological blemish on our planet as seen from space. This mighty depression , 400 meters below sheer cliffs, stretches away into a haze of copper and purple coloured mountains. Bike and human being seem very insignificant in the face of such natural phenomena.
Can you descend from here into the Crater ? Without resorting to hang-gliding equipment or a prayer, the best way is to take the red trail to Maale Noah where a jeep trail winds its way down. Extreme care needed over the loose boulders! Alternatively, the scenic route on the rim of the crater (black trail) up to Mitspeh Ramon can be taken for a mountain bike ride on the edge of eternity.