Into every trip some rest must come and today is my first day of rest… a little late on the Catholic sabbath but it is a Jewish holiday today so I’ll celebrate that with them.
Yesterday was a trip to Masada and the Dead Sea. For those of you that don’t know Masada is an ancient hilltop fortress / winter retreat built by King Herod during the days of Christ. Following the rise of Christianity and the Roman Crusades, there was a holdout of Jewish followers, the last holdout, that took up residence in Masada. The Roman army besieged their location for more than a year and built a earthen ramp a couple of hundred feet into the side of the mountain to roll their siege engines up and take the stronghold. In the end the remaining Jewish rebels decided on suicide to slavery.
Well fans and followers I just lost half an hour of work on this entry. So let’s try and recreate.
The Dead Sea
Yesterday after Masada we headed to the lowest point on earth.. The Dead Sea. Along the way we pass the evidence of the terrible effects of the recession of the Dead Sea. Where our guide Daniel used to visit the shore of the Dead Sea, there is now nearly 3/4 of a mile of wasteland with sinkholes and just dead earth. Sad.
But we also pass the very cool site of where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Found in caves above the dead sea by a wandering Bedouin herder. The significance of these Scrolls are that they shed light on the very earliest origins of Christianity. For more on this:
But it’s just a view out the window we don’t get to stopthere. It is straight on until deadness. At the next stop I am at the lowest point on earth (land point that is) at -430m below sea level.
The Dead Sea is not called the dead sea because it’s hotter than hades but let me tell you that it is just that. As I head directly to the beach, it’s really more of black sald mud packed and cooked by 100 degree heat on which you could cook .. or roast your piggies as the case may be.
So into the water I go and the first thing I hit is a mud sinkhole that sucks my leg down to mid thigh in the mud. If it weren’t for all those adventure races with Stu in the swamps this might have startled me a bit but alas I just struggled out and it was a bonus that I didn’t have on any shoes to loose in the mud hole.
I decide that floating on my back is the way to go and dang it if that works like a dream. I float so hight due to the 30% salinity of the water… compare that to something lik 1-2% in the Gulf of Mexico at MOST. My feet won’t go under, my shoulders are floating pretty much out of the water and I am really only in the water from mid thigh to arpits… very weird feeling.
Once out in deeper water I try to go upright and it is like being on the moon.. I float nearly belly button out of the water.. that’s one small step for Mr. Niester, one giant leap for not feeling so fat 🙂
After the Dead Sea swim I rinse off and head back to have a beer at the lowest bar on earth.. cuz I just had to! There I run into my friend Mala and her family (from Mumbai??) from my Jerusalem tour. (Mala sorry I cannot remember everyone in your family’s name but it was her husband and two adorable daughters). Well we got to talking about our experience and it was a relief (weirdly?) that they had the same feelings I did. It actually really put me at ease that I wasn’t alone in my thoughts and feelings and turned things around for me I think.
After my beer it was on the bus and back to Tel Aviv (horrible traffic in Jerusalem – Can’t buy a break there!) where I’m dropped off right at my hostel. Beachfront hostel is aptly named as it is directly across the street with a rooftop view of the sea and I even made it in time for a sunset beer.
The rooms here are small with three small twin beds and one bathroom (in the room I was in at least) but it is a hostel so I expect such. But it is VERY clean and super friendly. I shared a room with Patrick from Brazil who is in Artificial Intelligence and another guy from NY who came in after I went to bed and left before I got up
Today has been the definition of chill par excellence. I got up and had my free breakfast of pancakes and PB&J then packed up and stowed my bag. Then with two beach towels (provided by the hostel) and a water bottle full of cold water (provided by the hostel) I headed across the street to the beach. Here I enjoyed a day of swimming and reading while (again provided by the hostel) my bag was watched over on the beach.
Right now I’m sitting on the rooftop writing this entry before I catch the bus to the airport to go to Eilat, Israel way down on the Red Sea. There I will catch at 6:30am (ungh!) tomorrow morning my tour to Jordan where I will tour Petra and Wadi Rum.. think the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Well I think I’m going to chase down a beer before I leave. Ciao to all of you and thanks for staying with me through the adventure!