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Published: November 18th 2009
Continuing my tour around Israel, to say good bye to friends and to see some last sights has been fun, good to see people, good to find more treasures in this small but historically packed country.
The journey has taken me back to the South, firstly to Shakharut (a village on my desert trek) where I went to stay with Iran and his girlfriend overnight in their desert house. It was lovely to be in the desert again, without the light and noise pollution from the town. The stars were so bright and the air so clear and although it is still very hot down south during the day, by night the temperatures have started to cool so there was a lovely evening breeze. It was so quiet and peaceful to stay, and to be woken early by the sun. From here I had a drive further south to Eilat, here I was due to swim with the dolphins, something that I have always wanted to experience, so I was really excited. I arrived at the Dolphin cove in good time, I along with a few others was going to snorkel in the dolphin cove in the hope that we
would get to see them. We had an experienced guide and were taken out for about half an hour. It was a really magical experience, the Dolphins were so friendly, swimming up and close, twisting and turning around us, they were beautiful to watch. I also swam up to almost touching a sea turtle, this was again a lovely experience, as I had seen them in Greece, laying eggs, hatching from nests, but never got so close to them in their natural habitat. There was also a magnitude of fish of all colours and sizes, one really ugly one which seemed to rotate his fins to move and had the most ugly round mouth with big teeth, like rabbit teeth, which he used to bite food from planks of wood. The other lovely surprise was the corals, these were of many different shapes and sizes and vivid colours of pink, blue and purples. The half an hour was over in a jiffy, but I enjoyed every second of it, and after I spent another hour or so just sitting by the Dolphin cove watching them swimming, leaping in and out of the water, and calling to one another.
Eilat I was heading towards the Dead Sea, and to Masada. It was a couple of hours drive from Eilat, and it was good to watch the changing scenery long the arrava desert. I was able to see both Israel and Jordan on this route. The heat was incredible, up in the high 30’s nearly 40C, the air-conditioner had a struggle to keep the car cool. I arrived at the foot of the Mount Massada at about eight and here there was a handy youth hostel to stay in. Although a youth hostel, it was more like a hotel, with swimming pool, terraces to sit out on, and breakfast served. The rooms all had T.V’s, drinks facilities and fridges. The bathroom was really nice, the shower worked well, the bed was comfortable, and all this for next to no money at all. I could have chosen to wake at 4am for a walk up the snake path to the top of Masada to watch the sun rise. In some ways I so regret not having done it, but I was just too tired, so I opted for a few hours more in dreamland, followed by a really good breakfast, before
I took the cable car up to the top. When I arrived at the top, and after over three hours of walking round exploring, I realised that maybe I was right not to have come up at 5am as I would never have fitted in seeing all there was to see.
Masada is located on the edge of the Judean Desert to the east, it is on the shore of the Dead Sea. It is a natural plateau or table mountain and was the last bastion of the Jewish freedom fighters against the Romans. There is a rich history to Madada, the first fortress being built during the Hasmonean period. Later the Herodian period, when Herod enlarged the fortress and build himself a palatial refuge and winter palace, he installed cisterns for water collection, and many storage rooms for food, olives, wine, and the likes. Standing in the ruins of the northern palace, I could see why he chose this place as a refuge, it felt miles up into the sky, the views were stunning and the feeling of peacefulness was all around. To give you some idea of the size of this fortress, I walked for over three
hours looking at all the ruins, the views, the remains of mosaic floors. There was a tannery, a swimming pool, the bathhouses, a synagogue, a Byzantine church, quarters for the rebel fighters, lookout points all along the surrounding casement wall. When the Jewish freedom fighters realised that they were going to be over run by the Romans, they decided that rather than become slaves to the Romans. Rather than have their wives and daughters be raped by the Romans, and because they believed in freedom, they would take their own lives and die as free people. Lots were drawn. Ten men were chosen to take the lives of the villagers, and in turn the ten would draw lots and the last man killed the nine and then himself. When the Romans arrived the next morning they were greeted by silence, and did not have the satisfaction of parading their prisoners or of winning the battle.
From here I drove a few miles to a place called Ein Gedi, this (or the kibbutz here) is famous for it cacti gardens, however, I did not get the time to see these, maybe on the next trip. Here there is a part
of the Dead Sea where the public are able to go into the water. There a many many ‘Spas’ along the way, but these charge a fortune for the privilege and all I wanted to do was to have a quick dip to see what it was like, so the public beach was the one for me. As the schools have gone back and it was mid week, it was not that busy. The water is very still, and after a few steps it becomes deep quite quickly. This gives the name ‘bob’ a whole new meaning. When you go in, you really do just float, but it is as if your whole body is held on top of the water, ‘bobbing’, if you try to swim on your front, you seem to be pushed round by some strange force. I was unable to swim I could only float on my back. The water as you move your arms seems to be thick, if you imagine pouring some ribena into a glass and you add just a little water, this is what it is like, and as you float the sun causes the salt to christalize on you in no
time. The rocks and pebbles at the edge of the water, had pretty patterns, a bit like ice, caused by the salt. After a good shower off, I continued the journey North, along the banks of the Dead Sea, and looking out across it, with the mountains reflected in it, it again reminded me of Scotland, but with sun and heat!
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