Home – but not yet! – Day Ten, Thursday 23rd May

OK, I don’t claim to be a birder!  I have been reliably informed that what I said yesterday were swifts at the Mensa Christi chapel were, in fact, swallows.  Apologies but they were winging about so fast I just had to guess!!

Yesterday was the last formal day of our tour, and some of our party are returning home owing to work or other committments.  The rest of us now have  three days of leisure to explore, revisit favourite sites or just sit by the pool and – well, you get the idea.

Early morning at the Sea of Galilee, towards Tiberias

Early morning at the Sea of Galilee, towards Tiberias

I think I mentioned earlier that our hotel is right on the Sea of Galilee and this morning it was a deep joy to get up just before dawn and watch the sun rise over the mountains on the other side of the lake.  It was also fascinating to see the birds, mainly swallows and egrets, swooping over the lake, some so low that they were skimming the water.  Just over to our right there was a rock sticking out of the water, and this was a favourite spot for a pair of egrets to come and preen before taking off and flying round the lake again.

An egret's favourite perch - he's just taken off again

An egret’s favourite perch – he’s just taken off again

The other fascinating thing was to watch the shoals of fish of varying sizes come swimming close in.  Mostly there seemed to be two sorts, the talapia which are plentiful in the lake and catfish, some of which were quite large, up to two feet long.  These mornings were very quiet and peaceful, ideal for reflection before the busyness of the day.  Usually there were never more than three or four others around, and with plenty of frontage to the lake we didn’t have to crowd each other.  Sometimes a couple of hardy souls would go and swim in the lake or in the pool.

Four of us decided that we would like to go back to Tabgha and spend more time in the gardens there and by the lakeside where we had celebrated the Eucharist, so we hired a taxi and off we went.  The taxi ride was, to say the least, interesting since the driver had two mobile phones which he juggled, and at times he managed to drive with no hands on the wheel.  Nevertheless we did get there safely, only to find that there was a special celebration on at the Church of the Loaves and Fishes, and the gardens were closed.  Undaunted we walked a couple of hundred yards up the road back to the Mensa Christi chapel where there are also some fine gardens, but which visitors are not allowed into, so all we could do was look through

Chapel of the Mensa Christi - interior

Chapel of the Mensa Christi – interior

the fence!  When we were here yesterday our group was virtually alone: today people were arriving by the coach load.  Many of them had services at one of the open air chapels, and it was fascinating to sit and hear the familiar liturgy in different languages, Brazilian, Japanese, American.  Fascinating, too just to watch people as they stood by the lakeside.  Some looked out over the lake, some paddled, some filled little containers and all the while the guides were explaining the significance of the site to their various groups, and again the mixture of languages floated over the air.

The time passed quickly and, having gone our separate ways we got back together again, rendezvoused with the taxi and returned to the hotel for a relaxing afternoon.

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