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Camping on Shabbat a Book on, How to: Build an Eruv, Bake Bread, go to the Toilet, and More

Camping on Shabbat

A Practical Guide to Camping Over Shabbat.

Camping on Shabbat requires extra preparation and effort, but is not that difficult once you get the hang of it – and Shabbat can be a highly rewarding experience when spent in nature. This book will show you how to properly prepare so as to avoid any compromise on Shabbat observance, and enjoy the experience with full peace of mind.
Some of what you will find in this book:

> How to plan your sleeping, eating, washing, and toilet areas
> The basics of building an Eruv around a campsite
> Methods of baking bread in the outdoors
…And much more!

Available for purchase here


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Kokoda part 3, Preparing For My Solo Trek Along the Kokoda Trail.

Some people I met along the Kokoda Trail in PNG

When I arrived in Port Moresby I found a guy I met on couchsurfing who manages a chartered airline company. He graciously let me stay with him and showed me around town (not much to see). In the afternoon I went to the Kokoda Track office and paid my permit fee ($150). The office insisted that I’d need a guide with me and so I agreed. They teamed me up with a guy named Wilson Batia whose brother David would be my guide/porter. Their family lived in a village along the track, and David had not been home to see them in over a year. Because of this they accepted a nominal fee, enough to pay our transport to the start of the trail, food for David, and a bit extra. (a few hundred dollars total) I was also excited about the idea of staying with their family as was the plan.

Knowing that David would be carrying some of my stuff I took an extra 10kg worth, like an extra book, item of clothing, etc. When we set out the next morning, I had two weeks’ worth of food for myself and around nine days’ worth for David.

We met at the market/bus station area the next morning. While David worked out finding us transport, Wilson, who has excellent English skills, gave me an hour-long tour of the market and introduced me to all the new fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Many things I would have never tried if it were not for him pointing them out. For example, pocari nuts, something like a cross between coconuts and brazil nuts. Wilson also explained many aspects of the culture which fascinated me.

We got to the start of the Kokoda Trail, Owens Corner, late morning after taking a public bus (didn’t cost much). We were the only ones there. I prayed Shacharit in tallit and teffilin, ate some breakfast, and we headed off.

There was a cloud cover that blocked out the sun and made the temperature bearable. The first section of the trail is steep (though I quickly learned that everything is steep along the Kokoda!) I had read a number of Kokoda Trail reports on the internet, where many of the people mentioned how much they fell and slipped in the first hour. Some of them spoke about how they had to walk a few kilometres just to get to the start of the trail because their vehicles could not get through the mud. I guess I was lucky as the ground was dry as a bone, and easy to go down.

Two weeks later when I came back in the pouring rain, the trail leading up to Owens corner was a mud slide. I would take two steps up and slide one down. Thus I can full appreciate, should anyone have been on their way down from Owen Corner on that day, they would be guaranteed multiple slips and falls. This overall was my understanding of the Kokoda Trail, that the weather plays an important part. It can go from pleasant to miserable very quickly: it starts to rain, the sun comes out, it gets cold, your attacked by millions of bugs, or maybe you are lucky and there are no bugs!

I was carrying around 25kg which was okay for me. I’m used to carrying a pack along trails. David on the other hand, was obviously struggling and sweating profusely. He complained of a sharp pain in his ribs and was struggling to breathe. He said it was from an earlier injury when he fell a couple of years ago. We only made it to the first camp stop where we spent the night. The next morning after an hour of slow walking where I was far in the lead I suggested to David that he turn around and go home. He was not happy about the situation but realized he could not continue. I gave some of the extra food we now had to a villager along the way, and the rest for David to take back with him.

With no guide, no porter and a 30kg pack, I headed out alone along the Kokoda Trail.

Previous posts on the Kokoda Trail:

Post 1

Post 2

This is the famous war memorial commemorating the Australian diggers who fell along the Kokoda Trail. I am not yet up to this part in my story, though I post this picture in honor of today being ANZAC Day




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Walking the Kokoda Trail Solo and Keeping the Sabbath and Kosher Along the Kokoda Track

The start of my Kokoda trip

‘This post is in honour of the Jewish Australian service men who gave their life defending their country.’


The first time I heard about the Kokoda Trail was from an Australian friend in Sydney. I think it was sometime in 2006. A friend of mine saw a program on television about the history of the Kokoda campaign and got excited about walking the Track.  We brainstormed together ideas how we were going to travel to Papua New Guinea and do the 97km trek through mud, rain, and ankle twisting terrain.

We never did end up going and I largely forgot about Kokoda as I travelled around the world doing other tracks and climbing mountains. In June 2012, something triggered off my memory of Kokoda and I decided to do the track. It is a challenging walk and when I took into account I’d need to keep kosher and Shabbat along the way, I ruled out going with any organized tour. My only solution was to get a company to take me alone, or I’d have to walk the Kokoda solo. I was quoted prices from various companies that organize Kokoda trips, ranging from $2,000-4,000. In addition to this cost, I would need flights, some personal gear, visa, additional food, and so on. It was going to cost over $4,000, which seemed too much money to pay to trek through rain and mud for a week.

I posted in forums looking for someone else who would be interested in joining me, to offset some of the cost. I found and met one guy in Sydney, who agreed to come but then pulled out a couple of weeks before. His doctor had suggested that he was not fit enough to do the walk.

I contemplated putting a kosher/Shabbat group together and found a few people interested. I realized through it could be a year or two until it would actually happen that everyone would be ready.

And so not wanting to wait I went alone.

I purchased plane tickets to PNG, bought most of the food I’d need and threw in a bit of exercise to get in shape. I read online from a number of people that one of the most important things on the Kokoda Track is to have a pair of boots with solid treads. My pair of hiking boots had seen better days, so I bought a new pair from Kathmandu that have some of the largest treads I’ve ever seen on a pair of boots. This was certainly the right decision. Having these boots on the Kokoda saved me from falling numerous times as I slipped my way down muddy slopes.

I broke in my new boots (very important to do before heading for a trek) and got a bit fitter by doing a few day walks carrying my pack with 25kg in it. I’ve done loads of trekking with a backpack so it was no big deal. I just wanted to push myself a bit more.

A guy who had a bunch of maps and track notes from his previous trip responded to one of my posts. We met and he gave me some pointers and let me photocopy all the material.

From the library I took out 5 books on the Kokoda campaign along with the documentary ‘Kokoda.’ I felt it was important to find out and educate myself as much as possible before getting to the track. The more I knew about the history, the more I could appreciate what the Australian soldiers had to endure.

To be continued.

Previous post on the Kokoda Track


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Adventuring Akiva’s First Bushwalk (Hiking with a Newborn!)

Adventuring Akiva’s First Bushwalk (Hiking with a Newborn!)

Akiva definitely takes after his father. In fact, he is probably more like Rabbi Ben than Rabbi Ben is like himself, if that’s possible!

Rabbi Ben, Rebbetzin Rachel, and Adventuring Akiva on Akiva's first bushwalk

I carried two-week old Akiva in a sling, where he was curled up and comfy just like he was still in the womb.

Adventuring Akiva went on his first bushwalk long before he could walk.  He went on a bushwalk in Middle Cove (in Sydney), Australia long before he could ever walk. In fact, he went on his first bushwalk when he was only two weeks old.  Incredible, right? Well, with Rabbi Ben you would expect nothing less!

It was a short bushwalk, the round trip only taking an hour and a half or maybe two hours with breaks.  Akiva, being a newborn, slept the entire time.  It’s actually pretty easy to hike with a newborn if you have a sling.  For a newborn, I felt more comfortable using a sling than a Baby Bjorn (and anyhow I didn’t have a Baby Bjorn yet then).  We use the Baby K’tan sling because it is pre-tied and so it is easy to put on.  Using the “cradle” or “pouch” method of tying the sling creates a pocket where the baby can curl up and feel just like he’s still in the womb.  In fact, while wearing newborn Akiva like this I have been mistaken for still being pregnant!

A sample of the terrain on Akiva's first bushwalk. The path was well-maintained and easy to walk. While carrying a newborn, you must be very careful where you step.

The only thing about hiking like this with a newborn is that you must be extra careful not to slip and fall.  Since the baby is still very fragile and no longer has the benefit of placenta and amniotic fluid to cushion it in the event of a fall, you have to really watch every single step you take.  I recommend only doing easy hikes.

Also, I found that Akiva would sleep for as long as he was in the sling and I was walking with him. Once, he slept 5 hours like that.  This sounds great, except that babies that young need to eat more frequently than that in order to get enough calories and to grow well.  Their tummies are so tiny that they cannot hold so much milk all at once.  When Akiva woke up after 5 hours in the sling, he was starving hungry and screamed until he could be fed, which took a couple of minutes!  Also, he then ate too fast and spit up a lot of what he ate, in addition to swallowing too much air.  So if you are hiking with your newborn, please make sure to take a break every three hours or so for an hour to allow your infant to eat and play a bit.

I’m sure Akiva enjoyed his first bushwalk, even if he slept through the whole thing – or maybe because he slept through the whole thing!

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What Does Judaism Say About Unsafe Playgrounds?

Recently, Rabbi Ben and I were walking near Darling Harbor in Sydney and we spotted what might just be the coolest playground ever.  If you ever had a Spiderman fantasy, this is the playground to visit.  We were both laughing, though, because you’d never see such a cool playground in America.  Some kid would fall from the top, break his/her neck, and the ensuing lawsuit would be the end of that playground!  Which led us to wonder… what would Judaism say about that situation?

Coolest playground ever - in Darling Harbor, Sydney, AustraliaThe truth is, there are two conflicting aspects to Judaism.  First, there is personal responsibility.  A person is responsible for his own actions (and presumably parents have responsibility for their kids).  Under this theory, if you choose to play on a playground, or to let your kids use it, then you are assuming a risk.

But even Judaism insists that this risk must be reasonable.  Landlords are not permitted under Jewish law to rent out places they know are unsafe.  They are required to make the necessary repairs. If they fail to, they are liable for the injury that comes from it.

So it seems to be a combination of the two.  The question is actually pretty consistent with American law, although it probably would be a bit more lenient when it comes to really fun playgrounds.  If the ground beneath the toys is soft and the toys are strong and sturdy, the owner probably won’t have any liability.  The rest of the risk is assumed by the person playing or their parent. (Where American law diverges is that an extra burden is placed on landlords who have a “kid magnet” on their property – and playgrounds are definitely kid magnets!)

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Peru Page is Updated

Have just added ten new photos to the Peru page.  Click Here

I was thinking about Peru because a few years ago I was Chazzan there over the High Holidays.

Peru is one of my favorite countries to visit. There is a huge variety of things to see and do. My favorite is rock and ice climbing along with general hiking and trekking.

There is kosher food available in Lima and a very good kosher restaurant in Cuzco.

See the Peru page for more details.

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